25 October 2014

'You shall love the Lord your God . . .you shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Sunday Reflections. 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

St Matthew and the Angel, Vincenzo Campi, 1588
San Francesco d'Assis, Pavia, Italy [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)


When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

In preparation for the visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines in January 2015 Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, reflects on today's gospel.

The first of the three videos in this series has the theme The Works of Mercy. In the second Cardinal Tagle looks at The Beatitudes


Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan, Archbishop of Seoul (1922 - 2009)

I'm in Korea at the moment, partly because of the ordination to the priesthood on 1 November of revered Lee Jehoon Augustine, a Columban who spent two years working in the Manila area as part of his preparation for the priesthood.

Yesterday, Friday, I went with two Columban priests, Fr Liam O'Keeffe, a classmate from County Clare, Ireland,, Fr Con Murphy from County Cork, Ireland, who has been here in Korea for more than 50 years, and a woman named Pia to visit the graves of five Columbans in a cemetery owned by the Archdiocese of Seoul, but outside both the city and the archdiocese.  One of the five Columbans buried there, Fr Mortimer Kelly from Gort, County Galway, was a classmate of Father Liam and myself. Pia had known Fr John Nyhan, from Kilkenny, Ireland, since her childhood.

The cemetery is on hillsides, as is the Korean custom. A little higher on the hill where my companions are buried is the grave of Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan, a man who was revered in Korea, not only by Catholics but by nearly all South Koreans.

While we were there Father Con told me of a homily that Cardinal Kim once preached at a Mass in a Catholic university. He took out two daily newspapers and began to speak in such a quiet voice that those present had to strain forward and 'eavesdrop'. Cardinal Kim was flipping over the pages of both newspapers and some were thinking he was unprepared. Then he came to a particular story about young women working on the railways who collected fares of last-minute passengers and helped 'push' people into trains at rush hour.

The report in both papers was about accusations by higher authorities that some of these young women were perhaps pocketing some of the fares. Cardinal Kim's voice grew stronger as he spoke about this. Then he began to remind the students of how privileged they were, getting higher education and an opportunity to find better jobs than the young women working for the rail company who were at the bottom of the heap.

Cardinal Kim, who was noted for his love for the poor and who knew many poor people, now speaking in a very strong voice, asked the students if they were going to treat others with the contempt that some showed towards the young women in a menial job or if they were going to use their professional qualifications in the service of others.

Cardinal Kim

In that homily the late Archbishop of Seoul was bringing together the two Great Commandments that Jesus gives us in today's gospel and between which there is no conflict. In the First Reading, to which the Gospel is linked by theme, God reminds the Hebrew people of how they are to treat those who are poor or different - aliens, widows, orphans. If you take your neighbor’s cloak in pawn, you shall restore it before the sun goes down. That cloak was what a person particularly a poor person, slept in.

In other words, Jesus is asking us to see each person through his eyes. GK Chesterton in one of his biographies, maybe that of St Francis of Assisi or of St Thomas Aquinas, has a wonderful image of a huge crowd looking up at God on a balcony, rather as in St Peter's Square when the Pope is on the balcony there or at his window for the Sunday Angelus. However, Chesterton didn't see himself among the crowd but with God on the balcony, looking down on the people and seeing them as God sees them.

Cardinal Kim was doing something similar. He was looking at both the university students and the railway workers through the eyes of God. Rank means nothing to God as he looks on his children. As Psalm 149 so beautifully expresses it, God takes delight in his people [Grail translation].

I don't have my copy of the Handbook of the Legion of Mary with me but in it members are told to look upon each person they meet as higher than themselves. The Legion was born in the slums of Dublin in 1921 and to this day is involved to a large degree in serving people who have little or nothing.

God is constantly blessing the Church and the world through persons who embody the Gospel in their lives. I know from my friends in Korea in particular that Cardinal Kim was an embodiment of the Two Great Commandments, an embodiment of what each of us is called to be in virtue of our baptism in the different situations in which we find ourselves.


