Sunday 31 May 2009

Catholic Underground comes to Sydney

The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal are sending a company of Friars to Sydney in order to be a part of the New Evangelisation Congress this July. You can see them:

Saturday 18th July, 7.30pm Catholic Underground at St Mary's Cathedral

Sunday 19th July, 6.00pm Mass for Young People at St Mary's Cathedral

Wednesday 22nd July, 3.30pm Workshop at the Cathedral school.

Wednesday 22nd July, 5.00pm Holy Hour in the Cathedral Crypt.

Thursday 23rd July, 3.30pm Workshop at St Mary's school.

Friday 24th July, 3.30pm Workshop at St Mary's school.

They will also be holding another major event in Sydney which will be announced at the Congress.

Friday 29 May 2009

At Pentecost, the Church was not established by human will but by the power of God's Spirit.

"The Church which is born at Pentecost is not primarily a particular Community - the Church of Jerusalem - but the universal Church, which speaks the languages of all peoples. From her other communities were to be born in every part of the world, particular Churches which are all and always actualizations of the one and only Church of Christ. The Catholic Church is therefore not a federation of Churches but a single reality: the universal Church has ontological priority. A community which was not catholic in this sense would not even be a Church." Benedict XVI

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Gloria Estefan singing before JPII in 1997

Here is the video of this occasion when she sang the song "Mas alla del rincor". Gloria Estefan is the most Catholic and Pro-life singer that I know of. Her album "Abriendo puertas", for which this song was recorded, is a tremendous celebration of the family. Although all her songs are recorded in Spanish, only some are recorded in English.

Familiaris Consortio revisited 6

Children are the crowning gift of marriage. They reveal that love is a gift. Love is not simply a subjective experience, but something that we are called to receive. Children are the sign of this love. Indeed, when spouses become parents, they are called to represent God's love to their children.
So true is this that spouses who cannot have children are still called to express God's love to others.
The Christian family has a profound relationship with the Church: the Church is formed by the family and the family is formed by the Church. The person enters the Church through the family, and the Church enters into humanity through the family.
Virginity or celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom does not contradict the dignity of marriage, rather marriage and celibacy are a mutual enrichment of the other.
Virginity or celibacy is a waiting for the great Union which will take place at the end of time - the Union of Christ with His Church. A celibate person anticpates in the body, the future union with Christ. Celibacy also witnesses to the greatness of marriage, defending its value from being diminished.
Celibacy enables a liberation of the human heart so that it can have a greater love for God and humanity, it bears witness to God's Kingdom by showing a preference for it before all others. It is in this sense that celibacy is a greater charism than marriage.
Celibacy nurtures a spiritual fruitfulness which can, in its turn, promote the growth of the family according to God's plan.
The faithfulness of celibate persons and married persons should be mutually enriching.
Reflections such as these can also help people who have been unable to marry but who can live a single life in a spirit of service. (Paragraphs 14, 15 and 16)

Saturday 23 May 2009

Intellectual vanity, but the way forward is even clearer

The Archbishop of Denver throws light upon the Notre Dame phenomenon, stating "There was no excuse - none, except intellectual vanity - for the university to persist in its course, and Father Jenkins compounded a bad original decision with evasive and disingenuous explanations to subsequently justify it."

"The most vital thing faithful Catholics can do now is to insist - by their words, actions and financial support - that institutions claiming to be 'Catholic' actually live the faith with courage and consistency. If that happens, Notre Dame’s failure may yet do some unintended good."
There is a very fine article on the Mercatornet website in which Dr Kozinski likens Obama's Notre Dame address to the "Speech of Saruman" in Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings". I think that Dr Kozinski here puts his finger on the 'new' and beguiling spin that contemporary statesmen like Obama and Blair are trying to build a new Church/State relationship upon. Follow this link:

