Saturday, July 21, 2012

Wilgefortis Comes To Brisbane

On Friday July 20 a group of Brisbane artists launched an exhibition titled "Wilgefortis"  at The Art Factory Gallery in South Brisbane. Even a well rounded Catholic like myself was surprised to discover that my cultural inheritance included this legend  of a bearded woman on a cross.

St Wilgefortis in keeping with any decent legend also went by various aliases: Liberata, Kummernis,  Uncumber, Ontkommer, Debarras and Livrade. None of these have made  the list of "popular name choices for your new baby" in ancient or contemporary sources.

She gets a decent coverage in a google search and her story can be told  in contemporary genre  using easy read dot points:

  • A happy virgin is promised in a traditional marriage transaction by her father to some equally patriarchal character.
  • Being a good Catholic girl she prays for a non violent  bit of divine intervention.
  • Her prayers are answered and she wakes up one day sporting enough facial hair to scare off any suitor.
  • Her dad does the only thing any honourable a chap could do in the circumstances and had her strung up on a cross.
There is also a youtube version for the  visually inclined:


The Brisbane Exhibition is not so much a hagiography as a reflection on the themes and images that this story tells of the human condition  The Church has eliminated devotion to  Wilgefortis along with other legendary characters as part of its quality control in the Second Vatican Council. However, it cannot eliminate the stories of exploitation,  abuse and the control of women's live and bodies that it has endorsed and supported for generations.

To really explore the creative vision that our local artists have brought o this exhibition I suggest you  visit the album I have created and read the bio notes. At the launch of the exhibition the costs of  refreshments were donated to the Ozcare Womens Refuge. This gesture speaks volumes of the artists commitment to their role as agents of social change.

 I am particularly thrilled to note that this exhibtion is on show as we celebrate another great medieval story, Christina The Astonishing, Virgin.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Islamic Tartan Launched

http://www.islamictartan.com/gallery.php
Azeem Ibrahim is a Scot. He is in fact more Scottish than St Andrew having been born in Glasgow. Ibrahim's name does not feature much in our local media yet he is a regular name in listings of contemporary global thinkers. The latest news from this extraordinary young man is his launch of an Islamic Tartan.

What a bold and innovative approach to Dr Ibrahim's dream of: "the perfect symbol of the future generation in particular, for the younger, educated Muslims caught between two cultures — East and West, traditional and modern. Instead of conflict, the tartan represents a tightly woven blend of tradition and heritage. By bringing together the strands of two cultures, a symbol is created of something more meaningful than assimilation or accommodation. The tartan represents the new fabric of society, where Muslim Scots with a sense of history and a commitment to the future of Scotland have become an integral part of the New Scotland."

The Scottish Islamic Tartan is intended to weave the diverse Muslim identity into the fabric of Scotland and provide an enduring symbol of the deep connection between the two cultures. Dr Azeem Ibrahim, who just last week launched the Scotland Institute think tank, consulted leading tartan designers and Islamic scholars to produce a unique design based on the following:
- Blue to represent the Scottish Flag
- Green to represent the colour of Islam
- Five white lines represent the five pillars of Islam
- Six gold lines the six articles of faith
- Black square pattern represents the Holy Kabah.

Dr Ibrahim has stated that  part of his intention is to "  interest, challenge and provoke discussion among people who have Scotland’s interests at heart." That has certainly begun online with Amanullah De Sondy asking Which Islam does this tartan represent? Is it a Sunni Islamic tartan? Does it represent other denominations, such as the Ahmadiyyas or the variety of Shi’ia colors? If this tartan is to strengthen diaspora Muslim identity then which Islamic civilization does it represent? It is wonderful to see Scottish Muslims being proud of their Scottish identity, but let’s not take steps backward to strengthen those age-old generalizations. Islam and Muslims are not a monolith and so weaving everything ‘Islamic’ and ‘Muslim’ into one tartan may ultimately cause more harm than good.(reference)

The official site for the new Tartan includes references to the history of Islam and Scotland. The relationship between the cultures goes back as far as the early Middle Ages with the first signs of Muslim settlement in Scotland traced to the 18th and 19th century seafarers from India.

Although I carry my ancient Scottish heritage in my Father's surname I do not share Dr Ibrahim's immediate connection to place. However, at last I may have found a  Tartan that I can wear as well as my usual Caledonian Tartan. So it's off to  one of the local suppliers now to see about getting a Kilt done in this new and exciting tartan!!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Musical Theology for Our Day








Wherever little children are hungry and cry,
Wherever people ain't free
Wherever folks are fightin' for their rights
that's where I'm gonna be, ma...
...that's where I'm gonna be
                                         .....Woody Guthrie


Today July 14 commemorates the 100th anniversary of Woody Guthrie. He isn't listed among the great theologians of his age yet he sang gospel truth about the human condition. His song, Jesus Christ which I have featured in this clip still stirs the possum among those Catholics who like being "right". Who would expect to find and article titled "Woody Guthrie versus Joseph Ratzinger"  Some of the comments from those last two links should be read while holding a good stiff drink if you have any familiarity with Catholic Social Teachings

In an article celebrating this anniversary  Larry Guthrie writes of Woody's Catholic connections. These aren't the sort of connections that attract a postulator. They are more like a series of dots that remind us of the universal character of Catholicism at its best.

