Sunday, February 24, 2013


Vatican Radio REPORT -  “Dear brothers and sisters…The Lord is calling me to "climb the mountain", to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church, indeed, if God is asking me to do this, it is so I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done thus far, but in a way that is better suited to my age and my strength”. "We will always be close in prayer!".

This was Pope Benedict XVI’s parting message on Sunday, during his last Angelus address. At noon the canons sounded from the Janiculum hill and the great bells of St Peter’s basilica rang out. And as the curtains were drawn from his study windows and the red papal banner unfurled, the ocean of pilgrims waiting below erupted. 

They had come in their thousands, pouring into the square since early dawn, men, women and children, old and young, religious and lay Catholics. They held banners, emblazoned with messages of gratitude and farewell for the 85 year old Pope, who had guided them in the faith over the past eight years.

Pilgrims such as a father and his young son from the earthquake devastated city of Aquilla, central Italy, who held aloft a homemade sign, thanking Pope Benedict for having visited the city’s people in their time of need, for his material support and spiritual solidarity. Or the Dominican nuns from the Philippines who had held vigil since dawn praying the rosary. And beside them the young people in their sleeping bags, from Spain, Brazil, Mexico with their banner that read “the gates of hell will never prevail”.

With outstretched arms and visibly moved, Pope Benedict greeted them all, repeating ‘grazie, grazie,’ as he attempted to quieten the crowds. An almost impossible task.

Then, as is tradition, he reflected on the Sunday Gospel, Luke chapter 9, which recounts the Transfiguration of the Lord.

Below a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s Angelus address:
Dear brothers and sisters!

On the second Sunday of Lent, the liturgy always presents us with the Gospel of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The evangelist Luke places particular emphasis on the fact that Jesus was transfigured as he prayed: his is a profound experience of relationship with the Father during a sort of spiritual retreat that Jesus lives on a high mountain in the company of Peter, James and John , the three disciples always present in moments of divine manifestation of the Master (Luke 5:10, 8.51, 9.28).
The Lord, who shortly before had foretold his death and resurrection (9:22), offers his disciples a foretaste of his glory. And even in the Transfiguration, as in baptism, we hear the voice of the Heavenly Father, "This is my Son, the Chosen One listen to him" (9:35). The presence of Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets of the Old Covenant, it is highly significant: the whole history of the Alliance is focused on Him, the Christ, who accomplishes a new "exodus" (9:31) , not to the promised land as in the time of Moses, but to Heaven. Peter’s words: "Master, it is good that we are here" (9.33) represents the impossible attempt to stop this mystical experience. St. Augustine says: "[Peter] ... on the mountain ... had Christ as the food of the soul. Why should he come down to return to the labours and pains, while up there he was full of feelings of holy love for God that inspired in him a holy conduct? "(Sermon 78.3).
We can draw a very important lesson from meditating on this passage of the Gospel. First, the primacy of prayer, without which all the work of the apostolate and of charity is reduced to activism. In Lent we learn to give proper time to prayer, both personal and communal, which gives breath to our spiritual life. In addition, to pray is not to isolate oneself from the world and its contradictions, as Peter wanted on Tabor, instead prayer leads us back to the path, to action. "The Christian life - I wrote in my Message for Lent - consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from him, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with God’s own love "(n. 3).
Dear brothers and sisters, I feel that this Word of God is particularly directed at me, at this point in my life. The Lord is calling me to "climb the mountain", to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church, indeed, if God is asking me to do this it is so that I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done thus far, but in a way that is better suited to my age and my strength. Let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary: may she always help us all to follow the Lord Jesus in prayer and works of charity.
I offer a warm greeting to all the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer, especially the Schola Cantorum of the London Oratory School. I thank everyone for the many expressions of gratitude, affection and closeness in prayer which I have received in these days. As we continue our Lenten journey towards Easter, may we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus the Redeemer, whose glory was revealed on the mount of the Transfiguration. Upon all of you I invoke God’s abundant blessings!




Antarctic Jesuit

Kairos Volume 24, Issue 2
Words Fr Michael Smith SJ
Pictures Anna Pearson and Fr Michael Smith SJ

I HAVE a ‘bucket list’ of things that I want to do before I die, and one of those was to visit to the South Pole.

I doubted I would ever tick off that item until I heard about the Antarctic Chaplaincy Program coordinated by Fr Dan Doyle of Christchurch Diocese in New Zealand. I emailed him to see if there was a possibility of my being a chaplain at McMurdo Station, the US research centre on the shore of McMurdo Sound in Antarctica. He informed me that a space was available in December 2012. I could go if I passed the medical.

