‘Go . . . and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Sunday Reflections, 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A


The Inspiration of St MatthewCaravaggio, 1602

Contarelli Chapel, San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Matthew 22:1-14 [or 22:1-10] (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition: Canada) 

Jesus said to the chief priest and the elders of the people:

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

[“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”]

Antiphona ad introitum     Entrance Antiphon  Ps 129 [130]:3-4

Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine, Domine, quis sustinebit?

Quia apud te propitiatio est, Deus Israel.

De profundis clamavi ad te Domine: Domine exaudi vocem meam.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto; sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper. Amen.

Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine, Domine, quis sustinebit?

Quia apud te propitiatio est, Deus Israel.


If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?

But with you is found forgiveness, O God of Israel.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning, is now and will be for ever. Amen.

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?

But with you is found forgiveness, O God of Israel.

[The longer form is used when Mass is celebrated in the Extraordinary Form, using the 1962 Missal.]

swing made from tires in East Timor

A friend of mine who has three young daughters and a fourth child on the way and who now lives in California posted on her Facebook the other day that the authorities in some school are removing the swings from its playground because they are ‘dangerous’ for children. I wonder if the committee in the Vatican who drew up the Lectionary we have been using since 1969 thought that some of the words of Jesus might be ‘dangerous’ for us since they have given us the option today of leaving out the last four verses of the Gospel [in square brackets above].

In Matthew 3:7 Jesus addresses some Pharisees and Sadducees with the words, You brood of vipers!, which he repeats in 12:34 and in 23:34 he’s even more scathing: You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?

The words of Jesus aren’t always ‘nice’. And not all the words in the homily of Pope Francis last Sunday at the Holy Mass for the opening of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family were ‘nice’. Addressing the assembled participants, mostly bishops, he said, And to satisfy this greed, evil pastors lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others . . . We are all sinners and can also be tempted to ‘take over’ the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings. God’s dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants. We can ‘thwart’ God’s dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit

Still-life, Floris, Claesz van Dijck, 1610

Private collection [Web Gallery of Art]

The First Reading and the Gospel speak clearly of God’s desire for all of us to be with him, sharing in the abundance of his riches, symbolized in both readings by a lavish banquet.

President Ramon Magsaysay (died 1957) of the Philippines wearing a barong Tagalog [Wikipedia]

Nearly 30 years ago I officiated at a wedding in Sacred Heart Church, Cebu City. The reception was held next door at a centre attached to the church, which belongs to the Jesuits. At the reception I noticed an elderly man wearing a barong Tagalog, which is formal dress for men in the Philippines, especially at weddings. But it turned out that nobody knew him. He wasn’t a guest, but had invited himself along. As there were weddings almost every day at Sacred Heart Church I figured that maybe he invited himself along whenever the reception was held at the adjacent centre.

But nobody minded. Filipinos are hospitable and nobody is ever turned away. Many of us were amused and I had noticed the man at Mass. In other words, he wasn’t a freeloader but participated in the wedding ceremony, something that many invited to weddings an baptisms don’t do. They just turn up for the meal.

The harsh words of Jesus, which I suspect many priests won’t read at Mass, jolt us out of our complacency. The man who turned up at the banquet without bothering to dress for the occasion clearly thought that cultural norms and good manners didn’t apply to him. It’s not a crime to turn up at a wedding or some similar event dressed casually but to do so shows a lack of respect for the celebrants and for oneself.

However, in the parable, Jesus isn’t telling us to be ‘nice’ and well-mannered. He’s telling us forcefully that in order to share in the ‘dream’ that he and our heavenly Father have for us we have to do the Father’s will. Pope Francis referred to this in the closing words of his homily: My Synod brothers, to do a good job of nurturing and tending the vineyard, our hearts and our minds must be kept in Jesus Christ by ‘the peace of God which passes all understanding’ (Phil 4:7). In this way our thoughts and plans will correspond to God’s dream: to form a holy people who are his own and produce the fruits of the kingdom of God (cf. Mt 21:43).

We have to make choices. We often choose to sin. God is merciful, bending down to welcome us back, to acknowledge our sins and to ask for and receive his forgiveness. Jesus has given the Church the wonderful Sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession/Penance, precisely so that he can meet us in our sinfulness, forgive and heal us. And the Church teaches us clearly that when we have committed a grave sin we must avail of that sacrament. By the same token, he wants us priests to be available for penitents and to go to confession  regularly ourselves.

When God gave us the gift of freedom he also placed some ‘swings’ in our ‘playground’, knowing that we would sometimes fall and ‘graze our knees’ or even hurt ourselves more seriously. He didn’t protect us from all possible eventualities. Had he done so he would have made prisoners of us. He invites us to his heavenly banquet, paid for by the sacrifice of his Son on Calvary.

