This blog offers an Australian perspective on faith, religion and spirituality. It invites you to join the joys and hope, the grief and anguish of a middle aged Aussie Catholic.
The material reflects my interest in global as well as local issues.My perspective is probably more quirky than orthodox.
The Catholic Justice & Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Brisbane invites parishes, schools, agencies
and groups to send a clear message to our Federal Government and Members of Parliament on the issue of
people seeking asylum: we say no to cruelty. Catholic individuals and groups in south-east Queensland and around Australia are encouraged to take part
in our month-long campaign by following these simple steps:
• Gather a group of parishioners, students, staff or group members together and ask them to cross and
raise their arms above their heads • Take a photo of of the group in this powerful pose, symbolising solidarity with those seeking asylum and
a rejection of our Government’s cruel treatment • Share the photo on social media using the hashtag #WeSayNoToCruelty • Email the photo to email@example.com with your parish, school, agency or group name and we will
post it on our A Movement of the Heart Facebook Page as a public witness to the Gospel; OR
• Share you photo and the name of your group directly on our A Movement of the Heart Facebook Page; OR
• Post the photo and the declaration on your own Facebook profile Other ways to get involved: • E-mail your photo and a copy of the declaration to the Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Peter Dutton, and
tell him that you are opposed to the cruelty with which his Government’s policies are treating people
seeking asylum; • E-mail your photo and a copy of the declaration to your local Federal MP and any of your State or
Territory Senators and tell them you oppose the Government’s cruel measures; • Print your photo and a copy of the declaration and deliver them personally to your local Federal MPs
office and ask for an appointment to share your concerns; • Send the photo and the declaration to your local newspaper or radio station and tell them you are
joining many other Catholics in sending this message to the Federal Government. Make sure you also try to replace the cruelty of Federal Government policies by donating money or goods to
agencies and groups providing direct support to the approximately three hundred people seeking asylum in
south-east Queensland who are facing destitution because of Government policies and actions. We also encourage you to include prayers for people seeking asylum facing destitution at Masses,
assemblies and meetings during the month of August.
This campaign will run from 1 August to Migrant & Refugee Sunday, 26 August. At the conclusion of the campaign, the Catholic Justice & Peace Commission will print all photos received
and deliver them to The Home Affairs Minister’s office
We here at MMI take this opportunity, on Harmony Day, to reiterate our commitment to, the realisation of dignity for all, to help people help themselves and to do so regardless of ethnicity, political beliefs, gender or religion. We celebrate and respect, the traditional owners and custodians of the land, the diversity of our workplace and the positive contributions that multiculturalism has made in all our lives.
The image is a favourite of mine by Luke Roberts In 1995 his painting of Mother Mary MacKillop was a prizewinner in the exhibition Mother Mary: A Tribute at the Powerhouse Museum Sydney. This exhibition was visited by John Paul II as part of the celebrations around the beatification of Mother Mary MacKillop.
In recent years I have adopted a patron and spiritual mentor whose feastday falls on July 24. In keeping with my heightened sense of the "feminine", my newly adopted patron is a woman saint. Christina the Astonishing, Virgin (1150 - 1224) (when read aloud the word "comma" should be pronounced as she was not just an astonishing virgin, but astonishing in other ways!!)
Christina's bio reads like the script from a Dan Brown and Steven Spielberg collaboration. This is definitely a PG rated text. It is best read, seated with all lights on and the children safely in bed.
This image depicts the first recording of Christina's public appearances when she was believed to have died, but managed to soar from her coffin during her funeral Mass. Not surprisingly, such behaviour saw a quick exodus from the Church with only the dutiful priest and her distressed sister left to witness this amazing resurrection. And yes, there was more: while presumed to be dead, she had in fact been "on tour" to Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. Upon this return visit she decide to dedicate her life to a sort of public pyschodrama performance where she acted out the downside of the nasty behaviour she saw around her.
For the next forty years Christina managed to cause alarm and anxiety in her local community by performing Olympian spiritual exercises which included extreme prayer balanced on poles. She had no dress sense, ignored any protocols about workplace health and safety and refused to be tamed by doctors priests or any other well intentioned men of the town.
