21 February 2018

'I just want a place at the feet of Jesus.' Sunday Reflections, 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year B


Transfiguration, Blessed Fra Angelico [Web Gallery of Art]


Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Mark 9:2-10 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.


Assumpsit Iesus Petrum
Sebastián de Vivanco (Ávila, 1551 - Salamanca, 1622)
Música Reservata de Barcelona directed by Bruno Turner


Assumpsit Iesus Petrum, et Iacobum et Ioannem fratrem eius, et duxit eos in montem excelsum seorsum, et transfiguratus est ante eos.

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves.

Et ecce vox de nube dicens: His est Filius meus dilectus, in quo mihi bene complauci, ipsum audite.

And from the cloud there came a voice, ‘Thisis my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ (Mark 10: 2,7).

Clement Shahbaz Bhatti [Wikipedia]
(9 September 1968 - 2 March 2011)

In today's first reading God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son 'on a height that I will point out to you'. We can only imagine the heartbreak of Abraham being asked by God to give offer his only son by Sarah his wife, born when both of them were very old. But God wasn't looking for the life of Isaac but for Abraham to submit himself to God's will, no matter the consequences. Abraham's sacrifice of his own will made him 'our Father in faith', as the Roman Canon says, the Father of countless Jews and Christians.

From the time of St Stephen, the first Christian martyr, down to our own day, God has been calling certain individuals to give up everything that is precious to them, including life itself, for the sake of others.

The struggle of Abraham is a sign of the struggle that Jesus would have to go through. Last Sunday we got a glimpse of his struggle in the desert where he was tempted by Satan, basically to abandon the mission the Father had given him. During Holy Week we will see his awful struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane and his cry from the Cross, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Each of us in some way has to share in that struggle, to let go of our own will in something big or small for the sake of others and to do what God want us to do.

Shahbaz Bhatti was living in a situation where he knew that God might ask him to give up his own life. Less than two months before his own death, Governor Salmaan Taseer of Punjab, a Muslim, was murdered by one of his own security guards because of his opposition to Pakistan's Blasphemy Law.

Mr Bhatti was deeply committed to working for groups discriminated against, including the Christian minority in Pakistan. He gave as the reason for his commitment, I just want a place at the feet of Jesus. I want my life, my character, my actions to speak for me and say that I am following Jesus Christ. He was gunned down on 2 March 2011.

About a month before his death he gave an interview on TV, the concluding part of which is in this video. Below the video is a transcript of what Mr Bhatti said.


Minister Bhatti, you forgot one question in the interview. Your life is threatened by whom and what sort of threats are you receiving?

The forces of violence, militant banned organizations, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda, they want to impose their radical philosophy on Pakistan. And whoever stands against their radical philosophy that threatens them, when I’m leading this campaign against the Sharia Law, for the abolishment [abolition] of [the] Blasphemy Law, and speaking for the oppressed, marginalized and persecuted Christian and other minorities, these Taliban threaten me.

But I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own life for us. I know what is the meaning of [the] Cross and I am following of the Cross and I am ready to die for a cause. I’m living for my community and suffering people and will die to defend their rights. So these threats and these warnings cannot change my opinion and principles. I will prefer to die for my principle and for the justice of my community rather to compromise on these threats.

Sts Peter, James and John, as they came down the mountain after having seen the Transfigured Jesus, wondered what 'rising from the dead' meant. A few weeks after the assassination of Clement Shahbaz Bhatti the bishops of Pakistan petitioned the Holy See to declare him a martyr. Bishop Andrew Francis of Multan, who drafted the petition, said, We Christians in Pakistan want to transform the death of Shahbaz Bhatti into a prophecy of the Resurrection. It was only after the Crucifixion that the Resurrection could occur and it was only after Easter Sunday that the Apostles found the answer to their question. On 2 March 2016, the fifth anniversary of his death, the Diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi began collecting testimonies about Shahbaz Bhatti to inquire into his martyrdom and sanctity.

May each of us pray for the grace to make these words of Shahbaz Bhatti our own: I just want a place at the feet of Jesus. I want my life, my character, my actions to speak for me and say that I am following Jesus Christ.

Christ in the House of Mary and Martha (detail)
Velásquez [Web Gallery of Art]

‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part which will not be taken away from her.' (Luke 10: 41-42).

I just want a place at the feet of Jesus. (Shahbaz Bhatti).