Cardinal Kim's grave [AsiaNews.it]

A Columban colleague who has taught at university here in Seoul, Fr Kevin O'Rourke, captured something of the grace that Cardinal Kim was and still is, not only to the Church in Korea, but to the Church throughout the world, in a poem he wrote after the death of the Cardinal. [Korean personal names may be spelled in different ways when Roman letters are used. Fr Donal O'Keeffe uses 'Sou-whan' for the Cardinal's name while Fr O'Rourke uses 'Suwhan'.]



Dust of snow,
a wind that chills to the bone,
pinched mourning faces,
collars raised, hats pulled low,
the shiver of death everywhere.
Cardinal Kim Suhwan
is lowered to his final resting place.

He brought forth simplicity,
a water simplicity that quickened
every root it touched.
He brought forth patience,
a medicament patience that salved
the wounds of the poor.
He brought forth compassion,
a loving compassion that embraced the world.
Simplicity, patience, compassion,
these three:
timber for a master carpenter,
clay for a master potter,
the hub of a master priest’s wheel.
“If you bring forth what is inside,
what you bring forth will save.”


Antiphona ad introitum  Entrance Antiphon  Cf Ps 104 [105]:3-4

Laetetur cor quaerentium Dominum.
Quaerite Dominum et confirmamini, quaerite faciem eius semper.

Let the hearts that seek the Lord rejoice;

Turn to the Lord and his strength, constantly seek his face.

[Confitemini Domino, et invocate nomen eius: annuntiate inter gentes opera eius.

Give glory to the Lord, and call upon his name: declare his deeds among the Gentiles.

Laetetur cor quaerentium Dominum.

Quaerite Dominum, et confirmamini, quaerite faciem eius semper.

Let the hearts that seek the Lord rejoice;
Turn to the Lord and his strength, constantly seek his face.]

[The text in bold is used in the Ordinary Form of the Mass while the rest is included in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.]


19 October 2014

Galileo, the Roman Inquisition and the Extraordinary Synod on the Family

Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642) [Wikipedia]

Catholic synod: Gay rights groups 'disappointed'

As I write this at 07:45 GMT/UTC, Sunday 19 October, the above is the main story on the website of the BBC. It was also the lead story on BBC World when I watched the news there at 22:00 Saturday and again at 04:00 today. Both bulletins featured two men in Rome living together, one of them speaking fluent English and telling of his desire to raise the three young children that they have as Catholics. The 04:00 bulletin also included an interview with a representative of The New Ways Ministry, described on the BBC website report as 'a US Catholic gay rights group'.

James Reynolds' report on the BBC website begins with this sentence: Catholic gay rights groups say they are disappointed after bishops rejected a call for wider acceptance of gay people, which had the Pope's backing.


That is the current main story on the website of The Irish Times. The opening paragraph of the report by the paper's Rome corrspondent, Paddy Agnew, reads: The Vatican Synod on the Family wrapped up tonight with a final document which appears to backtrack on the mid-Synod Relatio document concerning homosexuals issued on Monday.


Mr Agnew later refers to the other “celebrity” issue, namely the ban on the divorced and remarried receiving communion


The opening paragraph by Lizzy Davies in this story on the website of The Guardian/The Observer (London) reads: Pope Francis appeared on Saturday night to have lost out to powerful conservatives in the Roman Catholic church after bishops scrapped language that had been hailed as a historic warming of attitudes towards gay people. This report has a reference to the synod’s other highly controversial subject – considering whether Catholics who have divorced and remarried should be allowed to take holy communion.


No Consensus at Vatican as Synod ends is the more sober headline above the report 
on the website of the New York Times by Laurie Goodstein and Elisabetta Povoledo who being their report this way:  A closely watched Vatican assembly on the family ended on Saturday without consensus among the bishops in attendance on what to say about gays, and whether to give communion to divorced and remarried Catholics.

Meanwhile the Vatican itself more than a year ago saidVatican City, 8 October 2013 (VIS) – The Holy See Press Office today announced that Holy Father Francis has convened the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in the Vatican from 5 to 19 October 2014, on the theme “The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelisation”.