Woody married a Catholic woman, Mary Jennings as a teenager and their seven year marriage ended with the strain of a young singer constantly on the move. Woody then married a Jewish woman, Marjorie Greenblatt, the mother of Arlo Guthrie. Arlo has a colourful Catholic heritage including membership of the Secular Order of St Francis. While 12th century Francis heard a call to "rebuild my Church" Arlo has heard a call to  literally buy a Church and found the Guthrie Centre.

"The Guthrie Center’s mission is to bring individuals together for cultural, educational, and spiritual exchange. The Center is dedicated to meeting the ongoing needs of the community by working together with other non-profit agencies to serve those in need. In doing so we hope to create an environment where individuals can come together to cultivate a deeper awareness of culture, humanity and the environment of which we are all a part."


Larry Guthrie  writes of Woody Guthrie's Social Gospel:

"Woody’s words were a social gospel. Although Woody did not seem to like participating regularly in an organized religion, he did develop a great concern for social justice. Social justice evolved from the “Social Gospel,” a movement in the early 20th century. It developed from Protestant to Baptist to Episcopal and on to Catholic. It believed that all Christians should work to improve social conditions for the poor, the sick and the downtrodden. Many of these who supported the Social Gospel supported the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt in 1933, and later the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s."

Woody Guthrie was one of my musical mentor's. Today I  also honour his memory as a  man of faith and courage who sang the Gospel truth outside the sanctuary..

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Qld Petition re "Gay Panic" Defense


http://maryboroughatholicnewsletter.blogspot.com/
The  Maryborough Catholic Parish Web is not exactly one of the most  attractive or readable Church sites you would want to visit. However what makes it stand out from the average parish web site  is  the following headline from its January 2012 news:

Please sign the following online petition:   It is asking the Queensland Government and ministers to commit to eradicating a Partial defence in criminal law that a victim had made a homosexual proposition to the offender, thus somehow mitigating against violent bashing that leads to death.    Please click here.  

I support this petition, the work of local priest, Fr Paul Kelly.  Kelly is no stranger to media. He has his own youtube channel and a growing reputation as a "singing priest".

The Gay Media  have taken up this news story and it has featured in the online CathNews service recently.

This item was originally posted in January 2012 and is now re-posted in the light of comments by the new Attorney General in Queensland, Jarrod Bleijie who has dismissed the public all for reform as "unnecessary".

The infamous "Temple Police" also may have Kelly in their sights now. You can pick their web sites by the  giveaway Lain titles. Over at Vexilla Regis Paul Kelly is photographed in association with another priest Anthony Mellor who is being  pursued for his "unorthodox writings" for  Brisbane Catholic Education.  Among those who "follow" this scurrilous web publication are a couple of Paul and Anthony's fellow clergy. I wonder if they will promote or sign the petition?

I certainly hope you will dear reader!!

Download the Joy Radio Podcast: OTL_12 Jan 2012_pod.mp3

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Extraordinary Music at the Vatican!!




Thanks to Papa Benny the word "Extraordinary" has had something of a revival among Catholic Scrabble players worldwide. Rev Dr James Hawkey managed to use the word three times in as many sentences as he reflected on a recent joint choral project of the choirs of the Sistine Chapel and Westminster Abbey. (trivia buffs note the full title of the Sistine Chapel Choir is Cappella Musicale Pontifica Sistina)

The Huffington Post article on this event explores the differences  of cultural heritage in each choir, a refreshing and insightful observation. I would never have though to compare the "precision and details of the English Choir with the warmth and intensity of the Italian Choir"

While these events may make headlines in the Vatican, we in the antipodes have been singing alongside each other happily for some years.

Only a few weeks ago I attended a Festival of Great  Hymns at the Anglican Cathedral of St John's in Brisbane. This festival was not a liturgical event as such although it included a service of Evensong at its conclusion.

The choristers from the Catholic and Anglican Cathedrals of Brisbane who participated also included a few more females than the Roman gathering.And I have to admit that the Roman  event did have a more formal dress code.

The "Great Hymns" on the local program  included a few good old favourites encouraging good congregational singing: All People That On Earth Do Dwell,Abide With Me and Guide me O Thou Great Redeemer.  We were also treated to some choral gems such as a Slater arranged Halley version of Bernard of Cllairvaux's Jesus the Very Thought of Thee

Another  unique  feature of the Festival of Great Hymns was the collaboration of the directors of each Cathedral Choir.Mind you this was not too complicated as Graham Moreton, the Director of Choirs at St John's Cathedral is the brother of Ralph Moreton the Director of Music at the Cathedral of St Stephen.