Tuesday, November 12, 2019


Polish Primate CARDINAL STEFAN WYSZNSKI will be beatified on June 7, 2020 in a ceremony held at the Pilsudskiego Square in Warsaw.

Cardinal Wyszynski had been the primate of Poland and one of Pope St. John Paul II’s most ardent supporters, starting when then-Karol Wojtyla was a young bishop.  Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński was often called the Primate of the Millennium.

Born in 1901, his family counted itself among the nobility of Poland, with the coat of arms of Trzywdar,  and the title of baron, although it was not materially well off. His mother died when he was nine and he was sent away to school in Lublin.

He celebrated his first Solemn High Mass of Thanksgiving, at Jasna Góra in Częstochowa, a place of special spiritual significance for many Catholic Poles. The Pauline monastery there holds the picture of the Black Madonna, or Our Lady of Częstochowa, the patron saint and guardian of Poland. Father Wyszyński spent the next four years in Lublin, where in 1929 he received a doctorate at the Faculty of Canon Law and the Social Sciences of the Catholic University of Lublin. His dissertation in Canon Law was entitled The Rights of the Family, Church and State to Schools. For several years after graduation he traveled throughout Europe, where he furthered his education.

He became a priest in 1924 and was made the bishop of Lublin in 1946 at a time when hundreds of thousands of Soviet soldiers were stationed there and communist powers took hold. In 1948, he was made archbishop of Gniezno and Warsaw, and he was named a cardinal in 1953. But he could not be installed until four years later, in 1957, after his release from a communist prison.

His 1953 arrest was one of the most dramatic events of the communist period. It followed the parallel detention of church leaders in Croatia, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The cardinal, who was primate of Poland from 1948 until his death in 1981, spent three years under house arrest in the 1950s because of his opposition to Poland's communist government.  Even as a child I can remember this and prayers asked for all of Poland.

In 1958, he informed a 38-year-old  Karol Wojtyla that the pope had appointed him as the auxiliary bishop of Krakow.

When then-Cardinal Wojtyla was named to first world Synod of Bishops in 1968, he stayed home to protest the government's denial of a passport to Cardinal Wyszynski. When cardinals were meeting in the Sistine Chapel in October 1978, the Polish pope recalled that Cardinal Wyszynski had approached him and implored, "If they elect you, I beg you not to refuse.''

To many he was the unquestionable leader of the Polish nation (the uncrowned king of Poland), in opposition to the totalitarian government. He is also credited for the survival of Polish Christianity in the face of its repression and persecution during the reign of the 1945–1989 Communist regime. He  is considered by many to be a Polish national hero. Now he will be another saint for them.

The cardinal, who had heard of the assassination attempt on the pope, offered his own life for that of the pontiff's.

Cardinal Wyszynski died at the age of 79 in 1981.

To commemorate the twentieth anniversary of his death, the year 2001 was announced by the Sejm (Polish parliment) as the Year of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński. The Sejm also honored the Cardinal as a "great Pole, chaplain and statesman".

Thursday, November 7, 2019


We recently had a visit from a lovely man and his parents who were visiting from Shanghai.  He does research at the University of Washington and it turns out he has an uncle who was the cousin to IGNATIUS KUNG PIN-MEI  the Catholic Bishop of ShanghaiChina, from 1950 until his death in 2000. He spent 30 years in Chinese prisons for defying attempts by China's Communist government to control Catholics in the country through the government-approved Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. At the time of his death he was the oldest member of  the College of Cardinals.

On September 8, 1955,  Bishop Kung, along with several hundred priests and church leaders, was arrested and imprisoned. He was sentenced five years later to life imprisonment for counter-revolutionary activities. He was secretly named a Cardinal in pectore in the consistory of 1979 by by Pope  St. John Paul II. The formula in pectore is used when a pope names a cardinal without announcing it publicly in order to protect the safety of the cardinal and his congregation. 

After he was released in 1986, he was kept under house arrest until 1988. Bishop Kung learned he was a cardinal during a private meeting with the Pope in Vatican City in 1988, and his membership in the College of Cardinals was made public in 1991. By then, he had reached the age of 80, so he did not have the right to participate in a conclave.

Cardinal Kung's story is that of a faithful shepherd and a heroic witness to the faith. He refused to renounce God and the Church despite the consequences of imprisonment by communist authorities. In the months leading up to his arrest in 1955, Cardinal Kung refused offers of safe passage out of China to stay by his flock. His example of fidelity has been one of the lynchpins in the underground Catholic community in China. He has become a symbol of the fight for religious freedom.

