Sunday, 30 November 2008

The martyr's festival

Tomorrow is the Feast of St Edmund Campion and companions, who were hung, drawn and quartered at the London Tyburn on 1st December 1581. These, and men and women like them, were at the forefront of both the English Rennaissance and the Evangelisation of England in the second part of the Sixteenth Century. Unlike the European mainland in that era, in which many nobles and bishops sought power and prestige, in England both the Crown and most of the nobility were seeking to completely overthrow the Church and assume a measure of divine prerogative. It is remarkable that those in England who were seeking a genuine rennaissance in human terms, were also at the forefront of evangelisation - faith and culture together- a forerunner of the New Evangelisation. The witness of their faith, so far removed from political intrigue, but so given over to Christ and the power of the Gospel is an enormous gift of grace and inspiration to the Church in England and overseas. They lived for Christ and the Church in the face of the most hideously prejudicial laws and they accepted that state of affairs with a committment to God's plan which is difficult for us to imagine, let alone replicate. We cannot but remember St Edmund Campion and the others, SS Ralph Sherwin and Alexander Briant, on their feast day - what great leaders in the Faith we have, and what a great patron and inspiration for the staff and students here in Campion's College in Sydney. The photo below shows a vestment which comes from Sixteenth century England and is thought to have been worn at Mass by St Edmund Campion. It is kept, along with many others treasures from that era, at Ladywell near Preston.
St Edmund Campion, pray for us, that our minds and hearts too will burn for Christ.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Open territory 4

"The way of Jesus is always the path of mission; and he is now inviting his followers to proclaim the Gospel anew to the peoples of Oceania, so that culture and Gospel proclamation will meet in a mutually enriching way and the Good News will be heard, believed and lived more deeply." (Eccelsia in Oceania, 10) Anyone who is looking to understand the New Evangelisation need look no further than this Letter which wonderfully presents the Mission of the Church today - and that this Mission is proclaimed with great clarity to the whole Church in Oceania! "The communio of the Church is a gift of the Blessed Trinity, whose deep inner life is most marvellously shared with humanity."
The mission to bring faith and culture together in such a way that humanity is drawn into God's Life - this is the Church! The first communion on the planet is the Church - the one which has the essential life-giving properties which human beings need. "Where individualism threatens to erode the fabric of human society, the Church offers herself as a healing sacrament, a fountain of communio responding to the deepest hungers of the heart." In the New Evangelisation we are called not only to rediscover the Church, but through the Church to rediscover humanity - the truth about human beings and about human life in all its dimensions.
What is the Church? It is Communion and Mission. It is the community of salvation, a communion of faith which bonds people into one being - God our Creator. And it is Mission, for "what Jesus offers to his followers must be shared with all the peoples of Oceania, whatever their situation." (13) "The great challenge and opportunity is to offer them the gifts of Jesus Christ in the Church, for these gifts alone will satisfy their yearning. But Christ must be presented in a way well adapted to the younger generation and the rapidly changing culture in which they live.
At times the Catholic Church is seen as presenting a message which is irrelevant, unattractive or unconvincing; but we can never allow such claims to undermine our confidence, for we have found the pearl of great price. Yet there is no room for complacency. The Church is challenged to interpret the Good News for the peoples of Oceania according to their present needs and circumstances. We must present Christ to our world in a way that brings hope to the many who suffer misery, injustice or poverty. The mystery of Christ is a mystery of new life for all who are in need or in pain, for disrupted families or people who face unemployment, who are marginalized, injured in soul or body, sick or addicted to drugs, and for all who have lost their way. This mystery of grace, the mysterium pietatis, is the very heart of the Church and her mission." (14)
This really is a wonderful proclamation to the Church to enter into the New Evangelisation. This is a call which needs to be listened to so that it begins to reverberate in the heart of the hearer, something to be taken up and never put down, a call which should form the kernal of life every day - making the Mystery of Jesus Christ the very basis of everything that is human!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Co-dependency

Co-dependent relationships are crucifying the western world; relationships whose basis is a psychological need for the other person, unlike real marriage whose basis is the gift of self to the other person. Co-dependent relationships are found today both inside and outside marriage as well as with homosexual people. They are relationships which do not give life to the partners or to society, but rather enclose both partners in coccoon and prevent them from growing in themselves and from being a life-giving part of society.
Co-dependency forms the very first stage of all our lives in the relationship which a child, boy or girl, has with its mother. What normally happens is that the father is instrumental in breaking this bond which the child has with its mother at about the age of 2 - 3, enabling the child to discover him/herself as an independent person.