Thursday 21 May 2009

A different journey

I have just read this book by the Irish Passionist Priest, Fr Brian D'Arcy. It is a sort of biography in which he narrates his experiences as a boy, novice and later priest. He was ordained priest in 1969. He speaks frankly about his own experiences of sexual and psychological abuse within the clergy. He writes beautifully and openly. It is a book which narrates both terrible sadness and great joy. Sadness, because he leads the reader into the shocking culture of oppression and abuse amongst clergy, and joy, because he has come through this dark era and yet is able to express a deep humanity, albeit a wounded one.
It is a book which prompts the question about the origin of the culture of abuse; how did the notion arise in the Irish Church that humanity is unworthy and must be thwarted and repressed?
Towards the end of the book I became very struck that whilst Fr D'arcy is calling for a reform within the Irish Church, he speaks about this in terms of the contemporary liberal agenda which we are so used to hearing - that there should be General Absolution not meaningless confessions. Celibacy should not be mandatory. Women should be admitted to the Priesthood. The 'new' sexual morality should be embraced, etc, etc - yet in no sense does he seem to be aware of the call to a New Evangelisation!
I applaud his analysis of the Irish Church - that any clerical or institutional model which no longer expresses the Gospel should be dismantled - but it is precisely a New Evangelisation which can renew the Church from the grass roots upwards, and enable the development of a new kind of culture within the Church, one which does respond to people's needs today. This awareness is absent from the book. Why?
I can't answer that important question; perhaps things got so dark in Ireland that many could not sense the call of the New Evangelisation. But something that I have learned about the history of Irish Church during the past five decades or more, seems to suggest that this 'strong' outpost of Catholic Europe has remained somewhat remote from the great evangelical Movement which has been growing elsewhere.
The New Evangelisation is the answer to the needs of the Church in Ireland today; indeed, I know that it is already taking root there and a new springtime of the Christian life will blossom there.
If you have the opportunity to read this book, I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Like the Caesars of old

President Obama's presence and discourse at Notre Dame University brings to mind the way in which the Caesars of ancient Rome pleased their people with spectacle and heady public intervention, making little of matters of great import, so that they were able to prosecute, behind the scenes as it were, their real and intended policies.

However, much more important is the question of the Church. This is a point which George Weigel has drawn attention to. Why are members of the Church surrounding this leader with their applause; what do they take they membership of the Church to mean? The Pastors of the Church in America are the hinge of the Church's communion - that bond of unity which has been created by God and which is the essential relationship within the Church. The reception of Obama into Notre Dame, into a community of the Church, is like an event which is taking place at the heart of the Church. But it is not. The applause which you see on this video is a sign of unreality. Those who here applaud, are called to surround Christ their Lord and to demonstrate this through witnessing to the reality of communion - which is the Catholic Church. What we see in this video is a total abberation in the life of the Church. President Obama, given his public policies, is not being received with open arms by the Catholic Church. What then are these people in Notre Dame doing? Why are they applauding? What group or church do they represent? Why are they not with their Pastors?

Mass in the old city of Rome

Fr Tim posted on this video recently - the old Mass celebrated by an Australian priest in the Pantheon in Rome last week. I have to say that this video is stunning. The Pantheon is my favourite ancient monument in Rome - a place which draws me with fascination every time I visit.

The mighty Hawksbury

A few weeks ago I went out with a friend in a small boat near the mouth of the Hawksbury, just to the north of Sydney. I didn't take a camera becuase the weather was quite formidable that day and we found ourselves from time to time in a 2 - 3 metre swell. Quite magnificent.
Last Saturday I was back out on the river a bit further up stream. The weather was idylic and I had my camera with me this time. It is a truly magnificent river.

I have never seen boats trawling on a river before!

Friday 15 May 2009

Familiaris Consortio revisited 5

It is Christ who reveals the truth about marriage - by taking man away from his 'hardness of heart' and opening him to marriage's original meaning. Then, through his death on the cross he reveals the plan of God from before time - that God has wished to unite humanity to Himself. So, married love, between two baptised people becomes an expression of this Mystery, and by which spouses are called to incarnate Christ's love in the world.
Tertullian, one of the ancient Fathers of the Church famously spoke of marriage in these words: "How can I ever express the happiness of the marriage that is joined together by the Church strengthened by an offering, sealed by a blessing, announced by angels and ratified by the Father? ...How wonderful the bond between two believers with a single hope, a single desire, a single observance, a single service! They are both brethren and both fellow-servants; there is no separation between them in spirit or flesh; in fact they are truly two in one flesh and where the flesh is one, one is the spirit."
The Catholic Church teaches that marriage between the baptised is a Sacrament. So, when two baptised people marry they are inserted into the Redeeming action of Christ's love for the Church, and are sustained and enriched by His saving power. Christ's love for the Church is unbreakable - so too is its sacrament. Spouses then, become witnesses to the Church and to their children of the saving Mystery of Christ's death and Resurrection.
Through the sacrament of marriage spouses are able to witness to the way in which God has revealed His love. Furthermore, they are able to make that love present through the manner in which they relate to each other and to their children. And, they are able to point to the full revelation of Christ's love at the end of time.
Not only does Christian marriage express the reality of Christ's love for the Church but, first it is a real communion of two persons. The spouses participate in Christ's love in real ways - through their bodies, instincts, feelings, affections, aspirations and will they bring about a unity of persons - a unity of heart and soul. In other words, all the characteristics of married love: indissolubility, fidelity, exclusivity and openness to life are given a new meaning by Christ. (FC, 13)