Yet, the records of the time also note that her advice was sought by both civic and religious leaders of her day.She was even summoned to the death bed of a local Count to hear his confession.
Like other popular residents of the celestial realm Christina had been provided with w series of patronages to keep her busy. It may not surprise readers that the list includes:
Christina has her own entry in Wikipedia and appears prominently in a Google search. She has been the subject of art, study and even song:
So, I invite you to join me on her feast day as we celebrate Christina, a parable of the reign of God. The eccentric grace that drove her to extremes is the spirit in which I now invoke her as patron of "Holy Irritants". In this age, the mere example of nonconformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time. On Liberty John Stuart Mill
From the Archives Celebrating Wilgefortis On Friday July 20 2012 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.
In the last week of June 2017 the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference rode on a "high" for a couple of days. On 28th June they released the announcement of a new Plenary Council Executive Council which in pewspeak means a group of people to kick start the Church yet again.
The next day most of them hoped over to Geraldton for the ordination of Michael Morrisey, the new Catholic Bishop. Somewhere between departure and arrival their phones lit up with a news item about George Cardinal Pell that has wiped the gloss off their mitres for the rest of the year.
For Catholics of the "old school",plenary is one of those get out of jail words that conjures up liberation, release, and a short cut to eternal happiness. This Plenary Council however has a slightly more modest agenda:
‘‘This is no time for the Church to be putting up signs that say “business as usual”. If we needed any proof, then the Royal Commission has shown that. We need to face the facts, and in the light of the facts, which aren’t always friendly, we have to make big decisions about the future. The Plenary Council will place the Church on a sound footing to respond to what is not merely an era of change but a change of era.’
Check out the Catholica commentary on the song here
So for Catholics "It's Time" for a new era of Australian Catholicism which will be take off in 2020!! Nor sure if that includes adding to the census tally So, let's meet the crew heading this project and see how they line up in communication with the rest of us in various pews. The link on the name will show a piccie and a bit of a bio or where available a video clip.
The Who of @PlenaryCouncil2020
The official web page provides provides a list of key players with no real biographical or background information. In fact the only people for whom any background data is provided are the members of the Bishops Commission!!!
Very Rev Ian
WatersSenior Fellow of the Catholic Theological College, Melbourne will serve as Historical and Canonical Consultant to the Committee. Oh dear, poor old Ian gets a serve as lacking a bit of pastoral sensitivity in this extract from "Hell on the Way to Heaven "by Chrissie Foster. Hope his skills have improved a bit lately for this new role. Mr Shane Dwyer (also waiting for a response to my friend request) Initially and on an ad interim basis the Committee will be chaired by Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Chair of the Bishops Commission. Gender balance is even and lay representation exceeds clerics and religious. The age range appears good with a deliberate lean to younger voices. The presence of an Eastern Rite Church is welcome and it is worth acknowledging John Lochowiak, a member of the First Nations Peoples.
At their meeting in May, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference agreed that each diocese (including the eastern Churches and Ordinariates) would nominate two people to be part of a national network of diocesan Plenary Council coordinators.
So here we have a nice pic of the selected Diocesan n Coordinators with no names provided. If you use a zoom tool you can almost read a couple of name tags.
The How of @PlenaryCouncil2020
One of the reasons there are so many people in the PC Executive Council is that the Australian Catholic Bishops want them to read. Lots and lots of reading in fact if the process is going to work. At the heart of the project is a questionnaire. The site suggests allocating 10 minutes to complete the questions. However, the invitation to submit answers as well as documentation if desired would easily call for quite a bit of reflection. There are a couple of quirky fields in the template. The age range selection goes up to 110!! The religion field allows for all sorts including No Religion at the bottom of the selection. As of publication the questionnaire is only available online in English.
What is not clear is who will read the submissions for reform and even more who will interpret the results?