I don't know to what extent that theme was actually discussed at the Synod.

The family as I have known it, what I might call the 'normative family', has a husband and wife who, as a consequence of being such, usually become parents. Jesus Christ gave the Church the gift of the Sacrament of Matrimony to enable a man and woman to commit themselves in his love until death do us part and to raise as Christians, followers of Jesus, the children they co-create through God's sharing of his creative power with them. In other words, they are called to be the first and most important evangelisers of their children.

The media coverage before and during the Synod has hardly looked at or reported on the theme of the Synod. Before the bishops and others came to Rome the media was looking largely at marriages that had broken down. Some prominent bishops seemed to have had that focus now.

Yes, there were some married couples invited to address the Synod but again some of the reporting seemed to reflect the notion that priests and bishops have no idea whatever of what marriage and family are, as if they had never grown up with parents and siblings, as if they had no married friends, no married brothers or sisters, no nephews or nieces.

One would think that persons with same-sex attraction were not allowed to enter Catholic churches. One would think that persons with same-sex attraction were exempted from some of the Ten Commandments. 


Wedding Banquet, Jan Brueghel the Elder
Museo del Prado, Madrid  [Web Gallery of Art]

Update

I have found the Message issued at the end of the Synod. I had to read it three or four times and check a link on another website to make sure that this was what all the negativity was about. I found it to be an uplifting document, focused on marriage and the family as Christians have always understood it until recent decades. [I have highlighted parts of the quotations below.]

The Message excludes nobody: Christ wanted his Church to be a house with doors always open to welcome everyone. We warmly thank our pastors, lay faithful, and communities who accompany couples and families and care for their wounds.

Here is how it sees marriage: This authentic encounter begins with courtship, a time of waiting and preparation. It is realized in the sacrament where God sets his seal, his presence, and grace. This path also includes sexual relationship, tenderness, intimacy, and beauty capable of lasting longer than the vigor and freshness of youth. Such love, of its nature, strives to be forever to the point of laying down one’s life for the beloved (cf Jn 15:13). In this light conjugal love, which is unique and indissoluble, endures despite many difficulties. It is one of the most beautiful of all miracles and the most common.

And I recognise in this part of the Message what I have seen in 33 years of involvement with Worldwide Marriage Encounter: This journey is sometimes a mountainous trek with hardships and falls. God is always there to accompany us. The family experiences his presence in affection and dialogue between husband and wife, parents and children, sisters and brothers. They embrace him in family prayer and listening to the Word of God—a small, daily oasis of the spirit. They discover him every day as they educate their children in the faith and in the beauty of a life lived according to the Gospel, a life of holiness. Grandparents also share in this task with great affection and dedication. The family is thus an authentic domestic Church that expands to become the family of families which is the ecclesial community. Christian spouses are called to become teachers of faith and of love for young couples as well.

Note that that paragraph puts being husband and wife, being spouses, being a couple, before anything else. Parenthood, in God's plan, is a consequence of a man and woman being spouses. This is the norm. The Church, ie all of us, has to support and encourage lovingly and practically those who find themselves parents without being spouses, often being heroic in the situation where they find themselves.

Having read the full text of the Message I'm confirmed in what I wrote below a few hours ago. 


The reporting of the Message reminds me of an infamous main headline in the Times Journal, a Manila newspaper - the media were controlled at the time by the Marcos dictatorship - the day after the funeral of Benigno 'Ninoy' Aquino in 1983: Lightning kills 1, injures 9 at Luneta. The story was true and was a tragedy for the man who died and for his family. But the victims were among the more than one million who watched the funeral procession - I was among them -  and were in the branches of a tree in the main park in Manila to get a better view. The paper ignored the much wider reality of what was probably the biggest ever gathering until then in the history of the Philippines and the reason why the people had gathered. The first three headlines above and their accompanying stories are of the same genre as that in the Times Journal.

