Wednesday, June 28, 2017

You Can Bet on Celebrity Catholics

One of the biggest stories to come out of the 2016 Australian Census statistics is that  those indicating "No religion" have outnumbered Catholics.

Catholics may not have the numbers, but they have the clout as shown in the Facebook page of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne which made a feature post on 28th June  of  Patti Newton a prominent Melbourne Catholic, having just been honoured in the Queen's Birthday awards" Now that's what I call celebrity Catholicism. However, I suspect that deep in the crypt of St Patrick's Cathedral Melbourne the bones of Irish patriot, Archbishop Daniel Mannix will be rattling with disbelief.

Catholics, like Heinz come in many varieties! Popular Catholics in Australia are devout, practising, (aka committed) and Mass-going. Less popular Aussie  Catholics are lapsed and even bad. In recent history some have become Exiles and Inclusive. We and even Gay and Lesbian Catholics

We can be RomanUkrainian, Melkite  Maronite,  Syro-Malabar. And for all you scrabble fans we now have the  "Ordinariate Catholics".

So, back to Patti Newton and Celebrity Catholicism. America has had a longer tradition of "Celebrity Catholics" thanks to Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, all the Kenedys  and Al Capone.

Australia can trace its beginning of  celebrity Catholics from  Ned Kelly to Ronald Ryan. Mary MacKillop is exempt from this category as she is in the Sainted division of Catholicism, although she does have her own celebrity web site.Sitting on the fence between celebrity and saint is Caroline Chisholm deposed from the five dollar note by the Queen.

I was introduced to  my first celebrity Catholic watching B. A. Santamaria every Sunday after Mass and just before World of Sport.

Celebrity Catholics have taken the lead in the race for identity in Australia. Perhaps it began with Philip Lynch who became the first prominent Catholic in the Liberal Party. His memory has been somewhat overshadowed by a new generation of Catholics in the LNP

Now there is a new breed of celebrity Catholic who appear simultaneously in tabloid and religious news coverage. Nicole Kidman began to attract spots in the CathNews service with her wedding and her first born's  baptism  A Murdoch baptism was also noted in case readers missed the columns in the family press. Even Alan Bond, canonised as a "corporate crook" made it into CathNews. Bondy also takes out the Catholic Celebrity image of the era for his meeting with Pope John Paul II

Sometimes it can backfire when a celebrity Catholic becomes a celebrity on another team such as Tom Cruise.Would CathNews have covered all of Elizabeth Taylor's other marriages after her first Catholic wedding? Will Mel Gibson be canonised?

Perhaps celebrity Catholicism is here to stay and will continue to pop up in the Royal Family, the entertainment industry and even the Vatican. Let's hope the odds are still with those Catholics who never appear in celebrity or religious news but quietly and passionately live their faith in service and devotion to the life and teachings of the man from Nazareth.

Identity and loyalty are probably the  most emotive and divisive  marks of contemporary Catholics. For example have a look at the discussion on  the Catholica Forum  "What Kind of Catholic Are You"?


George Cardinal Pell of  cappa magna fame is responsible for the most interesting variety of   Catholic. His celebrity status includes "Australia's most senior Catholic" "Top Catholic" "Most Senior Ranked Catholic". He features in two recent books, "Hell on the Way to Heaven" and "Cardinal: the Rise and Fall of George Pell"


So, what sort of Catholic are you? I like to see myself as just Catholic . Of all the theological statements and reflections the Church offers, its Social Teachings are my main inspiration. In this body of teaching and in the lives of great witnesses of justice I find a spirituality and vision to live justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God..

I suspect my public statements and position on sexuality also mean I don’t qualify for all the reward points accrued by card carrying Catholics. Yet I am Catholic, if only “just”. Why does a middle-aged gay man with a passion for justice, a love of the human body, and sheer exhilaration in the wonder of life continue to claim membership in the Catholic Church?

Because this is the community in which I find a way of celebrating and confronting the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of all humanity, particularly those who are poor or oppressed. And in this community I live out my mission as a "holy irritant" believing that peace overcomes hatred; joy overcomes sorrow; pardon overcomes injury; faith overcomes doubt and love overcomes everything!

Who would have thought to see
New fruit upon so old a tree? (A.D. Hope)

Nothing can go on if we leave the table (Pierre Teilhard de ChardinThe Phenomenon of Man)


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Celebrating Corpus Christi 2017

On 18th June 2017 Catholics celebrated  one of the most flamboyant of 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
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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. 




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)

A jolly  good number of Brisbane Catholics took to  the public square for the feast. Until recently  this event happened in the suburban quiet of Nudgee Junior College.  But in keeping with its more flamboyant expression in Europe the procession now does  a lap of honour “around the block” from the Cathedral of St Stephen in true Australian style.

This was a religious event Western style. Solemnity and lots of men. This year I have captured a theme of the "Faces of Catholicism" My favourite has to be this most Catholic of cars. The chant of the rosary and ehoes of the Living Parish Hymnal filled the city for a brief moment. I wonder of the  devotees considered the political statement of their presence in the shadows of the great temples of commercial worship.

The feast and its procession provides a platform for a particular feature of Catholicism that has a strong sense of nostalgia for life when Bing Crosby was everyone’s favourite priest and Archbishop Fulton Sheen swooned around the old black and white TV sets. 

The 2017 Corpus Christi  Procession collection is here. See the Brisbane Corpus Christi Procession 2016 here.

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 people and Bishops who protested at the  1981  naming of the USA attack submarine, Corpus Christi. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Iftar 2017

 With friends and neighbours from my local Suburb at the Hlland Park Mosque  11th June 2017
The quintessential Australian religious experience is to sit in a pub after attending an #Iftar on #TrinitySunday. For those unfamiliar with religious scrabble Iftar is the breaking of the daily fast for Muslims during the fasting time of #Ramadan. Trinity Sunday is the Christian feast of the mystery of three persons in one God. So if you are still with me it's like diving in the deep end of cross cultural understanding with divers all on different boards.

Religious diversity challenges our world view and forces us to plunge those core values that we affirm by osmosis, conversion and the sheer wonder of grace. We discover language and practices that are both comforting and unbelievable. And in the midst of it all we honour hospitality, work for the common good and learn respect for difference.

Tonight was was sacred time with my good friends at the #HollandParkMosque where I have been welcomed for many events as we work together to promote understanding and good will.

Checkng in at the pub rather than the Mosque means this post will reach an audience that may not have opportunities to consider these values and take advantage of such opportunities. 

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Anthony Foster RIP

Today we lay to rest Anthony Foster whose name deserves a place of honour in Australian Catholic Church history. His witness to truth, integrity and justice means we need to change the way we are Catholic.
It means more than statements about child protection in the Church porch. It means an upheaval of those structures, practices and cultural norms that sheltered clergy abusers and shamed victims.
It it means returning to the source of our identity in the one who challenged the norms of ancient near eastern culture and religion two thousand years ago. Those challenges are equally valid today.
Thanks to Michael Mullins for this poignant and beautiful tribute. Rest in Peace Anthony and may the angels lead you into paradise where every tear will be wiped away.
How the Catholic Church came to embrace its enemy Anthony Foster
This morning a State Funeral will be held for Catholic Church child sexual abuse victims advocate Anthony Foster, who died suddenly on 26 May. In her tribute…
MICHAELMULLINS.ORG

Pray For Peace on June 8