Co-dependency is not new to society but it has only been recognised in recent times; the word itself having sprung from the work of psychologists. Co-dependency is so apparent in our age when marriage, as a life-style, is diminishing in western societies, and when the overriding message of today's media is that a relationship is a necessary accessory to life.
As co-dependent relationships develop rationale is replaced by inane arguments rooted in self doubt and fear. Believing that nothing else can make them happy or that no one else can understand them they way their lover does, they become dependant on the companionship and comfort of each other. Trust is a foreign concept, for every time a phone call goes unanswered or a text message goes unreturned, lying, cheating and arguments become the illogical habits of co-dependant lovers. Friendships are used as crutches, rather than mutual enjoyment of one another's company. Rather than keeping in touch consistently, you will only speak to your other friends when you need them, and not be there for them in return. When your friends begin to sense a pattern in your actions and realize your fair-weathered friendship has no purpose they will leave you to rely even more on your significant other.
Beattie and Korski's comparison of real love with co-dependency is quite thorough:
1. Love - development of self is first priority. Co-dependency - Obsession with relationship.
2. Love - Room to grow, expand; desire for other to grow. Co-dep - Security, comfort in sameness; intensity of need seen as proof of love (may really be fear, insecurity, loneliness)
3. Love - Separate interests; other friends; maintain other meaningful relationships. Co-dep - Total involvement; limited social life; neglect old friends, interests.
4. Love - Encouragement of each other secure in own worth. Co-dep - Preoccupation with other's behavior; fear of other changing.
5. Love - Trust. Co-dep - Jealousy; possessiveness; fear of competition.
6. Love - Compromise, negotiation or taking turns at leading. Problem solving together. Co-dep - Power plays for control; blaming; passive or aggressive manipulation.
7. Love - Relationship deals with all aspects of reality. Co-dep - Relationship is based on delusion and avoidance of the unpleasant.
8. Love - emotional state not dependent on other's mood. Co-dep - Expectation that one partner will fix and rescue the other.
9. Love - Loving detachment (healthy concern about partner, while letting go.) Co-dep - Fusion (being obsessed with each other's problems and feelings.)
10. Love - Sex is free choice growing out of caring & friendship. Co-dep - Pressure about sex due to insecurity, fear & need for immediate gratification.
12. Love - Ability to enjoy being alone. Co-dep - Unable to endure separation; clinging.
13. Love - Cycle of comfort and contentment. Co-dep - Cycle of pain and despair.
Now, whilst we may be able, with the help of psychologists to analyse this phenomenon, it is important that we should be able to get over this phenomenon and make progress in life - for the sake of the person and for the sake of marriage. Psychology doesn't offer much help here, and indeed, some pyschologists see no problem at all with co-dependency. But if we are looking at life with God, then the capacity of the person to be open to God and to grow in virtue and holiness, and for that matter, for young people to be able to have real friendships for friendships sake - ones which are not emotionally burdened, and for the freedom which is necessary for a person to respond to a vocation - for instance, marriage, then yes, we do need to be able to see the way forward in a culture in which co-dependency is so widespread. And helping young people to respond to the call to marry and to be able to enter into the truth about married love is an urgent task today for all parents and agents of Christian formation.
This 5 step process is, I think, a reasonable way of looking at one's own life:
Step1. Examine your behaviour. When you have a problem you feel you cannot face is your first reaction to call your significant other to solve it for you? Do you feel that you need to feel needed and end up being taken advantage of most of the time? These are all signs of codependency. Accepting you have a problem is the first step towards healing the relationship.
Step2. Give yourself time away from this person. Tell them that you need to work on yourself, and you need time to discover who you are without him or her. This might cause a negative reaction but this is only normal. Do not stay in the relationship out of fear of abandonment.
Step3. Seek help with someone you trust and who can help you resolve your issues. This will not take overnight but it will help you become aware of the problems you are facing.
Step4. Try do different activities which you would not have done otherwise when you were in the relationship. Discover who you are and your own self-worth. Try to develop a relationship with yourself before you develop a relationship with anyone else.
Step5. Once you replace " I need you" with " I want to be around you," you are on your way towards healing the relationship. However, some relationships cannot be repaired and it is best for both parties to part ways.

