30 Sep 2011

'The stone rejected by the builders . . .' Sunday Reflections, 27th Sunday Year A


Jordan, in wheelchair, and Lala

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines and USA)

Gospel Matthew 21:33-43 (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: 'Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them. "They will respect my son" he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, "This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance." So they seized him and 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 answered, 'He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives'. Jesus said to them, 'Have you never read in the scriptures: 

It was the stone rejected by the builders
that became the keystone.
This was the Lord's doing
and it is wonderful to see?

I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.'

Soiscéal Matha 21:33-43 (Gaeilge, Irish)

San am sin dúirt Íosa le huachtaráin na sagart agus le seanóirí an phobail: “Éistigí le parabal eile: Bhí an fear tí seo ann a rinne fíonghort a phlandáil, fál a chur ina thimpeall, cantaoir a thochailt ann, agus túr a thógáil; chuir ar cíos ansin chun curadóirí é agus chuaigh ar an gcoigríoch. Nuair a bhí séasúr na dtorthaí ann, chuir sé a chuid seirbhíseach uaidh go dtí na curadóirí chun toradh an fhíonghoirt a fháil. Ach rug na curadóirí ar na seirbhísigh, thug siad bualadh do dhuine acu, mharaigh duine eile, chloch duine eile. Ansin chuir sé seirbhísigh eile uaidh ba líonmhaire ná iad siúd, ach ba é an cor céanna a thug siad dóibh sin. Sa deireadh, chuir sé chucu a mhac, mar dúirt sé leis féin: ‘Tabharfaidh siad ómós do mo mhac.’ Ach nuair a chonaic na curadóirí an mac, dúirt siad le chéile: ‘Is é seo an t-oidhre; seo, maraímis é, agus bíodh a oidhreacht againn féin,’ agus rug siad air, thiomáin siad amach as an bhfíonghort é agus mharaigh é. Dá bhrí sin, nuair a thiocfaidh máistir an fhíonghoirt, cad a dhéanfaidh sé leis na curadóirí úd?” Dúirt siad leis: “Tabharfaidh sé drochíde do na daoine mallaithe sin agus cuirfidh an fíonghort ar cíos chun curadóirí eile a thabharfaidh na torthaí dó ina séasúr féin.” Dúirt Íosa leo: “Nár léigh sibh riamh sna scrioptúir:

‘ An chloch dár dhiúltaigh na saoir,
rinneadh di ceann an chúinne;
obair an Tiarna é seo
agus is iontach inár súile é’?

“Sin an fáth a ndeirim libh go mbainfear ríocht Dé díbhse agus go dtabharfar do phobal í a thabharfaidh uathu a toradh.

+++

A little googling will show that in the USA in 90 percent of cases where prenatal testing shows that a child has Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome) the mother chooses to have an abortion. Lala, who celebrated her 'official birthday' on 27 September, the feast of St Vincent de Paul, when she turned 32, lives in the L'Arche Community in Cainta, Rizal, part of the Metro Manila sprawl. You can read her story here.

Lala was left in a garbage pail after birth. She is a ray of sunshine to those blessed enough to know her. I am one of those such blessed. Much more so is Jordan, who also lives in the L'Arche community. He was born with multiple disabilities and has been in L'Arche since he was a small child.

According to the received 'wisdom' of many Lala and Jordan should never have been born.

Jesus tells us in the parable how the the tenants in the vineyard killed not only the servants of the owner, who provided them with a livelihood, but his own son, clearly a reference to Jesus himself, the Son of God the Father, God become Man.

So many today, for different reasons, destroy the lives of humans at their beginning. About 50,000,000 unborn babies have been legally killed in the USA since the infamous Roe vs Wade decision of the Supreme Court in 1973. Countless others have been destroyed because of the one-child policy of the People's Republic of China. Parts of China and India have an abnormally low percentage of women because of abortion.

This is one example of the rejection of God's love.

Jesus quotes from Psalm 118. Surely when we look at Jordan and Lala we can say 'This is the Lord's doing and is wonderful to see'.

