Monday, July 23, 2018

Christina the Astonishing, Virgin Patron of Holy Irritants

Christian the Astonishing, VirginIn 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

Friday, July 20, 2018

Wilgefortis Comes To Brisbane

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.

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

Monday, July 16, 2018

Refresh Catholicism at Plenary Council2020

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.’

In keeping with smart marketing the project has a webpage, a Facebook Page, a Twitter account, a Youtube Channel,  and of course, a theme song:

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!!!

Facilitation Team

The Executive Committee
Mr Daniel Ang – Broken Bay
In addition to writing timeofthechurch, Daniel can also be followed on Twitter (@DanielAngRC), at LinkedIn or contacted by email ( He is a married layman with two children. Still waiting for him to answer my friend request on Facebook.

Mr Shayne Bennett – Brisbane
·    Manager of FX Mission Teams, the University Arm of NET Ministries at NET AustraliaDirector Mission and Faith Formation at Holy Spirit Seminary, Brisbane  Another FB friend request "in the queue
Br Ian Cribb SJ – Broken Bay

Dr Gemma Cruz – Melbourne

Ms Sally Hood – Brisbane Also "in the queue awaiting response to a FB friend request.

Mr John Lochowiak – Adelaide

Dr Brigid McKenna – Hobart

Ms Sarah Moffatt – Adelaide A FB friend!!

Sr Grace Roclawska CSFN – Parramatta

Rev Dr Ormond Rush – Townsville Has FB so you can follow him but does not have a friend request button/

Mrs Theresa Simon – Sydney (Maronite Church)

Dr Nigel Zimmerman – Parramatta

Very Rev Ian Waters  Senior 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.

Bishops Commission


Diocesan coordinators hold first gathering

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?

Plenary Commentary

John Wurhurst
Garry Everett

The Plenary Council process was launched in Australian Dioceses on Pentecost Sunday 2018. Here are a few of the Episocopal homilies and statements from the launch:
+Mark Coleridge (Brisbane)
+Timothy Costelloe (Perth)
+Vincent Long (Parramatta)
+Anthony Fisher (Sydney)
+Chris Saunders (Broome)
+Chris Prowse (Canberra)
+Peter Comensoli (Broken Bay)

Plenary Hiccups!!
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

Faith no more: parishioners lose trust in church - Sydney Morning Herald › National › Religion
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 ...

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Religious Freedom in Australia

Call for 'Religious Discrimination Act' fuels religious freedoms debate

Presented by Hamish Macdonald

ABC broadcast with 

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REVIEW  Australian Government 2017

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.


  • Friday, July 06, 2018

    Praying the Rosary Aboriginal Way



    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.
    Vicki Walker
    ACMM Coordinator

    The #OzRosary53 Campaign is part of a global prayer movement to pray the rosary on the 13th day of each month. In 2018 this day will fall during NAIDOC  Week. This offers a wonderful opportunity to introduce Praying the Rosary Aboriginal Way to churches and communities across the nation.

    I have designed a model of a city rosary pilgrimage based in Brisbane that could be adopted for other public prayer gatherings.

    Tuesday, July 03, 2018

    Images That Open Your Eyes

    An icon by Nikola Saric, "Gerechter Adam" (Righteous Adam).
    Adam before sin Notice no belly button!!!