Thursday, 29 September 2011

Growing light

While back in the UK in July I came across an article in the UK "Standpoint" magazine by George Weigel. The article, titled, "Benedict XVI and the future of the West" is the text of a lecture given by George Weigel at St Patrick's, Soho, this June. This magnificent article is a presentation of the "evangelical Catholicism" which both JPII and B16 have nurtured in the Church. Weigel is certainly someone who sees what is going on and is able to communicate that vision to others. Reading this article you will see the big picture of the new evangelisation as it is unfolding today. I agree with Weigel who, writing in another place, understands the polarity within the Church today not as traditionalist and liberal, but that on the one hand there are evangelical Catholics, and on the other insitutional Catholics.

And who are "evangelical Catholics"? They are "the men and women ... persons, families, communities, who decide to work in the vineyard of the Lord (Matt 21:33-43). Humble and generous workers, who do not ask any other recompense than participating in the mission of Jesus and the Church." B16, 18th September 2011.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Walsingham and Fr Rear's new book.

During July, while I was back in the UK I read Fr Michael Rear's new history of Our Lady's Shrine at Walsingham, England, Walsingham: Pilgrims and Pilgrimage. Without doubt, this is the finest and fullest history of the Shrine that I know; Fr Rear has done a great service to Our Lady and to the Church. His research into the original house of Our Lady in Nazareth, the early documentation about the foundation of England's Nazareth (which certainly does point to the year 1061), the Shrine at its medieval greatness and its destruction, together with a presentation of the people and events (Catholic and Anglican) that surround the re-founding of the Shrine at the beginning of the twentieth century, give us a greater sense of the significance of this shrine. I hope that Our Lady's shrine at Walsingham will become, more and more, a real centre of the Faith in England; that many will be converted, awoken and renewed through the grace of Walsingham, and that the mission of the Church in England might be seen anew because of Our Lady's presence there. We are seeing this already, especially during August, when the great Festivals of Faith take place on the fields opposite the Slipper Chapel; "New Dawn", "Youth 2000" and other huge groups come there because She is there.

Finding gold

While participating in the IPF Course at Creighton University in Omaha in June, I ventured into the university library. On my first visit I proceeded to the Sacred Scripture section and my eyes lighted upon a set of volumes claiming to present the comments of the Fathers of the Church across the whole corpus of Sacred Scripture. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Some of the vloumes had been published in 2000; how had I not known before about this extraordinary set of volumes!

Yes indeed, a group of scholars, Catholic and non-Catholic, have combed through the entire corpus of writings of the Fathers and aligned each reference to Book, Chapter and Verse of the Bible. This is Lectio Divina at its best; a work which allows us to read the Scriptures without this intervention of "Historical Criticism", and to see how the Scriptures have been interpreted directly in the light of Christ.

On returning to Sydney, I find that the Seminary has its own copy of the complete set of volumes in its own library, just ten yards from my office!

The "Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture" is published by Intervarsity Press in twenty six volumes, and is also available for purchase on CD-rom.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The first shall be last.

Britain has wanted to be first, first in 'freeing up' Contraception (at the Anglican Synod of Lambeth in 1930), first in legalising Abortion (1968), first in embryo research, and now desiring full legal recognition of same-sex unions. It is impossible to promote human life and to build society with these laws.

In singular contrast, the Hungarian Parliament, adopted a new Consitution in April this year, a Constitution will come into being at the start of next year, 2012. The Magyar State, a somewhat remote enclave within the greater Europe, is acknowledging its Christian foundation and heritage, that society is founded upon marriage between a man and a woman, and that the foetus should be protected from the moment of conception!

This is an extraordinary development in the world. You can read the whole text of the Constitution here. It makes you want to be Hungarian! I think that we should find out more about what the Hungarians are doing.

Saturday, 17 September 2011


I'm still catching up on things; flying round the world sets one back a little. You will already have read enough about World Youth Day but I'll post here briefly on it.

I accompanied the Sydney 02 group. Sydney 02 group was made up of about 90 young Sydneysiders, travelling first to Barcelona for the Days in the Diocese. About three and a half thousand young Australians came to WYD, one third of these were Sydneysiders! Our group was very warmly welcomed by the Parish of St Mary Magdalene in Barcelona, who also provided guides to accompany us in the city, including the elderly parish priest, Fr Joachim, who was absolutely thrilled that his parish facilities had been taken over by ninety young Aussies.

From all that we saw in Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia church stands out in our memory. The superb architecture of Gaudi, and that of some of his successors, is a true contemplation of the Mystery of Faith. The columns rising above the ssnctuary and giving way to a light from above. Outside, on the Portico of the Passion, the extraordinary sculpture of Christ tied to the scourging pillar, caught our attention.

After Barcelona we travelled to Maresa and the cave of St Ignatius of Loyola, then onto Montserrat, before heading for Zaragoza where we spent the night.

On our first full day in Madrid all the Australians came together for a two-hour welcome event. The centre piece of this event was a tremendous proclamation of the Gospel by Bishop Chris Prowse.

One of the finest articles which I have read on Madwyd is by Michael Cook of "7 reasosn for good cheer after Madrid". I attach the link here.

