Monday, 30 May 2011

More thoughts on the New Evangelisation

The relationship between the Church and the world is somewhat misunderstood today. Both have a life and a mission, but the Church's life and mission are for the world. Whereas presently, the world does not value in the Church. This disparity lies at the heart of the New Evangelisation as a challenge.

I say that the Church's life and mission is for the world; the Church calls both us and the world to transformation in Christ. The New Evangelisation then, does not seek to promote the power or the prestige of the Church as an Institution, but seeks to make room in the world, and in the Church, for He who is Life. For the Church, transformation in Christ is the clear project for all humanity to embrace; the world however, does not see this clearly, even though transformation in Christ is its way forward. Thus, the Church today finds herself called to a new evangelisation. That which brings the Church and the world together is transformation in Christ. It is Christ alone who brings about an ecology of relationship between the Church and the world. The proclamation of Christ by the Church causes an effect in both the Church and the world.

Christ and the Church are bound so closely that they cannot be separated. Indeed, the New Evangelisation rounds upon the saying of St John the Baptist: "I must decrease, He must increase." Human issues, whether inside or outside the Church, revolve around one single issue, which is man's relationship with the one person who is necessary to him: God. Here the Church is called to help men and women (both the baptised and the non-baptised) to discover and express their issues in the light of this overriding truth. For human issues - whatever they are - are the hinge upon which the necessity of transformation in Christ can be proclaimed. Any human state of affairs is an opportunity for the Gospel to come to life. The primary way that Catholics do this is in showing by our lives that Christ is the answer. In other words, it is all about Christ and, who today, will be bothered about telling the world about Christ!

The fact is that all issues (unemployment, sexual orientation, climate chaos etc) can all be expressed in the context of our deepest aspiration: to be united with God. Issues, in a sense, condition the way in which the Gospel is proclaimed; that is, if people are involved in a particular activity and lack Christ, how can Christ be proclaimed in that context? It must be seen by Catholics then, that the New Evangelisation contains no element of judging, still less of condeming, but is wholly a mission of pastoring towards and in Christ.

Having said this, it seems to me that there are some fundamental questions for Catholics to reflect upon and embrace, and upon which, in some way, the New Evangelisation itself depends (since, in fact, the New Evangelisation depends upon me):

1. What does it mean to be at the heart of the Church; that place from which my life and my mission spring?

2. What does it mean to hear the Gospel, especially for those who have never heard it or live lives far from Christ?

3.What does transformation in Christ mean?

4.What does it mean to discover one's life within the Church and to participate in the mission of the Church?

5. What does it mean to contribute to the proclamation of the Gospel with my life?

6. What does it mean to learn from Christ?

7. When do I speak about Christ and what He has done, and what He has done for me?

8. How has Christ changed me and how is He calling me to change?

Thursday, 26 May 2011

What is the New Evangelisation?