While hosting a major conference on Evangelisation Archbishop Mark Colereidge managed to stir the possum with one of his throw away lines: "Proclaim Conference 2018 has commenced andArchbishop Mark Coleridge has opened saying that this is a spirit moment for the church, challenging us to renew and rejuvenate the church in Australia...less stale, less male, less pale. " The Facebook comments are worth following. In particular note the replies to my question about the Welcome to Country. Plenary Challenge
Feb 11, 2018 - Half of active Catholic parishioners say their opinion of senior ... Fairfax Media, show the “bond of trust between the laity and their bishops has been severely impaired,” says Professor Neil Ormerod of the Australian Catholic University. ... National Church Life Survey showed a “serious erosion of trust in the ...
The Panel received submissions on the matters contained in its Terms of Reference from 14 December 2017 to 14 February 2018. The Panel also accepted a small number of submissions received after 14 February 2018. The Panel received more than 15,500 submissions. Published submissions can be found here.
The Jubilee theme of Recognition challenges all of us.
Since its beginnings in 1988, the members of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry in Melbourne (ACMM) have sought to express their Catholic/Christian faith in culturally relevant ways. In the light of John Paul II's words in Alice Springs: 'Go to God through your own culture', and in an endeavor to bring the two ways Aboriginal way and Christianity together, this has been, in the life of the ACMM community, an ongoing process of reclaiming and discovery.
Praying the Rosary Aboriginal way has resulted in a reflective process of painting and story telling which links the Gospel stories upon which this traditional form of prayer is based, with the historical and contemporary experience of urban Aboriginal people. It is an expression of one aspect of what we call 'city dreaming'.
Along with the paintings and the reflections in this brochure we have included the five step process we use when, as a community, we gather to relive and retell these stories.
In the spirit of Jubilee and on the occasion of our tenth birthday, the members of the ACMM invite you, the wider Catholic community, to become part of our story and struggle, by participating in this process.
Howard Paterson Chair of Theology and Public Issues, University of Otago Originally published in The Conversation March 23 20218
#HimToo – why Jesus should be recognised as a victim of sexual violence
Katie Edwards, University of Sheffield and David Tombs
The season of Lent is an invitation to the churches, and to anyone else who wishes to do so, to reflect on the disturbing story of the torture and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth as described in the New Testament. It is one of the most widely known and often retold stories in human history. Yet despite being read and remembered so often, there is a part of the story which typically receives little attention and minimal discussion – the stripping of Jesus.
The #MeToo movement has highlighted the prevalence of sexual assault, sexual harassment and other sexual abuses experienced by women and girls in many different forms. It has also exposed the common tendency to deny, dismiss, or minimise the significance and impact of these experiences.
The stripping of Jesus
With this in mind, during this present Lenten period, it seems especially appropriate to recall the stripping of Jesus – and to name it for what it was intended to be: a powerful display of humiliation and gender-based violence, which should be acknowledged as an act of sexual violence and abuse.
The idea that Jesus himself experienced sexual abuse may seem strange or shocking at first, but crucifixion was a “supreme punishment” and the stripping and exposure of victims was not an accidental or incidental element. It was a deliberate action that the Romans used to humiliate and degrade those they wished to punish. It meant that the crucifixion was more than just physical, it was also a devastating emotional and psychological punishment.
The convention in Christian art of covering Christ’s nakedness on the cross with a loincloth is perhaps an understandable response to the intended indignity of Roman crucifixion. But this should not prevent us from recognising that the historical reality would have been very different.
This is not just a matter of correcting the historical record. If Jesus is named as a victim of sexual abuse it could make a huge difference to how the churches engage with movements like #MeToo, and how they promote change in wider society. This could contribute significantly to positive change in many countries, and especially in societies where the majority of people identify as Christian.
Some sceptics might respond that stripping a prisoner might be a form of violence or abuse, but it is misleading to call this “sexual violence” or “sexual abuse”. Yet if the purpose was to humiliate the captive and expose him to mockery by others, and if the stripping is done against his will and as a way to shame him in public, then recognising it as a form of sexual violence or sexual abuse seems entirely justified. The way that the stripping of Vercingetorix, King of the Arverni, is depicted in the first episode of the first series of the HBO series Rome is an example of this.