In the parable the king’s servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. Both good and bad had a sense of being blessed and honored by the invitation, except for one – we don’t know if he was one of the ‘good’ or one of the ‘bad’ – with an insolent sense of entitlement rather than a wondrous sense of being graced.

The Two Trinities, Murillo, 1675-82

National Gallery, London [Web Gallery of Art]

Prayer of Pope Francis for the Synod on the Family

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendor of true love,
to you we turn with trust. 

Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again
experience violence, rejection and division:
may all who have been hurt or scandalized
find ready comfort and healing. 

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may the approaching Synod of Bishops
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan. 

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
graciously hear our prayer.


Prayer Intentions of Pope Francis October 2014: Peace, World Mission Day.

Apostleship of Prayer


Our Lady of PeaceEDSA Shrine, Quezon City, Philippines

Universal Intention – Peace

That the Lord may grant peace in those parts of the world  most battered by war and violence.


Members of the Missionary Society of St Columban have been in some ofthose parts of the world most battered by war and violence, as Fr Michael Martin tells us in the video below. Fr Martin experienced the reality of violence during his many years in the Diocese of Bacolod in the province of Negros Occidental in the central Philippines. He is now based in Our Lady of Remedies Parish, Malate, which he speaks about here.


 Evangelization Intention – World Mission Day

That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into every part of the world.


The zeal for carrying the Gospel into every part of the world is rooted in our baptism and confirmation. For some, that means leaving their homeland. Fr Carlo Eiukyun Jung, ordained priest on 3 May in his native Korea, spent two years on First Mission Assignment in Fiji while still a seminarian and will be going to Myanmar/Burma in 2015. The Reverend Augustine Jehoon Lee was ordained deacon on 3 May and will be ordained priest on All Saints’ Day. He spent his First Mission Assignment in Quezon City, Metro Manila.

Columbans Celebrate 80 Years in Korea
On 29 October 2013 the Columbans in Korea began a series of celebrations to mark their 80 years of missionary presence in Korea.  

L to R: Fr Carlo Eiukyun Jung, Joon Bin Lim, Rev Augustine Jehoon Lee. 
3 May 2014. 
 [Source of photo: FB of Joon Bin Lim] 


The Columban Superior General, Fr Kevin O’Neill, joined Archbishop (now Cardinal) Andrew Yeom Soo-jong of Seoul, missionaries, benefactors and parishioners from former Columban parishes in a commemorative Eucharist in St Mary’s Cathedral, Seoul, to give thanks to God for these 80 years of missionary presence.

‘The Columbans have made a wonderful contribution to the Korean Church and people. We are truly grateful to them’, said Archbishop Yeom at the commemorative Eucharist.The first Columbans arrived in Korea on that same date, 29 October in 1933. There were ten of them, nine having been ordained the previous year. Their average age was 25 years. One of them, Fr Dan McMenamin, was to die of uberculosis four years later at just 29 years of age.On the Second Sunday of Easter in April 1934, the newly arrived Columbans took possession of their first parish in Korea on the outskirts of the city of Mokpo. This was to be the first of 129 parishes that the Columbans would establish during those 80 years in Korea. In the city of Seoul alone, Columbans established 25 parishes.The 80-year celebrations of missionary presence in Korea will continue until the Second Sunday of Easter this year, 27 April, and will give thanks to God for the work of Columbans in nine different dioceses throughout the country.

First and third videos from the website of the Apostleship of Prayer, Milwaukee, WI, USA. 

‘By prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.’ Sunday Reflections, 27th Sunday in Ordina

The Virgin of the Grapes, 1640s, Pierre Mignard

 Musée du Louvre, Paris [Web Gallery of Art]

Winegrowers in France celebrated the Feast of the Nativity of Mary  as the Feast of Our Lady of the Grape Harvest.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Matthew 21:33-43 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition: Canada) 
Jesus said to the chief priest and the elders of the people: “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’  But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.  Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”  They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:

‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes’?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.

First Reading, Isaiah 5:1-7 [Revised Standard Version]


The young Fr Edward Galvin in China

Just over a century ago the young Fr Edward Galvin of the Diocese of Cork, Ireland, was sent by his bishop to work for some years in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, because he had no place to put him. This was common at the time and many young Irish diocesan priests spent their early years on loan to English-speaking dioceses in other countries. While in Brooklyn Father Galvin found himself answering God’s call to go to China. This was to lead eventually to the formal founding of the Missionary Society of St Columban, to which I belong, in 1918 with Fr Galvin and Fr John Blowick, another young Irish diocesan priest, as the co-founders. Fr Galvin later became Bishop of Hanyang, China, and was expelled by the Communist authorities.

