Showing posts with label Faith and Light. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Faith and Light. Show all posts

9 Mar 2017

‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ Second Sunday of Lent, Year A


Transfiguration, Fra Angelico 
Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India )
Gospel Matthew 4:1-11 (NRSV)
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, ‘Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’

Like Peter, James and John, I caught a glimpse of something of the Purity of God on a hill. Tradition tells us that Jesus was transfigured on Mount Tabor, Israel. My 'Mount Tabor' was a hotel at the top of a hill in Lourdes, France.
During Holy Week 2001 I took part in the international pilgrimage of Faith and Light to Lourdes which takes place every ten years. Faith and Light was born of a desire to help people with an intellectual disability and their families find their place within the Church and society. This was the main purpose of the organized pilgrimage to Lourdes at Easter of 1971. The founders of the movement were Jean Vanier and Marie-Hélène Mathieu. 
Jean Vanier is also the founder of L'Arche. In the video below he speaks about the beginnings of that, not as a project or movement but as a covenant with two individuals with learning disabilities and their own dreams, Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux.
Jean Vanier speaks about the early days of L'Arche and finding God in others
Full post here.

27 Sep 2014

Happy Birthday, Louilla 'Lala' Vicente!

Lala, with Jordan
I first wrote the post below for the short-lived Negros Times in October 2008. I have re-posted it a number of times because Lala's story is one that should be told over and over again. Today she has been celebrating her 35th birthday on a pilgrimage to Lipa City, Batangas, south-east of Manila, with members of Faith and Light, which holds a pilgrimage every year on or near the Feast of the Nativity of Mary. 

No doubt, there will be something to mark the occasion at Punla, Ang Arko, where Lala lives, the only L'Arche community in the Philippines, in Cainta, Rizal, part of the metropolitan sprawl of Manila.L'Arche, which might be called the 'older sister' of Faith and Light, is celebrating its Golden Jubilee this year.

The Pope's Universal Prayer Intention for September is: That the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life. The truth is that persons with mental or learning disabilities can teach the rest of us about the dignity of life, as the photo above of Lala helping Jordan with his meal shows.
 Full post here.

14 Mar 2014

'This is my Son, the Beloved . . . listen to him!' Sunday Reflections, 2nd Sunday of Lent Year A


Paolo Veronese, 1555-56 [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)











Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Lourdes [Wikipedia]



Like Peter, James and John, I caught a glimpse of something of the Purity of God on a hill. Tradition tells us that Jesus was transfigured on Mount Tabor, Israel. My 'Mount Tabor' was a hotel at the top of a hill in Lourdes, France.

Full post here.

27 Sep 2012

Happy Birthday, Lala, VERY IMPORTANT PERSON!

I first wrote the post below for the short-lived Negros Times in October 2008. I have re-posted it a number of times because Lala's story is one that should be told over and over again. This evening she will be celebrating her 33rd birthday with a quiet dinner at Punla, Ang Arko, the only L'Arche community in the Philippines, in Cainta, Rizal, part of the metropolitan sprawl of Manila.


Lala, with Jordan
Let us show our service to the poor, then, with renewed ardour in our hearts, seeking out above all any abandoned people, since they are given to us as lords and patrons.(St Vincent de Paul, used in the Office of Readings for his feast day, today.)

Both Lala and Queen Elizabeth II have have two birthdays, the real one and the official one. Lala’s official birthday is 27 September and she turns 33 today. Queen Elizabeth’s official birthday is celebrated in 53 Commonwealth countries, but not on the same date. Only the Falkland Islands observes her official birthday on her real one, 21 April. In the United Kingdom the Queen’s official birthday can be on the first, second or third Saturday in June. She turned 86 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.

St Vincent de Paul (24 April 1581 - 27 September 1660)

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.

St Louise de Marillac (15 August 1591 - 15 March 1660)

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.

Lala and Hachico, each looking more content than the other!

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, Queen of Canada, in Toronto in 2007(Ever since I was a small child I've just loved the scarlet jackets of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I used to draw Mounties with crayons but never evolved into an El Greco or a Van Gogh.)

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'.


The Visitation, El Greco painted 1610-13. (From Web Gallery of Art.)

Deposuit potentes de sede et exaltavit humiles.

He casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly (Luke 1:52, Grail translation.)

From Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643).

