Saturday, June 27, 2015

Whyit's Hard to Listen to the Australian Bishops

Bishop Anthony Fisher celebrates his favourite dining destination in Lent 2011

Extracts from Bishop Fisher's Message for Lent 2011

Lent is, then, a time to renounce some simple pleasures like chocolate or alcohol for 40 days, to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, to adopt other penances especially on Fridays, to give to the poor especially through Project Compassion, and to offer extra prayers and devotions (such as the Stations of the Cross).

But there’s a kind of fasting in Confession too. We have to give up something – our attachment to sin, our bad habits, our exaggerated pride in ourselves. It is humbling. Sometimes it is hard. It’s a harder kind of self-denial than giving up chocolate.

George Cardinal Pell

Some of the hysteric and extreme claims about global warming are also a symptom of pagan emptiness, of Western fear when confronted by the immense and basically uncontrollable forces of nature. Belief in a benign God who is master of the universe has a steadying psychological effect, although it is no guarantee of Utopia, no guarantee that the continuing climate and geographic changes will be benign.
In the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. We await news of the Cardinal'e response to #Laudatosi

 In my own reading of the Koran, I began to note down invocations to violence. There are so many of them, however, that I abandoned this exercise after 50 or 60 or 70 pages.  
February 4 2006 

Homosexual activity is a much greater health hazard than smoking.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge

In the Gospel of Matthew we are told Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb on Easter morning and she is accompanied by a woman who is called simply ‘the other Mary’. I like to think that the ‘other Mary’ is in fact Mary MacKillop, who goes with Mary Magdalene and there, in the morning light, meets the risen Christ.(Full text)

A Swag of Views

Father Eric Hodgens, of Melbourne, an elder statesman among the clergy, also savaged Australia's Catholic bishops for what he regards as an abject performance during their five-yearly visit to Rome last month, particularly in failing to stand up for Bill Morris, sacked earlier this year as bishop of Toowoomba.
"They eat their own when fingered by Rome," Father Hodgens wrote of the bishops in The Swag, the national journal of Catholic priests. "How can you trust them?
''They are reckless with our patrimony. They seem incapable of protecting their own rights, let alone ours, in a system which is corrupt by today's secular standards. No wonder the attitude of so many priests and observant laity is moving from disappointment to disgust," he wrote.
Father Hodgens said the Domus Australia guest house in Rome - a beautifully refurbished old religious house with 33 rooms for paying visitors, a richly restored grand chapel and organ and a 150-seat auditorium opened by Pope Benedict XVI last month - cost between $30 million and $85 million, according to different estimates.
He said Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, had hoped all Australian dioceses would pay for it, but only Melbourne, Perth and Lismore had made contributions and the Sydney Archdiocese had paid the bulk.
He said Catholics of the four dioceses were not consulted, there was no prospect of a reasonable financial return and no accountability. "What does it say of us who trust bishops? The ethics of our secular state are higher than those of our church."
Secrecy also surrounded the sacking of Bishop Morris, who never saw the charges against him or the report by an "inquisitorial visitor", Archbishop Charles Chaput, then of Denver, he said.
"And the Australian bishops simply rolled over … . they thanked their humiliators for being generous with their time," Father Hodgens wrote.
"Thank God we live in a secular state and not in a Catholic theocracy," he said.

Australian Catholic Bishops Make A Mess

I was interested to hear of  the financial investment and distribution of the Australian. Catholic Bishops statement, Don't. Mess With Marriage throughout parishes, schools and agencies

 Read full text of Media Release here

I believe it is based on an ancient  statement now out of print, Don't. Mess With. Children

No doubt schools and parishes will be looking forward to the rest of the series.  Don't. Mess With Refugees and Don't. Mess With Indigenous People. I understand that the proposed booklet Don't Mess With The Climate has been shelved following the release of #laudatosi

In the light of the evidence in the Royal Commission I doubt that this pastoral letter will grab the imagination of the 'sensus fidelium" or have any credible impact on the discussion. I have written elsewhere of the credibility problems that plague the Bishops.