This process is obviously a secular programme to which I would add two important elements:

1. Keep up your conversation with Christ through prayer and the Sacraments; for to grow in grace is your essential vocation.

2. Develop your appreciation of what Christian marriage actually is, through reading and through encountering married people and marriage preparation resources; this will widen your vision about the nature and meaning of relationships and help you to reflect on your own.


Monday, 24 November 2008

Open territory 3

Recognising and acknowledging culture is a necessary element of the New Evangelisation. In para 7 of the Letter "The Church in Oceania" John Paul II speaks of the "implantation of the Church" - evangelisation - the bringing together of faith and culture means precisely, implanting the Church in culture. How can we do this? First of all, the Pope says: "the truth of the Gospel ... is foreign to no one, but at times some sought to impose elements which were culturally alien to the people. There is a need now for careful discernment to see what is of the Gospel and what is not, what is essential and what is less so. Such a task, it must be said, is made more difficult because of the process of colonization and modernization, which has blurred the line between the indigenous and the imported."
Disciples of the Lord then in the New Evangelisation, do not step into a new culture, set up their crucifixes and expect that the people will turn to Christ and believe in him. In the same way, one can't sprinkle some holy water over a baby within a culture that was formally Christian and expect to see a flourishing of the Christian life. The work of evangelisation calls for real discernent on behalf of Catholics so their meeting with a non or formally Christian culture is actually an evangelising encounter, in which real light is shone on those aspects of culture which grace can build on, and in which those aspects of culture which are opposed to the Gospel can be overturned by grace. In this we remember the whole thrust of the Second Vatican Council which has endeavoured to direct the Church into an evangelising dialogue with culture. This is not the moment to speak about how some have tried to use the Council to promote their own agenda for the Church, but rather "in presenting Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life, the Church must respond in new and effective ways to these moral and social questions without ever allowing her voice to be silenced or her witness to be marginalized."

Open territory 2

The great Letter "The Church in Oceania" of John Paul II was written as inspiration for the New Evangelisation in this huge part of the world. It has certainly inspired me since I arrived in Australia. In the last post I spoke about the opening reflection, in this post I want to look at paragraphs 4 - 7 of the Letter. These parts of the Letter look at the question of how Christ should be presented in Oceania today. It is a question which first occured to St Paul after he had preached the Gospel at the Areopagus in Athens and had been laughed at, and it is the basic question of the New Evangelisation. The disciples of Christ whose lives have been changed through a relationship with Him and who, in some way, are called to witness to Him know that they must still discern how they are to present the person of Christ to others. In the past Christ was mainly presented through the institution of the Church and also through the communio of believers, but today the Church knows that she is being called to present Christ in a new way. The question: "how should we present Christ today?" is a New Evangelisation question. The Pope goes on to show how the Church can begin to discern how she should present Christ today.
First of all, the key ingredient is the Mystery of Christ himself and how the Church enters into this Mystery herself. The second ingredient lies in knowing and appreciating the people who live in this part of the world. The third ingredient is knowing and appreciating the indigenous culture of the people. I will write a separate post on this third element.
The New Evangelisation then is very conscious of beginning with people as they are, knowing them and being aware to some extent of how their lives are lived. I once asked Fr Benedict Groeschel CFR if he would describe the New Evangelisation, he answered saying, simply, "It is beginning with people where they are at!"