+++

And where do Galileo and the Roman Inquisition come in? Galileo taught that the earth and the other planets revolved around the sun while many scientists of his day, and the Church leadership of the time, said that the sun revolved around the earth. The Roman Inquisition sentenced Galileo to imprisonment but commuted it immediately to house arrest. He spent his last nine years or so in that situation.

Looking at the reporting on the Synod it would seem that Galileo and those who condemned him were all wrong. I'm coming to think that not only the earth, but the whole universe, revolves around the 'Gay Lobby', which is not at all the same as the many persons with same-sex attraction who are struggling to live chaste lives, as followers of Jesus who are attracted to persons of the opposite sex also have to do. It was those struggling to live chastely according to God's Commandments that Pope Francis had in mind when he saidIf a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him? The Pope's words have been distorted countless times by journalists.

Many in today's Western world, including some Catholic Church leaders, have bought The King's New Clothes that the 'Gay Lobby' offers, the 'new clothes' being the absurd notion of 'marriage' between two persons of the same sex.


18 October 2014

'Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.' Sunday Reflections, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

'I die His Majesty's good servant - but God's first.' St Thomas More

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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


Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’

A denarius from 44 BC showing the head of Julius Caesar and the goddess Venus [Wikipedia]
In the time of Jesus a denarius was a day's wage for an ordinary working man.

I spent three months in the latter part of 1982 working in a hospital in Minneapolis as a chaplain. I was one of seven doing a 'quarter' of Clinical Pastoral Education. One day I had to go to a bank and got chatting with an employee at the information desk. When he heard I was based in the Philippines he told me that in the previous elections in the USA he had considered, among other things, what impact his vote would have on the lives of Filipinos and others outside the USA.

I was very struck by his attitude. We never got into partisan politics nor did we discuss religion. The man was almost certainly a Christian, probably a Lutheran if he was from Minneapolis or a Catholic if from St Paul, the other 'Twin City'. I saw in him a person reflecting the teaching of Vatican II.

One of the major documents of that Council, Gaudium et Spes, addresses the political life of society. No 75 says: All citizens, therefore, should be mindful of the right and also the duty to use their free vote to further the common good. The Church praises and esteems the work of those who for the good of men devote themselves to the service of the state and take on the burdens of this office . . . 

All Christians must be aware of their own specific vocation within the political community. It is for them to give an example by their sense of responsibility and their service of the common good. In this way they are to demonstrate concretely how authority can be compatible with freedom, personal initiative with the solidarity of the whole social organism, and the advantages of unity with fruitful diversity. They must recognize the legitimacy of different opinions with regard to temporal solutions, and respect citizens, who, even as a group, defend their points of view by honest methods. Political parties, for their part, must promote those things which in their judgement are required for the common good; it is never allowable to give their interests priority over the common good.

Robert Schuman (1886 - 1963) [Wikipedia]


A politician of the last century who may be beatified one day is the Servant of God Robert Schuman, one of the founders of what is now the European Union. His politics of reconciliation in post-World War II Europe flowed from his deep Catholic Christian faith. Yet he was never an 'agent' of the Catholic Church. He was an embodiment of the vision of Gaudium et Spes, promulgated by Pope Paul VI in December 1965.

Incidentally, Robert Schuman, when Foreign Minister of France - he had been Prime Minister in 1947-48 despite having been born a German citizen in Luxembourg - said at a congress in 1950 to mark the 1,400th anniversary of the birth of Ireland's greatest missionary saint: St Columban, this illustrious Irishman who left his own country for voluntary exile, willed and achieved a spiritual union between the principal European countries of his time. He is the patron saint of all those who now seek to build a United Europe.

Robert Schuman's deepest identity was as a Christian. It was as such that he became a patriotic Frenchman and a visionary European. St Thomas More was one of the greatest Englishmen in the history of his country. However, he was His Majesty's good servant - but God's first. In 2000 St John Paul II proclaimed him patron saint of politicians and statesmen.