When I was growing up in Ireland people who were critical of the Church, sometimes with good reason, often used the term ‘priest-ridden’ to describe the country. Today there are parishes without priests and the average age of priests is over 60. In twenty years or so it could well happen that priests will be a relative rarity in the country.

When I was young almost every Catholic in Ireland went to Sunday Mass and the seminaries were full. Today only a minority take part in Sunday Mass, the seminaries have nearly all closed and only a handful or young men are preparing for ordination in the two or three that still remain open. More and more young people are choosing not to get married and not to have their children baptised.

In 1961, the year I entered the seminary, Ireland celebrated the 1,500th anniversary of the death of St Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland. Very few could have foreseen the falling away, not only from the Church, but from the Christian faith, within two generations.

St Paul tells us in the Second Reading today: Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

I sometimes get disheartened at the situation of the Church in my native land and in other Western countries. The First Reading and the Gospel remind us that many have rejected God’s love, God’s gift, especially the gift of faith. Through the Prophet Isaiah God poignantly asks, What more was there to do for my vineyard  that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?

St Andrew Kim Daegon, Martyr, First Korean Priest

But in the readings the Lord is really asking us to see what he has given us, to treasure it and to pass it on. In his homily at the beatification of 124 martyrs in Korea on 16 August Pope Francis said: The victory of the martyrs, their witness to the power of God’s love, continues to bear fruit today in Korea, in the Church which received growth from their sacrifice. Our celebration of Blessed Paul and Companions provides us with the opportunity to return to the first moments, the infancy as it were, of the Church in Korea. It invites you, the Catholics of Korea, to remember the great things which God has wrought in this land and to treasure the legacy of faith and charity entrusted to you by your forebears.

The following day in the opening sentence in his homily at the concluding Mass of Asian Youth Day Pope Francis said, The glory of the martyrs shines upon you! These words – a part of the theme of the Sixth Asian Youth Day – console and strengthen us all. Young people of Asia: you are the heirs of a great testimony, a precious witness to Christ

The Pope was reminding the young people, and all of us, of the legacy of the Christian faith that we have received.

Pope Francis in Korea


The Bishop of Rome touched on this again on 21 September when he celebrated Mass in Mother Teresa Square, Tirana, very conscious of the persecution that had ended less than 30 years ago. He concluded his homily with these stirring words: To the Church which is alive in this land of Albania, I say ‘thank you’ for the example of fidelity to the Gospel. Do not forget the nest, your long history, or your trials. Do not forget the wounds, but also do not be vengeful. Go forward to work with hope for a great future. So many of the sons and daughters of Albania have suffered, even to the point of sacrificing their lives. May their witness sustain your steps today and tomorrow as you journey along the way of love, of freedom, of justice and, above all, of peace. So may it be.

The Lord is calling each of us today to look back with gratitude for the gift of faith we have received individually and as community so that we can live that faith fully in the present as we move in hope and love into the future.

But the readings also remind us of the reality that the precious gift of the Christian faith has been lost, not only by individuals but in large areas of the world such as North Africa not that long after the time of such giants as St Augustine.

Columban Fr Seán Holloway RIP



Fr Seán Holloway

25 August 1921 – 29 October 2014


Fr Seán Holloway was born in Horseleap, County Offaly, Ireland, on 25 August 1921. He was educated at Horseleap National School, Tubber National School and St Finian’s College, Mullingar. He came to St Columbans, Dalgan Park, Navan, Ireland – known to Columbans simply as ‘Dalgan’ – in 1941 and was ordained priest there on 21 December 1947.

Horse Sculpture in Horseleap [Wikipedia]

Assigned to the Philippines, he spent the first two years in Mindanao, the southern island, before being assigned to Negros Occidental where he would spend the next 18 years in the parishes of Isabela and Himamaylan. Father Seán was among the first Columban group to be assigned to this new District in 1950. It covered a huge area, had been served by a bare handful of priests, and few of its old churches were standing. The area covered the southern part of the Diocese of Bacolod, which then included the whole province of Negros Occidental. That area became the Diocese of Kabankalan in 1987.

Camangcamang, Isabela [Wikipedia]

Building up the existing parishes and developing new ones was a herculean task. Father Seán  had the gift for bringing the best out of laypeople. Working with the help of innumerable praesidia (branches) of the Legion of Mary, he wore himself out over the following two decades.