He had only served 5 years as Bishop of Shanghai before his arrest. In that time, he had already become notorious to the authorities for the respect and devotion he received from Catholics. 

Knowing his arrest was imminent, Bishop Kung trained hundreds of catechists to pass on the faith to future generations. Months after his arrest, he was taken to the dog racing stadium of Shanghai to publicly confess his "crimes." Thousands were present in the stadium as he was pushed to a microphone, hands bound behind his back, and wearing only Chinese pijamas. Instead of a confession, though, the authorities heard, "Long live Christ the King! Long live the Pope!"

The assembled crowd responded, "Long live Christ the King! Long live Bishop Kung!" The authorities quickly removed the Bishop from the scene.

In 1960, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. The night before his trial, the Chief Prosecutor offered him his freedom in exchange for his cooperation in setting up the Chinese Catholics' Patriotic Association. He responded resolutely, "I am a Roman Catholic Bishop. If I denounce the Holy Father, not only would I not be a Bishop, I would not even be a Catholic. You can cut off my head, but you can never take away my duties."

Bishop Kung spent thirty years behind bars, much of it in solitary confinement. He was not permitted to receive visitors, letters, or money to buy essentials. In 1985, he was released from prison to serve another ten years under house arrest. After two and a half years of house arrest, he was officially released, though he was never fully exonerated. In 1988, his nephew, Joseph Kung (president of the Cardinal Kung Foundation), obtained permission to escort him to the U.S. for medical care.

Shortly before his release from prison, the Bishop was permitted to participate in a banquet in honor of Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila. The authorities carefully separated the two so that Bishop Kung would not have direct contact with the Cardinal. However, during the dinner, Cardinal Sin invited each attendee to sing a song of celebration. Bishop Kung chose "Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam" [You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church] as a sign that he remained faithful to Rome.

When Pope John Paul II presented Cardinal Kung with his red hat in the Consistory on June 29, 1991 in the Vatican, the 90 year old Bishop Kung raised himself up from the wheelchair, put aside his cane and walked up the steps to kneel at the foot of the Pontiff. Visibly touched, the Holy Father lifted him up, gave him his cardinal's hat, then stood patiently as Cardinal Kung returned to his wheelchair to the sounds of a seven-minute standing ovation from 9000 guests in the Audience Hall in the Vatican.

Cardinal Kung has spent the last twelve years giving interviews and homilies to call attention to the conditions in the Catholic Church in China. As a result, in March 1998, the Chinese government officially cancelled his passport, making him an exile from his homeland.

He died in 2000, aged 98, from stomach cancer in Stamford, Connecticut.

In his "Mission" magazine in 1957, Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote: "The West has its Mindszenty, but the East has its Kung. God is glorified in his saints."

Monday, November 4, 2019


Before we get into Advent I want to present a few more of the great War poets. One of the best of the poets produced by World War I is SIEGFRIED SASSOON, who was born in 1886 to a  wealthy English family.

His father was a Jewish businessman and his mother, an Anglo-Catholic.  Much of his youth was spent in diversions like endless games of cricket. He received an excellent education, and began to write poetry at a young age.

When World War I began, he volunteered for the British Army. He was decorated for his bravery in battle, and he earned the nickname “Mad Jack” for his seemingly insane acts of valor. The war, however, left him depressed, and this tone is reflected in his poetry, which took on a bitter edge.

His poetry described the horrors of the trenches and satirized the patriotic pretensions of those who, in Siegfried's view, were responsible for a jingoism-fueled war. Sassoon became a focal point for dissent within the armed forces when he made a lone protest against the continuation of the war in his "Soldier's Declaration" of 1917, culminating in his admission to a military psychiatric hospital. This resulted in his forming a friendship with Wilfred Owen, who was greatly influenced by him. Siegfried later won acclaim for his prose work, notably his three-volume fictionalized autobiography, collectively known as the "Sherston Trilogy".

 On 1 November his younger brother Hamo was killed in the Gallipoli Campaign, and in the same month Siegfried was sent to the 1st Battalion in France. There he met Robert Graves, and they became close friends. United by their poetic vocation, they often read and discussed each other's work. Though this did not have much perceptible influence on Graves's poetry, his views on what may be called 'gritty realism' profoundly affected Siegfried's concept of what constituted poetry. Details such as rotting corpses, mangled limbs, filth, cowardice and suicide are all trademarks of his work at this time.
With W.B. Yeats
With Hester
His periods of duty on the Western Front were marked by exceptionally brave actions, including the single-handed capture of a German trench in the Hindenburg Line. Armed with grenades, he scattered sixty German soldiers.