The lessons from Ireland are pretty plain and the Vatican response shows that there is a clerical blind spot that I suggest is not the work of the Spirit.

And in the latest news the American Supreme Court has voted to allow same sex couples to marry.

Justice Anthony Kennedy jUne 2015

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding.

A Nouwen Network - 'Mental Health Ministry Matters''s photo.
On Sunday 11 October 2015, people throughout Australia will participate in A Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding. 
You are encouraged to begin to plan now to be a part of this effort to promote pastoral sensitivity to, and inclusion of, all whose lives are affected by mental health issues.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Amplifying That Still Small Voice Frank Brennan SJ

I love going to a book launch.As well as the opportunity to meet good authors and listen to great reviews they are usually like a family reunion of like minded readers.

I am used to these events in bookshops which are usually not designed to cater for the numbers that rsvp. This time we gathered in similar space in Jesuit land at St Ignatius Parish Office  in Toowong.We packed into the rows provided and the overflow crowd stood around us

We came for an inspiring evening exploring faith in the public square to launch Amplifying That Still Small Voice by Frank Brennan

In this latest book, Frank has written a collection of essays to encourage us all to be ethical burrs in the saddle of society.Readers may remember that a former prime Minister of Australia, the Hon. Kevin Rudd described  Frank as “an ethical burr in the nation’s saddle".

The ritual launch was  done by the dignified and faithful Bishop Bill Morris. Sometimes the little things in life jump out at you. I noticed that Bill was recycling his old episcopal letterhead paper as he read his notes. This begs the question of what happens to all that personalised  stationary when a Bishop moves on to another Diocese or another kingdom. Anyway, that will have to hold off for another post.

Back at the launch the real highlight of the night was the reflection from Frank's niece, Shannon Having family members participate added to the sense of intimacy of the evening and mirrored a similar pattern from the Melbourne launch.

This was a gathering of the local Church with a global conscience.Frank was surrounded by family, confreres, parishioners and people like myself for whom he has been a challenging inspiration and mentor.

One of the "aha" moments for me was reuniting with another colourful Jesuit, Greg Jordan who casts out other demons in society as an official exorcist to the Archdiocese of Brisbane The fact that Greg was sitting in the back row of the room may not have been intentional but serves as a reminder that those in the back row / pew are still part of the community even if they appear to be somewhat  removed from what is happening yup the front.

The pic here is quite special. The obligatory 'selfie" with Bill Morris includes another Jesuit I admire, Ian Howells,a man of sharp intelligence and extraordinary pastoral skills.

So, to get this great book out into the community I suggest as well as buying a copy you also ask your local library to get one for the religion or politics shelves. I went to my local suburban library today on that mission. We managed to get the title and ISBN into the boxes on the form. The librarian had never heard of Frank Brennan and even asked if there were two "s" in Jesuit!!! Will let you know if my request gets  a copy onto the shelves of the Brisbane City Council libraries.

Listen to a podcast about the book here.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Laudato Si On Care For Our Common Home

Papal Encyclicals are always pretty "heady" reading.No images, just  page after page of text followed by lists of references. This is not the stuff you usually give as a gift even if it was published in hard cover.

With Laudato Si, Pope Francis takes up the cry of the poor and the earth:

 "This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters."

I really wish Papa Francis had taken advantage of new technology and given us a "Vatican's Got Talent" type performance on this one.The press conference launching the encyclical comes close and is worth watching.


The prize for the most "left field" response has to go to UCANews Asia:  Pope criticizes abortion, population control in new encyclical Says individuals must value their body 'in its femininity or masculinity

This is not just for the pew nodders who will do "what Father says". This is a ground breaking piece of contemporary theology that engages with our dreams and hopes for the global village.