The New Evangelisation is a movement of grace in the Church which is changing it from being a Church of maintenance to being a Church of mission.
It was Paul VI who first saw the need for a new evangelisation. in his 1975 Apostolic Letter Evangelii Nuntiandi he saw, prophetically, that "a new period of evangelisation" is needed because, he said, the “split between the Gospel and culture is without doubt the great drama of our time" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 2, 20).
John Paul II, recognising the insight of his predecessor's intuition, endeavoured to help the whole Church to see the need for a new evangelisation. He described it as new "in ardour, methods and expression". (Address to the Latin American Bishops, 1983) The New Evangelisation then, looks to new ways of proclaiming and witnessing to the Gospel, because so many people in the world are so affected by the kind of culture in which they live that they cannot hear the Gospel being proclaimed by the older methods of evangelization. Yet he said, "the vital core of the new evangelisation must be a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ." (Ecclesia in America, 66).
For John Paul II our task is not simply one of re-evangelisation, but of a new evangelization; because faith and culture have come apart the Church must discern new ways of sowing the Gospel in culture, as was the case originally in the Apostolic era, and then later in that era which began with the Christianisation of the Roman Empire.
John Paul II spoke of the New Evangelisation as a task of the whole Church; "God is opening before the Church the horizons of a humanity more fully prepared for the sowing of the Gospel. I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church's energies to a new evangelisation and to the mission ad gentes." (JPII, Redemptoris Missio, 3) In this new task, Dioceses, parishes, families, new movements and communities, young people, older people, priests and religious are called to take part.
"The Spirit”, he said, “is the principal agent of the new evangelisation." (JPII, Tertio Millenio Adveniente, 45) This means that God himself, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, is the principal cause of this new movement within the Church, a movement which touches upon the very identity of the Church, for the Church is both communion and mission.
In his 2001 Apostolic Letter Novo Millenio Ineunte, John Paul II expressed the ethos of the New Evangelisation at its beginning. He called Christians to fall in love with Christ again and to put out into the deep, courageously taking the Gospel into the heart of contemporary culture. "We must rekindle in ourselves”, he said, “the impetus of the beginnings and allow ourselves to be filled with the ardour of the apostolic preaching which followed Pentecost." (NMI, 40)
John Paul II spoke many times with great optimism about our era. In his 1990 Encyclical about the mission of the Church, he said, "If we look at today's world, we are struck by many negative factors that can lead to pessimism. But this feeling is unjustified: ... God is preparing a great springtime for Christianity, and we can already see its signs." (Redemptoris Missio, 86)
“The present generation of Christians is called and sent now to accomplish a new evangelization among the peoples of Oceania, a fresh proclamation of the enduring truth evoked by the symbol of the Southern Cross. This call to mission poses great challenges, but it also opens new horizons, full of hope and even a sense of adventure.” (Ecclesia in Oceania, 13)
"Church in Europe, the new evangelisation is the task set before you!" (JPII, Ecclesia in Europa, 45)
John Paul II named Our Lady as the "Star of the New Evangelisation", pointing to her "as the radiant dawn and the sure guide for our steps" (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 58).
In his Jubilee 2000 address to Catechists in Rome, the then Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of evangelisation as teaching "the art of living." The New Evangelisation, he said, starts with the sign of the mustard seed; it does not mean great numbers but rather, "new evangelisation must surrender to the mystery of the grain of mustard seed and not be so pretentious as to believe to immediately produce a large tree. The method of the new evangelization”, he said, “consists in making the voice of the Lord accessible and comprehensible. Jesus had to acquire the disciples from God. The same is always true. We ourselves cannot gather men. We must acquire them by God for God."
Bendict XVI wishing to help the Church to embrace the New Evangelisation has created a new Pontifical Council for promoting the New Evangelisation. In doing this he said that, “without doubt a mending of the Christian fabric of society is urgently needed in all parts of the world. But for this to come about what is needed is to first remake the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community itself present in these countries and nations.” (Ubicumque et Semper) The Holy Father is teaching us that evangelization flows out of the very being of Christians; that if we are truly living the Redemption, then the New Evangelisation will arise organically from within the Church.
The New Evangelisation then, has been set in motion by the Holy Spirit who is guiding the Church to respond to the need of the world today, by bringing the Gospel and culture together, so that people can be transformed by Christ. Today’s era is similar to that of the Early Church; we are living in a newly pagan culture, in which the Church is being called to proclaim and witness to the truth and the power of Christ. New Evangelisation involves the whole content of faith right from the start, witnessing to Christ and the Redemption and inviting others to live the new life of grace in the universal communion of the Church.
As in the Apostolic era, so today, we do not know what the Church will look like in the future; what we can see is what the Church looks like today at the start of this era of the New Evangelisation, and we can offer ourselves humbly to God, that He might find us full of faith-filled hope in the mission of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Every priestly vocation is a mystery

Here is the link to the Cardinal's homliy at the Ordination Mass last Saturday, 21st May 2011, in Sydney.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Five new priests in New Antioch