 In 1933, he married Hester Gatty, and the couple had one child. The marriage broke down after the Second World War, and Sassoon became increasingly fond of solitude. Towards the end of his life, he converted to Roman Catholicism  due much to the influence of Msgr. Ronald Knox, a fellow literary figure and convert he admired. He paid regular visits to the nuns of the Benedictine Stanbrook Abbey.

Peter Levi wrote in Poetry Review: “One can experience in his poetry the slow, restless ripening of a very great talent; its magnitude has not yet been recognized. … He is one of the few poets of his generation we are really unable to do without.”   Much of his poetry is shrouded in beauty and mystery.

Siegfried died in 1967 from stomach cancer. His papers are held at University of Cambridge

EVERYONE suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields;
on—on—and out of sight.
Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror Drifted away … O, but Everyone

Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

The anguish of the earth absolves our eyes 
Till beauty shines in all that we can see. 
War is our scourge; yet war has made us wise, 
And, fighting for our freedom, we are free. 

Horror of wounds and anger at the foe,
And loss of things desired; all these must pass. 
We are the happy legion, for we know 
Time’s but a golden wind that shakes the grass. 

There was an hour when we were loath to part 
From life we longed to share no less than others.
Now, having claimed this heritage of heart, 

What need we more, my comrades and my brothers? 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


The last missionary we will consider to end the month dedicated to missionaries is  BISHOP CARLOS FILIPE XIMENES BELO.  He was born in 1948 in the village of Wailakama, near Vemasse, on the north coast of Portuguese Timor. His religious life openly denounced the brutal Indonesian occupation of his country

In 1996, he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with José Ramos-Horta for working "towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor". A member of the Salesian Society, he studied in Portugal and Rome before ordination to the priesthood. He returned to Timor in 1981, where he taught.

On the resignation of Martinho da Costa Lopes in 1983, Father Belo was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Dili diocese, becoming head of the East Timor church and directly responsible to the Pope. On 6 February 1989, he was consecrated titular Bishop of Lorium.

Father Belo was the choice of the Vatican's Pro Nuncio in Jakarta and the Indonesian leaders because of his supposed submissiveness, but he was not the choice of the Timorese priests who did not attend his inauguration.

However within only five months of his assuming office, he protested vehemently, in a sermon in the cathedral, against the brutalities of the Kraras massacre (1983) and condemned the many Indonesian arrests. The church was the only institution capable of communicating with the outside world, so with this in mind the new Apostolic Administrator started writing letters and building up overseas contacts, in spite of the isolation arising from the opposition of the Indonesians and the disinterest of most of the world.

In February 1989 he wrote to the President of Portugal, the Pope, and the UN Secretary-General, calling for a UN referendum on the future of East Timor and for international help for the East Timorese, who were "dying as a people and a nation", but when the UN letter became public in April, he became even more of a target of the Indonesians.

 After a second massacre in the Santa Cruz cemetery in 1991, the bishop hid a number of fleeing resistance leaders and publicized the events to the world. As a result, he was put under surveillance, was prohibited from travelling, and survived two attempts on his life.

Bishop Belo's labors on behalf of the East Timorese and in pursuit of peace and reconciliation were internationally recognized when, along with José Ramos-Horta, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1996.

Bishop Belo capitalized upon this honor through meetings with Bill Clinton of the United States and Nelson Mandela of South Africa. In 1995, he also won the John Humphrey Freedom Award from the Canadian human rights group Rights & Democracy. "Let it be stated clearly that to make peace a reality, we must be flexible as well as wise. We must truly recognize our own faults and move to change ourselves in the interest in making peace... Let us banish anger and hostility, vengeance and other dark emotions, and transform ourselves into humble instruments of peace."

In the aftermath of East Timorese independence on 20 May 2002, the pressure of events and the ongoing stress he endured began to show their effects on Bishop Belo's health. Pope John Paul II accepted his resignation as Apostolic Administrator of Dili on 26 November 2002.

"During the Portuguese time the Church was there. During the Indonesian time the Church was the same and now the Church will be present and preach the same values of the gospel -- justice, peace and reconciliation -- and try to work together with the social organizations."