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Open territory

I look forward to watching, perhaps this week, the new epic film "Australia". The pundits are all saying that it will be a massive hit - and, I have to say, the trailers for the film are very promising. The film is being hailed as a re-presentation of the essence of this country and continent to both those at home and abroad. Modern Australia is still emerging - it is, in comparison to the Western world, a very new nation. The Church too has been conscious of this and World Youth Day is more than a sign of her Mission here. John Paul II came twice to Australia and placed great emphasis on this country in his 2001 Exhortation to the Church in Oceania. I have read this Letter twice seen coming to Sydney and have been enriched in my understanding of the New Evangelisation, especially in terms of the influnce of the Gospel upon culture, and consequently, it has given me a real insight into this land and its history.
At the beginning of this Letter, John Paul II makes a reflection on the mystery of the life of the disciple - for this is the hinge of evangelisation - the Mission of the Church has to begin somewhere, and that place is within the person. The disciples of Christ "are invited to leave all, to turn to him who is the Lord of life, and follow him. They are to leave not only sinful ways, but also sterile ways of a certain manner of thinking and acting, in order to take the path of an ever deeper faith and follow the Lord with ever greater fidelity." The impact of grace must first happen inside those who follow Him if they are to be in a position to be evangelisers themselves. "When we walk with the Lord, we leave with him all our burdens, and this confers the strength to accomplish the mission he gives us. He who takes from us gives to us; he takes upon himself our weakness and gives us his strength. This is the great mystery of the life of the disciple and apostle. It is certain that Christ works with us and within us as we "put out into deeper waters", as now we must. When times are difficult and unpromising, the Lord himself urges us "to cast our nets once more". We must not disobey."
I see contained in this short reflection a synthesis of the life of the Church and the lived wisdom of evangelisation down through the ages, which is, in fact, a re-presentation of the call to evangelise. To show the difference and the enrichment which knowing Christ has made to me, and that the focus and the priority of the Church is evangelisation. Being a Catholic today does not mean waiting around for something to happen, nor even trying to make something happen ourselves. It consists in actively following Christ and that what flows out of this is evangelisation. My life is the tool He wishes to use. And here lies the first stage of openness to grace - being with Him and experiencing His person. Since He is here, this is an immediate possibility.
Do pray for Australia at this time - that the work of the Holy Spirit here, before, during and since WYD will continue building relationships with Christ.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Free yet mindless


I cast a glance at the Australian news today, actually, the news for New South Wales:

PREMIER Nathan Rees is facing a new crisis of confidence in his own ranks as voter anger spills over from the mini-Budget and sacked MP Tony Stewart.

OLYMPIC swimming champion Leisel Jones and former AFL footballer Marty Pask have cancelled their wedding, abruptly ending their two-year romance.

HOUSEHOLDERS would be charged for each flush under a radical new toilet tax designed to help beat the drought.

NSW Police Minister Tony Kelly allegedly told a lobbyist he wanted to "shoot him with a Taser gun" during a heated meeting over insurance levies in his office.



These are the headlines today, and there's loads more just like them. This kind of culture is so intraverted and so intensely mindless that it's noise occupies much of the real space of human freedom in Oz. It is worrying that so soon after the Gospel was preached here, during WYD, with such clarity and such light, that we still see a culture so impervious to the Gospel being purveyed so loudly. Coming from England, a country that embraced an alternative to the Gospel in the sixteenth century, and is still hanging on to it, I am used to the secular chatter which is engaged in so as to drown out the life-giving message that Jesus brought. But Australia is a new country with totally new opportunities which does not now have to follow its founding culture. Yes, it is true that many in Oz have heard the message of Christ and also that the message of the media is totally irrelevant to real life; ie. the Gospel. Nevertheless, it is also true that the Holy Spirit is endeavouring to make a breakthrough here in Oz at this time, to free Australians from this mindlessness and to enable them to receive the whole gift of the Gospel. During this time after WYD in Sydney we need to maintain a real movement of intercession for openness to grace and to truth.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Searching for a good 2009


When did you last see a diary printed like this one with the week beginning with Sunday - the first day of the week - and ending with Saturday? I'm looking for a diary for next year and all those which I have seen begin with the second day of the week - Monday - with Sunday squeezed into a part of Saturday's space at the end of the week. Don't buy these pagan diaries as Christmas presents - go on a search for diaries which put Sunday as the first day of the week. If you come across a shop which sells such diaries, please add a Comment on this Blog so that we can know where to shop.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Alive and kicking ... and in Sydney


