Thought for the Day – 19 February – The Memorial of Bl John Sullivan SJ (1861-1933)
It was at Clongowes that his life of prayer and penance began to be noticed. He ate the plainest of food. Staff who looked after rooms said his bed was untouched and he slept on the floor. He was always seen in the chapel praying until late and rising early to do so again. At times, he hardly seemed to notice the world around him. But if he was hard on himself, he was never so on others. Despite his brilliant mind and academic achievements it was his holiness that was recognised. Many revered him as a saint. He prayed constantly – he walked with God continually – he listened to Him and he found Him and God worked through him. Many who were in need of spiritual or physical healing flocked to him and asked his prayers – and strange things happened. The power of God seemed to work through him and many were cured.
But there was another dimension. Apart from his work as teacher, spiritual father and retreat director, Father Sullivan was a familiar figure amongst the sick and the needy for miles around Clongowes. He visited them on foot or on an old battered bicycle. On these home visits to the poor, he brought them small luxuries, including a bit of tobacco, tea and sugar, as well as oranges and apples. In time, there was an ever-widening circle of others, whom he visited in hospitals and consoled by letter, or who came to him from almost every county in Ireland to ask the intercession of his prayers in their illness and misfortunes. He constantly heard confessions in the church attached to the college. People came by bicycle, by horse or donkey and cart, or arranged a lift in a car for a sick person. In later years, it was a common sight to see several vehicles waiting outside the door, in which invalids had been brought to receive his blessing.
Neither weather nor distance seemed to be major obstacles. Once Fr Sullivan walked fourteen miles there and fourteen miles back to pray with and to bless a sick person. His bicycle brought him on longer journeys, including visits to Dublin and back. In his threadbare clothes and his aged and patched boots, he was a familiar sight on the roads around Clongowes and further afield.
Fr Sullivan’s prayers restored people to health, cured their pain, relieved them of psychological problems. His compassion and reverence for the person was often observed. He would draw very close to them, when even medical staff found their condition near nauseating. There have been hundreds of testimonies attributing various healings to him during his life and a number of those are seen as miracles and have been verified as such, which has led to his beatification.
Cardinal Amato, at the Beatification ceremony, also referred to an incident when Fr John, on one of his customary visits to the sick, encountered a priest already in the cottage visiting. “The pastor asked him to leave, fearing a dangerous opponent in the ministry. Upon his brusque command, Fr Sullivan knelt down and asked forgiveness. The pastor was profoundly moved.” The profound humility of Bl John reaches out now still to us all. May we constantly pray for his intercession that God may grace us with this greatest of all virtues, humility!
PRAYER for the CANONISATION of Blessed JOHN SULLIVAN (1861-1933)
O God, who honour those who honour You,
make sacred the memory of Your servant,
by granting through his intercession
the petition we now make
[bring to mind your intention]
Hasten the day when his name will be numbered
among those of Your saints.
We make our prayer through Christ our Lord.
Bl John, pray for us!