Saturday, December 31, 2011

Seventh Day of Christmas: Day 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.

The ABC 2011 review reminds us of the joys and hopes the grief and anguish of our planet. Yet this review failed to celebrate the Nobel Peace Prize 2011 award to Ellen Johnson, Sirleaf Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman  "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work".


Also missing  from the review was any reference to the major religious events of 2011.The significance of the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi should not be ignored nor the work of the World Council of Churches. However the growing awareness of the history and clerical silence of  of  clergy sexual abuse in my own Catholic Church is a scandal that will continue to undermine the authority of its leadership. This scandal with the current political climate of the papacy in Rome has left me distanced from the Church which nurtured my youthful dreams for a just world.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-12-15/the-protester-named-time27s-person-of-year/3731962
Today is a day to take stock of core values and commitments. For me this means I no loner align myself with the Catholicism of my family and ancestors. 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 Micah Projects and Palms Australia to bring about social change.

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 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

Sixth 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 aMadonna 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."
My childhood Christmas memories include the never ending series of cards  that my parents received from relatives and friends. I think w 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 5c stamp to cover for normal postage rates.

http://shop.auspost.com.au/stamps/stamps-issues/christmas-2011/sku/17060671

Monday, December 26, 2011

Second Day of Christmas:The Essential Nativity Extra

While we might be used to the main stars of the traditional Nativity setting, I have recently taken to adding another figure to my ever expanding Domestic Nativity.


A Caganer (Catalan pronunciation: [kəɣəˈne]) is a small statue found in Catalonia, in neighbouring areas with Catalan culture such as Andorra, and in other parts of Spain, Portugal and Italy. The figure is depicted in the act of defecation. Caganer is Catalanfor "shitter".


My Cajaner is our current Papa Benny I shall post a pic when he installed for January 1. 


The reasons for placing a man who is in the act of excreting solid waste from his posterior in a scene which is widely considered holy are as follows:
  1. Just tradition.
  2. Scatological humor.
  3. Finding the Caganer is a fun game, especially for children.
  4. The Caganer, by creating feces, is fertilizing the Earth. However, this is probably an a posteriori explanation, and nobody would say they put the Caganer on the Nativity scene for this reason.
  5. The Caganer represents the equality of all people e.g. regardless of status, race, gender everyone defecates.
The article for the above quote also makes reference to the Catalan greeting before eating;  "menja be caga fort" (Eat well, shit strong).

Caganer a gift for Christmas, figures, crafts  Check out World Leaders Cajaners here

For those expecting a little more  classic reference for the second day of Christmas I should acknowledge the feast of Stephen the Martyr. The juxtaposition of feasts of life and death running back to back is missed by most of the Christmas revelry.

In Australia the feast is lost in the Boxing Day Test Match and the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. In Brisbane however there is a local celebration as the Catholic Cathedral is dedicated to St Stephen. Unlike most Cathedral's this building is not called St Stephen's Cathedral but rather the Cathedral of St Stephen. This was part of some very smart marketing by a previous administrator who also designed a logo for the building.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day



Welcome to my domestic nativity for 2011. I live in an estate of townhouses where our front windows face the roadway which gives the place an English Village feel. . I have put my nativity on the window sill this year for the local kids and neighbours to enjoy. 

As has been my custom the Nativity scene includes the diversity of traditional and popular images. The centrepiece is from Korea, a reminder of the divided nation. As we gather in joyous celebration I remember the people of North Korea  living in a closed world manipulated by political and military powers.

The angel figurine is from Peru and many of the other figures are drawn from popular culture. They include folk heroes like Batman, some wizards and mermaids, a few popular saints,yes,a Buddha  a Bushy and even a native North  American Indian on horseback.

The Magi are not installed yet as they won't arrive until Epiphany on January 6. According to the traditions (not the song) there could have been quite a few in the convoy and not merely the three we usually expect.

May these  12 Days of Christmas  bring you encouragement and strength for the journey of justice and peace-making to which this celebration calls us. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ and More


Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ and More

Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ and More
Art that dares to show Jesus as gay or female has been censored and destroyed. Now for the first time these beautiful, powerful, sometimes shocking images are gathered for all to see.
Packed with full-page color illustrations, this eye-opening collection features a diverse group of eleven contemporary artists who work both inside and outside the church. They present the gay Jesus, the woman Christ and other cutting-edge Christian images. Their art respects the teachings of Jesus and frees the minds of viewers.
Here the artists tell the stories behind the images. A lively introduction puts the new genre into political and historical context, exploring issues of blasphemy and artistic freedom. You can view some of the images on this site
Publisher: AndroGyne Press
Paperback with color images: 96 pages
Dimensions: 8.5 x 11 inches
Price: $38.95
Publication date: 2007
Purchase from Book Depository

Monday, December 19, 2011

Geoff Lacey responds to Cardinal Pell



Geoff Lacey

Talk given at Social Policy Connections Annual General Meeting 24 November 2011

In October, Cardinal George Pell gave a lecture in Westminster Cathedral Hall, entitled One Christian perspective on climate change. A shorter version appeared in The Australian (27 October 2011). He said that a reason he was speaking out was to avoid having too many Christian leaders repeating the mistakes of the past and “to provide some balance to ecclesiastical offerings”.