Because Antarctica is so remote and medical facilities are limited, if you want to travel there you must undergo extensive medical and dental checks beforehand. I passed the tests and on 6 December 2012, flew to Antarctica from Christchurch.

I had researched Antarctica before I went, but nothing prepared me for the physical vastness and the beauty I encountered when I stepped out of the aircraft onto the ice runway. Psalm 8 expresses well the sense of being on the frozen continent:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars that you have established—what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

In the Spiritual Exercises, St Ignatius of Loyola suggests that we consider how God works and labours for us in all things created on the face of the earth. In Antarctica, it is not hard to see God at work in the beauty of creation—in the mountain ranges, in the ice sheet, in the limitless blue sky, in the vastness of the continent, in the seals, in the penguins.

The aspect of life at McMurdo that will stay with me is the relationships. With about 1000 people at the station, and with 
us all eating together in the galley, a strong sense of community grew. I found the conversations over meals and the friendships that were forged very life-giving. These conversations often turned to things of God and discussing the meaning of life was an important part of my role. I talked with all sorts of people, always trying to give them the time they needed to express themselves.

The pace of life in Antarctica is quite leisurely, so I had time to pray for an hour each morning in a prayer space in the Chapel of the Snows, which looks out over the Ross Ice Shelf towards Mount Discovery. It was very peaceful and unhurried. I had few of the deadlines or worries that normally crowd in on my prayer time in Melbourne. The silence of Antarctica was immense and very conducive to prayer.

Yet McMurdo Station is surprisingly noisy at times. It is the base for all the scientific research done by the United States Antarctic Program. There are about 100 buildings, including laboratories, offices, a small hospital, a fire station, dormitories, a galley, a power plant, fuel dumps, storage sheds, a flight control centre, and a chapel. McMurdo has everything needed to run a small town that supports the work of about 200 scientists. There is a multiplicity of vehicles—graders, front-end loaders, buses, vans, tracked vehicles, helicopters and so on—all designed for the icy conditions. So, when these machines are operating, McMurdo can be very noisy.

Fortunately, there were wonderfully quiet walks near McMurdo, and most days I would get out of the township and walk through the frozen but beautiful landscape. My favourite walk was up to Our Lady of the Snows—a memorial to Petty Officer Richard Williams.  He was bringing in supplies from a ship 30 miles out from McMurdo Station on 6 January 1956 when his 30-ton tractor broke through the sea ice and plunged 350 fathoms to the bottom of McMurdo Sound. His body was never recovered. It is a poignant reminder of how dangerous Antarctica can be.

My fixed pastoral duties in a typical day included morning prayer at 8.30am in the Chapel of the Snows, and Mass at 5.45pm. The rest of the time I walked around the station and talked with people in the galley, visited their workplaces, and was available for spiritual conversation.

I said Mass on Christmas Eve and, because there is no night at all during December in Antarctica, midnight Mass was in full sunlight.

The most memorable thing I did was to visit the South Pole. On Monday 10 December, we flew for almost three hours to Amundsen-Scott Station at the South Pole. The weather at the Pole was clear and very cold: minus 36.5 degrees centigrade with the wind-chill factor. Because the South Pole is so high— 2835 metres—the first thing you notice when you get off the plane and walk towards the station is how hard it is to breathe in the rarefied atmosphere.

After lunch at Amundsen-Scott Station, I put on my extreme cold-weather clothing and walked over to the magnetic South Pole. At this point on the earth, everywhere is north. At this place I found myself moved to pray for peace on earth.

On my return to Christchurch, Fr Doyle asked if I would like to go back to McMurdo as Catholic Chaplain in a couple of year’s time.
I am very much open to it.

Read more about Fr Michael’s experience in Antarctica at:

Fr Michael Smith SJ is Director of the Campion Centre of Ignatian Spirituality in Kew.