The last papal encyclical that really got Catholics jumping and twirling hoops was Humanae Vitae back in 1968. This one will also drive the Abbott of Canberra and his cabinet into a frenzy of dissidence. Can't wait to where George the Great Skeptic lines this piece up on his shelf of readings.

The climate has changed in the Vatican, Slowly and surely the red glaciers are losing their gloss and now  the  green blade riseth, piercing the walls of  infallible opinion..

May the cry "Laudato Si" rise from our lips and may our hearts be warmed by this call to relationship with our Mother Earth. May we who in the Land Downunder recognize this call as the ancient life blood of the First People of this land. May we begin our journey of healing of the earth with Dadirri,

Dadirri means inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness. It is a 'tuning in' experience with the specific aim to come to a deeper understanding of the beauty of nature. Dadirri recognises the inner spirit that calls us to reflection and contemplation of the wonders of all God's creation. #‎LaudatoSi‬

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Celebrating Anthony

One of the significant days of this month is June 13th, my name  day. My parents made sure I would spend my life gaining easy and instant recognition as a good Catholic boy by naming me after St Anthony of Padua whose feast-day falls on this day

Now this boy should not be confused with the many other holy Anthonys who have front row seats in the celestial realm:St. Anthony / Anthony / St. Anthony the Abbot / Bl. Anthony Baldinucci / St. Anthony Dainan St. Anthony Daniel / Bl. Anthony della Chiesa / Bl. Anthony Fantosat / Bl. Anthony Francisco / St. Anthony the Hermit / St. Anthony Ishida / St. Anthony Kauleas / Bl. Anthony Kimura / Bl. Anthony Kiun / Bl. Anthony Manzi / St. Anthony Mary Claret / St. Anthony Mary Gianelli / St. Anthony Mary Pucci / St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria Bl. Anthony Middleton /St. Anthony Nam-Quynh / Bl. Anthony Neyrot / Bl. Anthony of Korea / St. Anthony of Saxony /Bl. Anthony of St. Bonaventure / Bl. Anthony of Tuy / St. Anthony Pechersky / St. Anthony Peter Dich / St. Anthony Primaldi / Bl. Anthony Sanga / Bl. Anthony Turner / Bl. Anthony Vom

My "Anthony" is a one of Catholicism's pin-up boys. He is patron for a number of a eternal chores including: against shipwrecks, against starvation, against starving, American Indians, amputeesanimalsassesbarrennessboatmenBrazildomestic animalselderly peopleexpectant mothersfaith in the Blessed Sacrament,  fishermen, harvestshorseslost articles,  lower  animals,  mail,  mariners, oppressed people, pauperspoor peoplePortugalpregnant womensailors, seekers of lost articles, shipwrecks, starvation, starving people, sterility, swineherds, Tigua Indians, travel hostesses, travellerswatermen In his spare time he poses for thousand of popular images and statues that adorn churches homes and religious houses.

Somewhere along the timeline he also featured in his own movie:

It's always good to remember that saints are often given to us to admire rather than imitate.Anthony was part of the weird and wonderful world of medieval Catholicism  in the early 13th century. He died at 36 in 1231 and never had an intimate relationship. So far I've outlived him and have not found the queue for the call to lifelong chastity.

Anthony was a great public speaker and had a pretty sharp intellect. Catholicism has a quaint practice of awarding posthumous PhDs to smart cookies and Anthony eventually got his in 1946.

Iconography of the saints is a big business as Churches, Monasteries, Convents,Schools, Oratories, Retreat Centres,Presbyteries and the humble domestic house have all gone shopping for their heavenly personalities to decorate walls. Anthony has quite large choice for the buyer although these days the neighbours might raise their eyebrows at an image of a grown man swooning with a near naked boy. Despite an attempt to theologise the image I suggest it is one that has well passed its use by date. The icon used in this blog is from the work of Robert Lentz OFM.