Jesus doesn't give us any detailed way of being involved in the political life of whatever country we belong to. But he gives us the values to live by. We cannot leave those values at the entrance to the polling booth or at the entrance to the legislative chamber if we happen to be elected to public office. Nor can we leave them at the door of the church after Mass on Sunday.

As voters and politicians Catholic Christians may have very different views on most matters of policy. But there are certain issues on which we must all take a Gospel stand. We may never advocate abortion or support the very new idea of 'marriage' between two persons of the same sex. 

Last year a member of the Irish parliament who voted in favour of legalising abortion in certain circumstances was aggrieved when his parish priest told him that he could no longer be an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. It is far more important to try to live as Gaudium et Spes teaches - All Christians must be aware of their own specific vocation within the political community - than to be an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion or a lector, important though these roles may sometimes be. But they are simply roles. No one has a 'vocation' to be either of these or to take on similar roles. But the Council tells us that each of us has a specific vocation within the political community.

Robert Schuman lived that vocation to the full. St Thomas More was martyred because he lived that vocation to the full.

St Thomas More, Hans Holbein the Younger, 1527
Frick Collection, New York [Web Gallery of Art]


The words of today's alternative Communion Antiphon were sung as the Alleluia verse at the canonisation of St Pedro Calungsod and others, 21 October 2012.

Antiphona ad communionem  Communion Antiphon Mt10:45


Ritus hominis venit,
ut daret animan suam redemptionem pro multis.

The Son of Man has come
to give his life as a ransom for many.

World Mission Day

This Sunday is World Mission Day. You may wish to read the Message of Pope Francis for World Mission Day 2014. The opening sentence is a stark reminder to us: Today vast numbers of people still do not know Jesus Christ.

RTÉ, Ireland's national radio and television service, interviews three older Irish missionaries, including Columban Fr Bobby Gilmore, in the context of World Mission Day in Nationwide, broadcast 17 October. It will be available for viewing here for 21 days. Fr Gilmore spent many years in the Philippines and later worked in Jamaica. He also worked for some years with Irish migrants in England and is now involved with immigrants to Ireland through the Migrants Rights Centre Ireland of which he is a founder.

[Note: Giving the link to Nationwide does not imply agreement with all the views expressed on the programme.]

Fr PJ McGlinchey

Though not specifically in the context of World Mission Day, Columban Fr PJ McGlinchey, who has spent most of his life as missionary priest in Jeju Island, Republic of Korea, has the been named as one of the recipients of a Presidential Distinguished Service Award for 2014 in Ireland.

16 October 2014

Irish Presidential Distinguished Service Award for Columban Fr PJ McGlinchey


It has just been announced that Columban Fr PJ McGlinchey has been named as one of the recipients of a Presidential Distinguished Service Award for 2014 . He will be presented with the award by Irish President Michael D Higgins at a ceremony later this year. Fr McGlinchey's baptismal names are Patrick James but he is known to everyone as 'PJ'.

Fr McGlinchey, a native of County Donegal, Ireland, has spent his missionary life on Jeju [formerly 'Cheju'] Island about 130 kms off the southern coast of South Korea. The citation for his award reads:

Arriving in Jeju, Korea in 1954 Fr McGlinchey, a priest with the Missionary Society of St Columban, was faced with a society that was deeply traumatised and ravished by poverty. Lead by his faith and knowledge in agriculture he set about helping to pull thousands of Jeju citizens out of poverty.

His model of development and profitable farming encouraged use of underused farm land and new farming methods. St Isidore farm was founded to include pigs, sheep, cows and now a stud.


Fr McGlinchey with a sick person in Korea

A textile factory, employed up to 1,700 Jeju women in a time when jobs on the island were scarce. His forming of a credit union changed the economy of the island and helped the citizens emerge from poverty.

Fr Mc Glinchey never forgot the island people setting up Isidore Nursing home, hospice, kindergarten and a youth centre which for over 18,000 young people from all over Korea. These welfare activities, some funded completely from donations and profits from the farm, take care of Jeju's most vulnerable.