Altar used at Legion of Mary meetings [Wikipedia]


Assigned to the Region of Ireland in 1970, he spent three years on Vocations Ministry, followed by five years as Farm Manager and Bursar of Dowdstown House. Availing of the expertise of competent lay friends, he established the beginnings of the present cattle herd.

He was also responsible for developing and sustaining Dalgan’s much-admired network of forest walks. [You can see some of these walks in the video below, with links to two other videos in the series.]




Part Two and Part Three

There followed a twelve-year period as Assistant and later Parish Priest of St Joseph’s, Balcurris, Ballymun, Dublin. As in the Philippines, his charm, and reliance on the laity won him many friends. He established a school for the Travellers (a nomadic ethnic group in Ireland also called ‘Pavee‘) and helped integrate them into the parish.


Ballymun Lullaby
Father Seán is remembered in Balcurris with great affection. On returning to Dalgan in 1991 he served in other management roles until his health began to deteriorate. A man of great charity and generosity, there was a childlike transparency in him, and a great capacity for making friends, helping persons develop their gifts, and seeing creative possibilities in every situation.


Father Seán  wrote in his will:  I wish to thank everybody for their personal kindness to me over the many years that the Good Lord has given to me.

May he rest in peace.

Columban Sisters Celebrate 90th Anniversary

The Missionary Sisters of St Columbans, better known as the Columban Sisters, have just celebrated the 90th Anniversary of their foundation in Ireland 90 years ago. As we thank God for their service to the Church may we contine to pray for the Sisters and the people they serve in many countries.

Find out more about the Columban Sisters on their website: www.columbansisters.org

[Thanks to Sr Anne Carbon SSC .] 

The most important in the Kingdom. Fr Shay Cullens’s Reflections, 25 September 2014


Children’s Games (detail), 1559-60, Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Vienna [Web Gallery of Art]


Recently I was talking to a group of forty young boys who had been taken out of filthy jails and sub-human conditions in the so-called youth detention centers of Metro Manila. I told them, ‘You are the children of God and the most important in God’s family. That’s why you are here. You are free and have rights and dignity’.

They stared wide-eyed with incredulous looks of awe and bafflement. Jason, ten years old, jumped up, spread out his arms and began to spin around in a playful demonstration of ‘being free’. Everyone laughed and enjoyed the moment.

The boys between 9 and 16 are living happily in a beautiful home in the countryside and finding and experiencing their basic rights and joys that we, who have never suffered an injustice or been in conflict with the law or lost our freedom, take for granted and so hardly ever cherish and celebrate. You may never value it until it is taken away.

A large majority of the boys at the Preda Foundation’s New Dawn Home for Boys in conflict with the law are not convicted and not on trial. They are sent to get treatment and therapy and help for troubled lives. They are free to run wherever they want in the grounds. There are no guards, steel bars, wire cages and brutal treatment which they experienced in the jails and youth detention and so-called reformatory centers where they were locked up like animals without light, exercise, education or entertainment, affirmation or legal process.

It is the first time for them to experience such rights and respect and for them it is an amazing wonder. The Preda staff and I tell them the truth about themselves – ‘You are good, you have rights and dignity, you have had a hard life and made mistakes under the bad influence of adults but you can choose now to live another positive way’.

They listen with wide-eyed wonder and can scarcely believe this good news since they have hardly ever experienced being loved, wanted, valued, supported, fed and cherished. Instead they have been rejected all their lives and told they are a burden and a pest to their family and society and deserve punishment and imprisonment. They might as well have been on death row.

Now at Preda this bad experience and negative conditioning is being turned on its head. Now they are told – ‘You are free here at the Preda New Dawn Home for Boy to stay or leave. Know that you are of importance, value and are good in yourselves. Do not believe or think of yourselves as bad, criminal or useless young people. You are God’s children and the most important in God’s family. Jesus said so.’

Hearing and knowing this good news, each one, free of fear, reprimand and punishment, they can develop self-awareness, self-consciousness and begin to grow as persons. It is a vital part of being fully human and something they have hardly ever experienced. They feel respected and valued and can have a dream to reach a positive goal. They are assured that they will be helped to achieve a better, happier life for themselves and their future families when they grow up. What attitudes they have today will be how they will treat others in the future. They must learn and grow for the better.

It takes time for all this to sink in, so conditioned are these 9- to 16-year-old boys. We have to undo the harm and negativity that has been heaped on them from childhood by parents, relatives and local authorities. They have been branded by parents and society as worthless thieves, drug dependents and social outcasts. But they are not.

Normally good children who are misunderstood and unloved and branded as bad will likely become what they are called. Adults and parents must be careful never to physically, verbally or emotionally abuse children. They will rebel and find ways to retaliate. They feel injustice like everyone else.