Yesterday the Archbishop of Sydney ordained five men to the Priesthood in his Cathedral. It was a wonderful ordination Mass; "almost the whole city gathered to hear the Word of the Lord" (Acts 13:44). The Cardinal preached a tremendous sermon (which I will endeavour to post on the Blog), and the enormous congregation burst into a spontaneous applause as the recessional procession made its way from the sanctuary. The five new priests finally emerged into the sunlight shimmering with grace and joy. There is great happiness at present in the Church in Sydney - this is a grace in itself. Another grace, not to be overlooked, is simply the grace of being ordained priest by Cardinal Pell, who exhibits a real charism of fatherhood of priests.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Less than 100 days

World Youth Day certainly does create a kind of excitement and culture which is unparalleled, and with less than 100 days to go the enthusiasm is mounting. MADWYD will be the fourth WYD that I have participated in, and I am looking forward to connecting with Spain again. The Australian contingent for MADWYD is now forming up - from Sydney alone, 1030 young people have registered, together with one Cardinal, two Bishops and thirty five priests. Many pilgrims are coming from other parts of Australia too. If you are still deliberating whether you should go or not, all I can say is that there is still time to register. Registration is open till the end of May. The rest of the world is waiting for you to say "yes"!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The accompanying Letter

On 22nd February this year I posted a piece titled "Important Sources", in which I indicated those elements which are now important for the "reform of the reform" of the Liturgy. Although I mentioned in that post the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, I did not mention the Letter to the Bishops which accompanied it. Here now, a few words on this important ingredient. I will draw you attention to just a few points, but it is obviously important to read the whole Letter.

1. The Holy Father says, "It is not appropriate to speak of these two versions of the Roman Missal as if they were "two Rites". Rather, it is a matter of a twofold use of one and the same rite."

The Motu Proprio has then indeed brought the two Forms of the Roman Rite together, and there is no contradiction between them, but they both express the same action of the Mass.

2. Later he writes, speaking about those who are attached to the older form; "This was especially the case in countries where the liturgical movement had provided many people with a notable liturgical formation and a deep, personal familiarity with the earlier Form of the liturgical celebration."

Now, it is good to note that the "liturgical movement" was something which began in the mid 1800s, and that it is still in progress now. And that this movement is something which was initiated during the "Tridentine" era, and its sole focus, for over 100 years, was the older Form. Also, it is good to note how the Holy Father points to a relationship between liturgical formation and liturgical development. Today's era of poor liturgical formation does not compete well with the liturgical formation of the era our grandparents and their forbears.

3. Later, speaking about the new Form he says that, "in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorising or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear." The Holy Father honestly recognises that during recent decades we have not necessarily had a good celebration of the new Form, and in such circumstances, it is not easy to evaluate the genuine development of the Liturgy.

4. He speaks about how young people today "have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist". Well, young people are not simply bthe Church of the future but are a part of the Church of today, and they especially have discovered (on behalf of the whole Church) that the old Form is an essential reference point for a deeper understanding of the Liturgy.

5. He states that "there have been exaggerations and at times social aspects linked to the attitude of the faithful" who are attached to the old Form. Yes indeed, it is one thing to be attracted to the old Form, it is another when the old Form is, as a ritual, made into the central focus of the Christian life. That place belongs to Christ.

6. In speaking about how the two Forms are now in a position to reform each another, he simply says; "the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching". This is a tremendously important aspect of the present liturgical era. Each Form can see, in the light of the other, its own inherent need for reform and development. It is important to note here that wherever the two Forms are kept apart, the potential for mutual enrichment is diminished. This is the case wherever the two Forms are seen as mutually exclusive, and where there is no intention for dialogue.

7. The Holy Father points to a certain updating of the old Form by the new in saying that "new Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted into the old Missal." In this regard we look to the Ecclesia Dei Commission to take the lead here.

8. I note finally that the Holy Father then speaks about a consequence of the Motu Proprio, which we should look for is the enrichment of the new Form: "The Celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate ... the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage."