The Madonna of the Grapes, Pierre Mignard, 1640s

The Passion of Saint Thérèse


In June of 1895, two years before her death, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face made an "Act of Oblation to Merciful Love." She expressed her gratitude to God for the grace of suffering: "Since you deigned to give me a share in this very precious Cross, I hope in heaven to resemble You and to see shining in my glorified body the sacred stigmata of Your Passion." (The Story of a Soul, trans. by Fr. John Clarke, OCD, p.277)

In the mental and physical sufferings that St. Thérèse experienced in the weeks preceding her early demise, she came to resemble her Crucified Spouse very much. As the tuberculosis consumed her body, a trial of faith and hope, in which heaven and eternity seemed closed to her, tortured her soul. The coughing of blood and persistent sore throat led to a treatment of painful cauterization with silver nitrate. Eventually, "gangrene ate away her intestines and she lost blood two or three times a day. Drinking only intensified her burning thirst. She had a terrible feeling of suffocation which could not be eliminated by the administration of ether. Finally, her bones protruded through her flesh to such an extent that, when she was made to sit upright to get some relief, it seemed to her that she was seated on iron spikes." (Complete Spiritual Doctrine of St. Therese of Lisieux by Rev. Francois Jamart, pp. 187-188) She confided to her sister, Mother Agnes of Jesus, that her pain was so intense that at times she was tempted to commit suicide: "What a grace it is to have faith! If I had no faith I would have inflicted death on myself without hesitating a moment!" (The Story of a Soul, p. 264)

On the afternoon of September 30, 1897, she entered into her agony. "Everything I have written about my desires for suffering," she gasped. "Oh, it is true just the same. I am not sorry for having surrendered myself to love. Oh, I am not sorry, on the contrary!" (The Story of a Life by Bishop Guy Gaucher, p. 204)

Nevertheless, Mother Agnes was so distressed by her sister's ordeal that she knelt before a statue of the Sacred Heart and begged for the grace of final perseverance for her little Thérèse. When the other nuns of the Carmel were summoned to the infirmary to support their sister with prayers in her dying moments, they saw her purplish hands holding her profession crucifix. Shortly after seven o'clock in the evening, the saint looked at the crucifix and breathed forth her last words: "My God, I love You!" After gazing a few moments with an expression of ecstatic joy at the statue of Our Lady, the beloved "Virgin of the Smile," brought from her childhood home, she died peacefully, her own face transfigured and smiling. On October 4, she was buried in the cemetery of the town of Lisieux. Only a few relatives and friends were present at the burial of the twenty-four year old nun. No one guessed that a storm of glory, a shower of miracles, was about to break forth.

Review of "Courageous"

A police station in Albany Georgia is populated by men of all races and personalities. There is one tie which binds them, a tie which reaches even deeper than the bond shared by police. They are all fathers, yet most of their fathering falls short of what their wives and children long for in their loneliness.
 That is the theme of "Courageous" which is another film by the Sherwood Baptist Church which brought you "Fireproof" and "Facing the Giants". Sherwood Baptist Church is a unique phenomenon, a movie-making Baptist Church, but they have come a long way since their first film, "Flywheel", and "Courageous" is proof that an openly faith-based film can be riveting. Although I had a long day at the Catholic Marketing Network trade show, and viewed another film before it,  I was emotionally involved the entire film,and noticed, when it was time to leave, that my sides ached from laughing and my eyes were wet with tears.
Courageous is not all sermons, however, it has several interwoven stories of the policemen's families in need of healing because of the failure to father. Its a story so many of us see all around us, where fathers are missing either in body or in spirit from their families. Courageous seems to touch on most popular scenarios; the workaholic dad, the missing dad, the absent but loving dad, all called to account by the dedicated dad whose relationship with his family and his God is built on solid ground.

Courageous is riveting if preachy (I don't mind a bit of preaching in a film if they tell a good story) film which touches the heart of the crisis in society, which is the source of crime, drug abuse and misery in the ghettos; absentee and uninvolved fathers.The film makes no bones about wanting to start a movement of men supporting men in their fatherhood, and I hope, that as they did in "Fireproof" they succeed ("The Love Dare" the book used in the film was a bestseller) The good news is that that Catholics like the National Catholic Register's Tim Drake were brought in as consultants during the filming, and the follow materials are geared towards Evangelical as well as Catholic viewers.
 If it does become a movement, Courageous could go a long way toward healing millions of broken hearts in our country.Action scenes are tightly directed, and meaningful though violent. There is no profanity, or nudity, though some scenes may be too intense for little viewers.
Highly recomended for children over ten, but don't take the kids yet. Go for the first time as a date with the man in your life, this film is a real conversation starter.

