Just Catholicism

If you remember the '60s, you weren't there' ( Robin Williams) As the sixties dawned I was just 6 years old and as they faded into another era I was finishing secondary school. The 60s were an era of "firsts" for me
  • I flew interstate for the first time (TAA)
  • I wore long pants to school for the first time when I went to St Joey's Christian Brothers College
  • I had my fist of few ciggies
  • I took part in my first political rally for peace and justice
  • I had my first taste of beer
  • I had my first job as newspaper boy selling The Herald at the local pub before it shut at 6pm
  • I kissed my first great love
One of the most formative and memorable "firsts" of the 60s was October 31st 1960, the day of my First Communion. There I was all smiles and the picture perfect Catholic boy. I was born into a loving Catholic family and given the names, Anthony and Gerard. That ensured I would never be mistaken for a Baptist. 

Both these iconic pin up saints died young and never had a sexual encounter according to their web sites. Within a few years when I got to choose a patron for confirmation I chose Dominic Savio. In keeping with the spirituality I inherited as a young boy I picked another patron with a short life span and an impeccable virginity. 

This was also my first real experience of multiculturalism as the Irish had claimed 'Anthony' for lost property and Gerard for pregnancy.D Savio was a bit obviously Italian. I can still hear the slight gasp from the congregation as my confirmation name was read out in the midst of all the Irish names like Francis Patrick, Paul and Joseph!! 

 The images and memories of my First Communion Day are relics of a bygone era. However it was an era that contributed to my formation in ways that were predictable as well as surprising!!

The commemorative certificate which I received on my first communion says a lot about the world view of Catholicism at the time. The ornate decoration around the borders of the certificate seemed as foreign as lace and ermine in urban Australia.

However from these early formative days I gained a love of ritual and its place in the human experience. I also learned the love of choral music and the rich history of religious music in my faith tradition. I was a member of a parish community in Geelong which had a young organist, Roger Heagney who would go on to become a world renowned pianist and harpsichordist.

Look at the kids in the image: picture perfect caucasians with no suggestion that Asians or Africans or any other diverse ethnicity could be close to Jesus. The appearance of Pope Pius X (who I had no idea of at the time) giving communion is indicative of the 20th century media creation of the "celebrity Pope" culminating in the reign of JPII.

Despite the cultural homogeneity of the certificate we had something of a multicultural mix in our first communion group. Some of the kids I now realize would have been children of WWII refugee families from Europe. I look back sadly now at the lost opportunities of cross-cultural friendships as I belonged to a group whose parents were part of the school culture and workforce. few of the refugee families were able to join these activities.

Those who came as refugees were rebuilding broken lives and living among people of a new language and dominant culture where garlic was not yet on the shopping list.

The spirituality of the day is evident in the cards I received and in the text of the Mass Book I was given.
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! Isn't it great to think that new fruit can grow on old trees!!!
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 Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man)