Agenzia Fides REPORT– Bishop Joseph Ma Xuesheng, bishop of the diocese of Zhoucun (Chowtsun), in Shandong (mainland China) died on February 8 at the age of almost 90. He was born on 16 September 1923, in the district of Zouping (Shandong). The late bishop started his vocational path at the local minor seminary. After completing his studies in philosophy and theology at seminaries in Hankou, Macao and Beijing , he was ordained a priest on 3 April 1957. Until 1966, due to government political pressure on the Church, he was forced to alternate his pastoral ministry with manual work as a cook. In 1966, at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, he was sent to work in the fields until 1980. In 1988 he was ordained Coadjutor of the diocese of Zhoucun, becoming diocesan Bishop in 1997.
Bishop Ma demonstrated great understanding towards young people and sought advice before reaching any decision. The diocese of Zhoucun, situated in central Shandong, today has a community of about 18.000 Catholics, 65 church buildings, twenty priests and a small community of sisters. The Diocese’s present situation is due to the commitment, faith and support, of the late Bishop. 
In 2009, the procedure for the appointment of a new coadjutor Bishop completed, cerebral paralysis prevented Bishop Ma from taking part in the ordination of his successor, Bishop Joseph Yang Yongqiang, ordained on 15 November 2010.
The funeral of Mgr Ma was held on 18 February in the church at Zibo. The late Bishop returned to the House of the Father a few days after the death of one hundred year old Bishop Liu Jingshan di Yinchuan (Ningxia). The sacrifice and faithfulness of this generation of Bishops remain a mark of love for Christ and love for the people of China. (Agenzia Fides 22/2/2013).



Scotland: Fr Stephen Murphy, last founder of Nunraw laid to rest | Cardinal Keith O’Brien,Cistercian, Nunraw Abbey,Father Stephen (Patrick Joseph) Murphy OCSO
Cardinal Keith O’Brien joined the Cistercian community at Nunraw Abbey on Monday, 18 February, to pay tribute to the last founding member of the abbey, Dom Donald writes in his blog.
Father Stephen (Patrick Joseph) Murphy OCSO was born in 1924 in London, UK. He entered Mount St Joseph Monastery in 1943, made solemn profession in 1948. Father was in his 89th year and had been in monastic vows for 68 years when the Lord called him.
Obituary of Fr Stephen Murphy OCSO
Fr Stephen has been a gentle presence in the Nunraw community for over 60 years.
The members of the community are asked from time to time to write down any wishes they would have about their funerals among other things. In the space given for the choice of hymns, etc., Fr Stephen wrote, perhaps with his tongue in his cheek, ‘Just silent prayer’. This reminds me a little of the priest in the early days of the vernacular in the liturgy stemming from Vatican II. He was not happy about losing his familiar Latin Mass. His remarks about using English in the liturgy was, ‘Over my dead body!’. So when it came to his funeral, the presiding priest recalled this and said, ‘So be it!’ To be fair to Fr Stephen, he did say that he was quite happy about whatever the abbot decided to do regarding his own funeral.
Whether we read the scriptures directly or as we pray them in the celebration of the Eucharist or the Divine Office, they are the key to eternal life. They are also the nourishment that keeps us going till we get there. This seems all very simple, and they are part and partial of what made Fr Stephen the man and the monk that we knew. But, it is not all as simple as we might think in Stephen’s case.
First of all, we knew he came from Roscrea in County Tipperary in the first years of the foundation here at Nunraw. He was Irish. What else, with a name like Patrick Murphy? In fact this Irishman with the native Irish accent was born in London, albeit of Irish parents. So he was not the genuine article! Patrick was sent to Blackrock College for his education and, from there, eventually entered the community and given his new monastic name, Stephen. Within a few short years he joined the other founders at Nunraw. It is very appropriate that Fr Richard, the abbot of Roscrea, has been able to be with us today for this Mass for this last founder of Nunraw. As always, we are very pleased to have him with us.
Just last year, on a visit to Roscrea I met Fr Éanna, who was in the novitiate with Fr Stephen. He told me that Stephen always had a copy of the New Testament in his hand. I told Fr Éanna that, if that was the case, in his other hand would have been holding one of the books of P G Wodehouse. In Fr Stephen were balanced the Word of God on the one hand and that fine writer of good English prose, humour and fun on the other. We all knew that this fine specimen of a monk in our midst had a good sense of humour.
In the final months, when we were pulling his leg, he would often say, accusingly, but with that familiar twinkle in his eye, ‘It’s no wonder it’s the way I am!’ And just a few days ago, someone remarking on Fr Stephen particular kind of jokes, said that God might already be warning him that if he didn’t restrain himself he might be sent back to Nunraw.
On the coffin we have placed a copy of the scriptures - the love of his life; the rule of St Benedict – which was the rule of his life, and a priestly stole. (There wasn’t a sufficiently well bound copy of one of P G Wodehouse’s books to put beside them.)
It may not have been known to many that Fr Stephen had to bear illness for most of his life. He accepted that and yet managed to do a lot of little jobs that occupied his day. He would take charge of little but necessary chores in our refectory in preparation for meals and he was the main producer of woollen socks for the community.
In later years he spent a lot of his time welcoming visitors to the abbey.