29 Sep 2011

Angels


September 29th is the Feast Day of the Archangels, Saints Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. The New Age movement talks a lot about angels but these are the three main ones mentioned in the catholic Church. We must not forget that when the devil fell to earth he took a third of the angels with him and also that they can masquerade as angels of light. Many people seek to experience connection with an angel in some way or have experienced angels, perhaps in the form of a guardian angel who has protected them from sort of danger or they have felt the spiritual comfort of an angel when going through a difficult time.

Saint Michael was the Archangel who fought against the devil and his demons for God and all His followers. He protects us from the snares of the enemy like Mary who is able to tread on the serpent’s head and keep us from harm.

Originally this was just the feast day of St Michael (and all the angels) – also called Michaelmas Day and we have the well known plant which flowers at this time of year – the Michaelmas Daisy. The Michaelmas Daisy, which flowers late in the growing season between late August and early October, provides colour and warmth to gardens at a time when the majority of flowers are coming to an end.

The Michaelmas Daisies, among dede weeds,
Bloom for St Michael's valorous deeds.
And seems the last of flowers that stood,
Till the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude.”

(The Feast of St. Simon and Jude is 28 October)

Saint Michael’s Day was close to the Autumn Equinox and one of the ‘quarter days’. Rents were usually due and bills paid on a ‘quarter day’. The other three being Lady Day in March, Midsummer in August and Christmas following the seasons of the year. Some of the old Missals will show the quarter days in them. They are spaced three months apart, on religious festivals, usually close to the solstices or equinoxes. They were the four dates on which servants were hired, rents due or leases begun. It used to be said that harvest had to be completed by Michaelmas, almost like the marking of the end of the productive season and the beginning of the new cycle of farming. It was the time at which new servants were hired or land was exchanged and debts were paid. This is how it came to be for Michaelmas to be the time for electing magistrates and also the beginning of legal and university terms. This time of year is the beginning of the year for many religions including Judaism, rather than January, which follow the agricultural year, the end of the harvest signalling the end of one year and the start of the next. Traditionally 24th September was when harvesting began in Medieval England but it often started as early as 1st August. On the 1st August farmers used to give loaves of bread to the Church, before the Reformation to celebrate the start of the harvest.

Traditionally, in the British Isles, a well fattened goose, fed on the stubble from the fields after the harvest, is eaten to protect against financial need in the family for the next year; and as the saying goes:

“Eat a goose on Michaelmas Day,
Want not for money all the year”.

Sometimes the day was also known as “Goose Day” and goose fairs were held. Even now, the famous Nottingham Goose Fair is still held on or around the 3rd of October. In British folklore, Old Michaelmas Day was on 10th October, after the calendar reform in 1752, and was the last day that blackberries should be picked. It is said that on this day, when Lucifer was expelled from Heaven, he fell from the skies, straight onto a blackberry bush. He then cursed the fruit, scorched them with his fiery breath, spat and stamped on them and made them unfit for consumption! And so the Irish proverb goes:

“On Michaelmas Day the devil puts his foot on blackberries”.

I have a lovely final show of blackberries in my front garden, but once the sun has gone they will soon be fading fast, losing their shiny bloom, as the length of the days are fading fast now too.

Another weather lore says that “If St Michael’s day brings many acorns, Christmas will cover the fields with snow.” We did see quite a few acorns on our walk through the woods at the weekend, so I’m guessing we will see some snow this Christmas then!

Archangels are found in a number of traditions including Judaism and Islam. Saint Michael is mentioned in Scripture five times, and always in a warlike character; namely, thrice by Daniel as fighting for the Jewish church against Persia; once by St. Jude as fighting With the devil about the body of Moses; and once by St. John as fighting at the head of his angelic troops against the dragon and his host.

Saint Gabriel was previously remembered in March and Saint Raphael in October until it was revised in 1970 and the three combined.

Saint Gabriel was a messenger, telling Zechariah of the birth of his son John the Baptist and Mary that she would carry the Son of God, Jesus the Messiah. He also appeared in the Book Of Daniel explaining Daniel’s visions. In Islam it is said that it was Gabriel that delivered the Quran to Mohammed.

Luke 1:10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.
11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.
16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.
20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

Saint Raphael is the healing angel who helped Tobias and his father in the Old Testament. Raphael means ‘It is God who heals’. Raphael is mentioned in the Book of Enoch: "And again the Lord said to Raphael: 'Bind Azazel hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness: and make an opening in the desert, which is in Dudael, and cast him therein. And place upon him rough and jagged rocks, and cover him with darkness, and let him abide there for ever, and cover his face that he may not see light. And on the day of the great judgment he shall be cast into the fire."