For 60 years, his extraordinary drive, dedication and vision has changed the lives of those on Jeju and Ireland is now associated with this great island. His tireless dedication gave them not just hope but a belief in what they could achieve themselves.

You can read more about the work of Fr McGlinchey here.


President Ramon Magsaysay 
(31 August 1907 - 17 March 1957) [Wikipedia]

In 1975 Fr McGlinchey was one of the Ramon Magsaysay awardees in Manila. His award was for Rural Development. The website of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation has a biographical page on the priest here. The foundation was set up to honour President Ramon Magsaysay of the Philippines who died in a plane crash in the Philippines on St Patrick's Day, 17 March 1957. 

The website of the Isidore Farm founded by Fr McGlinchey is here. It is named after St Isidore the Farmer, widely venerated in the Philippines as San Isidro Labrador or simply, San Isidro.

San Isidro (c.1070 - 15 May 1130) and his wife Blessed Maria Torribia


Source of report: Website of Columbans, Ireland.

13 October 2014

Opening of the Jubilee Year to mark the 1400th anniversary of the death of Saint Columbanus.

Statue of St Columbanus in Luxeuil, France
Yesterday morning, 12 October, Cardinal Seán Brady, retired archbishop of Armagh, Ireland, was the Principal Celebrant at Mass at the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome, at the opening of the Jubilee Year to mark the 1400th anniversary of the death of Saint Columbanus. The Irish missionary saint, also known as 'Columban', died in Bobbio in northern Italy, on 23 November 1615. He is the patron saint of the Missionary Society of St Columban, formally established in 1918, to which I belong.
Cardinal Seán Brady [Wikipedia]
Pope Francis greeted the pilgrim group marking the centenary at the end of his address today after praying the Angelus.
Interior of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome [Wikipedia]
Here is the homily of Cardinal Brady, published in Zenit
I am very pleased to see you all here in Rome, in this beautiful Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.  We are here to celebrate the opening of the Jubilee Year of Saint Columbanus. The Jubilee Year commemorates the 1400th anniversary of the death of that great monk and missionary, who died in Bobbio in AD615. 
The Jubilee Year was opened yesterday in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, after the arrival and solemn reception of the relics of the saint from Bobbio, followed by a Mass, celebrated by Cardinal Vallini, Vicar General of Pope Francis for the Diocese of Rome. 
Monastery ruins at Annegray, France [Wikipedia]
In a sense, the ceremony brought closure finally to the earthly pilgrimage of Columbanus who ardently desired to reach Rome, but failed to do so since he died at Bobbio – a diocese and a city which not only preserves his mortal remains, but admirably keeps alive his memory, example and spirit to this day.
In fact, we Irish are profoundly touched by the fact that so many parishes in Italy and elsewhere, so reverently keep alive the memory of Columbanus – an outstanding monk and missionary and saint.
Basilica of San Colombano, Bobbio, Italy [Wikipedia]
I remember the first time I visited Bobbio – some 50 years ago and the warm welcome we received - simply because we were Irish.  I remember the bunch of fresh flowers placed on his tomb – clear proof that someone, with a grateful heart, after all the centuries, had remembered the poor abbot – come from a distance to announce the Good News. 
But what has Columbanus to say to us – citizens of the third millennium – after fourteen centuries?  Sure, Columbanus is far distant from us in time and space, but the relevance of his thought and spirituality is extraordinary.  This was underlined by Saint John Paul II in a message to the people of Luxeuil in 1990 to commemorate the foundation of the monastery there by Columbanus fourteen hundred years earlier when the Holy Father wrote: 
You are recalling a past that is still alive and recognising the gift, given by God, to the Church, in the person of great pioneers like Saint Columbanus.  For the Lord has marvellously combined in Saint Columbanus, love of evangelisation, devotion to monastic life and the fullness of human dignity.
Abbatial Palace, Luxeuil, France [Wikipedia]
In this Mass of Thanksgiving, we too express our gratitude to God for the gift of the faith and for the goodness of all those who played any part in handing onto to us the Good News.
