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First Things First

“At eventide they will examine you in love.” – St John of the Cross, Spiritual Sentences and Maxims, n. 57.

The six of them arrived simultaneously at the Gate of Heaven. The angel Penuel, who was on duty at that time, received them in his usual, efficient manner. Apparently he had done his homework because, as he approached each one of them in turn for a warm embrace, he rattled off each one’s biodata.

“Ah,” he said, spotting a rather youngish man with a camera hanging from his neck, “Carlos de la Cruz. Chilean journalist. Atheist. Fought against political tyranny. Died in jail. Yes, very nice. Welcome to heaven. Oh, by the way, you will not have much use for your camera here. Too much light, you know, especially when you come in the vicinity of God.”

The man did not say anything, still under the shock of having discovered that there was a God, after all.

The angel went on to the next arrival.

“Ingrid Svenson.  Swedish.  Lutheran. Unmarried. Spent your life taking care of an invalid brother. Welcome, my dear, welcome!”

The girl obviously felt a bit lost, not having any more to push her brother’s wheelchair everywhere she went. She seemed shy and quiet, but very capable.

Penuel pass on to the figure next to her.

“Seseko M’Butu.  Congolese. Animist. Spent your life trying to preserve some endangered species of fauna in your country. Welcome, dear brother.”

The man quietly received his welcome with the natural dignity of a prince. Apparently, he was quite used to dealing with spirits.

“Raju Divarkar. Indian. Buddhist. As a bonze you confined your life within the austere walls and duties of a monastery. You are most welcome, brother.”

The monk bowed slightly, one hand held upright in front of his chest in the Buddhist sign of peace.

“Hideki Yamamoto. Japanese. No religion. Artist. Painted birds and flowers all your life. May you enjoy our own birds of paradise, dear brother.”

The man bowed deeply several times, overwhelmed by the angel’s gracious manner. Meanwhile Penuel had turned towards the last of the party.

“Luigi Cardinal Rampolla. Catholic. Spent most of your life in the Vatican Curia. Died as a Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature. Welcome, brother.”

The Cardinal was a bit surprised not to receive the red carpet treatment he had grown used to, but he kept his peace, being a born diplomat.

“Now,” the angel said, stepping back and overlooking the whole group, “the five of you may enter immediately. As for you”, he added, speaking to the Cardinal, “I am afraid there will be a slight delay. But, I assure you, your stay in Purgatory should not be too long.”

The Cardinal was astounded. Had he heard clearly?

“Are you saying,” he asked in his cultured voice, “that these – these – persons are to take precedence over me, a Cardinal, a prince of the Church?”

“Why, yes,” Penuel answered blandly.  “Is there any problem?”

The Cardinal swallowed hard, trying to keep his patience.

“Don’t you think,” he asked as suavely as he could, “that this is pushing ecumenism a bit too far?”

“Not at all, my dear brother,” the angel answered innocently. “You see, these – persons, as you call them, have amply deserved to inherit eternal bliss, whereas you have not.  At least, not yet.”

“And why not?” the Cardinal asked in an acid tone. He really felt affronted by the whole procedure.

“Because,” the angel replied patiently, “they have dedicated their whole lives to loving someone or something selflessly.  They are what we call here True Lovers.  And here love is the only thing that counts, you know. Whereas you dedicated most of your energies to furthering your career, using not-too-loving expedients to climb the ecclesiastical ladder – if you know what I mean.”

The Cardinal blushed. He knew what Penuel meant. And he had to admit that his ambition had often gotten the better of his Christian charity.  Nevertheless, he felt somewhat cheated.

“But does it count for nothing that I belong to the Catholic religion, the only true faith?” He was mentally comparing himself to his companions – whose religious background seemed to him quite unsatisfactory.

“Not really,” Penuel answered kindly. “Up here orthodoxy does not have a very high priority. What impresses us here is rather the way a person lives. As for being a Catholic, well – that in itself is not a recommendation.”

“But Jesus Christ was a Catholic!” the Cardinal exploded. This conversation was getting him nowhere and his temper was getting short.

“Let us say,” the angel said with infinite tact, “that Jesus Christ was a reformed Jew. The term Catholic, as you probably know, is not even found in the Bible.”

The other five persons present, although not understanding the finer points of this exchange, were nevertheless aware that their poor companion in fine scarlet robes would be left behind if something was not done. And so, being genuinely loving people, they began to intercede for him. Carlos de la Crus, the atheist journalist, was the first to speak up.