Blessed relief


After the glories of the new architecture of Parramatta Cathedral, what a relief to enter into Adoration in the chapel of the Good Shepherd Seminary in Sydney. This photo doesn't pick it out well, but the monstrance you can see on the altar was given by Pope John Paul II for the work of praying for Priestly vocations. It is a missionary monstrance and is presently here in the seminary in Sydney.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Sung Mass


Last Sunday our College Schola under the direction of Bernard Kirkpatrick sang the 11.00am Mass at Parramatta Cathedral - its first Mass outside the College. The Schola is just visible in the photo above at the end of the "nave". Their singing was suberb and many in the Cathedral were were struck by the beauty and of their singing and the style of the music - Polyphony and Chant are now so seldom heard by Catholic congregations. The Schola was very well supported by staff and students in the congregation and "sanctuary". Afterwards we repaired to the park by the river for a BBQ. This is a date we should certainly repeat.
You will have noticed that I have placed the words nave and sanctuary in inverted commas - well, it is hard to identify either in Parramatta Cathedral. This new edifice was opened five years ago after a fire destroyed the old Cathedral and, although it fits into the Parramatta skyline, it is hard to see how the Church fits into it.
I concelebrated the Sung Mass and had the experience of what it would be like saying Mass in the entrance to a museum or a new railway station. This Cathedral was clearly built to express the secular and I wonder how its regular congregation will fare as the years pass by.

Lest we forget


At 11.00am this morning, on the College Campus, we came together and remembered all those who gave their lives in the great conflicts of the Twentieth Century. There was a real sense of awareness amongst the students and the staff of how great this sacrifice had been. Australians had been involved in all the Fronts of the First World War; 23,000 dying at the Somme. Here on Campus our wreath, a buring candle and the national flag will remain by Our Lady's statue till the end of the day.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Woman


Rembrandt's painting of the prophetess Anna reading a Bible expresses the profound attentiveness of a woman to God's plan. It is an image of woman which we have, largely, lost sight of in the complexity of this newly pagan age; an image of woman which reveals her dignity - silence, mystery, reverence, sensitivity, motherhood, age, attunement, yet a person who goes out to meet the Living Word. It is an image worthy of some contemplation. (But do look for a better reproduction to the one above!)
I have just read a second book about the unique vocation of woman. I posted earlier on the Eldredge's book "Captivating", but I offer another book for your consideration: "The Priesthood of the Heart" by Jo Croissant, St Pauls, 2007. The author is the wife of the founder of the French Eccelsial Movement "The Community of the Beatitudes". Her book, much of it a personal testimony, is deeply infused with Scripture and its Catholic interpretation. She speaks about the self-revelation of woman through being daughter, spouse and mother; she describes the depth of a woman's soul and the huge contribution which she is able to make to man. This author, like the co-authors of "Captivating" puts her finger upon the many experiences which our contemporary culture struggles with and opens them to their underlying truth. So for instance, she speaks about woman's capacity for trust and how this capacity is, at root, her way to God, and how her relationship with her own father and then her husband should be building bricks of her spirituality and how she is affected by them.
This is a very Catholic book, yet one which does not avoid the difficult experiences which women encounter today. For this reason it may be too intense for those who are seeking a more gentle approach to womanhood. Nonertheless, it is necessary that such books as this are written in our age in order to help direct a real contemplation of woman - something which the men and women of this age need urgently to rediscover.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Accepting that we were wrong ...