To help us to do so better, we recall the example of Columbanus.  During the long years of being a monk in the monastery of Bangor and earlier in Cleenish – it obviously became clear to him that, in every age, the Church is called to make all its members disciples and missionaries of Christ – Christ who is the way – the truth and the life.  So he sought the permission of his Abbot – the renowned Comgal - to leave the Monastery of Bangor and to set out as a pilgrim for Christ.  Abbot Comgall eventually agreed and so it was that Columbanus set out, on his missionary journey, accompanied by twelve brothers from the community.  So there began the long journey which would take them first to present-day France, then Germany, Switzerland, Austria and finally to Bobbio in Italy.  It was the summer of 592 – Columbanus would have been fifty years of age and rather old for such an adventure in conditions of those days. 
St Columbanus, stained glass window, Bobbio Abbey crypt [Wikipedia]
Over the next twenty years he founded a number of monasteries:  Annagray and Luxeuil, in France; Bregenz in Austria and Bobbio here in Italy.
Saint John Paul II often called for a new evangelisation of Europe after the decline in faith of recent decades.  Saint Columbanus could be seen as a model and a patron of this new evangelisation.  His missionary work could also be described as a second, and new, announcing of the Good News after the damage inflicted by the invasions from abroad and by the fall of the Roman Empire in the West.  Columbanus and his monks brought the light of faith to people who, themselves, in turn became evangelisers until Europe became, once more, a Christian continent. 
Everywhere he went, Columbanus remained devoted to the monastic way of life.  He founded monasteries; he wrote his own Monastic Rule.  It can be truly said that the ways opened up through Europe, and the monasteries founded by him, were often the places where, later on, the Benedictine rule would flourish.  With Saint Benedict, he helped to lay the basis for the European Monasticism of the Middle Ages.
The rule of Columbanus recommended that the monks should confess privately, and often, to one particular confessor. It was an effort to address the crisis that flowed from having only public confessions which were rarely celebrated more than once in a lifetime.  Perhaps he has something to say to all of us today on that topic.
Columbanus loved the monastic life of prayer and contemplation; the silence and the solitude; the fasts and the penance.  He would have seen them not alone as the golden way to a closer union with God but also as the indispensable pre-requisite of successful conversion and the winning of hearts and minds to the following of Christ. 
It is the same spirituality that saw Saint Thérèse become the Patroness of the Missions because of her prayers and sacrifices on behalf of the missions.  There can be no renewal of faith that is not preceded by a renewal of prayer because to evangelise is to transmit life and is the fruit of holiness.
Bregenz, Austria [Wikipedia]
In Saint Peter’s Basilica there is a mosaic dedicated to Saint Columbanus.  It bears the inscription – If you take away freedom you take away dignity.  The phrase is taken from one of the letters of Columbanus.  Indeed it is something that could have been written, not only by a seventh century missionary, but also by a citizen of today’s world, where so many people live in terrible conditions of slavery, fear and oppression.  In addition to the ancient forms of oppression such as war, poverty, loneliness, violence and exile, the modern world has new forms of slavery such as drug and alcohol addition, which are particularly destructive of human dignity.
The glory of God is the human person – fully alive.  Columbanus succeeded in uniting faith with human dignity and freedom.  These are the values on which, for centuries, the identity of Europe was founded and without which the Europe of today risks failing to have a future. May the jubilee year of Saint Columbanus, as well as his life and his writings, inspire all of us to strive for the defence of basic human rights for all.
We make our own the prayer of Saint John Paul II who, writing to the people of Luxeuil, expressed the hope that all who would commemorate the great founder of their famous abbey would be spurred to even greater fidelity to Christ and enthusiasm for His Kingdom.
My hope and prayer is: that by participating in this pilgrimage and Jubilee celebrations, and through the intercession of Saint Columbanus, we may all draw closer to Christ – the way, the truth and the life.                           
AMEN
Statue of St Columban, St Columban's, Bristol, RI, USA