Saturday, April 30, 2011

Who were the Nuns at the Royal Wedding?

The blogsphere is buzzing with  people interested to know something about  those Nuns  at the Royal Nuptials.

Yahoo answers provides some interesting speculation with comments from fans of the Monty Python team.

The Daily Mirror even provides a media shot and  a free plug for Reebok!!

The two Sisters to give them their correct status, made a few cameo appearances particularly while the bridal couple were seated as they sat next door in somewhat drab haute couture. They are members of the Community of the Sisters of the Church, an Anglican order of religious women.

One of them I presume was Sr Judith, an Australian born member of the community who scored the Chaplain's job at the Abbey in 2007. But here is where the mystery deepens. You see the community only have one Sr Judith listed among their UK membership and her public pic  as editor of their newsletter has her outfitted in mufti. Perhaps the habit is for formal events like royal weddings and papal visits.  I suspect she  brought along a much taller companion for the wedding to give a semblance of gender balance in the sacred space.

The Abbey web site provides some great background info for those who fell asleep during the marathon event. There is a great page with details of the music that was used. Pity they don't provide the links to the youtube clips!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Morning at my Mother's Bedside

There is nothing quite like the sounds, the smells and the sights of an Easter Vigil done well. And that's what I found this year at St Francis Church in Melbourne. You would expect it though from a church with a long and honoured tradition of great liturgy and an open door that sees peoples of diverse cultures and car choices gathered in prayer and song.

As we lifted the roof with the stirring "Halleluja" refrain from Charles Wesley's Christ the Lord is Risen Today I also carried with me the anxiety that brought back to the cities of my youth on this joyous day.

As Easter morning broke I boarded a train at Southern Cross Station to  spend  time with my mother who had been admitted to Geelong Hospital following a fall on Holy Thursday. At 84 years these admissions seem to be more regular.

Raise your joys and triumphs high, Hallelujah

The joys and triumphs of sonship endure over the years. I remember the triumph of the first time  I bought an item of clothing for myself and my dear socially conservative mother couldn't believe I had spent birthday money at some "hippie" shop rather than a respectable store like Myers or Roger David. We had shared some amazing moments of sheer joy as a musical loving women introduced her eldest son to live theatre when we would go to performances of the Geelong Repetory Theatre Company.

She was a product of Irish Catholicism and the  austerity of the post war era. Her first child would  embrace the spirit of the 60s reform of the world and religious structures and explore a sexuality that was never named in her cultural settings.

Love's redeeming work is done, Hallelujah
fought the fight, the battle won, Hallelujah

I wonder if I began grieving the loss of my mother from the moment the umbilical  chord was cut. Encouraging your child to grow  into their own person is every parent's wish and fear for their children. It is an act of redemption and an act of love that has left the scars of battles and clashes across a generation gap in my life.Now the gap has closed and two people sit in the silence of a hospital ward. My mother slips in and out of sleep with brief snippets of conversation. I sit with my memories my anxiety and the knowledge that "all will be well"

Ours the cross, the grave , the skies, Hallelujah

I gazed a the frail weakened body  that 58 years ago carried me with such energy hope and love. Today I realise that the time will soon approach when I will join my sister and brothers in carrying my mother to her final resting place. The medical team are amazed at the tenacity of the little lady covered in bruises and fed through a drip to keep her fluid levels up. She has a window bed that looks over some rooflines and  across to the bright colours of Corio Bay. I kiss her goodbye and she smiles and again asks me what time my flight leaves. Then she slips back into her gentle sleep.

In the Spirituality Centre of the Hospital I wrote an Easter Prayer in the book of prayers left by others who have sat in the quiet space with the mystery of life

Risen One
Promise of Life
Word of Justice
Compassion of the Divine
Comfort us who grieve and worry
Teach us trust and hope
Hold all of us in your love as we
struggle with the mystery of life and death.
On this Easter Day renew our hearts with
life, love and courage.
Let us see your presence in those around us
speaking words of peace.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Downunder

I set myself a challenge to see if I could find a suitable Australian image of the resurrection. Rosemary Crumlin  has some good references in her Images of Religion in Australian Art. 

A few images also appear when you do a search among entries for the Blake Prize.

However, it was a Google Search that led me to Victor Morrison's The Resurrection of Christ. Not only did I find a great image, I also discovered a story of parish censorship and intrigue. 