At times I challenge parents of troubled, unruly and drug-taking children by asking how it is that they were born innocent but have become like this. I ask them, ‘Why do your children take pain-killers? Who is causing the pain? How have you treated and spoken to them as they were growing up?’

Inevitably the parents will respond defensively. ‘It’s not us, he (she) never listens to us, has no discipline, never obeys, steals, takes drugs, seldom goes to school, is a computer games addict, does not come home and prefers to be with the street gangs.’

Some parents admit that they voluntarily turned their child over to the detention center, ‘To teach him/her a lesson’, they say. Punishment is no cure for troubled and hurt children. It hurts and alienates them all the more.

To parents like that I usually respond, ‘How is it then that your son is here at Preda for two months and has never run away, does not steal, does not take drugs, is never violent, is helpful, does his duties, attends classes daily and respects the staff and other boys? Perhaps there is a problem in the home? With you he is a wild rebel. Here he is a normal respectful boy. Who needs to change, you or him?’ And so the parents have to reflect on their family life and ask if there is a lack of loving parenting.

What inspires and motivates the youth is to know that their parents are willing to cooperate and attend parenting seminars and to accept and admit that they too have made mistakes and are willing to reconcile with their child. The hope of family reconciliation and peace-making and acceptance back into the family is what motivates the boy to continue in the Preda home. The loss of love and friendship with parents and family is the greatest hurt and loss. Peacemaking and acceptance is the greatest gift.


To ignore the Muslim voice is a sin of omission

To ignore the Muslim voice is a sin of omission


This article appeared in the 21 September printed issue of Sunday Examiner, the English-language newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong. The editor is Australian Columban Fr James Mulroney.

HONG KONG (SE): While the Islamic State continues its rampage of violence and death in Syria and Iraq the voices of Christians and secular authorities have been loud in their condemnation, but where are the Muslim voices?

The Vatican Insider reflects that this may have more to do with a reluctance on the part of the world to listen to their words than their silence. It quotes the Jesus magazine as calling this a sin of omission.

There are Muslims who have paid with their lives in protecting their Christian neighbours and, while these are often referred to as moderates in the western media, it is too weak a term to describe heroes who are martyrs for what they believe in.

“Many Sunni Muslims have raised their voices against the Islamic State, even though this is not always mentioned in the media,” the Jesuit international monthly, Populi, writes in its September issue.

“This is not just the case in the west, but also in more conservative Muslim countries,” it continues.

It quotes the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz ibn Abdullah Al-Sheikh, as calling both the Islamic State and Al Qaeda the number one enemies of Islam on August 19.

The grand mufti added that they do not share the common faith of all Muslims.

Populi also points out that the Wahhabi movement, which backs the Saudi Arabian regime, does share some of the doctrines subscribed to by the Islamic State, but has made it clear that it does not support its violent approach and the destabilising threat it poses.

The Italian Jesuit monthly also lists the Grand Mufti of Al-Azhar, from Egypt; and Shawqi Allam, as denouncing the Islamic State as a threat to Islam.

It then quotes the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, Mehmet Görmez, as saying, “The statement made against Christians is truly awful. Islamic scholars need to focus on this, (because it is) an inability to peacefully sustain other faiths and cultures and heralds the collapse of a civilisation.”

Missione Oggi, a magazine published by the Saverian missionaries of Brescia in Italy, adds, “Iraq’s Muslims are not all Islamic State extremists. Many are Muslims who want peace. Some have even died to defend Christians in Mosul.”

It goes on to tell the story of Mahmoud al ‘Asali, a professor of law who lectured on pedagogy at the University of Mosul 


“He was killed, because he had the courage to tell Islamic State militants that is not the kind of Islam he believed in. He was fully aware of the risk he was running in stating this publicly. He refused to become an accomplice to violence and paid for this with his life.”

The Jesus magazine, in a column in its September issue, East East East, calls the poor media coverage of Al ‘Asali’s murder a sin of omission.

A monthly magazine published by Edizioni San Paolo explains, “His story shows that there are Muslims who are on the side of persecuted Christians. They are often referred to as moderates, but this is too weak an adjective when one considers the incredibly high price such people often pay.”

The latest Muslim voices to the condemnation of the Islamic State come out of France. CWNews describes what is dubbed the Paris Appeal issued on September 9 at the Grand Mosque in Paris as “unambiguously denouncing those terrorist acts, which are crimes against humanity and solemnly declaring that these groups, their supporters and their recruits cannot lay claim to Islam.”

The statement condemns what are referred to as barbarians for brutality, saying, “Their rash calls for Jihad and their campaigns to indoctrinate young people are not faithful to the teachings and values of Islam.”