2 Sep 2012

Jean Vanier on hospitality



While posting the link Misyononline link for today's Sunday Reflections on Facebook I saw there a link to a new video by Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche and co-founder with Marie-Hélène Mathieu of Faith and Light. He is speaking to a young fellow-Canadian, Maya Pot, a fifth-grader, about hospitality, which I had also focused on in Sunday Reflections, where a Filipino seminarian told me about the experience of hospitality that he had when he went to visit some workers from Kerala, India, living in an overcrowded labour camp in Dubai.

Marie-Hélène Mathieu

I've since discovered that Jean speaks to Maya in a number of short videos on hospitality, each directed to a different group. The one above is for parents. He speaks to teachers (below), to senior elementary students here, to junior elementary students here and to secondary students here.

Full post here.

2 Apr 2012

Madonna House: The People of the Towel & Water

Video made at Madonna House, Combermere, Ontario, Canada

I have visited the Madonna House community in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada, a number of times, in 1985 and in 2005. One of many blessings was meeting and working with a priest of Madonna House, the late Monsignor Art Bukowski, from Michigan, USA, in Kentucky during the summers of 1969 and 1970, when I was a young priest studying in the USA. He was much older than me and when I first met him he had just finished 29 years as president of Aquinas College, Grand Rapids. He later, I think, spent some time in Latin America. He died in 1989. I remember him for his quiet, missionary zeal as a priest and his driest of the dry humour. I also remember the Madonna House cross that he wore.

 Monsignor Arthur F. Bukowski

The video, which begins with part of the gospel for Holy Thursday, highlights the consecration of Catherine de Hueck (de HUEeck) Doherty and her husband to Jesus through Mary. This consecration comes form the teachings of St Louis-Marie de Montfort. The film mentions that that saint had a similarly deep influence on the spirituality of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Blessed John Paul II. It was also the bedrock of the spirituality of the Venerable Frank Duff, founder of the Legion of Mary.

Something else emphasised in the video is 'Nazareth spirituality', which deeply influenced Blessed Charles de Foucauld, though in a somewhat different way. It is also implicitly part of the spirituality of Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche and co-founder of its 'cousin' Faith and Light. Both of these, like Madonna House, are very Marian. Indeed, Faith and Light grew out of an international pilgrimage to Lourdes for persons with learning disabilities and their families in 1971.

The very title of this video also reminds me of something that Jean Vanier places great importance on, the washing of the feet. In a retreat I made under him in Manila in 1995 we spent a whole afternoon reflecting on this, ending in small circles where we washed the feet of one of the persons beside us. The one who washed mine was Lala, about whom I've written a number of times before.

 Lala taking care of Jordan in the 'Nazareth' that is the L'Arche community, Cainta, Rizal, near Manila

Though based in England at the time, I was chaplain to the small Philippine group at the Faith and Light international pilgrimage to Lourdes during Holy Week 2001. After the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper we had our own washing of the feet ritual in the garden of the hotel where the Filipinos were staying.

'Nazareth spirituality' shows the extraordinary presence of God in the ordinary. Most of us spend our whole lives in 'Nazareth' and yet very few of us are aware of this.

A quiet joy comes through this film, the kind of joy that Pope Benedict spoke about in his message for this year's World Youth Day, observed yesterday, Palm Sunday.

26 Dec 2011

The Gifts of Christmas: Will They Last?

We do our best, as parents, to offer our sons a life of faith and fun. We talk to them about our beliefs and they see us living our faith, however imperfectly, every day in the ways in which we work and love and encounter friends and strangers. Will this faith "stick?" Will they learn to weave this ancient faith of ours into their hearts so it becomes their own? Will they come understand that Christ's birth is not a sentimental event but rather a daily reality?

Read more here....

30 Sep 2011

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.

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..

23 Aug 2011

'Can life still be something grand, even when suffering unexpectedly enters it?'

'

For many years I've had some involvement with persons with disabilities. Last Sunday I officiated at a wedding for two Deaf people. I regularly celebrate Sunday Mass in Sign Language. I'm not very good in that language and find conversations difficult, since I'm poor at reading signs. I've asked a number of experienced interpreters and their experience has been similar to mine. When you are learning a spoken language you reach a point when you can understand far more than you can express. With Sign Language it is the opposite.

I've also been on the fringes of Faith and Life for many years. It is a movement, born from a pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1871, that is made up of 'communities made up of persons with an intellectual disability, their families and friends, particularly young friends, who meet together on a regular basis in a Christian spirit, to share friendship, pray together, fiesta and celebrate life'.

More here.
 

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