“Senor Penuel,” he said with his charming Latin smile, “you know I never liked priests very much. But this one doesn’t seem a bad fellow.  Why don’t you give him a chance and let him in with us?”

All the others joined in, adding their fervent plea to that of the journalist. Even the quiet Ingrid interjected her soft appeal amid the chorus of her companions.

The angel was secretly pleased. This kind of thing happened all the time at the Gate of Heaven and it enabled a fair number of dubious characters to be admitted on the insistence of their companions. A routine case of the Communion of Saints. God always applauded this sort of thing. However, a minimum of justice still had to be preserved.

“Very well! Very well!” he shouted over the clamour of the group. “Just give me a chance to make the proper arrangements!”

They all calmed down, curious to see what would happen.

“All right, Luigi.” The Cardinal winced interiorly at being addressed with such familiarity. But he knew he might as well get used to it because in heaven people did not seem to be very impressed by titles. “Since you never deserved to be made a Cardinal in the first place, you just cannot enter heaven dressed like one. In fact, you will be allowed to go in with your companions only because their merits will cover your spiritual nakedness, as it were. And, in order to signify this, you will have to exchange your clothes with their.”

Naturally the Cardinal was aghast at this turn of events, but what could he do?  Besides, deep down in his heart of hearts, he knew he had a lot of things on his conscience he was not too proud of. So he complied meekly.

He gave his precious episcopal ring to Ingrid and took hers (it was her mother’s wedding ring, which she had inherited). He traded his purple cassock and cape for Raju’s saffron robe (this was done discreetly, behind a cloud). He gave his fine Italian leather shoes to Seseko and put on the latter’s old sandals. He exchanged his skullcap for Hideki’s straw hat, and his pectoral cross for Carlos’ camera, which hung at his neck by a leather strap.

And so, on that day, five True Lovers entered triumphantly in Heaven – followed by a shamefaced Cardinal in a rather strange attire. Nevertheless, once again love had had the last word.

By Fr Nil Guillemette

Man saves tourists

The incident happened on Valentia Island on the 1st May 2019

Two US tourists had a lucky escape after their car plunged off a slipway into the sea on Valentia Island in Co Kerry yesterday afternoon.

The couple, who are believed to be in their 70s and staying in Killarney, were rescued by local man Mike Moriarty.

The 21-year-old was in the Royal Hotel in Knightstown when another customer said she thought she saw something going off the slipway near the clock tower ledge.

“I looked and couldn’t see anything, but I walked over and I could see a silver car in the water,” said Mr Moriarty.

He said the car was nose down in the water alongside the slipway wall and he could see two people inside.

“I took out my phone and wallet and jumped in,” he said.

However, he could not open the driver’s door and said he went for the back door in order to rebalance the car.

Mr Moriarty said this action allowed the water in and the nose of the car to re-position itself.

“It equalised the pressure and I was able to open the driver’s door,” he said.

It is understood the couple had been visiting the island in convoy with three or four other cars.

“They were very shook up,” Mr Moriarty said. The car was taken from the water by a local garage and the couple got a lift back to Killarney from others in the convoy.

Risen Lord, bring your peace and joy to the lives of everyone dear to me.

They were talking about how late Easter is this year. ‘Couldn’t be much later’ said one. ‘At least the evenings are brighter’, said another. ‘We won’t have the Easter fire in the dark’, another added.

You’d wonder what it’s all about – empty tombs and weeping women and despairing friends. I wondered too.

It’s about hope that never fades, that the most lifeless thing in creation is not dead. that means that there’s life everywhere. In failures, in shame and guilt, in illness. The life may lead to good health or to peace of mind and heart. It’s about God in Jesus taking care of everyone I worry about: And worries about children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Something that keeps me praying for people whose lives are really troubled. It’s all about prayer that’s always answered and the God that forgives us all, and helps us forgive each other. And much more besides which will unify us in the weeks to come. Easter began with creation in a garden and the garden has been replanted as a place for refreshment and peace.

Yes, couldn’t be much later and when you think of it, isn’t it worth waiting for?

Donal Neary SJ (editor Sacred Heart Messenger) found in the Parish of Ballisodare 28th April

Chief Imam celebrates 100 years in church


The National Chief Imam, Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharubutu with Father Campbel after the service

General News of Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Source: dailyguidenetwork.com

Chief Imam celebrates 100 years in church

The National Chief Imam, Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharubutu with Father Campbel after the service

The National Chief Imam Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharubutu last Sunday made a rare and spectacular appearance at the Christ The King Catholic Church, Accra as part of his 100th birthday.