The scene highlights the vulnerability of the naked prisoner who is stripped and exposed in front of the assembled ranks of hostile Roman soldiers. The power and control of Roman power is contrasted with the vulnerability and forced submission of the prisoner. The scene also hints at the possibility of even greater sexualised violence which might be in store.
Jesus’ gender is central to readers’ seeming unwillingness to recognise the sexual abuse to which he is subjected. Analysis of the gendering of nakedness by Margaret R. Miles demonstrates that we view male and female nakedness differently. In biblical art in the Christian West, Miles argues that the naked male body represents glorious athleticism representing spiritual as well as physical suffering.
Sexual abuse doesn’t form part of the narrative of masculinity inherent in representations of Jesus. Naked women, however, are immediately identified as sexual objects. Seeing a woman being forcibly stripped, then, might be more recognisable as sexual abuse than the stripping of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. If Christ was a female figure we wouldn’t hesitate to recognise her ordeal as sexual abuse.
Some present day Christians are still reluctant to accept that Jesus was a victim of sexual violence and seem to consider sexual abuse as an exclusively female experience.
We may not want to dwell on the disturbing indignity of crucifixion for the whole year, but it is not right to forget about it completely either. The sexual abuse of Jesus is a missing part of Passion and Easter story retellings. It’s appropriate to recognise Jesus as a victim of sexual violence to address the continuing stigma for those who’ve experienced sexual abuse, especially men.
Lent offers a period in which this stark reality of crucifixion might be recalled and connected to the important questions that movements like #MeToo are raising for the churches and for wider society. Once we acknowledge the sexual abuse of Jesus perhaps we’ll be more willing to acknowledge sexual abuse in our own contexts. Katie Edwards, Director SIIBS, University of Sheffield and David Tombs, Howard Paterson Chair of Theology and Public Issues
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Welcome!A bit of background about the Holy Irritant:Originally published in April 2006 this post is republished in 2018 along with other memorabilia to celebrate the preparations for the 2020 Plenary Council of the Catholic Church in Australia. Links have been revised where old material is no longer available.
This is me soon after my birth and most likely the day of my baptism in 1953. Part of Catholic culture at the time of my birth was to name children after great saints This was my parents choice rather than dedicate me to Troy Donahue or even Bing Crosby one of my father's idols. Family lore tells that I was entitled to be called "Alexander" in the custom of my father and grandfather as a first born son. However, Irish Catholicism won the day and I was named in honour of St Anthony (of Padua) and St Gerard Majella. Both these men have been associated with working among the poor and being pretty passionate about life. Pity most of the popular images of such men portray them as insipid blokes with total disinterest in the world around them.
My parents initiated me into a Catholicsm that continues to be a core community of faith and challenge in my life. At the heart of this community are relationships that have nurtured and sustained my questions, my passions and my spirituality. Finding these relationships has been a life long journey from the Irish clericalism that dominated my Primary education through the machismo of life at a Christian Brothers College and the exposure to a global vision in a community of Capuchin Friars. My mentors in faith have included women like Margaret Oats, "Mum" Shirl,Dorothy Day.
The power of symbol in Catholicism has always attracted me and came home to me when my parents renovated our family home some years ago. During my childhood in the era prior to the Vatican Council, the living room in our family home was dominated by the image of the Sacred Heart. The eyes of the image could spot you wherever you were in the room. When the house was renovated in the 70's the picture was moved to a discrete position above the front entrance where it would be the last image seen by visitors leaving the house. This was particularly effective for JW's and Mormons as most visitors used the back door. What is more interesting is that the space in the living room which had been home for the Sacred Heart for almost 25 years was taken up with a mirror. The new image reflected God's eyes in the members of our family.