This accompanying Letter to Bishops is then, an important instrument for us to refer to in interpreting the call which the Church has made to all of us with regard to the Liturgy.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The enabling grace of "Universae Ecclesiae"

The new Instruction Universae Ecclesiae points to the freedom of the Church in its Liturgy, which is the high point of her life. It opens up the whole Church to a much greater liturgical horizon than has been possible for some time. We have lived, for some decades now, an inadequte liturgical settlement, in which there was on one hand, an entrenched and disapproved of Tridentine usage, and on the other, a poorly initiated and developed New usage, both sides being prejudiced against the other.

The atmosphere which has surrounded this liturgical polarity has been, in my experience, one of personal opinion (like this one), narrow mindedness and an abscence of liturgical formation. In fact, the Church needs to occupy a much greater space than that which the liturgical settlement of the last forty years has permitted. It is a shame that we did not have the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum some years ago.

From the Council there was a clear desire to reform the old Rite (which was then never undertaken), and now there is a clear need to develop the new Rite so that it can be more Catholic. B16 has developed the context for this to take place. An era of inadequate dogmatism is being replaced by an era of freedom for reform. B16 is ushering in an era of openness to what the Liturgy is, rather than what we think it is. It is the way into the Mystery of Christ, who has the power to transform us.

Both sides may see inadequacies and deficiences in the new Instruction, but this document cannot be either totally prescriptive, nor can it legislate against prejudices, which ever side they are on. But it is endeavouring to establish a context in which the whole and undiminished Liturgy (which includes Latin, all the elements of the Tradition, and the developed sense of the Church that the liturgical reform has given us), can be better seen, celebrated and engaged with.

Thank you, Holy Father.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Tradition and progress

The Holy Father gave a very helpful address a few days ago in Rome to the St Anslem Liturgical Insititute concerning the reform of the Liturgy. The text, published on Zenit, caught my eye when I read the Pope saying that the Liturgy needs both tradition and progress. He spoke of how today, these two concepts are often seen as "clumsily opposed", when "in reality, [they] are integrated: tradition is a living reality, which because of this includes in itself the principle of development, of progress." How important it is for us to really appreciate this in an era when the new and the old form of the Mass are contrasted by many as opposites, and when the tradition is regarded by many as little more than a bad memory.

However, the kernel of this address is the way in which the Holy Father describes the the intention of the reform of the Liturgy, and the way in which that reform is wrongly understood by some today. He says that the objective of the conciliar reform "was not primarily to change the rites and gestures, but rather to renew mentalities and to put at the centre of Christian life and ministry the celebration of the paschal mystery of Christ. Unfortunately, perhaps, also for us pastors and experts, the liturgy was taken more as an object to be reformed rather than as a subject capable of renewing Christian life".

These words really speak to my experience of the liturgical changes; that the reform became primarily a matter of mere change for the sake of change, and even change at the level of experimentation, as though the Liturgy was something that we could take and bend to our purposes. And that the desire to renew the lives of the faithful by placing the Paschal Mystery more truely at the centre of their lives, was undertaken in an inadequate fashion. This task seems now, at last, to be underway (at least in some quarters) in the whole project of the 'reform of the reform'.

Moreover, the Holy Father at the beginning of his address describes the basic outlines of the current liturgical settlement - the two main camps or liturgical positions within the Church today. He says that the reform needed to have been accompanied by a profound study of the Liturgy, so that it did not fall "into ritualism or subjectivism". The truth of this statement is seen today in that the old form of the Liturgy is seen as over-ritualised, whereas the new form has the tendency to be too horizontal, a tendency that allows both celebrant and people to make themselves the focus of the Liturgy. Yet the Holy father declares that the focus of the Liturgy is "the active presence of Christ". The true reform is the reform of ourselves and of the entire Church, which takes place when we come to Christ in order to draw life from Him.

We are still very close to the conciliar reform and clearly, it will take time for the true nature of the Liturgy and the purpose of its reform to be better grasped by the whole Church, and for us to learn again that the Liturgy is our greatest way to Christ; that the bond which links the renewal of the Liturgy and the renewal of the Christian life might become more evident. Let us thank God that he has given us such a great leader in Benedict XVI.