Austria's Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, the Arch­bishop of Vienna, in a sermon at a Neocatechumenate meeting in Jerusalem on 27 March this year, criticised those bishops who did not stand firm with Paul VI when he issued the Encyclical Humanae Vitae.
After the publication of the encyclical in 1968, numerous bishops' conferences around the world - including those of Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the US and later Australia - is­sued statements assuring the faithful that the issue was a matter of conscience.
But those bishops, said Cardinal Schon­born, were "frightened of the press and of being misunderstood by the faithful". Blame lay not only with the bishops responsible at the time - none of whom is still alive - but with all bishops for the fact that Europe is "about to die out". "I think that it is also our sin as bishops, even if none of us were bish­ops in 1968," he added.
Bishops have not had, or did not have, the courage to "swim against the tide" and say yes to Humanae Vitae, he said. The cardinal particularly crit­icised two of the many 1968 bishops' confer­ence declarations on Humanae Vitae, which all stressed the importance of the individual conscience.
He singled out the Maria Trost Declaration, whose signatories included Cardinal Franz Konig, the late Archbishop of Vienna, pres­ident of the Austrian bishops' conference and a Father of the Second Vatican Council, and the Konigstein Declaration, whose signatories included Cardinal Julius Dopfner, the late Archbishop of Munich, president of the Ger­man bishops' conference and another Council Father.
Cardinal Schonborn accused the signatories of "weakening the People of God's sense for life", so that when "the wave of abortions" and increasing acceptance of homosexuality fol­lowed, the Church lacked the courage to oppose them.
Cardinal Shonborn's discourse in Jerusalem earlier this year reminds me of that of Cardinal Pole, the English cardinal who, at the Council of Trent, stood up in the Council's Aula and declared that the Bishop's of Europe - that is, ourselves - are to blame for the Protestant Reformation. He cited three ways by which the Catholic Bishop's of Europe enabled the Reformation to gather speed: that the Bishop's had not corrected moral errors, that they had not corrected small "mis-representations" of faith and so had allowed them to grow into full blown heresy, and that they had not spoken out against the numerous wars all over Europe which had weakened society. We Bishops, he said, are to blame for the state that the Church is now in, and called the Council Father's to recognise their need to do penance and so to bring down the mercy of God upon the Church at this very needy moment in history.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The mindless vote for relativism

When St Augustine spoke, at the beginning of the fifth century, of the tidal wave of paganism he was speaking in very real terms of the affrontation which fallen humanity can make to grace. Today, this movement of the rejection of grace is being experienced with renewed vigour. The American vote today reveals a population who desire to be set free from all law - man's and God's - and to act according to whim and sentiment. Relativism - the removal of any objective and genuine criteria of judgement - is proposed as the basis of contemporary America. The tidal wave of mindless indifference to truth is with us still at the start of this age. Nevertheless, it is grace and not human nature which saves; truth, not relativism, is the staple of human life. This generation will no doubt, in one way or another, discover what St Augustine describes:

"This life of ours—if a life so full of such great ills can properly be called a life—bears witness to the fact that, from its very start, the race of mortal men has been a race condemned.Think, first, of the dreadful abyss of ignorance from which all error flows and so engulfs the sons of Adam in a darksome pool that no one can escape without the toll of toils and tears and fears. Then, take our very love for all those things that prove so vain and poisonous and breed so many heartaches, troubles, griefs, and fears; such insane joys in discord, strife, and wars; such fraud and theft and robbery; such perfidy and pride, envy and ambition, homicide and murder, cruelty and savagery, lawlessness and lust; all the shameless passions of the impure—fornication and adultery, incest and unnatural sins, rape and countless other uncleannesses too nasty to be mentioned; the sins against religion—sacrilege and heresy, blasphemy and perjury; the iniquities against our neighbors—calumnies and cheating, lies and false witness, violence to persons and property; the injustices of the courts and the innumerable other miseries and maladies that fill the world, yet escape attention."

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Demographic Winter

This evening at Campion a group of us watched the film "Demographic Winter". This film, made by a group of intellectuals who are involved with the "Family First Foundation", is available through its own website and presents the study and conclusions of numerous social scientists and academics in a way which the layperson is able to understand. The essential message of the film is that the birthrate of most countries in the world is so low that world is heading towards an age in which the aged population will so far outnumber that of youth, that the cultural, social and economic conditions could be described as a demographic winter.
This film represents a huge development in terms of the communication of knowledge. The mindless secular media never communicates the full scope of contemporary knowledge, since it operates at an IQ level of 14. Scientists, academics and intellectuals, on the other hand, have an innate inability to communicate their knowledge in an accesible way. This film actually bridges this gap and conveys an understanding of what is going on in the world that we hear nothing of from either the media or politicians. The film places marriage as the heart and centre of all human society and civilisation. It is a film I would recommend that you try to watch.
Towards the end of the film one of the commentators is asked if he thinks that the human population of the world will die out. He responds saying that the human species will not die out "becuase some people will continue to have babies. Those who will die out are those who, from a lack of faith, do not go forth and multiply."