19 February 2018

Columban Fr John Lagomarsino RIP

Fr John Lagomarsino [Source]
(6 November 1939 - 3 February 2018)


John Lagomarsino was born on 6 November 1939 in Sacramento, California, USA, to Louis L. Lagomarsino and Helen (Higgins) Lagomarsino. He is survived by his older brother, Dr Paul Lagomarsino, and his younger sister Mrs Lucia Foster. He attended Sacred Heart Grade School, and later Christian Brothers High School (1953-55) as well as Sacramento Senior High School (1955-57). Afterwards, he attained a BA in History from Sacramento State College.

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Sacramento  [Wikipedia]


In 1961 John joined the Peace Corps and was among the first group assigned to the Philippines. There he met the Columbans while teaching English as a Second Language in Ilog, Negros Occidental.



He returned to the United States in 1963 and applied to the Columban seminary. He began his studies at St Columban’s College and Seminary in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. His Spiritual Year (1964-65) was spent at the Columban seminary in Bristol, Rhode Island, now a retirement home for Columbans. Later, he studied Philosophy and Theology at St Columban’s Major Seminary, Milton, Massachusetts. He completed theology studies at St John Archdiocesan Seminary, Brighton, Massachusetts, where he received a Bachelor of Divinity degree in December 1969. With his Columban classmates he participated in the deaconate program in the Diocese of St Thomas, which covers the American Virgin Islands, under the guidance of Frs George Nolan and Thomas Normanly.

St Thomas, US Virgin Islands [Wikipedia]


Father John was ordained on 13 June 1970, at Sacred Heart Church, Sacramento, by Most Rev. Alden J Bell, Bishop of Sacramento. In September of that year, he returned to the Philippines where he began parish work in Isabela, Negros Occidental. After two years he went to Kabankalan and then to Dacongcogon. He later served as President of Binalbagan Catholic College and as Bursar at the Columban House in Batang, Himamaylan.


In 1977 he returned to the United States and, after doing a course in Clinical Pastoral Education, began a program in spiritual direction at the Center for Religious Development in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After the completion of the program he received a ThM degree from Weston School of Theology in May 1979. Upon returning to the Philippines, he was assigned to Ozamiz City, Mindanao, where he became the spiritual director for Columban seminarians on an Overseas Training Program.

Loading sugar cane, Bais, Negros Oriental [Wikipedia]
A familiar sight in the island of Negros


In 1980 Father John returned to the United States where he did promotion and vocation work in San Francisco from October through December. He then began accounting studies at Creighton University, Omaha, and served as Assistant Regional Bursar. Later, in March 1983 he became the Regional Bursar.


After the death of his mother in March 1982, Father John and his father took a trip to Italy. They stayed at the Columban house in Rome, and then went to Genoa to visit their ancestral home village of Lagomarsino. 


From May 1989 until April 1991 Father John was engaged in Mission Awareness and Vocation work in Quincy, Massachusetts. However, wishing to be near his elderly father, he asked permission to do parish work in the Sacramento area, and was assigned as Parochial Vicar to St John the Evangelist Parish in Carmichael, California. His father died in February 1992. In 1996 Father John became the administrator of the parish where he served until his retirement in 2005.



During his time in St John the Evangelist Parish and later in retirement, Fr Lagomarsino dealt with several health issues. Then, he fell and broke his hip last December, which exacerbated those health issues. As a consequence, he was moved from Sacramento, California, to Saint Elizabeth Manor, Bristol, Rhode Island, at the end of January. The Regional Health Care Coordinator, Pam Serbst, ensured that he received the support and care he needed during his final illness. His classmate, Fr Chuck Lintz, and Fr Jim Dwyer were with him at the time of his death at Philip Hulitar Hospice Center, Providence, Rhode Island.

Father John’s funeral Mass took place on 16 February at St Columban’s, Bristol, Rhode Island, with Fr Mark Mengel as the principal celebrant and Fr Chuck Lintz as the homilist; the burial afterwards was in St Mary’s Cemetery, Bristol. May he rest in peace.

Statue of St Columban
St Columban's, Bristol, Rhode Island

14 February 2018

'Their blood confesses Christ.' Sunday Reflections, First Sunday of Lent, Year B

The Temptation of Christ, Tintoretto [Web Gallery of Art]


Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Mark 1:12-15 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)

The Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,  and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

Ordination of Columban to the Priesthood

Please pray for the Reverend Erl Dylan J. Tabaco who will be ordained to the priesthood on Saturday 17 February in Holy Rosary Parish, Agusan, Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines, where Columbans worked for many years. May the Lord grant him many fruitful years as a Columban missionary priest.