Poor grammar

Reading the sermon given by the Archbishop of Westminster on May 7th to celebrate the Carthusian Martyrs, I was sorry to see him use the wrong grammer, which is currently so widespread in the UK. Refering to the recent Royal Wedding he said, "Furthermore, it struck me, sat as I was in the choir stalls with the Chief Rabbi and leaders of other religions as neighbours ... " This should have read, "Furthermore, it struck me, sitting as I was ... "

It is so common to hear, in the UK, people saying, "I was sat watching telly", or "He was stood at the bus stop"; News presenters too incorrectly use the preterite tense. And now, even the Archbishop as fallen into this incorrect grammar. "I was sitting", "he was standing", "I sat", "I was sitting", "he stood at his post"; this is correct English grammar.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Welcome postings

I do hope that you have been pleased to see the last ten postings; they conclude the notes which I made some years ago when I undertook a reflective reading of the first half of Karol Wojtyla's book, "Love and Responsibility". I hope to do the same with the second half one day.

This precis can also be found on the tremendous web resource,, which has become a real hub for the younger part of the Church in New Antioch (which is what I like to call Sydney). Sydney today, like Antioch of old, is a growing center of the Faith. And like Antioch of old, people are coming to live in Sydney precisely because it is a growing centre of the Christian life. And again, just as in Antioch of old, today the Catholics of Sydney live 'cheek by jowl' with the secular/pagan world. Pray that vibrant centres of Faith will emerge and develop in all parts of the world, and that the Communion of believers will be full of confidence and joy.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Love and responsibility 10

Love and Responsibility.
Love has a particular responsibility: Is my love complete and mature enough to justify the love of another person? Will my marriage enlarge my existence or will I lose my own personality, my ‘self’?
Marriage will call me to be responsible for my spouse, and to have feelings of responsibility towards him or her. Ultimately, this "being responsible" for my spouse rests upon my choice of the person on whom to bestow my gift of self. In marriage I will be called to rediscover myself daily in another person, and for this reason I cannot choose a spouse by sexual values alone. Sexual values do not determine the authenticity of choice. The value of the person must be the decisive one.
The truth about choice is tested when emotional reactions grow weaker and sexual values lose their effect, and only the value of the person remains. It is only when love is put to the test that its true value can be seen. My love for this particular person is real love because I have given myself this person with my whole life, and because the other person has made the same gift of themselves to me.

Love and responsibility 9

Married love.
Married love is very different from all the other forms of love, such as friendship and the relationships of family or work. In these relationships, love exists inside the person. Actions of goodwill and service to others deepen my relationships. But in marriage love exists between two people. Love which is given and received in marriage creates something new – the union of two persons – a new way of living.
The question arises: how can I make my inalienable and non-transferable ‘I’ someone else’s property? This can’t be done in a physical way but it is done in a spiritual way. Self-surrender as a form of love is the result of a process. Marriage is the culmination of a process of love which is blessed by God and in which spouses are called to live love in a decisive way. In the Gospel Christ speaks about love in these terms: "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matt 10: 39)
In marriage spouses cannot live love according to feelings or values, or what they might think about such and such a situation. No, spouses are called to affirm each other as persons. They must decide to love. Love is a virtue which is produced by the will. It is the authentic commitment of my will towards my spouse. Married love is expressed in the orientation of all my actions and attitudes towards my spouse.
This is done first of all by choosing this person to be the companion of my whole life such that my life’s vocation will now have a particular direction. And then, in betrothed love, I no longer wish to be my own exclusive property.
Love, which has friendship at its heart, proceeds by way of renunciation, guided by the conviction that love doesn’t diminish or impoverish me, but enriches and enlarges me. I am aware of the magnitude of the gift which I have received – the self-gift of another person to me. In love I go out of myself to find a fuller existence with that person. Betrothed love commits my will in a particularly profound way. The consequence of this commitment is communion of life.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Love and responsibility 8

