Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Normality reigns again

If yesterday morning looked like the Last Day, then today looked like the First. This was the view from my front door at 6.45am.

Red sky at dawn

This was the view from my front door at 6.30 this morning. Everyday by 6.30am the sun is already shining through the trees, catching the buildings and filling the garden with light. This murky red light disoriented me somewhat - had my clock stopped, was the end of the world taking place or had there been a bush fire down the street? In fact, what had happended was that yesterday much of Australia had experienced severe and unusual weather. In Melbourne there were two 'small' earthquakes, in Victoria and NSW there were thunderstorms and high winds, on the NSW coast there was and is a gale warning. Red soil dust from central Australia, well over 1000 miles away, had blown across the continent and shrouded the whole city of Sydney. I gather that this is the first time that this has happened in Sydney. You can imagine that all our noses and throats are very congested and that there is a red dust over everything!

Monday, 21 September 2009

The inferiority of a life lived online

There is an excellent Editorial in "The Australian" this morning which challenges the quality of computer culture - that "Facebook friends and online adventures are not the real thing". "Hear! Hear!", say I.
You may think that I have joined another bandwagon, but, fifteen years ago as young parish priest in Leeds and before I had a computer myself, I became aware of how many people were on the threshold of living their lives vicariously through Soap Opera dramas, even to the point that it seemed as though the family drama on the TV was more real to them that the lives of their own families. With older people it was sometimes the case that loneliness and the lack of a supportive family led them to follow the Soap Opera drama too personally.
Today the emphasis has shifted to on-line culture which draws young people in so addictively. Today's Editorial quotes Baroness Greenfield: "the more young people are on-line, the less time they spend in the company of human beings, learning how the real world works. ... And exercise is far better for everybody than obsessively slaying monsters or indulging adolescent interests in on-line pornography."
Yes, "children and adolescents need to see their friends in the flesh, and talk, not tweet." I joined Twitter a couple of months ago but left a few days later when I saw how vacuous it was.
Actually, children and young people first need parents who will kick the computer and the mobile into touch and then spend time with their offspring, conversing and eating together, taking them out to play sports, to visit museums and to discover the countryside, and thereby build real, not virtual, culture - based upon real human contact and upon the real roles of parents.
This Blog, too, hardly makes the grade - there are as many good reasons to delete it as there are to maintain it!

Familiaris Consortio revisited 13

FC, 32
Our culture has seriously misinterpreted sexuality by separating it from it from the person. In this context the Church knows that her mission is to build up human life on the basis of an integral vision of the person. Human love is based upon the nature of the human person. Sexual love within marriage does not depend merely upon subjective intentions, but upon objective standards.
If we have an integral vision of man and his vocation we can see that there is an inseparable connection between the two meanings of married love: the procreative and unitive meanings are intrinsically linked.
Contraception separates these two meanings, acts as arbiter of the divine plan and degrades human sexuality. Contraception changes the innate language of total reciprocal self-giving by contradicting it. Thus, human sexuality is closed to life and the inner truth of married love is made false.
On the other hand, natural methods of fertlity management, which have recourse to the periods of infertility, respect the inseparable bond between the procreative and unitive meanings of sexual love and act as ministers of God's plan leading the spouses to benefit from their sexuality (becoming more human)!
Indeed, such is the difference between contraception and natural fertility management at both the moral and anthropological level, that they actually flow from two irreconcilable visions of the human person. Living natural fertility management leads spouses to experience the inner soul of sexuality through the tenderness, affection and dialogue by which it is embraced. Person and nature in the unity of body and soul are reverenced, not broken apart.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Pastoral developments

There have been significant pastoral developments at Campion College this early Spring time. First, the vegetable plot which I dug and prepared in February is now burgeoning with mediterranean provender.

Secondly, we have inaugurated a chicken coop, and after only five days the little yellow balls of fluff have already become young birds. They are here for there eggs only (although our faithful farmyard friend has so much to offer!)

Monday, 14 September 2009


The continuing good weather in Sydney is like high summer in the UK. It is the beginning of Spring here and some of us ventured out for a picnic on the banks of the Nepean River, just west of Sydney. The afternoon sun lit up the trees on the banks of a tributary of the river and created for us a scene out of Lothlorien (the wood of the Elves - for non-Tolkien readers.)