It seems that two works of Morrison's were not only installed but blessed for St Bede's Parish in Braidwood. (Don't fret dear reader, I too had to resort to Google Maps to find Braidwod.) As recently as last year it seems the parish council acceded to the complaints of some parishioners and had the works removed. To where? Aha, therein lies another story which has yet to be posted online. And dare I say  the moral of this story can serve as a warning to the pro-democracy movement within the pews of Catholicism.

However, thanks to the wonders of the internet the parish of St Bede's still features a photo of their local Church with "The Resurrection of Christ" hanging nicely to the left of the Sanctuary. 

The removal of this work now begs the question: What has happened to the space where the Morrison picture was hanging? Should I sponsor a competition for the first reader to submit an updated image from the Church to solve this mystery of faith? As we await the latest image, you might like to use the comment box to submit your suggestion? Any votes for a nice big Divine Mercy pic?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

Good Friday Death Penalty Prayer Vigil

The annual Good Friday death penalty prayer vigil will take place on Friday 22 April at noon at Christ the King Church, Churchill Street, Graceville.  As we recall the execution of Jesus, we will take the time to remember those who wait for execution around the world.  We will pray especially for the three Australians on death row in Bali, Scott RushAndrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran and also for Titus Ani, the Nigerian detained with them.  All are welcome.

Death sentences and executions in 2010

This Is Cruel And Inhuman Punishment

Plug for a great book with content from my mate Jarrod Saul McKenna!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday: A Rally to Discipleship

Today is Palm Sunday and I joined comrades friends and makers of peace in Brisbane  for our annual Palm Sunday Peace Rally. The Brisbane Catholic Justice and Peace Commission had promoted this event in its E-Bulletin. However, if the newsheet of our Cathedral is a guide to preferential options in the  Archdiocese then peace-making doesn't even rate a mention.

As I looked around as those who were gathering I saw few of my sisters and brothers of Christian Faith.The most obvious presence was a Rev Sue Pickering, a Uniting Church minister with the UCA logo and a couple of Quakers in their signature vests.   In past years it was common to see a good number of people from parish communities, religious orders and diverse Churches. It's events like this that indicate the loss of association for me between liturgy and life in the market place. My fear is that  the Palm Sunday liturgical procession even when done in ecumenical settings has become a theatrical performance of polite people doing their religious duty.

Those of us who walked the city streets today in moments of silence and brief calls for a nuclear free and peaceful world captured the mixed emotions of the story of Jesus entry into Jerusalem. We  tend to imagine that the city stopped for this historic vignette, however like other cities today most people were going about their business and barely noticed the smallish group of  revelers following a man on a donkey.

As we walked through the corridors of empire and commercial power the  business of buying and selling was in full swing.Our  cries for the Kingdom of Justice and Peace were drowned out by the advertising and brash signage around us. However we rally and march as people gather for liturgy, to be reminded of why we meet, to celebrate a common dream and to stand in opposition to all around us that stifles the spirit of peace and justice.

In 2004 the Sydney Palm Sunday Peace rally was addressed by Josephite Sister,  Susan Connelly.  Her words remain as valid today as when first spoken:

Let the churches not be intimidated by those who say we should be quiet. All of us has citizens have the duty to call our representatives to account, but we also have the duty to ourselves and our children to save the national soul by not following official example. Let us never tell lies to anyone about anything. Revenge is always stupid, it solves nothing, and brings people down to the same level as those who wronged them. Let us rise above revenge. Let us take advantage of opportunities to learn about other people's cultures and religions, and rejoice in them. Let us arm ourselves with the courage of our convictions and refuse to be tricked into submission by the policies of the government today. 

I tell you if these keep silence, the stones will cry out. Let us not be outdone by stones, or donkeys either. Let us stand up to all turkeys and geese too, when the lives of people and the telling of truth is at stake. Whatever they do or say about us is not as important as the questions our children and grandchildren will ask about the world we hand on to them. When they say to us, what did you do during the illegal Iraq war?, what will you be able to say?