Accompanied by a large entourage of top clerics and leading figures in the Islamic community, the visit went viral within minutes as the images were being posted particularly on social media.

DAILY GUIDE has learnt that President Akufo-Addo was also excited about the gesture which observers say is worthy of emulation in countries where cross-faith harmony is not a feature.

For a man whose peace overtures have earned for him a cross-faith reverence, the visit to Christ The King on an Easter Sunday augmented an already existing deference which found space on BBC’s African programme – Focus On Africa – with Audrey Brown who described it as a ‘light in the dark.’

The Chief Imam was received on arrival by the Parish Priest, Rev. Father Andrew Campbell, SVD, who led the congregation to sing a happy birthday song to his guest.

Arrival

A narration of the arrival by a member of the church, a certain Maya Musi Jata said it all about the excitement which greeted the cleric, as he set foot on the threshold of the church before the appointed time of 8am.

The congregation, as if the arrival had been rehearsed, commenced a ‘Happy Birthday’ song, as a supporting organ in the background provided the sweet notes in an appropriate pitch.

“He was supposed to arrive by 8am according to the programme, but he was there before 8am. I was excited about that. He was welcomed to the church by Rev Fr Campbell who told us that the Chief Imam was turning 100 and wanted to come celebrate with us,” Musi Jata told Audrey Brown.

The lady expressed happiness with the cleric’s position that God does not say that “we should fight those who do not belong to our faiths. There was a lot of encouragement for the cleric as he spoke. We are the same people and so should co-exist harmoniously. Let others outside Ghana emulate this gesture.”

Her admonition comes on the heels of an attack on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka in which scores of Christians lost their lives on Sunday.

How It Started

Cecil Garbrah, an official of the church, said “it all started with a call on Wednesday by a member of the Chief Imam’s team that the cleric wants to meet the Reverends and the congregation to mark his 100 years which is on Tuesday (today). I contacted the elders of the church and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Accra. We were excited that the Chief Imam was visiting us. If there is a red carpet let us lay it for him. We donated a pair of footwear, the kind worn by Muslims and he made a cash donation to the church.”

Mr. Garbrah spoke about a reciprocal visit to the mosque and how football matches, among other social activities, can enhance inter-faith harmony.

The Chief Imam, he told BBC, bemoaned the developments which have taken place across the world in which people have lost their lives.

Many social media users who spotted the Chief Imam at the church said the move inures to the harmonious co-existence among members of the two great faiths in Ghana

https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/…/National-Chief-Imam-attends-Catholic-…

God-mates

Jane never came out of her coma after the accident.  Instead, she woke up at the Portals of Heaven, her guardian angel at her side fondly smiling at her.

The girl – for now she found herself as she was some forty years before, a girl in her early twenties, but so much more alive, so aglow with health and beauty – the girl was greatly startled by the sight of her guardian angel. How could one see a spirit? But of course she was forgetting that she had by now acquired a spiritualized body.

At any rate, her eyes could see with perfect clarity the spiritual being at her side. What did she see?  She spontaneously thought of it in terms of a Flaming Mind or a Conscious Fire – in other words a stupendous combination of passionate love and awesome intellectual power, of burning tenderness and piercing acumen.

“I am Adoniel,” he said graciously. “I have been your life-long companion on your earthly journey.  And now I have the great joy of bringing you safely to your destination into the house of God.  But first,” he added as he threw open the Portals, “you will meet a few of your God-mates.”

As the Portals swung open, Jane caught sight of a glorious crowd of gleaming humans. They were thousands upon tens of thousands, all greeting her with shouts of joy.

“My – my God-mates?” she asked in astonishment.

“Yes, beloved Jane,” Adoniel answered. “These are a few of those you have helped or who helped you during your lifetime.  You could call them your spiritual next-of-kins, your life-sharers, your grace-donors, your co-souls, your other selves, your – well, perhaps the term God-mates best expresses what they are to you.  Shall I introduce some of them?”

He hesitated, as if unsure about whom to choose. Then he hit on an idea.

“Name a date at random within the past fifty years.  The first that comes to your mind.”

Automatically, almost without thinking, Jane blurted out “August 24th, 1956”.