How can I test my love?
How can I test my love before I marry? I can only do this by asking myself what the content of my love is. And, most importantly by listening to discern if the other person intuits the same thing as I – that a life of mutual self-giving is possible for us.
Love cannot be tested in a genital way; experimental sex is an obstacle to love because a couple need to get to know one another as persons. Sexual experimentation prevents this kind of knowing to develop between them and instead, sexual knowledge will override their need to know one another as persons.
The content of my love rests not upon my feelings or emotions but upon my struggle first to know myself and secondly to know the other person. The fact is that every person has the capacity for love, but this capacity is not ready made; it must be nurtured and protected. So, I should look at myself at the level of the virtues: how do I relate with the other, how do I influence him or her, how am I influenced by him or her, how have I changed, how have my other relationships changed, how integrated is my life, my work, all my other relationships, how do I listen to the advice of other people, how do I now respond to my family and friends. I need to look at my stability of character, my stability of interests, my confidence in decision-making, the way I pray, the way I approach God in the sacraments, the way I embrace the life of grace. And if the relationship is creating a true process of growing in maturity, then I can begin to know whether or not I can give myself, my whole self, to this other person in marriage.
For marriage to be a real possibility this same process has to occur in the other person as well. We both need to intuit the same thing, individually, within our selves; that we can make of ourselves a mutual self-gift. For this to happen I have to be able to listen to and to hear the other. I also need to be able to hear God speaking to me; prayer and God’s grace – His closeness to us - will help us both to test our love.

Love and responsibility 7

Love as goodwill.
Loving a person for my benefit is incomplete love; I am called to seek the other person’s good. Love as goodwill is free from self-interest. There is a tendency in the experience of love to move from longing for the other person to seeking his or her good. This must be the case within marriage where sexual desire can be so conspicuous and make life both rich and difficult. Goodwill must always keep company with desire if love is to be true.
How does goodwill mature? It matures hrough trust. If I am always looking for the other person to respond to me, then I am too concerned about myself and this will paralyse the relationship. In fact, such self-interest can easily turn into jealousy or fear of unfaithfulness. This will overwhelm the relationship. If both parties only bring desire to the relationship then trust will not develop.
It is trust which allows love to become durable and reliable and to be a source of peace and joy. Every moment together is an opportunity to test our faith in each other and to reinforce it with virtue – this is what "dating" is really about. Honesty and patience are necessary ingredients here. A relationship then, becomes a school of life; I should ask myself, can I develop myself to the point that I can give my whole "self" to this person?

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Love and responsibility 6

Love as desire.
Desire is not the same as lust. Lust is using sex to satisfy desire. Desire is a natural, God-given experience. It springs from the fact that human beings are incomplete beings – we need other people. Sexuality is a limitation of our personality, an imbalance of our being. This however is a positive thing because it means that each one of us finds his or her completion or fulfillment outside ourselves – each one of us is made for someone. Acknowledging this limitation is the key to understanding the most important dimension of human life - our relationship with God. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." This Beatitude is the basis of our Spiritual lives.
Love as desire is the experience of longing for a person; the desire that love should be perfected in me. This longing must be protected from lust because desire has a great role to play in a relationship. Desire should set in motion the true project of a relationship, where dating is received as a God-given task. This means that I am called to allow my sexual feelings to be harnessed by love. Remember, I am much more than my feelings, I am a person, and desire is actually a call placed upon me, the call to mature, to integrate all the elements of my personality and so to be able to use my freedom: to make a gift of myself to another. If I do marry, this same project will continue in a new way in married life.