Again this year Susan Connelly is among speakers listed to address the Sydney Palm Sunday rally. The web site of the Sisters of St Joseph reminds us The Palm Sunday scripture tells us of Jesus as he wept over Jerusalem and the injustice, violence and complicity with war-making. In our global village of 2011 where we have seen in front of us so much violence and heart wrenching human suffering along with our earth screaming out at us, let us consider stepping out and join in solidarity with others on Palm Sunday

Friday, April 08, 2011

An invite from the Vatican

I may have missed an invite to Wills and Kate's wedding, but now I have an invitation to drop into the Vatican in May The pontifical councils for culture and for social communications are inviting bloggers to the Vatican May 2 so the Vatican can “listen to the experiences of those who are actively involved in this arena” and “achieve a greater understanding of the needs of that community,” said a press release  (English Translation) sent out this morning. (yes I know a Pontifical Council gets capitals but this source is a Catholic News Service in the USA)

I don't really know much about the PCCSC but when I googled images to see what the boys in the office look like I got a few surprises. A piccie of the Kiss team is a great lead to another commentary on this event from Ex Umbris Et Imaginibus This Catholic blogger suggests a few of the better known English speaking contributors that could add colour to the gathering.

However poor old EUEI completely ignored our  Aussie Catholic bloggers and discussion leaders. Perhaps a dose of Lourdes water could get   Fr John George out of retirement to lead the rush for the "True Catholics" We also have  the singing Catholic  Martin Cooke who has filled a couple of Catholic Pews with closet fans of JG. For a bit of witty and erudite orthodoxy Sentire Cum Ecclesia would bring some ecumenical experience. Unfortunately the conference is only booked for one day and when you allow for get to know you games, drinks and meals, the actual conversation will probably happen over a few hours.This would create incredible frustration for Brian Coyne and his faithful word counter Mr Fallon. Both failed the "Economy of Words" class at school.

According to the Catholic Blog Directory there are 2.386 of us worldwide.Only David Schutz and I rate a mention from the above list. However a quick scroll shows an interesting Aussie presence including some I hadn't known about before. I don't think we can count Catholic Boomerang as the author is based in Canada.Among the more interesting blogs would have to be Darkness draws closer from blogger Davie Clarke who describes himself as a "24yo bisexual Catholic, torn between lifestyle and faith."

If the Vatican is serious about this conversation, why isn’t  it doing it online? Where is the Vatican based blog site that we can all log into for the conversation? And I have to question the expectation that one day is enough to achieve the stated goals of the meeting.

Why would you expect that Catholic bloggers would want to be in Rome for the John Paul 11 beatification? Sounds like selective conversation again.
Where are the subsidies for bloggers from developing countries who cannot whip up a quick air fare when Rome calls?
Oh well, I will continue blogging away downunder and make an effort to add my voice on May 2 with the hope that someone in the Vatican is “following” me. Meanwhile I may brush up on some  background reading such as The Church and the Internet

Thursday, April 07, 2011

A Faith Response to the Global Day of Action on Military Spending

Global Day of Action on Military Spending has been set for April 12, 2011 
This date is proposed to coincide with the release of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s annual report () which will include new figures on military expenditures.

On this day, people all over the world will join together in actions to focus public, political, and media attention on the costs of military spending and the need for new priorities. 

World military expenditure is estimated to have been $1531 billion in 2009—a real-terms increase of 6 per cent over 2008 and of 49 per cent since 2000. This corresponded to 2.7 per cent of world gross domestic product (GDP) and $224 for each person in the world

The USA’s military spending accounted for 43 per cent of the world total in 2009, followed by China with 6.6 per cent, France with 4.2 per cent and the UK with 3.8 per cent. ( read more from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute)

Every gun that is 
made, every warship 
launched, every rocket 
signifies, in the final 
sense, a theft from 
those who hunger and 
are not fed,  
those who are cold and 
are not clothed.  
                  Dwight  D. Eisenhower

508. The Church's social teaching proposes the goal of "general, balanced and controlled disarmament".[1067] The enormous increase in arms represents a grave threat to stability and peace. The principle of sufficiency, by virtue of which each State may possess only the means necessary for its legitimate defence, must be applied both by States that buy arms and by those that produce and furnish them.
The arms race does not ensure peace. Far from eliminating the causes of war, it risks aggravating them".[1070] Policies of nuclear deterrence, typical of the Cold War period, must be replaced with concrete measures of disarmament based on dialogue and multilateral negotiations.
516. The promotion of peace in the world is an integral part of the Church's mission of continuing Christ's work of redemption on earth.  (Extracts from Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church: Chapter Eleven)