Last sign of life


In the parish which I left before coming out to Oz there was a dusty old garage behind the presbytery which I used only as a storage space; my car never once went inside. At the far end of the garage was a level raised about two bricks above the level the rest of the garage interior. One day I learned from a parishioner that this slightly raised area had once been the parish meeting room. A flimsy dividing screen had divided this area from the rest of the garage where the priest parked his car. This "room" was used by all the parish groups and sodalities right up until the early seventies when a parish hall was built - pictured below. You can see the raised level in the top photo above with a wooden chair and a pile of clobber on it. In the second photo you can see the blocked up former entrance to this Parish Room.
When I heard this I was struck by the fact that the Church in our parishes had been alive when such facilities were the only ones we had at our disposal. In those days there was a sense of the Mission of the Church and of the need for the parish to be involved in it. It was sometime in the sixties and seventies that we began to think that "we had arrived", that we had established ourselves, that we no longer had to bother about building the Christian life, that we lost the sense of Mission and then slowly our parishes began to die. When I was in this particular parish it had, like so many, become a "Mass centre" and the new hall lay utterly unused by the parish except for a small handful of the faithful who came together there for coffee after Sunday Mass. Until parishes return to embrace the Mission of the Church - which today we know is the New Evangelisation - this slow decline will continue to its natural end. Nevertheless, it was startling to realise that the whole Mission of this, my former parish, had once been put into operation from such a humble and basic room - but it was a room in which the Church had been alive!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

A new initiative of grace

Last week I was pottering around Sydney city centre inspecting paella pans when I eventually found myself in The Rocks area of the City. This is Sydney's oldest quarter and has held on to many of the original buildings of Sydney's first development. I was quite surprised to find similar sights to those you would find in almost any English city - small and dingy dwellings, dark and lugubrious passageways, and officious and heavy civic buildings.
The history of the settlement of Australia, which I have been reading about, suddenly struck me with great force, here in The Rocks; how Australia was first built upon a rather dark, English protestant culture - something which was totally alien to the native people and the climate, for that matter, of this part of the world.
This culture, which initially tried to subdue any Catholic culture, was itself incapable of really infusing the Gospel into the Australian way of life. As time moved on it was almost inevitable that the secular movement would prevail here, because in a sense, it offered a better, lighter, kind of culture to the one which had been imported from England. And, in its wake, the Gospel became, I sense, very thinly spead on this continent. Of course, The Rocks is now a tourist area full of anodine boutiques and bars.
So strong is the secular culture now that it dwarfs the Gospel, and Christianity in Australia is something which is very lightly expressed in society.


In a very real way then, the recent World Youth Day in Sydney was an extraordinary grace given to inspire the work of evangelisation in a country which is still waiting to experience the whole Life and Mission of the Church. Speaking about the Holy Spirit, Benedict XVI, in addressing Australia at WYD said:
"We have to let it break through the hard crust of our indifference, our spiritual weariness, our blind conformity to the spirit of this age. Only then can we let it ignite our imagination and shape our deepest desires."
His discourses at WYD in Sydney were given to challenge Australians about the true work of human life - making our lives pleasing to God. Above all his discourses were a call to Australia to actually embrace Evangelisation, the New Evangelisation, the call of the Gospel to build a new Australia
"in which God's gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished, not rejected, feared as a threat and destroyed. A new age in which love is not greedy or self-seeking, but pure, faithful and genbuiely free, open to others, respectful of their dignity, seeking their good, radiating jopy and beauty. A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deadens our sould asnd poisens relationships. ... This is the great and liberating gift which the Gospel brings; it reveals our dignity as men and women create din the image and likeness of God. It reveals humanity's sublime calling, which is to find fulfillment in love. It discloses the truth about man and the truth about life."
World Youth Day was given here to inspire a new initiative and era of grace in this new country and continent which is still emerging. And, I have to say, the opportunity for the New Evangelisation in Australia is a real one - there is an openness here which is not found in the UK - in the sense of freedom to manoeuvre - but it does require a new generation to take this opportunity.

Celebrating the old and fallen


In many places the pagan celebration of "Halloween" is underway. This little montage, put together at Campion College last night, shows where this pagan stuff leads. Give it as wide a berth as possible and celebrate the Triumph of Grace on the Eve of All Hallows.