Finally, we came across this excellent still-life performer near the Plaza Mayor:

The Offerory Antiphon

Twenty fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Si abulavero in medio tribulationes, vivificabis me, Domine: et super iram inimicorum meorum extendes manum tuam, et salvum me fecit dextera tua.
This is taken from Psalm 137, 7. My translation: If I walk is the path of tribulation, You will give me life, O Lord: and you will extend your hand against the hatred of my foes, Your hand will save me.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The awakening of a tremendous ministry

The Course which I undertook at the hands of the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha was called "A seminar for seminary Spiritual Directors".

The ministry/charism/gift of Spiritual Direction is something that I have been a part of since before I went to seminary; first in receiving spiritual direction, then later in giving it as well as continuing to receive it as a priest. Yet, I was never introduced to a vision of Spiritual Direction, nor led to better undertand it. I really do take my hat off to the IPF for having created the opportunity for the sharing of skills and insights, inspiring a greater appreciation of the nature of Spiritual Direction, especially in the context of priestly formation.

The Course was given by three priests: Fr George Aschenbrenner SJ, one of the founders of the IPF who, for many years now, has lent his considerable experience and skill to supporting the Diocesan priesthood. Fr Joseph Kelly of the New York Archdiocese, an experience seminary SD who originally fashioned this Seminar, and Fr Vincent Fortunato OFM, a seasoned director with a particular gift for teaching. We course participants are indebted to these three priests who 'took the lid off' the world of Spiritual Direction and guided us towards a much greater vision of this ministry.

I had expected that most of the priests undertaking the Seminar would have been mature, experienced priests, and yes they were there; but there were also many young priests, already sensing the importance of refining their skill and aptitude for this work. Every priest is a Spiritual Director by virtue of Ordination, but this ministry is so important that it should have special training and formation. And how wonderful that priests can develop their skills as directors in the early years of their priesthood. I wish that I had undertaken this Course some fifteen years ago!

The Seminar was given alongside afternoon sessions dedicated to presenting us with the whole vision of Diocesan priestly spirituality which the IPF has developed and which they form the seminarians in. The afternoon sessions were given by Fr Nicholas Rouch and Mgr Rob Panke, both gifted teachers and experienced priests who expertly led us to link Spiritual Direction with a concrete vision of priestly spirituality.

We were awoken to the tremendous nature of Spiritual Direction during this three week Seminar at Creighton University, Omaha, and I am indebted to the Sydney Archdiocese for giving me the opportunity to be a participant. I whole heartly recommend this Seminar to other priests, whether you work in the Internal or External Forum, or in a parish. The Seminar is first and formost a priestly experience.

The photo above shows the clouds gathering as a storm formed over Omaha and we were all called down to the basement; but no tournados developed. The photo below was taken some 30 mins drive outside Omaha; the bison of the great plains, still around, magnificent, if somewhat primordial in appearance.

Friday, 9 September 2011

A priestly movement in Nebraska

In June I flew out of Sydney and across the Pacific to take part in a course at Omaha, Nebraska. Here at Creighton University the Institute of Priestly Formation runs its summer sessions, comprised of a whole raft of courses and retreats for Diocesan priests and seminarians, with a special focus for the priest agents of priestly formation. This year was the seventeenth year that they have run their programs.
Briefly, the Institute for Priestly Formation was founded to assist bishops in making spiritual formation the heart of Diocesan priestly formation. Before arriving in Australia, just over three years ago, I had never heard of the IPF, but on reading some of their publications I was immediately struck by the endeavour which the IPF has made to form and renew the Diocesan Priesthood. And, speaking as a member of the SJMV (who have a similar endeavour), I was immediately enthusiastic about going to Omaha when I was offered the opportunity by the Good Shepherd Seminary here in Sydney.

I arrived in Omaha to find almost two hundred seminarians and about fifty priests taking part in summer courses. I was joining sixteen other priests participating in the "Seminar for Seminary Spiritual Directors". The concern for, and the joy of embracing the Diocesan Priesthood was palpable on the campus of Creighton University, which was almost totally given over to hosting the IPF courses. In Omaha city centre we encountered the magnificent bronze scuptures depicting the first pioneer wagon trains to cross the great plains (photo above), and the hugely swollen Missouri River (photo below), during its worst flood in 150 years. I'll post again, commenting on the course which I took.

The twenty fourth Sunday

This Sunday's Offertory Antiphon (from the Graduale Romanum, 1979) is:

Sanctificavit Moyses altare Domino, offerens super illud holocausta, et immolans victimas: fecit sacrificium verspertinum in odorem suavitatis Domino Deo, in conspectu filiorum Israel.
This is taken from Exodus 24: 4-5. My translation reads: Moses made holy the altar to the Lord, offering on it a holocaust, and immolating victims: he made an evening sacrifice of sweet perfume to the Lord God, before the sons of Israel.

Friday, 2 September 2011

The Offertory Antiphon

The Offertory Antiphon for this coming Sunday, 23rd of the Year is:

Oravi Deum meum ego Daniel, dicens: Exaudi, Dominem preces servi tui: illumina faciem tuam super sanctuarium tuum: et propitius intende populum istum, super quem invocatum est nomen tuum, Deus. (Taken from The Roman Gradual.)
A translation from NAB: "I prayed to the Lord, my God, and confessed, I Daniel: hear the prayer and petition of your servant; let your face shine upon your sanctuary: be attentive and act without delay, my God, because your name is imvoked upon your city and upon your people."