In addition to feeding them with his spiritual thoughts, he would sometimes regale them the amusing and funny side of monastic life. So, in spite of his long-lasting ailments, Fr Stephen gave health and cheer to others in their spiritual needs. He who had ill health gave strength and help to those who were themselves needing support. It was not unusual in the past couple of years to have people coming to see him or enquiring how he was keeping. He had kind of effect on them.

During his declining health, especially over the past few months, the doctors and nurses gave unstinting help to relieve any pain he was experiencing.
On several occasions in the last months, when he was being given a cup of coffee and a biscuit, he would offer his carer the biscuit he had if he thought he didn’t have one himself. It was the nature of the man. That came from a long life of hardship and a great deal of suffering. He could only have put up with that by not thinking too much about it and leaving his pain in God’s hands. He accepted his bad health with good grace. No doubt that is why he grew spiritually through it. One effect of that was that people were drawn to him.
Fr Stephen had a great love of God and would say that all he wanted was to do God’s will. He was more than ready to go when God called him in the end
As the Gospel says he who believes in the Son of God will be raised up to eternal life. That is the story that has been lived out in the life of Fr Stephen.
May he now enjoy the new life of God in heaven.


Genesis 15: 5 - 12, 17 - 18
5And he brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your descendants be."
6And he believed the LORD; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.
7And he said to him, "I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chalde'ans, to give you this land to possess."
8But he said, "O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?"
9He said to him, "Bring me a heifer three years old, a she-goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon."
10And he brought him all these, cut them in two, and laid each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.
11And when birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
12As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram; and lo, a dread and great darkness fell upon him.
17When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.
18On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphra'tes,
Psalms 27: 1, 7 - 9, 13 - 14
1The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
7Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!
8Thou hast said, "Seek ye my face." My heart says to thee, "Thy face, LORD, do I seek."
9Hide not thy face from me. Turn not thy servant away in anger, thou who hast been my help. Cast me not off, forsake me not, O God of my salvation!
13I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!
14Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the LORD!
Philippians 3: 17 - 21
17Brethren, join in imitating me, and mark those who so live as you have an example in us.
18For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
19Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
20But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
21who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself. -
Luke 9: 28 - 36

28Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.29And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white.30And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Eli'jah,31who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.32Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.33And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli'jah" -- not knowing what he said.34As he said this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.35And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"36And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silence and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.

Feb 24, 2013 - 2nd Sun of Lent


St. Ethelbert
Feast: February 24

Feast Day:February 24
Died:24 February 616
King of Kent; b. 552; d. 24 February, 616; son of Eormenric, through whom he was descended from Hengest. He succeeded his father, in 560, as King of Kent and made an unsuccessful attempt to win from Ceawlin of Wessex the overlordship of Britain. His political importance was doubtless advanced by his marriage with Bertha, daughter of Charibert, King of the Franks (see BERTHA I). A noble disposition to fair dealing is argued by his giving her the old Roman church of St. Martin in his capital of Cantwaraburh (Canterbury) and affording her every opportunity for the exercise of her religion, although he himself had been reared, and remained, a worshipper of Odin. The same natural virtue, combined with a quaint spiritual caution and, on the other hand, a large instinct of hospitality, appears in his message to St. Augustine when, in 597, the Apostle of England landed on the Kentish coast
In the interval between Ethelbert's defeat by Ceawlin and the arrival of the Roman missionaries, the death of the Wessex king had left Ethelbert, at least virtually, supreme in southern Britain, and his baptism, which took place on Whitsunday next following the landing of Augustine (2 June, 597) had such an effect in deciding the minds of his wavering countrymen that as many as 10,000 are said to have followed his example within a few months. Thenceforward Ethelbert became the watchful father of the infant Anglo-Saxon Church. He founded the church which in after-ages was to be the primatial cathedral of all England, besides other churches at Rochester and Canterbury. But, although he permitted, and even helped, Augustine to convert a heathen temple into the church of St. Pancras (Canterbury), he never compelled his heathen subjects to accept baptism. Moreover, as the lawgiver who issued their first written laws to the English people (the ninety "Dooms of Ethelbert", A.D. 604) he holds in English history a place thoroughly consistent with his character as the temporal founder of that see which did more than any other for the upbuilding of free and orderly political institutions in Christendom. When St. Mellitus had converted Sæbert, King of the East Saxons, whose capital was London, and it was proposed to make that see the metropolitan, Ethelbert, supported by Augustine, successfully resisted the attempt, and thus fixed for more than nine centuries the individual character of the English church. He left three children, of whom the only son, Eadbald, lived and died a pagan.

(Taken From Catholic Encyclopedia)