Thursday 14 May 2009

A day of grace

Last Saturday I was Chaplain for a Day of Recollection for mothers. The Day was organised by the Sydney Archdiocese Marriage and Family Life Office and took place outside Sydney at the Schoenstadt Shrine and Centre. The location is stunning, set on high ground overlooking the rest of that part of the State. The Day was so popular that after 60 confirmations the Office closed the bookings and had to turn 15 mothers away. This Day was another example of how the Church in Sydney is responding to the call that many are experiencing at this time - to build their lives upon grace.

Tuesday 12 May 2009

My translation of the prayer being prayed in Mexico at this time.

Our Lady of Guadalupe,
you who loves us with great tenderness,
and watches over us with motherly care;
we turn to you for protection and help,
and ask you to overcome the epidemic
which is upon our nation.
Cover us with your mantel,
free us from this evil.
Pray for all those in authority
that they might be given the wisdom to act in favour
of all our people, especially the most vulnerable.
Grant to us the prudence and serenity in order to be
responsible in the face of this disease.
Be with all medical personnel,
watch over those who are sick,
be the consolation of those who suffer most.
Mother of the true God,
you who have rescued us from many dangers,
commend us to the mercy of Him in whose wounds we have been healed,
and whose Resurrection has freed us from death.
Teach us to unite our pain to His that we might encounter him, our Redeemer,
and through this adversity, be strengthened in faith, hope and love.

Photographic update

Here's a pic of me addressing the throng at Theology on Tap last week in Parramatta just before "The Priests" stole my spot!

There is nothing after Jesus Christ except a void.

Last week Archbishop Chaput delivered an address to the American Bible Society in New York about understanding our own times and being possessed by the God of Truth. He said that we need to recognise the impact which the mass media has on thought and action through vanity and compromise on the part of Catholics.

The tools we rely on to inform us are the same tools we use to delude ourselves about the real world: the news and entertainment media, which now so often overlap, are the largest catechetical syndicate in history, helping create a culture based on immediacy, brevity, visual stimulation, celebrity and self-absorption.
As a remedy, give up computers, televisions, cell phones, and iPods for 'just one night' a week. One night a week spend reading, talking with each other, listening to each other and praying over Scripture. And if we do, we'll discover that eventually we're sober again and not be drunk on technology and our own overheated appetites.
What's new about our current moment is that too many Christians have made peace with sinfulness, baptized it with the language of personal conscience, and stopped trying to convert anybody -- including themselves.

While a 'post-Christian' society may seem similar to the world St. Paul confronted, it is in fact much worse because the old pagan world was ignorant of Christ, but today's paganism involves a specific choice against Jesus Christ.
There is no such a thing as a 'post-Christian' society. The redemptive mission of Jesus Christ is unique, unrepeatable and forever. Christ is the center and meaning of history. There is nothing after Jesus Christ except a void.

When Jesus commissioned the apostles to make disciples of all nations and baptize them, he was talking to you and me.

The lesson of St. Paul, now and for every generation, is that we need to engage the world with intelligence, a creative spirit and, most importantly, charity, which 'bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.' Real charity depends on truth, not 'shallow courtesies' and 'false compromises.' St Paul reminds us that charity 'does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth' (I Cor 13:6). In fact, no greater gift of love exists than sharing the truth with others. Only God's truth sets us free.

Jesus himself did not claim to 'preach' the truth but to be the truth. That's why a Christianity based only on technique or useful ideas or a system of good social principles will always fail. Christianity can only be anchored in a love for Jesus Christ.
What a great Bishop and Pastor the Church has in Denver!

Sunday 10 May 2009

Christian marriage in secular culture

Today, marriage is partially hidden by a variety of newly accepted forms of sexual bonding between individuals: casual sex, men and women living together, serial relationships and homosexual and lesbian unions. The Catholic Church teaches that only marriage is able to respond to the demands of a life shared between a man and a woman because it accords with God’s plan for humanity.

Historically, human wisdom has recognised the weakness of human beings and has sought to guard and support married love. Thus, we speak of marriage as an institution. The great declarations of human rights have always supported marriage and the family; humanity has never found better solutions to men, women and children’s need for communal life.