“Very well,” Adoniel said, “this will serve as a small sample of all that you will discover concerning your God-mates.  We will not cover the whole day, for that would take too much time for now. We will only cover the first hour of that day.”

Jane was at a loss about the meaning of these words but Adoniel reassured her.

“Do not worry, you will soon understand.”

Then he signalled to a young man of surpassing beauty – but in truth, all the people in the crowd were young and astonishingly beautiful. The man approached and embraced Jane with great affection.

“This is Masayuki, a Japanese stone-cutter of the Fifth Century. You helped him find the strength to tell the truth at great cost to himself on a crucial occasion.”

“I did?” Jane asked, bewildered, “How?”

“Well,” Adoniel answered, “when you woke up on August 24th, 1956, you were very much tempted to stay in bed for a few more minutes. Your second pregnancy was making you feel somewhat languid. But then you heard your young son call to you from his bedroom and you decided to tend immediately to his needs, despite your natural reluctance.  Thus your courageous move earned Masayuki that extra grace which enabled him to do what he did.”

Adoniel then called a young woman. She in turn approached Jane and embraced her warmly.

“This is Conchita, a Peruvian fruit-vendor of the 17th century.  She helped you find the strength to smile to your young son, when you went to dress him up for the day. Remember, he had been very naughty the day before, and you felt little inclination to be kind to him. But somehow you found that extra ounce of courage to do so. That was because of Conchita’s offering for you”.

“What was that?” Jane asked.

“On one occasion Conchita caught an old beggar stealing from her small stock of fruit.  However, instead of flying in a rage, she decided to turn a blind eye and let the matter pass, since the man was poorer than she was. Conchita merely offered to God her act of patience ‘for whoever might need it,’ she prayed.”

Jane was deeply touched by Conchita’s generosity on her behalf. She would have wanted to thank her, but Conchita had already drawn away and melted into the crowd. Then Jane had a troubling thought.

“Excuse me, Adoniel,” she asked, “but how could Conchita have helped me, if she lived three centuries before I did?”

Adoniel smiled.

“There is no time with God,” he explained.  “For God we all exist in an everlasting present. And so he can decide to have Conchita influence your life even before you exist in created time.”

Now it made sense. But then, another thought came to her.

“Does it mean that I have helped people yet to be born, Adoniel?”

The angel laughed delightedly.

“Precisely. That is why this present crowd, which is only a small fraction of your God-mates from the past, will be immensely increased when all your God-mates from the future will have joined us.”

Jane was almost staggered by the angel’s revelation. But she had no time to dwell further on the matter, for Adoniel was resuming his introductions.

The third God-mate called forth was Edward, a 20th century stock broker from Wall Street who had helped her by refusing a bribe. The next God-mate was Jalna,  a Hindu bonze of the 4th century, B.C., whom Jane had helped overcome a temptation against his vow of chastity.  She had helped him by cheerfully cooking her husband’s breakfast, always on the morning of August 24th, 1956, despite an incipient nausea due to her pregnancy. Then there was Aiko, a Camerousnese whom Jane had helped ignore a sharp remark from an in-law.  Jane had done this by letting her husband retell an old story during breakfast without interrupting him.

The introductions went on in this manner for a long time. People of all nationalities, religions, periods of history and walks of life came forth to embrace Jane. By now the latter was feeling a wave of great love welling inside her for all these God-mates of hers.

At one point of the presentations she confided to her companion.

“I am amazed at the intricate way in which my life and the lives of all these people have been interconnected.”

“Yes indeed,” he agreed. “You are all like the living cells of a human body, those millions of small units joined in a constant exchange of nutritious elements. So it is with the body of Christ”.

After several more dozens of introductions had been made, Aloniel suddenly marked a pause.

“We are far from having gone through that first hour of your day on 24th August, 1956,” he said, “and so, you can imagine how many centuries will be needed for you just to meet your God-mates briefly – let alone to befriend them, as you will eventually have the joy of doing. However, for now we must interrupt this happy occasion and prepare ourselves. For indeed, God himself will shortly pass by and –“

But he broke off in mid-sentence. For at that very moment all present were abruptly engulfed in a blaze of unbearable Beauty.

