Saturday, January 02, 2021

Tenth Day of Christmas: Time to Take Stock

It hasn't taken long for the "Christmas Sales" signs to be replaced by "Stocktake Sales" in the major stores around our cities. These sales are basically incentives to add to our consumer appetite at bargain prices.

Today can also be a great day to "take stock" of life as the year draws to a close. Our new year resolutions are best informed by the reflection of the previous year.

These early days of a new year  invite us to take stock of core values and commitments. It means I place my commitment in small communities such as L'Arche, in the activism of groups like Amnesty International and Oxfam, in the commitment of NGOs like Palms Australia to bring about social change.

Here are some of my favourite  sites where I look back and review the past year:
And if you need something a bit more interactive you can take the ABC Quizes.  

When I take stock of my core values I recognize my duty to use social networking tools for raising awareness of justice and peace concerns and building solidarity with those who occupy our cities for the cause of justice.

I invite you to share the story of your "stocktake" of 2020

Friday, January 01, 2021

Ninth Day of Christmas

Many social change activists and educators are aware of the International Day of Peace celebrated on September 21 each year. 

However I bet London to a brick that very few Catholics know that the World Day of Peace  was established by Pope Paul VI  in 1967, being inspired by the encyclical Pacem in Terris of Pope John XXIII and with reference to his own encyclical Populorum Progressio. The day was first celebrated on 1st January 1968 observed on 1 January 1968.

The Catholic Church, with the intention of service and of example, simply wishes to “launch the idea”, in the hope that it may not only receive the widest consent of the civilised world but that such an idea may find everywhere numerous promoters, able and capable of impressing on the “Day of Peace”, to be celebrated on the first day of every new year, that sincere and strong character of conscious humanity, redeemed from its sad and fatal bellicose conflicts, which will give to the history of the world a more happy, ordered and civilised development.”

Full text of the 1st World Day of Peace address by St Paul Vi

This year Pope Francis continues the tradition with his invitation to create a culture of care as a path to peace. The full statement is available here.

Some quotable quotes from this year's statement:

Care for creation was at the heart of the institution of the Sabbath, which, in addition to ordering divine worship, aimed at the restoration of the social order and concern for the poor (cf. Gen 1:1-3; Lev 25:4). The celebration of the Jubilee every seventh sabbatical year provided a respite for the land, for slaves and for those in debt.  In that year of grace, those in greatest need were cared for and given a new chance in life, so that there would be no poor among the people (cf. Deut 15:4). (3.2)

“The very concept of the person, which originated and developed in Christianity, fosters the pursuit of a fully human development. Person always signifies relationship, not individualism; it affirms inclusion, not exclusion, unique and inviolable dignity, not exploitation”.[8] Each human person is an end in himself or herself, and never simply a means to be valued only for his or her usefulness. Persons are created to live together in families, communities and societies, where all are equal in dignity. Human rights derive from this dignity, as do human duties, like the responsibility to welcome and assist the poor, the sick, the excluded, every one of our “neighbours, near or far in space and time”.[9] (6.2)

How many resources are spent on weaponry, especially nuclear weapons,[20] that could be used for more significant priorities such as ensuring the safety of individuals, the promotion of peace and integral human development, the fight against poverty, and the provision of health care. Global problems like the present Covid-19 pandemic and climate change have only made these challenges all the more evident. What a courageous decision it would be to “establish a ‘Global Fund’ with the money spent on weapons and other military expenditures, in order to permanently eliminate hunger and contribute to the development of the poorest countries”![21] (7.5)

The culture of care thus calls for a common, supportive and inclusive commitment to protecting and promoting the dignity and good of all, a willingness to show care and compassion, to work for reconciliation and healing, and to advance mutual respect and acceptance. As such, it represents a privileged path to peace. “In many parts of the world, there is a need for paths of peace to heal open wounds. There is also a need for peacemakers, men and women prepared to work boldly and creatively to initiate processes of healing and renewed encounter”.[25] (9.1)

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Eighth Day of Christmas: Beware of the Cutters
Welcome to January 1st. In the "Land of the Long Weekend" This is the day to recover from the NYE parties and celebrations. It\s a day at the beach or home with a BBQ.

Back in the days before the Vatican Council  moved the goal posts Catholic Tradition celebrated this day as the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord

Yes, it is the only Catholic feast for a medical procedure. As with all great Biblical accounts there is a picture gallery available on google. As with all great Catholic and Orthodox Celebrations there is a hymn or two for the feast.

Circumcision gets some pretty good press in the Scriptures as a popular practice and metaphor. By the time you have worked through the Hebrew Scriptures and made your way to some of Paul's letters you get to the most cutting of his statements:  "Beware of the cutters,"  (Ph.3:2).  So, there you have it, time to stop infant circumcision!! If Paul was around today he would probably join one of the Facebook pages against infant circumcision.