 Following his resignation Bishop Belo traveled to Portugal for medical treatment. By the beginning of 2004, there were repeated calls for him to return to East Timor and to run for the office of president. However, in May 2004 he told Portuguese state-run television RTP, that he would not allow his name to be put up for nomination. "I have decided to leave politics to politicians," he stated. One month later, on 7 June 2004, Pascuál Chavez, rector major of the Salesian Society, announced from Rome that Bishop Belo, returned to health, would take up a new assignment. In agreement with the Holy See, he would go to Mozambique as a missionary, and live as a member of the Salesian Society in that country.

In a statement released on 8 June, Bishop Belo said that, following two meetings in 2003 and in 2004 with the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, he would go on a mission to the Diocese of Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, as he had wanted to since his youth. He started in July 2004; the same year he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from CEU Cardinal Herrera University.

In February 2011 Bishop Belo received the Prize for Lusophonic Personality of the Year, given by MIL: Movimento Internacional Lusófono in the Lisbon Academy of Sciences.

Monday, October 28, 2019


Another living missionary, who is having a great impact on the peoples of Madagascar, is FATHER PEDRO PABLO, who was born in 1948 in Argentina of Slovene descent. For his service to the poor, he was awarded the Legion of Honor.

His father was a former member of the Home Guard, a Slovenian anti-communist German-led auxiliary police force, and avoided post-war summary executions by fleeing to Italy. He met his future wife in a refugee camp in Italy, where they married. They emigrated together to Argentina to avoid the Yugoslav communist regime.

Father Pedro Opeka speaks 7 languages: Spanish, English, SlovenianFrenchItalianLatin and Malagasy.

In 1968 he joined the Lazarites a missionary order popularly known as Vincentians, founded by St. Vincent de Paul. Part of his formation was in Slovenia and part in Paris, where he came into contact with the Taizé Community near Cluny in France

In 1975, Pedro Opeka was ordained priest in Buenos Aires and was given a rural parish in southeast Madagascar. In 1989, his Lazarist superiors appointed him director of a seminary in Antananarivo, the capital. 

Father Opeka  has described Madagascar as “a precious island, with much natural riches and a very happy and welcoming people that live solidarity and mutual help with great respect.”

When he saw a dump from the hills of the city, he discovered people rummaging among garbage to find something to eat, and sleeping in huts made of hemp propped between mountains of waste. Father Pedro began talking to them, to convince them that they could leave that misery and abuse, for their children. With the team of young people from Vangaindrano he had trained, and after long discussions, he wrote the articles and statutes of Akamasoa ('good friends' in the local language).

“From the beginning, the wisdom of its ancestors surprised me as well as the richness of its culture, and in its proverbs the presence of the Creator God is always present. The Malagasy people are very religious, and one grows attached to them very quickly.

He said much has changed since he first arrived. “When I came to this island it was an extraordinary discovery to live in the midst of a people that have an immense enthusiasm to live, to exist, to share. They had respect for persons and for goods, there was almost no delinquency, no robbery or violence.”

Looking back, Father Opeka notes that after the island gained independence in 1960, its socioeconomic and political situation began to deteriorate, while its population continued to increase. “From year to year, we were sinking into poverty without there being any reaction on the part of those governing. All those who took power ended up defrauding the people.”

Having no money, Father Pedro started it all with 900€ he borrowed from various Christian missions. He appointed a team of staff to help him to manage the daily activities and to provide continuous support to poor people.

Today Akamasoa sustains about thirty thousand people in 18 villages, among them ten thousand children, who all go to school, following the building of 37 new schools in the years since Akamasoa's founding.

About four thousand families live in the 18 villages, but another 900,000 Malagasy people have been supported from one day to three weeks in the 'welcome centers', being offered rice, a roof, some clothing and a small package, in order to be 'born again' to life.

Son of a courageous father who taught him building arts, Father Pedro taught the Akamasoa youth how to build houses, first out of wood, and then, bricks and mortar.
Over 3,000 solid houses have been built by Akamasoa to date for people who used to live in card-board boxes on the ground. Every year, Akamasoa builds new schools, clinics, and training and production centres. Over 3,600 jobs have been created for the villagers, who are paid by Akamasoa every month.
A comprehensive economic structure, Akamasoa has grown to being 75% self-sufficient in revenue, thanks to the creation of stone and gravel quarries, to the craft and embroidery workshops, and to a compost centre next to the 'Tana' public rubbish.

 Father Pedro Opeka taught the Akamasoa people tips on how to divide and sort the rubbish, to transport the compost created from rubbish, and to create small agricultural farms. Akamasoa also trains construction artisans (bricklayers, carpenters, cabinet makers, operators and street pavers) who have built or rebuilt roads and bridges to help communities in the villages and all over the country.