Love and responsibility 5

Love as attraction.
Let’s look again at what love is. The first element of love is attraction. People attract and the basis of attraction is an impression which a person makes on my senses. Attraction is my response to values which I intuit in this person. So, in a particular person I find for instance, understanding, enthusiasm, style, intelligence – values which I find attractive. Because of this I want to know the person more than I would otherwise. Emotion is also involved, heightening my awareness of and receptivity to this person.
Attraction however can be blind. I can transfer values to the other person which are not really present in him or her. This happens when my emotional reaction becomes too strong. This reaction is dangerous to love because emotions do not last and love requires a far more solid basis. In fact, it is not a question of me discerning if my feelings towards another person are true emotions - they are! What I need to discover is whether the other person really possesses those values which I find attractive. The genuineness of my feelings cannot be the only test of love, I also need to discern the truth of the other person. Only by integrating the force of attraction and knowledge of the other can I allow love to grow.
Indeed, I should be able discern the quality of my attraction to the other. To test this I must ask myself, what of this person has entered into my heart? His or her physicality, personality, hopes for life, circumstances? Is it the whole person who has entered into my heart or just a part of the person? In asking myself this I will discover just how well I really know the other. Be attracted, but don’t let attraction become a stumbling block. Attraction is only the beginning – love is greater yet.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Love and responsibility 4

The sexual urge.
The sexual urge is the powerful force which brings two people of the opposite sex together. Not only does the sexual urge lead to the physical contact of two people, but it also creates a disposition of mind and heart in those people. It is the setting within which the possibility of love arises. The sexual urge does not produce complete, finished and totally mature human actions. What are human actions always dependent on? They are dependent on the will; being able to make personal and freed decisions. Love develops not by feelings but by decision-making. Not just choice but commitment.
What is the difference between choice and commitment? Choice is based on preference. Commitment is based on my discernment of truth and the struggle for personal maturity - the ability to make a decision with my whole person. Paradoxically, our culture thinks of the sexual urge as only a biological function, yet its biological function is procreation – which our culture distains. In fact, the sexual urge sets the scene for the whole culture of love to develop and the real possibility that I am called to marriage.

Love and responsibility 3

Love as emotion.
Our emotions affect us from within. What emotions do is to make our experiences in life more vivid. Emotion goes so far as to heighten our knowledge of ourselves. It is important to realise this. Our emotions affect the way we know.
So, when another person becomes the source of delight to me, I must take more care to make the relationship interpersonal. I must become more responsive to the other person. The first thing I must endeavour to do in a relationship is get to know the other person and be known genuinely by him or her. Emotions should lead me to become more responsible in the relationship. Part of this means being honest about who I am.
Only love, and not emotion, can raise sexual feelings to the level of an interpersonal relationship. Following my emotions will lead me instead, to use the other person for my satisfaction and this will actually prevent love from growing. It is important to realise that our culture today has a wrong understanding of emotion: emotion is not the "leading actor" of human love, but only a part of love, a much more important role belongs to my understanding and my free will.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Love and responsibility 2

Love as a challenge
When a relationship begins between two people the way forward is not necessarily clear. The goal of the relationship – testing whether one is called to marriage with this particular person – is caught up at the outset with one’s own personal feelings, desires and ideas. A relationship can easily become an end in itself, fulfilling some feelings and desires but blurring the need for decision. If this happens to me then I am tending to make my partner become a means to an end; my relationship makes me feel good. But a relationship is more than a means to an end. To discover this depends upon what I think love is.
Today it is necessary to ask upon what basis love is measured. Is it measured according to my own personal criteria, my ideas, my hopes, my plans? Is it measured according to what society allows, what I see others doing, what I am allowed by law? Is it measured according to principles of truth and goodness which still lie at the heart of human society? Is it measured according to the Gospel and God’s will? Do I measure love according to some other rule? However I look at love, my approach to such questions as these will give me something upon which to test the truth of my relationship.
What is the truth of a relationship? The truth of a relationship, which I am called to discover, is founded on being able to see the good of the other person – how can I be of benefit to the other? If I can see this then a bond can grow between me and the other person which unites us internally and upon which love can grow. Ultimately, the truth of a relationship lies in whether it is moving towards marriage or not. A relationship which is not leading towards marriage remains at the level of friendship.
In fact, the experience of love demands much more than the fulfillment of feelings and desires, it demands that I must be in charge of my freedom. In practice this means that I must be able to steer a relationship towards its goal - marriage - and not just be steered by it. A state of indecision in me means that love cannot grow and that the relationship is floundering. If this happens I need to make a radical decision about the relationship.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Love and responsibility