On the other hand, while noting with concern the signs of crisis appearing in the area of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, the Holy See has continued to reaffirm that peace cannot be built when military expenses divert enormous human and material resources from projects for development, especially the development of the poorest peoples. (Address of Pope Benedict XVI to the members of the Diplomatic Corps January  8 2009)

“Militarism must be recognized as an idolatry.  The way in which it is looked at shows that
 it is more than a system and even an ideology.”  WCC Report of the Consultation on Militarism and Disarmament (1989) 

World Military Expenditures a compilation of data and facts related to military  spending, education and health  Coordination Office for the Decade to Overcome Violence

The World Council of Churches’ Statement on the occasion of the United Nations’ General Assembly Hearing with Civil Society on the Millennium Development Goals 14-15 June 2010 New York

Military Spending Justice Resources Centre of Concern
Institute for Peace Studies
Vidimus Dominum
International Peace Bureau   
Religions for Peace  
Read the Statement from Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Pax Christi International 

    Prayer for Global Day of Action on   Military Spending

    Sunday, April 03, 2011

    Cathedral Art Group Puts "Laetare" Back in the Church.

    I went out this Sunday for a "Laetare" experience. With all the debate about the new translation of the Mas text Latin isn't exactly "flavour of the month". In the Liturgical cycle the fourth Sunday of Lent is "Laetare Sunday" a call to 'Rejoice" with the anticipation of Easter. What a relief for those of us anxious about language  to see that rejoice comes across as reasonable translation for 'Laetare" even though it's significance in the Entrance Antiphon  was probably drowned out in most parishes by the Gathering Hymn.

    My Laetare experience was a visit to the "Cycle of Life: Earth Gift" exhibition sponsored by the Cathedral of St Stephen Art Group in Brisbane.

    My first opportunity to "Rejoice" was that the Cathedral  bulletin for the weekend included the following text:

    "The tasks of three particular groups within the Cathedral community are vital in our mission to engage with the broader community. The St Stephen’s Concert Series, COSSAG [Cathedral of St Stephen Art Group] and our Guides and Welcomers play a vital role through art, music and welcome.

    COSSAG has grown in its success to provide opportunities for people to engage through the medium of art. Having a Cathedral that has superb religious art, it is good that we broaden what is offered through various displays, talks and art shows."

    In the Francis Rush Centre next to the Cathedral I rejoiced to see  photographers, sculptors and painters presenting one of the most inspiring and challenging exhibitions I have seen for a long time.

    The exhibition was full of little surprises including notes and reflections from the artists and a lovely commemorative booklet with images and text including quotes from Thomas Berry and Rainer Maria Rilke.

    In a lovely reflection on the task of unpacking the exhibition, Margaret Moore  writes:

    "May Christians bring an Easter hope to the public conversation. May we look to positive indicators that our youngsters are more aware and committed than we are to this common enterprise, this interdependence/healing of Earth and people. May blessings be on those who offer valued insight through Art.

    May blessings be on those who sacrifice themselves for a noble cause, the sustaining of this precious gift - a fertile productive Earth, clean water and fresh air - for our beloved children and grandchildren to enjoy. These audacious prophets are surely our real 21st century saints and heroes"

    Thanks to COSSAG for a Laetare Sunday that provided a wonderful preparation for Easter and the promise of life renewed!!


    Oakleigh MP Ann Barker will make an historic presentation to the Victorian Parliament on Tuesday April 5th opposing the Catholic Church’s treatment of child sex assault victims of priests.

    Ms Barker will present the book "Hell on the Way to Heaven" to the parliamentary library to help raise awareness among MP’s from all political parties of the suffering of many traumatised and silent sufferers of clergy sex assaults.

    The book (Random House 2010) was written by Melbourne mother, Mrs Chrissie Foster, whose daughters were raped by Father Kevin O'Donnell. It is an expose of the Catholic Church systems of silencing and further traumatising child victims.

    After presenting the book at a small ceremony in Queen's Hall, the Member for Oakleigh will become the first Victorian politician to request state intervention into the church heirarchy’s long-standing Melbourne Response.

    Ms Barker will write to the Attorney-General and ask that he meet with her, Mrs Foster and other representatives to determine the terms of reference into a desperately needed, truly independent state-commissioned inquiry into the church's policies and actions.

    The presentation will be held on Tuesday 5th April 2011.