In this talk, I address the question of how we develop an ethical response to the issue of climate change. In particular I will examine the science, the politics, the foundations of an ethical position, and what constitutes an adequate response. I will look at where Cardinal Pell stands on each of these matters.

Read Full Text of Geoff Lacey's Talk here

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Anniversaries Jubilees and Memories

One of the realities of living through middle age is the regularity of anniversaries and jubilee celebrations. Some of these include family jubilees of weddings, anniversaries of deceased relatives and the diminishing experience of long service with the same employer.

In recent years I have celebrated  the 50th anniversaries of my Baptism (1953) and  First Communion (1960)  More recent jubilees include the  40th anniversary of my Confirmation (1963) and Year 12 graduation (1970) . I can also add to that list the 40th anniversary of my first interstate plane flight (1964) and I can probably lay claim to the 45th anniversary (1964) of my first visit to a pub as a young newspaper boy at the now demolished Oriental Hotel in North Geelong

This weekend there have been celebrations for the foundation  at my old primary school, St Patrick's in Geelong West 100 years ago. My brothers,my sister and I were the second generation from both our parents families to ago to primary school at "St Pat's". If I count in the various cousins, the name Robertson is well and truly etched into the history of this parochial school.

My memories and images of those formative years are grounded in the joys and hopes the grief and anguish of the human experience. Now with hindsight I look back at those days with mixed emotions.

My primary school days were spent in the last years of Pope Pius X11 prior to the impact of the Second Vatican Council. When I began my primary education the names of Bolte and Menzies dominated the Victorian political scene. Local and world events of the era have been etched  in my memory. In 1960 I shared the communal anxiety of the news of  the kidnapping of Graeme Thorne. I can still remember the Melbourne Herald headlines in 1963 when the deaths of Kennedy, Mannix and Roncalli joined the lexicon of history. In 1963 my tribal connections to Geelong were celebrated with the VFL Premiership win and in my Grade Six year (1964) the Beatles Tour captured my imagination.

In the midst of social, political and religious upheaval my primary education was  formed in the sectarian world view in which we were not encouraged to form friendships with the local kids at Ashby Primary School. which was the Protestants school. I cannot remember any of the major world events being discussed or raised apart from the death of the Pope and of course the legendary Daniel Mannix.

St Pat's was founded by the Sisters of Mercy The women, lay and religious, who taught me provided me with the basic three Rs and for good measure threw in the "catholic R of religion" with its mix of rituals, doctrine and tribal loyalty.

As part of the jubilee activities the school invited past students to submit answers to a questionnaire  which proved to be a great tool for reflection on my time as a primary student. As I gathered the memories and responses to the questions I discovered a few key insights:

I remembered the love of music and singing that I gained from days when every teacher played the piano. The school was part of a vibrant Catholic parish in Geelong West where we were introduced to great contemporary choral singing with a young organist, Roger Heagney.

 I also recall my first introduction to ABC radio through its school service broadcast via the old speakers which hung over the class altars.

I can  reflect back now on the racism that permeated the school culture of the time. As I look over the names of families we mixed with there was no-one from the migrant group of WW11 European refugees..We had no introduction to the Indigenous history of Geelong..

As a young Catholic lad I never questioned the fact that  girls could not get time out of school to make pocket money as altar servers by serving at funerals at the parish church.

I wondered why our recreational times at school were segregated with the boys having access to the back paddock with a cricket pitch and the girls given a nice asphalt covered yard with basketball rings

In Grade Six we knew something "big" was happening when we were kept behind after class to practice the texts for a new English Mass which would change the way we worshiped.

I look back at my First Communion  group photo and realised that the sisters who spent hours preparing us for this event were  left out of the picture when the big day came around.

The names of many of the kids in this photo are forgotten in the decades of lost connections. Among them is a young Lexie Brooks who would join the Sisters of Mercy in their mission in Pakistan.

There are 53 kids in that photo and most of us spent our primary days in the same room year after year until the boys left after grade six and  girls had an option to stay on for grade seven.The women who taught us were gutsy to take on such a task. One of those  women, Miss Carroll was one of those legendary single women who taught two generations in a lifetime commitment to St Pat's.

The Centenary celebrations  are a moment of nostalgia which reminds me of where I have come from and  how my current choices have been informed by values good and bad which were part of my time and culture. May the spirit of wild Patrick stir the hearts of past and present students to be adventurous, and  seek the divine in life.