Circumcision has made its way into the public forum. SBS Insight hosted  The First Cut. Two of my good friends appeared as guests Elwyn Moir and Sharon Orapeleng. By strange coincidence they were seated next to each other for the recording.

Thanks to this feast we also have a great new word for scrabble: prepuce.The Holy Prepuce or the story of the foreskin relics is another contribution of Catholicism to the religious entertainment industry. It seems that we can also learn a bit from Michelangelo about this practice.

And so a new year is upon us. May you "make the cut" in whatever you do in 2021!!

May this new year bring you blessings of peace and happiness. May we work together to build a community of hope and justice in our neighbourhoods and on our planet.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Seventh Day of Christmas Putting the Stamp on Christmas

Often when doing  an online search for material I use the Google Image search tool as I am a visual type of person and love the images that take me to text.  During these 12 Days of Christmas I suggest you visit the Google Image site for Australia Post  Christmas Stamps.

The history of Christmas stamps is rich and diverse. The Wikipedia article notes that: "The choice of secular or religious designs is frequently a bone of contention; church leaders often see secular designs as diluting the meaning of the holiday, while postal officials fear that overly religious designs could lead their secular customers to avoid the stamps, leaving millions unsold, and even expose the postal administration to charges that they are violating laws prohibiting the promotion of a particular religion.

In the United States, annual discord over "secular" versus "religious" designs was resolved by issuing some of each; typically a group of 4-6 related secular designs, plus a Madonna and Child design. To avoid difficulties attendant upon contracting for original designs with a religious theme, the designs are based on Old Master paintings hanging in U.S. galleries, thus qualifying as depictions of art. The British Royal Mail resolves the difficulty by issuing "religious" and "secular" themed designs in alternate years."

The 2017 Australian Christmas Stamp set included a Madonna and Child image that has great personal significance." The 65c Christmas-card-rate stamp shows a projection from the 2013 Lights of Christmas display. The painting is a copy of a now lost work by Italian artist Roberto Ferruzzi (1853–1934). The much loved original painting, known as the Madonnina or the Madonna of the Streets, was awarded a major prize at the 1897 Venice Biennale. Often reproduced as a devotional image, it survives in countless copies."

This is an image that sat on my mother's kitchen window sill for most of her 85 years. It sat in a small circular frame above the sink where she spent many quiet hours while the rest of the household were at work or school. Behind the image is a fascinating  family story (Use a translation tool to read an English version)
My childhood Christmas memories include the never ending series of cards  that my parents received from relatives and friends. I think we even swapped (posted) cards to the neighbours. I'm not sure we followed the Christmas etiquette although I suspect the posting was done in time for cards to arrive before  Christmas Day.

I now have a custom of sending the cards during the Christmas season of the 12 Days as a bit of a protest that Australia Post only allows the use of the Christmas stamp up to the end of December.  You can of course use if after the 31st but they expect you to add the extra stamp to cover for normal postage rates.

Here is the set for 2020

Australia Post Christmas Stamps 2020

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson RIP

As this year closes with news of those who are no longer with us I share the sad tidings of the death this evening of Bishop Geoffrey Robinson.

We met twice on my faith pilgrimage. More than ten years ago he came to Brisbane to listen and speak to survivors of abuse in religious institutions. We later met briefly at a social gathering and exchanged memories of that meeting.
Bishop Geoffrey Robinson was a voice of challenge and true Gospel spirituality among clerics obsessed with protecting the Church rather than cleansing the Temple.
As Geoffrey faced his final journey I was saddened to note that not one of my friends in social media who are his fellow Bishops posted request for prayers. At least one of his peers, retired Bishop Peter Ingham was with him as he breathed his last.
Rest in peace good and faithful servant. We will carry your legacy of confronting power and sex in the Catholic Church to reclaim the spirit of Jesus.
My 2006 image of Bishop Geoffrey Robinson with Karyn Walsh of
Micah Projects

Monday, December 28, 2020

Sixth Day of Christmas: Imagine the Nativity

This year the Vatican have managed to stir the possum with their Nativity Crib. A media frenzy of headlines include:


Check the Getty Album of images here You can join the conversation or simply marvel at global responses here, or join the Twittery chat here. This item is big news and as we go to press the world's Catholics are sitting on the edge of their pews, (well those that still sit in pews) to see if Papa Francis will make his traditional New Year Eve visit to the Vatican manger!!