From Running Waters – God tales for young and old – Fr. Nil Guillemette

Lord of the Rings

Extract from The Lord of the Rings

Minas Tirith

Pippin did not answer. He looked at the great walls, and the towers and brave banners, and the sun in the high sky, and then at the gathering gloom in the East; and he thought of the long fingers of that Shadow; of the orcs in the woods and the mountains, the treason of Isengard, the birds of evil eye, and the Black Riders even in the lanes of the Shire – and of the winged terror, the Nazgul. He shuddered, and hope seemed to wither. And even at that moment the sun for a second faltered and was obscured, as though a dark wing had passed across it. Almost beyond hearing he thought he caught, high and far up in the heavens, a cry: faint, but heart-quelling, cruel and cold. He blanched and cowered against the wall.

“What was that”, asked Beregond. “You also felt something?”

“Yes”, muttered Pippin.  “It is the sign of our fall, and the shadow of doom, a Fell Rider of the air.”

“Yes, the shadow of doom”, said Beregond.  “I fear that Minas Tirith shall fall.  Night comes. The very warmth of my blood seems stolen away.”

For a time they sat together with bowed heads and did not speak.  Then suddenly Pippin looked up and saw that the sun was still shining and the banners still streaming in the breeze.  He shook himself.  “It is passed,” he said. “No, my heart will not yet despair.  Gandalf fell and has returned and is with us.  We may stand, if only on one leg, or at least be left still upon our knees”.

“Rightly said!” cried Beregond, rising and striding to and fro. “Nay, though all things must come utterly to an end in time, Gondor shall not perish yet. Not though the walls be taken by a reckless foe that will build a hill of carrion before them. There are still other fastnesses, and secret ways of escape into the mountains. Hope and memory shall live still in some hidden valley where the grass is green”.

(We are living in difficult times: in the world, in the Church, inside our very selves.  Darkness and gloom, gloom and darkness all around us.

And yet our Saviour Jesus Christ fell and has returned and is with us.  We too may stand, if only on one leg.  There are still other fastnesses for us and secret ways of escape into a new joy and a new peace where hope and memory shall live in the hearts of those who come after us for whom we kept our hope and joy alive.)

When I was a stranger…

“Casa Betania Sta. Martha”, the welcome house for migrants in Salto de Agua, Chiapas, Mexico, is located about 100 Km from the border between Guatemala. The house is located on the route where the migrants go through. Here the cargo trains pass through this small town wherein many migrants boarded elsewhere to proceed with their journey. They jump off from these cargo trains at Salto de Agua and stop by Casa Betania Sta. Marta. The Casa, run by SVD Mexico Province has already hosted around 8000 migrants since its establishment in March 2018.

When I visited Casa Sta, Marta in November 2018, around 15 to 20 migrants were arriving in the house every day. However, I was told that this is not a significant number for them. The maximum number of migrants the Casa hosted in a day was 250.

In my conversation with a few of the migrants, I realized that each of them has his/her reason to leave their hometown. Some migrants are forced to leave their homes because of conflicts, persecution, disaster, and land grabbing. Some migrants are seeking a better life to improve their economic situation, for better job opportunities, education and medical treatment. Some migrants move because of family ties. Many times, for these migrants, the reason is not just one, but there are still many other complex reasons. Unfortunately, some people use these migrants for their political advantages. Also, there are experiences where people who have malicious interests use the migrants. Moreover, many people are indifferent and do not want to see such migrants.

Fr. Martín Islas, SVD, four FMM sisters and a few lay staff work at Casa Sta. Marta. There are also some volunteers from the SVD parish and other groups. They help like preparing beds and meals, providing clothes and medicine, offer places to shower and a counseling service. I saw that the migrants arriving at the Casa are often tired and some of them injured. They worry about their journey and their family. I heard that during the trip there are people that died by accident, killed, raped, cheated, and trafficked. Some children were also abducted.

As religious missionaries, social commitment is often a fulfilling work, because we can see the development and growth of individuals and communities. However, in the Casa the migrants merely come and go. They pass through the house temporarily. There is no way the staff of the Casa will ever know what will happen to these migrants or what is the future that awaits them. Indeed, this must be very tough work.


I saw Fr. Martín is sitting beside a migrant and listening to him as he shared his story in front of the kitchen. And on the wall of the kitchen, I saw the gospel message “for I was hungry, and you gave me food.” I became convinced that the accompaniment the staff of Casa is a real witness of the Gospel. It is the work that Jesus wanted to do for the poor people. It is also the work Jesus wants us to do as SVDs.

May God continue to bless this work and accompany this journey of the migrants and the staff of the Casa.

Daisuke Narui, SVD

Generalate JPIC Coordinator