Tourism is also part of every saints working life after death. Anthony has inspired a series of Churches and Basilicas. In Melbourne the local Capuchins applied for an extension of their friary chapel back in the 1950s..By the time they finished Power Street Hawthorn was adorned with its very own Italianate Shrine to St Anthony.

I have also discovered that Anthony himself is on tour for special events. He last appeared in 2010 when his less than attractive remains were taken for a lap of honour around his home base Basilica. Close up pic here.

Behind the saccherine hagiography lies the story of a man of faith and service, a man of his time with passion for truth, people and the needs of his era. Yeh, I still invoke him when things go missing and he has been part of my community of faith since my childhood days when his pic used to hang in my parents house over the bathroom door!!!.

So here's a call out to all those who share variants of the name Anthony! Celebrate, eat some good bread, indulge in some Italian or Portugese wine and make a public statement about  your passions

Monday, June 08, 2015

Images That Open Your Eyes: Match the Image to the Text"

Corpus Christi Procession Brisbane 2015
A "God created man in his own image. . . . male and female he created them. And God blessed them, saying: "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it." (Gn 1:27 & 28) (Source)

B“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness  and all these things will be given you besides. Matthew 6:25-33 (Source )

C For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Matthew  25:35-36 (Source)

“Lord, free your people from a spirit of clericalism and aid them with a spirit of prophecy,”  Pope Francis 16 December 2013 (Source)

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Celebrating Corpus Christi

Today is one of the most flamboyant of Catholic days, Corpus Christi.. It rivals Easter and Christmas for sheer energy and presence.Thanks to Google we can also get an idea of the rich diversity this day breathes into the Catholic community life. Some celebrations are full on formalities with every bit of clerical fashion on display. Others are a more casual affair with whatever props and costumes happen to be on hand.

In 1246, Bishop Robert de Thorete of the diocese of Liège, at the suggestion of St. Juliana of Mont Cornillon (also in Belgium), convened a synod and instituted the celebration of the feast. From Liège, the celebration began to spread, and, on September 8, 1264, Pope Urban IV issued the papal bull "Transiturus," which established the Feast of Corpus Christi as a universal feast of the Church, to be celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday.

Digression: I have an absolute fascination with everything in Liege. The city is the hometown of my favourite saint, Christina the Astonishing, Virgin (always pronounce the comma as she wasn't just an astonishing virgin)

Back to the history lesson: At the request of Pope Urban IV, St. Thomas Aquinas composed the Divine Office (the official prayers of the Church) for the feast. This office is widely considered one of the most beautiful in the traditional Roman Breviary (the official prayer book of the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours), and it is the source of the famous Eucharistic hymn "Pange Lingua Gloriosi" From this classic hymn we also have another  "Tantum Ergo Sacramentum." The tune popular in Australia has been given a beautiful contemporary setting by Matt Maher. In this pic of the era you can see Tom  and Urban discussing a fishing trip. Waiting patiently to the side is the learned St Bonaventure who missed the boat that day.Image source

Digression 2 Dear old Google has managed to cause great confusion among traditional Catholics. When you do a Google image search for "Corpus Christi" you don't actually get the cool religious images unless you choose the "Feast" tab. . The default choice includes  scenic views from the City of Corpus Christi. If you look closely at the image you can see a building on the left which has a Star of David perched on the roof.

The traditional Corpus Christi Procession is a full on parade of various clerics,religious and members of lay associations watched by the loyal laity. They still take to the streets in some cities but others as my home city of Brisbane now just make do with a few laps of a school oval. Don't you love this pic of Pope Benny XVI doing wheelies as part of the ritual in Rome (more links)

To leave you with a woman's insight of what the feast of the Body and Christ is really all about I suggest you sit with the image and text of Laura Facey

I dedicate this page to the brave protesters and Bishops who protested at the  1981  naming of the USA attack submarine, Corpus Christi.