In 2007,Father Pedro was named a knight of the Legion of Honor. The award, decreed by the President of France, recognizes his 20 years of public service to the poor in Antananarivo. This award recognizes the ongoing fight led here against poverty by this man of faith and his 412 co-workers: physicians, midwives, teachers, engineers, technicians, and social workers, all of them from Madagascar.

In 2009 he received the Golden Order for Services, which is the highest national decoration of Slovenia.

With the Pope in 2019- who visited Madagascar
In 2012 and 2013 Father Pedro was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by united Slovenian European Parliament representatives regardless of political party affiliation.

Father Pedro has seen much change in this country since his arrival over 30 years ago, and not for the better, but he sees a glimmer of hope for the nation because “a young president has come to power who seeks to change and to bring peace and social justice to his people.”

Andry Rajoelina,  has begun to attack the corruption and the whole class of favoritisms that impede the country’s economic growth.

“The new president is Catholic and does not hide his faith and for many years now he has come to celebrate Christmas with the poor families of Akamasoa.”

Asked about the role of the Catholic Church on the island, Father Pedro said, “The Church has played an important role in the history of Madagascar. It was the cradle of the education of children in the whole national territory. Indeed, the missionary presence was very important because it brought education, health, dignity.

The force of the Gospel was what kept the hope of the poorest. Without the presence of the church, Madagascar would be very much poorer.”

This gentle man of God is an example of one who has given up all to follow Christ as he makes a difference to the neglected poor of an almost forgotten country. To many he is known as the "man of miracles".

Saturday, October 26, 2019


Another missionary who had an impact on peoples in our own Southwest  was FATHER  ANTON DOCHER a French Franciscan born in 1852, who served as a missionary to Native Americans in New Mexico.

Following academic studies and years of military service, in 1887 Father Anton traveled to the United States, where he was first assigned to the Cathedral of Santa Fe for a few years and was ordained. He worked briefly at Taos, before being assigned to the Pueblo of Isleta in New Mexico, where he served for 34 years until his death.

Respected by the Isleta for his open-minded attitude to their customs and ancestral faiths, Father Anton was called Tashide, which means "little helper" in Tewa language. He was known for owning a parrot named Tina, which used very foul language.

Father Docher raised an Isletan orphan boy named Tomas Chavez. When Tomas married Lolita Delores, Father Docher gave the couple five acres and a house in Los Lunas as a wedding gift. Tomas developed a vineyard on this land and supplied wine to the Isleta and local churches. Unfortunately, he died in 1925, three years before Father. His widow Lolita Delores was left with nine children. Father Docher paid for the children’s schooling.

Father on left, Tomas on right

Father Anton became a naturalized
United States citizen. Close to the people he served, he referred to himself as an "Indian" in the letters which he sent to his family in France.

Suffering a long illness, Father Anton lived the last three years of his life as a patient at the St Joseph Hospital (Albuquerque), where he died at the age of 76 on December 18, 1928.

In front of his house with bee hives

Willa Cather
 used him as a model for her protagonist Padre Jesus de Baca in her novel "Death Comes for the Archbishop" (1927). She visited him shortly before his death.

Thursday, October 24, 2019


Two modern missionary saints are ST. GEORGE PRECA (1880-1962), the first native saint of MALTA and founder of the Society of Christian Doctrine, a group of celibate laypeople devoted to prayer, studying church teaching and instructing the young. 

As a young priest, St. George had a vision of the child Jesus that stimulated his efforts to promote sound doctrine and formation among Catholics. The author of numerous books and booklets, he was also a renowned preacher who drew crowds of faithful wherever he went.

In the 1950s he suggested use of five “mysteries of light” for praying the rosary, an innovation later adopted by Pope St. John Paul II for the universal church.
In his sermon, Pope Benedict praised him as a consummate evangelizer, above all through the example of his own life. St. George’s liturgical feast is celebrated May 9.

ST. CHARLES of ST. ANDREW HOUBEN (1821-1893), a native of the NETHERLANDS  (unusual because this country does not have many saints),  who, after joining the Passionist order, spent most of his life ministering in England and Ireland.
He was especially known for his healing touch, his ministry as a confessor and for insisting in his preaching that God’s love could not be understood unless people understood the passion and death of Jesus.

At the funeral of the much-loved priest, his superior was moved to observe, “The people have already declared him a saint.” His feast day is Jan. 5. 
Both saints were canonized on the same day in 2012..