The Paris Appeal is signed by Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris and president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith; Anouar Kbibech, the president of the Assembly of French Muslims; Abderrahmane Dahmane, the president of the Council of French Muslims; and several others.

Columban Fr John D. Griffin RIP

Fr John Griffin
Columban Fr John Griffin died in Wellington, New Zealand, 25 September 2014.  Here is an article about him written by his fellow Columban and New Zealander, Fr Michael Gormly, from the website of the Columbans in Australia and New Zealand and published in 2010. Fr Gormly used this article for his obituary of Fr Griffin, adding a few details.

Father John Griffin was a missionary priest blessed with an engaging personality and relentless charm. His friendly, positive and expansive spirit influenced people in many mission situations. Throughout his career blessings emerged from family, friends, names, faces, travel, cultures, languages and music. 

His travelling violin played a part too. He was a fiddler on the roof, making music, telling stories, bringing inspiration and hope to others. Faith came wrapped in warm-hearted affability.

Father Gormley describes Father John as ‘a fiddler on the roof’. The late priest liked to play music from Fiddler on the Roof.


Father John, born in Timaru, New Zealand, in 1927 commenced his missionary journey as a youthful volunteer in 1944. His theological studies were completed at Corpus Christi, Melbourne, with ordination sixty years ago, in 1950, at Dunedin.

Sacred Heart Basilica, Timaru, New Zealand [Wikipedia]


His first mission assignment was to the Philippines, to the province of Zambales, north-west of Manila. He first grappled with the intricacies of Ilokano, a language brought by migrants from provinces in Northern Luzon. He was to work in Ilokano parishes in the Diocese of Iba for twenty years.

San Narciso, Zambales, Diocese of Iba, where Fr Griffin was parish priest [Wikipedia]


A medical emergency in 1970 sent Father John home to New Zealand for the amputation of his right leg due to cancer. The medical specialist spoke of a choice, ‘Your leg or your life”. With an artificial limb, plus a car adapted to his needs, he joined the mission education team based in Lower Hutt.


Lower Hutt from the air, looking eastwards [Wikipedia]


In 1974 he was nominated by the Bishops’ Conference to head the National Missions Office. For ten years he brought his talent, charms and enthusiasm to promoting the mission cause in all corners of the country. In addition he established close personal contacts with Kiwi missionaries across the world.

Santiago, Chile [Wikipedia]


Next, Father John volunteered to serve in Latin America, learn Spanish and settle in Chile. For ten years he assisted the Columban team in the capital, Santiago. On his return to New Zealand in 1995, he moved around the Diocese of Auckland with a message of mission awareness. He made a deliberate effort to keep mission alive in the local church. In retirement at the Columban Mission Centre he was by no means house-bound. Family, friends and colleagues enjoyed his company, visits, phone calls and emails.

Ageing and a loss of mobility led to dedicated healthcare and professional nursing at the Aroha Centre for the Elderly. He spoke of his final blessings In terms of ‘aroha’ – warm care and attention based on love and respect.Father John Griffin died peacefully in Wellington, New Zealand, on 25 September 2014, remembered as a gifted missionary priest with a remarkable interest and concern for people. One tribute says it well: ‘He arrived among us bringing short moments of joy and encouragement; he departed leaving long memories of friendship and celebration.’

Santiago Cathedral at night [Wikipedia]
In reviewing his life, Father John recalls wisdom learned as a youth. ‘You will receive much more than you will give; you will learn much more than you will teach’. He has no doubt that learning that truth and humbly accepting it has been the greatest experience of his life.

Praise to the Holiest, by Blessed John Cardinal Newman
Sacred Heart Basilica, Timaru, New Zealand


Father John, a tall, handsome, distinguished-looking and very kind man, wrote an amusing account of the unexpected obstacles he met while travelling from Australia to New Zealand for his ordination in 1950 in Ordination Misadventures.

San Alberto Hurtado SJ, Chile’s second saint

Father John also wrote an article on San Alberto Hurtado SJ which we have used a number of times in MISYONonline.comA priest, I bless you – Alberto.
In that article Father John writes about the Hogar de Cristo (Home of Christ) founded by the saint. May he join San Alberto in the Hogar that Christ has prepared for us all.