Responsorial Psalm (NAB Lectionary, Philippines, USA)



One of my teachers in the Columban seminary in the 1960s was a saintly priest, Fr Edward McCormack. Father Ted, as we knew him, spent most of his life as a priest teaching Scripture to Columban seminarians in Ireland and the USA. But he taught our class Latin.

I vividly remember one occasion when he celebrated our community Mass on the First Sunday of Lent. In the Old Mass Matthew 4:1-11 was always read. That's now the Gospel for Year A. As he was preaching  it was clear that he had a deep, personal sense of the horror of Satan tempting Jesus, God who became Man, of Evil trying to prevail over Love, God himself.

We have daily examples of the power of evil.One is the murder on 12 February 2015 of 2o Coptic Christians, Egyptian men working in neighbouring Libya and one other man, Matthew Irigia, either from Chad or Ghana - like the countless OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) - working abroad. They were beheaded simply because they were Christians.


In a meeting four days later with a delegation from the Church of Scotland, which is Presbyterian, Pope Francis said the following.

I would now like to turn to my native tongue to express feelings of profound sorrow. Today, I read about the execution of those twenty-one or twenty-two Coptic Christians. Their only words were: 'Jesus, help me!' They were killed simply for the fact that they were Christians. You, my brother, in your words referred to what is happening in the land of Jesus. The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ. As we recall these brothers and sisters who died only because they confessed Christ, I ask that we encourage each another to go forward with this ecumenism which is giving us strength, the ecumenism of blood. The martyrs belong to all Christians.

Coptic icon of St Mark [Wikipedia]

The vast majority of Christians in Egypt are Coptic Christians and according to tradition they trace their origins to St Mark preaching the Gospel in Alexandria in the very early days of the Church. A minority of Coptic Christians are in full communion with Rome as the Coptic Catholic Church. They number fewer than 200,000.

These are the men who were martyred:

  • Bishoy Adel Khalaf           
  • Samuel Alhoam Wilson  
  • Hany Abdel-Masih Salib
  • Melad McCain Zaky         
  • Abanoub Ayad Attia       
  • Ezzat Bushra Nassif
  • Yousef Shokry Younan   
  • Kirillos Shukry Fawzy      
  • Majid Suleiman Shehata
  • Somali Stéphanos Kamel              
  • Malak Ibrahim Siniot       
  • Bishoy Stéphanos Kamel
  • Mena Fayez Aziz              
  • Girgis Melad Siniot          
  • Tawadros Youssef Tawadros
  • Essam Badr Samir             
  • Luke Ngati           
  • Jaber Mounir Adly
  • Malak Faraj Abram          
  • Sameh Salah Farouk       
  • Matthew Irigia.

A note in the Wikipedia entry about these martyrs says of Matthew Irigia: He was from Chad. He was not originally a Christian, but he saw the immense faith of the others, and when the terrorists asked him if he rejected Jesus, he reportedly said, 'Their God is my God', knowing that he would be martyred. Other sources spell his name as Matthew Ayariga and say that he was from Ghana.


Coptic Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Egypt, Cairo [Wikipedia]

We can easily shake our heads in disgust at actions that are clearly evil, such as the murders of these 21 men, particularly when they are done 'in the name of God'. But we can overlook our own sinfulness which adds to the culture where evil often prevails. Fr Ted McCormack in preaching to us in the seminary 50 or so years ago conveyed a sense of that. Jesus speaks to each of us individually, not 'to my neighbour' but to meRepent, and believe in the good news.

The priest may say those words when he puts the ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday. Lent is a personal invitation from Jesus to each one of us, and to all of us as his brothers and sisters, to let ourselves be driven by the Spirit out into the wilderness as he was, to let our hearts be transformed by the Spirit.

I remember Father Ted telling us one day that when he was young his brother was constantly playing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony on the gramophone - on old 78s. 'I couldn't stand it,' he told us. 'Then one day it all came together and I could experience the beauty of it. But now I can only hear the faults in it.' 

Jesus calls us in Lent to discover the beauty of our faith in him, to discover where that beauty may lead us as we carry on his mission. And just as Father Ted had let go of the majestic power and beauty of Beethoven's music, the Lord may ask us to let go of everything, even of life itself, with his name on our lips, like the 21 Coptic Christians murdered simply because they were Christians.

Their deaths were horrific. Their murders were utterly evil. But those men whose blood confesses Christ, as Pope Francis said, are a testimony to the greater power of God's love.

Jesus, help me!