Some years ago I read the book "Love and responsibility" by Karol Wojtyla, written shortly before he was elected to the Papacy. The book is an in depth treatise on the experience of human love and relationships; it is an extraordinary work. The book is written in a very philosophical style, so in order to be able to convey its content to other people, who may never get to read the original, I made some simplified notes on the first half of the book. By way of tribute to JPII I will post these notes in ten short sections. This first segment compares love with desire.

When we look at humanity we see that it is neither complete nor finished-off; it is lacking something. We encounter ourselves as people who are looking, listening, enquiring, searching for fulfillment. Each one of us experiences this in our freedom of will; our desire for fulfillment. Everyone has his or her own freedom of will and so, at its root, the experience of desire is an intensely personal one. Desire is the experience of need. Is love the same as desire? No, love is much greater than desire. Desires come naturally to human beings, whereas we have the capacity for love, but love must be nurtured.
The capacity for love depends on a person’s willingness to seek something in common with others – he or she must subordinate him or herself to that thing for the sake of others. For instance, to make the roads safer places, drivers are called to respect a common code of driving. In doing so a driver subordinates his own way of driving to the needs of other road users. Now love is a deeply human capacity in which my freedom is placed at the disposition of others. Love is not something ready made – it has to be chosen. Love, at its root, is a decision.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Going under

Recently I came across, in the religious interest magazine "The Tablet" (12th February 2011) an article about the priesthood in Australia by Chris McGillon, titled "Going under". He begins his article saying that some "fear that the priesthood in Australia is threatened with extinction", and he ends the article speaking of lingering "impressions of disenchantment ... which should provide food for thought for clergy and laity alike." This life-sapping article is based on a questionnaire, which he and a colleague sent to Catholic priests throughout Australia in 2008-09. The result of this questionnaire was their book "Our Fathers".

The article doesn't indicate what kind of questions were in the questionnaire, but suggests rather that Chris McGillon's way of looking at the Catholic priesthood is the one which the majority of priests who responded to the questinnaire favoured. And, not surprisingly, Chris McGillon is someone who thinks that Contraception is an issue that still needs to be resolved!

My experience of the priesthood in Australia is somewhat different. When I arrived in Oz almost three years ago I was extended an enormous welcome; I felt like a newly ordained priest who was being embraced close to the Church's heart. Now this was obviously a subjective experience, so let me speak a little more objectively about what I have seen (in Sydney).

There is a very strong and warm sense of fellowship among Diocesan priests. This is evident in the sacristy, in concelebrations and in glergy gatherings. Australian Bishops mingle freely and easily among the priests. The parishes are brimming with Mass-goers every day, yes, every day, not just Sunday. There are priests from many different Asian countries who are clearly welcomed and embraced (as I was) by brother priests and parishioners alike. People in the streets and in shops greet priests warmly with "Hello, Father". I have collaborated on two ocassions with other priests in parish missions in Sydney; in both of these the sense of the priesthood was manifestly Eucharist-centered, missionary, fraternally supportive. I have collaborated on many occasions with other priests in formation events in Sydney and experienced with them the great joy that priests are given when the Church is being built up.

I join other priests each month for the "Theology on Tap" sessions, where hundreds of young people delight in our presence in their midst. Working in the seminary in Sydney I have the immense joy of encountering every day young men who are alive in their vocations to the priesthood, and who are responding with the Theological virtues to the challenges which they meet; seminarians who are aspiring to offer their whole humanity to be formed by grace so that they can become God's intruments. And I know that since 2007, thirty five men have been ordained to the priesthood from the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Sydney.

These are just some of my experiences, experiences which do not point to Chris McGillon's bleak view that the priesthood in Australia is going under. In any case, the Holy Spirit continues to be very active in His great Southern Land, in spite of surveys which have their own independent agendas.