Raphael is the Patron Saint of: apothecaries; blind people; bodily ills; diocese of Madison, WI, druggists; archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa; eye problems; guardian angels; happy meetings; insanity; lovers; mental illness; nightmares, nurses; pharmacists; physicians; archdiocese of Seattle, Washington; shepherds; sick people; travelers; young people.

In some Jewish traditions and Christian apocryphal scriptures Uriel is listed as the fourth Archangel, saving John the Baptist from the slaughter of he innocents by Herod and reuniting him and his family with Jesus after their flight to Egypt. He is supposed to stand at the Gate of Eden with a fiery sword. (Abbot Anscar Vonier, 1964. 'The Teaching of the Catholic Church').

Three other Angels are mentioned in the Book of Enoch – Raguel, Sariel and Jarahmeel

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Liturgy

In his encyclical Mediator Dei, Pius XII links liturgy with the last will of Jesus Christ.


"But it is His will, that the worship He instituted and practiced during His life on earth shall continue ever afterwards without intermission. For he has not left mankind an orphan. He still offers us the support of His powerful, unfailing intercession, acting as our "advocate with the Father." He aids us likewise through His Church, where He is present indefectibly as the ages run their course: through the Church which He constituted "the pillar of truth" and dispenser of grace, and which by His sacrifice on the cross, He founded, consecrated and confirmed forever."

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28 Sep 2011

Marie-Antoinette and the Carmelite Order

The connection between the Carmelite Order and the Royal House of France originated in the Middle Ages, when St. Louis IX encountered the hermits on Mt. Carmel and brought them to France. When the Discalced Reform came to France from Spain in the early seventeenth century, the royal family assisted the nuns with their patronage. The French court was shaken in 1674 when Louise de la Vallière, the former mistress of Louis XIV, publicly begged the queen's forgiveness and entered a Carmelite monastery. In his book To Quell the Terror, William Bush details the many connections of the later Bourbons with Carmel, particularly the patronage of Queen Marie Lesczynska and her daughter Madame Louise. When Louise herself chose to become a Carmelite nun in 1770, it cemented the spiritual ties between those in the worldliness of Versailles and those in the austerity of the cloister.

Marie-Antoinette of Austria married the Dauphin in the same year that Madame Louise entered the monastery. The young princess offered to represent Louis XV at the ceremony at which his daughter Louise received the habit of Carmel, since it was too painful for the king and the rest of his family to be present. So it was the teenage Marie-Antoinette who veiled the new "Soeur Thérèse de Saint-Augustin."

In the years the followed, Marie-Antoinette would visit her husband's aunt three times year at the Carmel, of which she was a benefactress. As the Queen's maid Madame Campan relates in her Memoirs:

The Court went to visit her about three times a year, and I recollect that the Queen, intending to take her daughter there, ordered me to get a doll dressed like a Carmelite for her, that the young Princess might be accustomed, before she went into the convent, to the habit of her aunt, the nun.
According to Madame Campan, Madame Louise as a nun was deeply involved in church affairs; she was always petitioning her nephew's wife, so that Marie-Antoinette called her: "t
he most intriguing little Carmelite in the kingdom." It was at the request of Madame Louise, however, that Marie-Antoinette granted a dowry to a poor, pious girl named Mademoiselle Lidoine, so that she could enter the Carmel of Compiègne. Mademoiselle Lidoine became the Mother Prioress of the heroic Martyrs of Compiègne, who like Marie-Antoinette, died on the guillotine during the French Revolution.
--
Elena Maria Vidal is the author of the historical novels Trianon, Madame Royale, and The Night's Dark Shade. Please visit Elena at her Tea at Trianon blog and on Facebook and Twitter.

Ever wonder what you hear through a stethoscope?

 



Did you ever wonder what you hear through a stethoscope? H/T to Father Z.

27 Sep 2011

Lala and Queen Elizabeth II

This column, updated 28 September 2011, appeared in the short-lived Negros Times 13-14 October 2008. The above was the picture that appeared with my weekly column. Yesterday, the feast of St Vincent de Paul, was Lala's 'Official Birthday'. I only remembered that today and thought of posting my three-year-old article here.