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Demographic Bomb

Recently I watched the sequel to the film "Demograhic Winter". This second film "Demograhic Bomb" charters statistically the projected slow death of a civilisation becuase of its low birth rates. It is a well made "wake up call" type documentary. At one point in the film a commentator describes how large families are viewed by some who advocate low birth rates (for instance, the United Nations): "Having five children is morally equivalent to robbing a bank!"

These films are good in that they expose the changing and prejudicial situation which is developing in Western countries becuase of low birth rates, and because they put anti-life paradigms into relief enabling us to see them with greater clarity. However, one detects a rather neurotic attitude which typically accompanies statistical presentations about human destiny.

I would certainly recommend watching this film, but as you watch it to keep in mind how different and how liberating and how much better is the Gospel in its approach to the human condition.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The Wounded Madonna

When I was back in the UK during the English summer this year I was pleased to see a small statue which I had ordered for my mother from the English College, Valladolid, Spain, where I trained for the priesthood.
The College's great treasure is a fifteenth century statue of Our Lady which belonged to a church in Cadiz but which was mutilated by Drakes' soldiers in 1586 and has been venerated by English seminarians in Valladolid since 1600. She is called Our Lady Vulnerata. The original statue was very badly damaged by the English soldiers in Cadiz; they hacked the Christ-child from her lap and cut deep scars into her face.

I ordered one of these statues and had it deleivered to my mother who was very moved to receive this miniature replica of the actual statue which is about three feet tall. I placed a CTS pamphlet next to the miniature so you can gauge its size - about seven inches tall.

In Valladolid, Our Lady Vulnerata is still honoured each week with prayers of reparation and prayers seeking her intercession for the conversion of England.

Our Lady Vulnerata, pray for us.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Summertime special

It may be the tail end of the summer in the UK, but here in Oz we have just had the first day of Spring. The pundits have said that this Winter has been the warmest recorded in Oz since records began. The weather has indeed been idyllic. The other day some of the students here at Campion went to cool off under the lawn irrigation system. Let's hope that the Australian summer, when it comes, will equally idyllic.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

The heart of the matter

The newly published book "A pure heart create for me" contains a paper given in Soho in 2008 by Fr Anthony Doe (of the Westminster Diocese). Although the book contains a variety of papers given to honour the 1968 promulgation of Humanae Vitae, this paper, in my view, goes to the very heart of the matter. Fr Anthony Doe speaks not so much about the issues surrounding the truth of the Church's teaching but focusses instead on humanity's need of Christ; Christ uniquely transforms human life and makes it into what it is called to be. It is a tremendous teaching, coming from the heart of the Church to direct the hearts of all believers to the Corner Stone of human life.
His paper does not hinge upon the truth of Natural Fertility Management but upon transformation in Christ. Baptism, he says, is "not just a casual invitation to be formally religious but a totally all-consuming call to personal holiness." Here is the message of the Church - a message which has been somewhat overlaid by all sorts of 'human projects'. For many today, says Fr Doe, instead of the baptised being focussed upon a "supernatural grounding ... animated by the Holy Spirit", we have seen the "spirit of the Age ... demand the right to interpret the Gospel and the teaching of Jesus."
No wonder it has been so hard for many to grasp the teaching of Humanae Vitae, since the starting point for many has been and is the wisdom of this age, and not the mighty power of the Redeemer. It is only in a relationship with the Redeemer that the whole truth about our lives becomes evident - however challenging that may be to any one of us. Fr Doe in his masterly paper points the baptised to their real and essential focus in life. So true it is, that without the priority of grace, the "radicalism and total generosity that is at the centre of the Lord's call to discipleship will then begin to disintegrate, and the joy that always accompanies the anthentic transmission of the Gospel will no longer be able to heal and animate the hearts of the faithful."
Fr Doe then goes on to present in concrete detail the objective Spiritual life of the Christian. In this wonderful treatise he describes how Christ enables a person to surrender his or her life to God and how, with Christ, he or she can confront the reality of his or her sinfulness. That Christ's desire "is to transform us so completely that our communion with him will be an encounter of reciprocal spousal love and this experience of mutual self-gift will become our total reality."
Now when you put this vision for life into the discussion/argument over the Church's teaching on birth control you have a very different perspective from that of the world: transformation in Christ v changing the Gospel to suit present values and ideas. Christ at the centre or Christ on the margins. Human life, the gift of God or human life, my own project. An integral vision for life v a fractured one.
Thank you Fr Doe for reminding us to base our lives upon a preferential option for Christ.
(The photo above shows the building of a new font in Salisbury Cathedral.)