Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Tribute to Fr. John Speekman

Fr. John Speekman

I thank Fr. John Speekman once again for his generosity.
I appreciate very much his loving spirit and willingness
to share with us a part of his life that he treasures.

I ask that you all think of Fr. John this week and the next,
and include him in your daily prayers.
He is a very dedicated blogger who takes the time
to echo to us the love of God.
His homilies speak of his love for his Creator,
especially through the Lectio Divina,
a form of prayer using the scriptures.

Fr. John, we thank you for all you do!
Most of all, thank you for YOU!

The strongest influence in my life was and, in a way, still is, my parents. They were the greatest blessing a child could wish for. Times were not always easy but what they gave their children was a clear, living, powerful example of a couple of individuals who really believed the Gospel. They worked double jobs to keep us in Catholic school and it was only years after we left home that they finished paying the fees. I remember the parish priest telling them it was no longer necessary but they had made the commitment and paid off the invoices one by one. We were 7 children and then one adopted, making eight.

Mum and dad gave another important example, especially for these slack times, in that they never, and I mean never, missed Mass. I recall the way dad used to ferry us all to Mass from the country farm we lived in to the local church about ten kilometres away. He had a small BMW motorbike and took two of the younger ones on the petrol tank and an older one on the back and somehow managed to get us all there on time. Again the parish priest told him it was too big an effort and that the obligation didn't apply. Of course that made no difference to mum and dad, they weren't just meeting an obligation. The local ambulance officer took pity and used to bundle us all into the ambulance and drive us to Mass.

One other thing my father, particularly, gave us was a desire to know our faith intimately. He was always reading and discussing it. When Pope Paul VI reaffirmed Catholic teaching on birth control my father had prepared us well for this teaching and we did not share the surprise of other catholics. Nor when the Latin Mass became the Novus Ordo was he in any way disturbed. He had the wisdom, so lacking today, to understand which teachings of the Church were from Christ, and couldn't be changed, and which were merely changeable Church teachings.

I will mention one more thing about my parents - they were people of prayer. Not only did they pray together at night in their bedroom (we children could hear them), but they always said the family rosary after the evening meal with all their children. This was a non-negotiable. The legacy of this practice is, I believe, that all my siblings still practice the Faith; all are happily married; and there is in our family no 'feuding'. We all still love to be together and though we live at great distances are always in contact.

A second strong influence on my life was the Catholic schools I attended, both primary and secondary. The Josephite Sisters, Marist priests and Marist brothers were absolutely wonderful. This is not to say there were no problems when we misbehaved, etc. but on the whole, they totally reinforced the values and Catholic beliefs of our family. They gave me a love, too, for knowing the content of my faith. This made my father rather happy. Nevertheless, I am now ashamed to have to admit, I ceased regularly practising my faith soon after I began university studies.

By the age of 21 I began teaching in a High School as a qualified French, English, History teacher; priesthood was far from my mind. A two year stint in the Army and some further study saw me return to teaching, first in an Anglican (Episcopalian) school and then in a Catholic school.

At about the age of 24 I returned to the practice of my faith. One night the Lord in his kindness showed me the emptiness of my life. It was not a pleasant experience. I gradually became a daily Mass goer and for the next few years I gradually grew in a more mature understanding of my faith. When I was thirty I listened to Fulton Sheen's retreat to the priests of the Diocese of Gary, Indiana, and decided to give up smoking and to do the daily holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament. Three years later I entered the seminary for late vocations and four years later I was ordained a priest. By the grace of God I did not miss a single day doing my holy hour during those years.

I celebrate my 25th year of priesthood this year. The last few years have been turbulent, as you already know. Yet I would not want anything to be different. I have learned so much and God has blessed me beyond what I even begin to deserve.

About 10 years ago I spent three months at St Meinrad, Indiana, on sabbatical and was blessed to 'discover' the Sacred Scriptures and the practice of Lectio Divina. It has been the mainstay of my life ever since, though I have not forsaken my daily rosary. I really wish people, priests and laity, would come to realise that praying the Scriptures is far more fruitful than almost any other form of daily personal prayer. I exclude the Divine Office, of course, and the Mass, which is the official public prayer of the Church, and a solemn obligation for priests.

You ask about encouraging youth. My answer is simple; Sunday Mass and the daily rosary. I encourage youth also to adopt the wearing of the scapular, particularly the young men. The Scapular can be such a jolly nuisance to wear that it constantly reminds one of things spiritual. It is the hand of Mary, our Mother, on our shoulder, and if we persevere in wearing the Scapular it brings us great blessings. It is a great thing to see the scapular claim the neck of a young man, rather than a shark's tooth or a star sign. We should not doubt that Mary will look after those who wear her scapular.

I don't need to tell you, Easter, that my computer is my 'hobby' these days. Blogging my homilies has forced me to prepare them well in advance. I would encourage Catholic bloggers. My niece has a lovely pro-life blog at

You ask about movies. I guess there are many good movies and each one is a discovery. I love Sci-Fi and adventure movies. Other than that I enjoy visiting with people and having them visit me.

Don't get me started on describing 'the trends of the modern times'. I suppose my blog makes my thoughts clear enough so I'll resist boring you again with a long dissertation.

(The questions):
Here are the questions (you may choose only those you wish to answer):
1. Who was most influential to you when you were growing up? (you may site an incident)
2. Who was most influential to you in your discernment to enter the priesthood?
2. Do you have an experience in your life as a teenager which you can share with us to encourage our youth to be active in church? What is it?
3. What do you do to entertain yourself? Or, what are some hobbies you have which you find entertaining and relaxing?
4. How would you describe the trends of the present times? (political, moral, anything you wish to emphasize)
5. What do you do to encourage people to participate actively in our Church (aside from blogging)?
6. Who is the one person in this world who makes you laugh?
7. What is your favorite scripture passage?
8. What is your favorite movie?
9. What keeps you grounded?
10. Who is the one person you admire the most? Why?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

"...the Cross of Christ. This means that the ash is for us a symbol both of annihilation and of hope. As the Cross is the Christian symbol of salvation and hope of eternal life, so the cross of ashes on our forehead is for us an invitation to freedom from sin and new life." -Fr. John Speekman, Homilies and Reflections from Australia

Please visit
Fr. John's reflection for today, Ash Wednesday.

I want to thank Fr. John Speekman for his generosity and patience. I would have liked very much to get back to blogging after two weeks from the time I last did an entry, but time proved to have its own pace. I simply could not keep up. I had a good sabbatical leave though. The best part of it was attending a retreat based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius. I thank my Creator for his graciousness!

Fr. John Speekman, I loved your response to my interview questions! I have it all ready to publish after Ash Wednesday. All I have to do is click on "publish post". My deepest thanks to you.