Both Lala and Queen Elizabeth II have have two birthdays, the real one and the official one. Lala’s official birthday is September 27 and she turned 32 yesterday. Queen Elizabeth’s official birthday is celebrated in 53 Commonwealth countries, but not on the same date. Only the Falkland Island observes her official birthday on her real one, April 21. In the United Kingdom the Queen’s official birthday can be on the first, second or third Saturday in June. She turned 85 on her last birthday.

While there’s no confusion about the date of birth of Queen Elizabeth, there is about that of Lala. The young Princess Elizabeth was born in a palace in London. Lala was found shortly after birth in a trashcan in Cebu city in the central Philippines. Those who found her took her to the Asilo De La Milagrosa, the orphanage of the Daughters of Charity there. The Sisters noticed that the little girl had Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome) and took her in and raised her. Since they didn’t know who her parents were they had to choose a name for her.

The Sisters chose 'Vicente' as her family name, in honor of St Vincent de Paul, and 'Louilla' as her Christian name, in honor of St Louise de Marillac. The two saints founded the Daughters of Charity in France in 1633. Lala, as all her friends know her, probably has something else in common with St Louise. She was almost certainly born out of wedlock, as the saint was, and, like St Louise, never knew her mother. I suspect that Lala’s mother, probably very young and unmarried, panicked – this possibly added to when she saw that her daughter wasn’t 'normal' - and left her baby where someone could find her and take care of her.

I first met Lala in Cebu in 1992 at a Faith and Light celebration. We had just begun a community there, after a retreat given by the co-founder of the movement, Jean Vanier, a Canadian layman, in Holy Family Retreat House, Cebu City, in October 1991. During the retreat he gave a public talk in the auditorium of St Theresa’s College, as I recall, and a group of interested people got together after that. The gathering at which Lala was present included members of Faith and Light from Manila who had come to tell us more about the movement.

I could see immediately that Lala had a special gift – she’s a natural 'ice-breaker'. Though she seldom says anything, she lights up any group into which she comes, unless she’s in a bad mood, which happens from time to time.

Lala became a member of our Faith and Light community in Cebu but I lost contact with her when I went to Lianga, Surigao del Sur, in 1993 as parish priest and to Manila the following year to become vocation director of the Columbans. But one day when I visited the L’Arche community in Cainta, Rizal, known as 'Ang Arko',  I was surprised to see Lala there. L’Arche, the French for 'The Ark' as in Noah’s Ark, was founded by Jean Vanier, in 1964 when he invited two men with learning disabilities, Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, who had been living in an institution, to join him in a small cottage he had bought and was renovating in the town of Trosly-Breuil, France. Jean had no intention of founding anything, but he realized very quickly that he had made a commitment to these two men. One of them, I forget which, chose to live independently some years later, something he could never have done had he stayed not met Jean. Out of these small beginnings has grown an international movement of about 130 residential communities where those with learning disabilities are enabled to live in a family-type situation and to develop their abilities to the greatest extent possible.

Jordan and Raymon, now young men, were welcomed by Ang Arko when they were very young. Both have physical as well as learning disabilities. The original house was in Manila but the community moved later to Cainta.

In Holy Week 2001 I attended the international pilgrimage of Faith and Light to Lourdes as chaplain to the group from the Philippines. Lala was one of the twelve or so Filipinos.

The Easter Vigil was celebrated in the underground basilica. Some of the Old Testament Vigil readings were dramatized. During the account of creation when the words 'God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him' were read, a spotlight shone on a young man in a wheelchair. But what moved me most was when 'Lala' was part of a group dramatizing the reading of the Exodus.

I simply marveled at the fact that a young woman who should never have been born, according to the 'wisdom' of so many, left after birth among garbage, was on the other side of the world helping to proclaim the Word of God to thousands of people, many like herself, and doing so with the joy that permeates her soul.

Queen Elizabeth has been blessed by God with a long and healthy life, in which she continues to serve her people with dignity. Though Queen Elizabeth is among the richest people in the world, Lala, also with her two birthdays, enjoys even greater riches, because the words of Mary’s prayer, the Magnificat, have been revealed in her life: 'God has lifted up the lowly'.


Rafael Simi (left) and Jean Vanier (right). You can listen to an interview with Jean here. He turned 83 on 10 September.
 