“He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went.” Sunday Reflections, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A


St MatthewEl Greco, 1610-14

 Museo de El Greco, Toledo, Spain [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa) 

Gospel Matthew 21:28-32 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition: Canada)  Jesus said to the chief priest and the elders of the people:

“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

The above scene, at the Coliseum in Rome, comes shortly before the end of the 1983 made-for-TV move, The Scarlet and the Black, which tells the true World War II story of Vatican-based Irish priest Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, known as ‘The Vatican Pimpernel’ and played here by Gregory Peck, and Colonel Herbert Kappler, head of the Gestapo in Rome during the Nazi occupation from September 1943 till June 1944, played by Christopher Plummer. The priest has managed to save the lives of many Allied soldiers and others, getting under the skin of Kappler.

When the German knows that the Allies are about to liberate Rome he sends for the Irishman at night, guaranteeing his safety. The Wikipedia article on the movie tells us what happens after their exchange of ‘pleasantries’ above. 



Colonel Kappler worries for his family’s safety from vengeful partisans, and, in a one-to-one meeting with O’Flaherty, asks him to save his family, appealing to the same values that motivated O’Flaherty to save so many others. The Monsignor, however, refuses, disbelieving that after all the Colonel has done and all the atrocities he is responsible for, he could expect mercy and forgiveness automatically, simply because he asked for it, and walks away in disgust . . .
Kappler is captured in 1945 and questioned by the Allies. In the course of his interrogation, he is informed that his wife and children were smuggled out of Italy and escaped unharmed into Switzerland. Upon being asked who helped them, Kappler realizes who it must have been, but responds simply that he does not know.

At the very end we read on the screen: After the liberation Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty was honored by Italy, Canada and Australia, given the U.S. Medal of Freedom and made a Commander of the British Empire.

Herbert Kappler was sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes. In the long years that followed in his Italian prison, Kappler had only one visitor. Every month, year in and year out, O’Flaherty came to see him.

In 1959 the former head of the dreaded Gestapo in Rome was [received] into the Catholic faith at the hand of the Irish priest.
The real Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty (1898 – 1963) [Wikipedia]

[You can view the whole scene between the Colonel Kappler and Monsignor O’Flaherty on Gloria TV here, starting at 06.10. The whole movie is available on Gloria TV in ten segments.]
St Paul tells us in the Second Reading, Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. The priest has been putting his life at risk time and again to save the lives of others, while the soldier has been taking the lives of others. But now Kappler looks beyond himself and wants to save the lives of his wife and two children.
St Paul tells us that Christ Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a slave. Kappler in a real sense can be said to have emptied himself when he compares himself to a beggar and lame dog as he requests the priest to help his wife and children get to safety. Saving others is all part of your faith, he says to the priest. Brotherly love and forgiveness – that’s the other half of what you believe.
When the priest storms off with I’ll see you in hell first! Kappler says to himself, You’re no different from anyone else. Your talk means nothing. Charity, forgiveness, mercy – it’s all lies.
But when Kappler is being interrogated by officials of the Allies [here from 1:30 to 3:06]  we discover that the Irish priest too had emptied himself by overcoming his anger at the request to help his enemy’s family to escape, and by enabling them to get to Switzerland.
Very few of us will have to face the kind of danger that Monsignor O’Flaherty faced. But every day we have to make choices, often between good and bad. The choice to forgive his enemy that the Irish priest made is the kind of choice that faces all of us, even if the perceived crime or ‘crime’ of our enemy or ‘enemy’ is rarely on the scale of those of Colonel Kappler. But the latter, in his need, felt the stirrings of hope in his heart, the stirrings of faith in a merciful God, when he approached his nemesis with his plea.
Those stirrings were dashed by the priest’s angry refusal. Charity, forgiveness, mercy – it’s all lies. But those stirrings were raised again when he learned that his wife and children were safe and knew that only one person could have seen to that. Then he knew he was wrong when he said, Charity, forgiveness, mercy – it’s all lies. Now he knew it was all true. 

I don’t know if the Irish priest was familiar with these words of St Caesarius of Arles (c.470 – 27 August 542): Whenever you love brothers or sisters you love friends, for they are already with you, joined to you in Catholic unity. If they live virtuously you love them as people who have been changed from enemies into brothers and sisters. But suppose you love people who do not yet believe in Christ, or if they do, yet believe as the devil believes – they believe in Christ but still do not love him. You must love just the same, you must love even people like that, you must love them as brothers and sisters. They are not such yet, but you must love them so that they become such through your kindness. All our love, then, must be fraternal.

Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went.
[You can read a fine article by William Doino Jr published in First Things, November 2013: Hugh O’Flaherty, Ireland’s Shining Priest.]

Antiphona ad communionem  

 Communion Antiphon Cf Ps 118 [119]:49-50

Memento verbi tui servo tuo, Domine,

 Remember your word to your servant, O Lord,
in quo mihi spem dedisti;
 by which you have given me hope.
haec me consolata est in humilitate mea.
 This is my comfort when I am brought low. 

Persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria 

Though the video above was uploaded in 2010 it shows what many Christians in Iraq have been suffering in recent years. As we continue to pray for the Christians in Iraq and Syria, many of whom have been driven in the last two months or so from the ancestral lands, may we and they find hope in the suffering of Christians and Muslims in the post-World War II decades in Albania, a country that is now free.
Last Sunday Pope Francis, before celebrating Evening Prayer in St Paul’s Cathedral, Tirana,was moved as he listened to the testimony

of Fr Ernest Simoni, 84, and Sister Marije Kaleta, 85, who had survived that persecution. To hear a martyr talk about his own martyrdom is intense, the Pope told journalists on the papal plane back to Rome the same evening. I think all of us there were moved, all of us.


Pope Francis meets survivors of persecution in Albania



Rome-based Catholic news agency Zenit carries a story datelined Tirana, 22 September, PopeWeeps Upon Hearing Witness of Religious Persecution in Albania. The article reports: Fr Ernesto Simoni Troshani, an 84-year-old diocesan priest, recalled when the Communist party came to power and began detaining and murdering priests, some he said who died saying ‘Long live Christ the King’. He also said that his diocesan superiors were killed by firing squad . . . After his witness, Fr. Troshani approached the Holy Father and knelt, kissing his ring. The Pope, visibly moved by his testimony, wept and held the priest in a long embrace.

Sr Maria Kaleta, an Albanian, spoke of extremely difficult decisions that Christians sometime had to make. She recounted how a woman from a communist family asked her about seeking baptism for her child. Sr Kaleta said she feared that it was a trap but nonetheless, brought some water and baptized the child. During that period, she remembered her desire to go to Mass, to receive the Sacraments.



Original fresco of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Genazzano, Italy [Wikipedia]
Our Lady of Good Counsel is the Patron of Albania. It was a copy of the fresco above that the bishops of the country gave to Pope Francis as a gift.
In his homily at Mass in Mother Teresa Square, Tirana, on Sunday Pope Francis said [emphasis added]:
Recalling the decades of atrocious suffering and harsh persecutions against Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims, we can say that Albania was a land of martyrs: many bishops, priests, men and women religious, laity, and clerics and ministers of other religions paid for their fidelity with their lives. Demonstrations of great courage and constancy in the profession of the faith are not lacking. How many Christians did not succumb when threatened, but persevered without wavering on the path they had undertaken! 
I stand spiritually at that wall of the cemetery of Scutari, a symbolic place of the martyrdom of Catholics before the firing squads, and with profound emotion I place the flower of my prayer and of my grateful and undying remembrance. The Lord was close to you, dear brothers and sisters, to sustain you; he led you and consoled you and in the end he has raised you up on eagle’s wings as he did for the ancient people of Israel, as we heard in the First Reading. The eagle, depicted on your nation’s flag, calls to mind hope, and the need to always place your trust in God, who does not lead us astray and who is ever at our side, especially in moments of difficulty.



National Flag of Albania [Wikipedia]
The readings used at the Mass were not those of the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A but Exodus 19:3, 4b-6a, 7-8, Romans 15:14-21 and Luke 10: 1-9, 17-20. In the reading from Exodus God reminds Moses how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. The eagle is a national symbol of Albania and Pope Francis referred to this in his homily:
The Lord was close to you, dear brothers and sisters, to sustain you; he led you and consoled you and in the end he has raised you up on eagle’s wings as he did for the ancient people of Israel, as we heard in the First Reading. The eagle, depicted on your nation’s flag, calls to mind hope, and the need to always place your trust in God, who does not lead us astray and who is ever at our side, especially in moments of difficulty.
The Pope calls on young Albanians to be like the seventy-two disciples in the Gospel and, rooted in the memory of their own experience, to be missionaries to the rest of Europe:
Today, I have come to thank you for your witness and also to encourage you to cultivate hope among yourselves and within your hearts. Never forget the eagle! The eagle does not forget its nest, but flies into the heights. All of you, fly into the heights! Go high! I have also come to involve the young generations; to nourish you assiduously on the Word of God, opening your hearts to Christ, to the Gospel, to an encounter with God, to an encounter with one another, as you are already doing and by which you witness to the whole of Europe.
And St Paul says in the Second Reading:
For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ.
The Roman Province of Illyricum included much of today’s Albania.
May the Resurrection of the Church in Albania be a source of hope for Catholics and other Christians being persecuted for their faith in other parts of the world, particularly in Iraq and Syria where in recent months Christians have been driven from their ancestral homelands, and in North Korea that in many ways resembles Albania under dictator Enver Hoxha.