I make a clear distinction between the faith community of Catholicism and the structural processes which have contributed to much of the alienation of family and friends from the Church. The popular metaphor of "cafeteria Catholicism" where we pick and choose what we need is more appealing than the fixed menu at an exclusive restaurant. which seems to be the preferred model for Church leaders such as Cardinal George Pell . Our history suggests that we have failed to feed the hunger of the diversity of the human family for whom Jesus lived and died.
I have been Catholic across two countries three states, four Archdioceses one religious order, numerous professional associations, groups and everything Catholic!!!I remain "in the Church" because I cannot be elsewhere. I have a right by baptism to membership and participation in this community. Its ambiguity and its weakness are part of my reality and give me a context for personal conversion and commitment to maturity. I remain as a "holy irritant" among those who conserve a stifling patriarchy.
I live my faith as a a gay man challenging the theology and practices that have alienated sexual minorities for too long. My sexuality has been a catalyst for moving into a religious commitment that takes me to the edge of the church. At the edge I find a new centre that offers opportunities and relationships affirming that which the church denies and I find a vision of the Divine which embraces new realities and great dreams for the planet and humanity.
Ss Peter and Paul's Ashby, Geelong West where my parents met and married. The parish where I joined the Altar Servers, the Crusaders of the Blessed Sacrament and the Tennis Club which was the first catholic group I joined that included girls! As a young boy I was member of the choir which in those days was accompanied by a young Roger Heagney who would go on to lead St Francis Church Choir in Melbourne.
Peak experiences include:
Suffering Catholic Trauma at my first communion mass with the anxiety of the host getting stuck in the roof of my mouth
Endless childhood confessions admitting to sins I could barely pronounce
Induction into the Guild of St Stephen by the famous Guilford Young at our first National Conference for Altar Boys (as we were in those days !!)in 1964.
Taking vows of poverty chastity and obedience in a Franciscan community with the Capuchin Friars and then discovering that 2 out of three wasn't a pass.
Falling in love with Bing Crosby instead of Julie Andrews
Education History St John's Primary School, North Geelong St Patrick's Primary School, West Geelong St Joseph's College Newtown Catholic Theological Union Hunters Hill Australian Catholic University McAuley Campus
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 saint should not be confused with the many other holy Anthonys who have front row seats in the celestial realm. My "Anthony" is a one of Catholicism's pin-up boys. He is patron for a number of a eternal chores that occupy most of his working days 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 found time to star in a series of movies. My favourite is this classic from the silent movie era made long before the days inter-religious dialogue. : 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 discerning shopper. This feast falls within the anniversary of the death and burial of Anthony Foster who won't make it into the Litany of Saints but will be remembered for his passionate challenge to the Church.and its sad history of clergy sexual abuse. Anthony Foster's legacy has ensured that the Church has to undergo a shift in culture. Perhaps it is time to replace the popular 17th Century image of St Anthony with the child Jesus as no longer appropriate. 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 goes 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. However, it seems that the locals may have been short changed as a bit of his floating rib goes out on tour minus the rest of the bones.
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
Social media, used well, can help us to learn about and dialogue with each other.
That social networks may work towards that inclusiveness which respects others for their differences.
Pope Francis - June 2018
The Internet is a gift of God, but it is also a great responsibility.
Communication technology, its places, its instruments have brought with it a lengthening of horizons, a widening, for so many people.
It can offer immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity.
May the digital network not be a place of alienation. May it be a concrete place, a place rich in humanity.
Let us pray together that social networks may work towards that inclusiveness which respects others for their differences.
Catholicism thrives on Tradition. In fact it sits next to Sacred Scripture as a hallowed source of faith and spirituality. So it is not surprising that the Archdiocese of Brisbane would publicize the annual Racing Mass as a "popular tradition". A few years ago the Australian Catholic Bishops published one of heir best document: A Crown for Australia: Striving for the best in our sporting nation As well as producing a readable and powerful document the Bishops released a youtube clip which still has not reached the viewing numbers it deserves:
What I found most interesting in the video clip is that there is no image or reference to the racing industry. So, why is there an "Annual Racing Mass" but not an Annual Sports Mass"?