This comment was posted when I first posted this three years ago:
 
Wow..I can't believe Im actually sitting here reading this post about Lala..This is wonderfull..Well, I actually grew up with Lala in the orphanage at Asilo dela Milagrosa..we are the same age..I was there from 1986-1994 until I was sent here in America to be adopted..The first time we were introduce to Lala we were a little nervous, we were very young and we never met someone like her, then she started to sing "Tomorrow" and for some reason we were all drawn to her..As I remember, I was a little jealous because she was always happy, didnt care what everyone thought of her, she welcomed every visitor we had with a smile, she's very friendly..After I finished high school, I started working as a volunteer camp councelor but I was assigned in the office and there was this girl and she is also my age and I was ask to be her counselor for a couple of months and I was so excited, nobody knew why I was glad to do so and it all because I remembered Lala, it was 8 yrs. ago that i work at the camp, and here I am writing and remembering Lala..
I would like to thank you Fr. Sean for writing this post..

The Prodigal Son

Sitting in the Adoration Chapel recently, my eyes were continually drawn to a print of The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Rembrandt. There is much to contemplate within the scene, but on that particular day it was the prodigal himself I returned to again and again.

Broken, dirty, battered, he’d been shamed and brought low. And yet there is yielding peace in his very bones as he accepts his father’s embrace.

He has surrendered. He knows who he is and where he belongs. Every line of his body, the very profile of his face is eloquent with that acceptance.

He makes no excuses for his tattered clothing, the hole in his shoe, his bare head. Rather, he is open, and receives his father’s healing touch, his father’s blessing.

The beauty of this parable is that we see fragments of ourselves in each of the characters: the father who hopes, trusts, and forgives; the faithful son who questions the justice of the rebellious son’s welcome – and perhaps to some extent also questions his father’s love for him because he hasn’t been feted like this despite being ‘the good son’ ; the prodigal, who turned his back on all he’d been taught, and squandered what he’d been given (dignity and family as well as wealth).

Reflecting on the figure of the prodigal in Rembrandt’s beautiful painting, I understood that the same forgiveness and love he received is available to me, if I also have his trust and humility. Approaching the Father with honesty, making no excuses, and then accepting His mercy will bring true peace and joy.

Loving God, faithful Father,

You receive Your lost sheep with open arms. Grant us the grace to always seek You when we stray, for in You we have the fullness of joy and everlasting peace.

Amen.

26 Sep 2011

'Engineer brothers down tools for life in the priesthood'

Fr James Doyle, Fr Brian Doyle OP, Bro Rory Doyle OFMConv

The photo above, courtesy of the Irish Dominicans, was taken on Saturday 3 September in Murrintown, County Wexford, in the south-west of Ireland, when Father Brian was ordained priest by Bishop Denis Brennan of Ferns. His brother Father James (Jim) is a priest in the Diocese of Ferns, which includes most of County Wexford, and his twin Brother Rory is also preparing for the priesthood as a Conventual Franciscan.

The three brothers are featured in today's Irish Independent: Engineer brothers down tools for life in the priesthood. The twins have doctorates in engineering. Father Jim worked with the Irish agency Concern in Cambodia and Burundi and found his vocation there.

Father Brian with his parents Joan and Brian senior (Irish Dominican Vocations)

Ten years ago I did mission appeals on behalf of the Columbans in the Diocese of Lancaster in the north-west of England. I met two of the three Burns brothers who, like the Doyle brothers, gave up very successful careers to become priests. I met two of the three Foulkes brothers who were also priests of the diocese. The third had already died.

We Columbans have been blessed with sets of three brothers, from Australia, Ireland and the USA. But in today's Ireland, where so many have left the Church, where so many are disheartened by scandals involving priests, it is very heartening to read about the Doyle brothers who  have one sister, Judith, who married last year. It is particularly heartening to read about it in the most widely read daily newspaper in Ireland.

Full story here.

Recommended: a story of triumph, joy, sorrow, disaster and renewal



One of the books I am reading at the moment is the autobiography of the late Rosemary Clooney. I was drawn to her story because I heard that she died a "good Catholic", but her journey to that point was often horrendous. I recommend it to those who have problems with addiction and suffer from depression. Rosemary's main suffering came from the breakdown of her marriage to the actor Jose Ferrer. She was a loveable person and had many admirers and friends, one of them being Bing Crosby who was a great help to her when she was really down. Towards the end of her life, she "came back to the fold" as she described it, "to stay". When I was a child and teenager I didn't care for her style of singing. I have rediscovered her and was able to get a wonderful CD of her jazz recordings which are excellent. The book is available at Amazon. Mine is a used copy in very good condition. The CD was also fairly cheap. If you are interested in "showbiz" in the '50's this is a great read, but it is also a very inspirational story that has already helped many people. God bless her.