You can have a good read about the history and related culture surrounding the Nativity scene thanks to  Wikiwand  

 As with Shakespeare the Nativity scene has been interpreted, played out and set to music in a rich diversity that often has little reference to the original text. So here for your "Wow, Father never told us this" moments are some other insights into imagining the Nativity

 The Virgin Mary Giving Birth, 'THE CREATION OF MAN' Birth Undisturbed Episode 4


Fifth Day of Christmas: St Thomas Beckett

Today the theme of martyrdom again dominates the liturgical calendar for those of us with English connections. Mind you some of those connections are traced to anecdotal stories of previous generations of faithful Catholics being driven from our Celtic lands by the religious zealots of the British monarchy.

Anyway, back to the stories of the day which are dominated by a couple of English Monarchs.. Henry 11 is the first English Monarch to have an Australian connection way back in the 12th century. His mum's name was Matilda and she waltzed around town as the Empress Matilda for a few years.

Image Source

Henry 2nd other claim to fame is his establishing Canterbury as a a massive pilgrimage site after one of his tantrums resulted in the rather bloody murder  of Thomas Beckett on December 29 1170 Tom was canonised in record breaking time on 21 February 1173.

Henry and Tom  were having a bit of a barney over Church rights and as usual, property rights. Unfortunately for Henry, Thomas's death set off the Catholics in a frenzy and all of Europe was suddenly afire with devotion to the new saint. Henry was in a bit of political bother so he agreed to do a dose of penance and in the style of reality TV he had himself flogged at Thomas's tomb.As a reward for this public humiliation Henry was awarded the right to be called King of England rather than the rather pythonish King of the Britons.

History in England continued on its merry way with the usual family disputes, the odd war and the Magna Carta However a few centuries down the  track and another Second, Charles of England was chopping heads off  any peer he suspected of participation in the Popish Plot  the best of the 17th century conspiracy theories. Among those peers was William Howard, 1st Viscount Stafford who lost his head at Tower Hill on December 29 1680. Bill was beatified in 1929 and is still in line for canonization.

When I was studying for my HSC in 1970, Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot was one of the set texts on the theme of Authority and the Individual. Today's feature image is my appearance as the herald in Eliot's play. The performance was staged at St Anthony's Church Marsfield in about 1976.

The tension between politics and religion has been one of the formative features of the Westminster model of Government that we have inherited. Our history has been played out in the theatre of controversy between the interests of the State and the Church.
Some of my earliest memories of this conflict was learning that the Irish Archbishop of Melbourne, Daniel Mannix stood in public opposition to the conscription of young men to the First World War by the Government of Billy Hughes.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Fourth Day of Christmas: The Holy Innocents

Coventry Carol

Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay.

O sisters too, How may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling,
For whom we do sing,
By by, lully lullay? 

Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay.

Herod, the King, In his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might,
In his own sight,
All young children to slay. 

Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay.

That woe is me, Poor child for thee!
And ever morn and day,
For thy parting
Nor say nor sing
By by, lully lullay!

The Boxing Day sales are over  and life returns to "normal" and there seems  to be little to do but wait for the festivities of the New Year. However on this day the Church recalls the feast of the Holy Innocents

In the Coventry Carol. a text dating from the 16th century a mother laments the the fate of her child according to the massacre of the first born in the second chapter of Matthew's Gospel.

Today we remember that the context of the Christmas story is one of the exploitation of the vulnerable by State power. We have changed little from the bystanders of Herod's massacre as we watch reports from Syria detailing the impact of the war on children and read the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The children of Yemen  as well as those caught up in the Srebrenica massacre and the child victims of the Rwanda genocide are only a few of the tragic litany of violence in our own day.

Yet in the midst of all this ancient and contemporary horror a cry goes out from our Christmas celebrations that "God is with Us'. For the one who comes among us as a vulnerable child has broken the cycle of human violence in the image of a man on a  cross.
Mothers will weep for the lost children of our history and fathers will grieve with heavy hearts. But our belief is that the killing, the abuse, the exploitation and neglect of children is a political situation we can change.
This is also a religious moment when we recognize that God is there in the midst of suffering, bleeding, crying and abandoned because the cycle of violence has been broken by the prince of peace.
I chose the Joan Baez version of the Coventry Carol rather than a Church Choir as a reminder of the call to public protest against war and the exploitation of the poor on this day. Children are still the most deeply affected by wars around the globe: 149 million children – that’s 30 times the number of children living in Australia – faced life amid high intensity conflict zones in 2019, On this day I hold in sacred memory and social solidarity  those who had their childhood taken from them in Institutional Care 

Tenth Day of Christmas: Time to Take Stock

It hasn't taken long for the "Christmas Sales" signs to be replaced by "Stocktake Sales" in the major stores aroun...