A Coptic hymn, Lord Jesus, help me, sung in Arabic

Beethoven's Fifth Symphony
Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra 
Conductor:  정명훈 Chung Myung-Whun

07 February 2018

‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Sunday Reflections, 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Christ as Saviour, El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Mark 1:40-45 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition) 

A leper came to Jesus begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

(1956 - 2004) [Wikipedia]

Towards the end of February 2003 Dr Carlo Urbani, an Italian, went to Vietnam, representing the World Health Organisation, to investigate an American businessman who was showing unusual symptoms. It turned out to be severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a highly contagious virus. The man who discovered this new disease died from it himself about a month later on 29 March. In a conscious moment, while in the ICU in a hospital in Bangkok, he asked for a priest to give him the Last Rites.

Vladimir Redzioch of Inside the Vatican interviewed Giuliana Chiorrini, the widow of Dr Urbani. MISYON, the Columban magazine in the Philippines, published the interview, with permission, in its March-April 2004 issue. Here are extracts from the interview.

ITV: Your husband chose to work with the sick and poor around the world. Why?
Giuliana Chiorrini: Carlo was always involved in volunteer work and since his youth was attracted by the poor. He cultivated the desire to discover new horizons. To do this he left for Africa with the missionaries. Since his days as a young student with a backpack full of medicines, he had traveled in Africa (Mali, Niger, and Benin). Afterwards he work in solidarity camps run by the Xaverian Fathers, Catholic Action and Open Hands. He was always in contact with missionaries. As a doctor he wrote for the missionary magazine Missioni Consolata. Carlo also fulfilled his desire to help he poor during his 10 years working at the hospital in Macerata. This confirmed him in his work with Médecins Sans Frontièresof which he was the president, and in this capacity he received the Nobel Peace Prize when it was conferred on the organization in 1999.

ITV: What role did his faith play in his choice of life?
Chiorrini: Faith had an extremely important role in my husband’s life. Everything he did enriched the spiritual lives of the people who were in contact with him. He was also very sensitive to the beauty of creation - he even used to go hang-gliding to admire nature.

Dr Carlo Urbani with his wife, Giuliana, and their children, Maddalena, Luca and Tommaso [Source]

That year St John Paul II invited the family of Dr Urbani to carry the Cross during the Via Crucis on Good Friday, 18 April, in the Colosseum.
ITV: This year, during the Via Crucis at the Colosseum, you and your son carried the cross. How did you react when you heard you had been chosen by the Holy Father, and what significance did it have for your family to participate in this Good Friday liturgy?
Chiorrini: I am a believer, as was my husband, and knowing I was to carry the cross during the Via Crucis touched me a great deal, as well as giving me an enormous joy. It was a very intense moment of the interior spirituality and in all honesty it was also very moving, with the evocative atmosphere which was created that evening.

Giuliana Chiorrini, Dr Urbani's widow, carries the cross during the Via Crucis at the Colosseum, Good Friday 2003

If you choose, you can make me clean. Like Jesus, Dr Carlo Urbani chose and made many clean, sacrificing his own life in doing so.


Antiphona ad communionem
Communion Antiphon  Cf Psalm 77[78]:29-30

Manducaverunt, et saturati sunt nimis,
They ate and had their fill,
et desiderium eorum attulit eis Dominus;
and what they craved the Lord gave them;
non sunt fraudati a desiderio suo.
they were not disappointed in what they craved.

In the Ordinary Form of the Mass this is the first of two options for the Communion Antiphon. In the Extraordinary Form of the Mass it is the Communion Antiphon for Quinquagesima Sunday, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday.

06 February 2018

Solomon and the Queen of Sheba

Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Lorenzo Ghiberti [Web Gallery of Art]

The first reading in tomorrow's Mass, Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, is 1 Kings 10:1-10. It tells of the visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon. Sheba is believed to have been located in modern-day Yemen.

When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, (fame due to the name of the Lord), she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold, and precious stones; and when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king that he could not explain to her. When the queen of Sheba had observed all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his valets, and his burnt-offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her.
So she said to the king, ‘The report was true that I heard in my own land of your accomplishments and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. Not even half had been told me; your wisdom and prosperity far surpass the report that I had heard. Happy are your wives! Happy are these your servants, who continually attend you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel for ever, he has made you king to execute justice and righteousness.’ Then she gave the king one hundred and twenty talents of gold, a great quantity of spices, and precious stones; never again did spices come in such quantity as that which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.
The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, Handel
Novas Brass Ensemble
This must be one of the most joyful pieces of music ever written. Handel's work has been arranged for many different groups of instruments including marimbas and for solo instruments. I rather like the version of the Novas Brass Ensemble, a German group.