The social norms which traditionally surrounded the institution of marriage were an attempt to guarantee the authenticity of human love. Civil marriage is true marriage for it contains the necessary elements of marriage: a man and a woman publicly expressing their intention to establish life together.

Catholic men and women are obliged to marry in the Catholic Church, and not in any other Christian church. Christian marriage represents an act of faith in God, and an act of reverence for the greatness of marital union in its openness to God’s plan, in its openness to children and in its power to meet the needs of the human heart. Moreover, Christian marriage is a sacrament. Sacramental marriage in the Church expresses the fullness of what God intends for marriage. Christ has made marriage, by his death and resurrection, a unique way of participating in the new life of Grace. This Sacrament happens automatically with spouses who are baptised. In the United Kingdom Christian marriage is recognised by the State.

The sacrament of marriage not only expresses the human elements of marriage; that it is exclusive and indissoluble, open to procreation and seeks to good of both spouses, but also, that it is a means to holiness. The Church considers that a civil marriage between Catholics is an irregular and imperfect union because of the disassociation of civil marriage from its sacramental meaning. A civil marriage entered into by a Catholic is absolutely invalid.

Depending on circumstances, such irregular situations may be corrected by celebrating the canonical form of marriage in the Church. Catholics who remain in a civil marriage are unable to receive the Sacraments of the Church, nor can they hold any positions of responsibility or public witness in the Church, but they are not separated from the Church.

Christian marriage in the Church is entered into as an intimate community of life and love. It represents a mutual self-giving marked by fidelity and perpetuity. The two spouses become ‘one flesh’, living a life of self-gift to the other. Moreover, such a union is a source of grace and is a constant symbol of the union of Christ with His Church. In sacramental marriage Christ sanctifies married love, converting it into an act of worship. Thus Christian spouses are inserted into the saving work of Christ and are called to give themselves as much to Jesus Christ as to one another. Spouses also give themselves to the Church since their very marriage reveals the mystery of the Church. In fact, a Christian marriage is called a ‘domestic Church’.

What is necessary for a person to enter into Christian marriage?

1. The person must be baptised and should be living his or her Baptism and Confirmation in a spirit of faith.
The person must be capable of marriage. First, he or she must have reached the age recognised by Civil and Canon Law for marriage. Secondly, there must be no impediment to the marriage such as an already existing marriage bond, Holy Orders, impotence or consanguinity in the direct line and to the fourth degree in the collateral line.
The person must be capable of giving his or her personal consent in marriage. That is, the consent must be free, sincere and must accept all the essential elements of marriage.
Furthermore, without a dispensation from his or her Bishop a Catholic cannot marry a non-baptised person. A dispensation is also required for marriage with a non-Catholic baptised person. In preparing for a marriage, the Church asks couples to participate in pre-marriage counselling and to complete the ecclesiastical pre-nuptial documents.

The form of Christian marriage consists in expressing marital consent before a priest or deacon and before two witnesses. Such a marriage is considered as the culmination of a spiritual journey and as an expression of love that is blessed by God.

Friday 8 May 2009

The Pilgrim Icon revisited

The Icon of Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, given by the late Holy Father to Catholic University students was with us in Campion Colllege during three days. The icon was actually a mosaic and extremely beautiful - something which all our cameras failed to capture well.
By the time the Icon left the College is bore two Campion College emblems on its reverse side - along with a host of emblems of Catholic student insitutions representing the pilgrim journey which the Icon has made so far across the world.

Tuesday 5 May 2009

Thinking about dating 2

Are you a man looking for a woman? Look for a woman who is a daughter, sister and mother. Look for a woman who is a spiritual mother now, someone who is a spiritual daughter now, a woman who is a good sister to both men and women. If all her friends are men – what does this mean? Don’t make up a list of qualities that you would want in a potential spouse – this is what you do when you go to buy a car or a house.

Where do we find such people?
In Christian families and the relationships which comprise them; these yield good fruit and this is the source of the man or woman of our dreams. However, we need to transform our parish communities and their ministries so that single people are drawn into the life of the Church. Our parishes are not working if they are not bringing us together to be mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers to one another.
The need for renewal here requires a radical response - such is the urgent call of the New Evangelisation.

Thinking about dating 1

Are you a woman looking for a man? Look for a man who is a son, a brother and a father. Look for a man who is already a spiritual father – he’s a protector, a defender, a leader, he is a brother to both man and women. Look at the way he treats other men. Look at who his friends are, at who he is close to – he can’t fake this. How does he treat other women. Is he is good spiritual son; does he serve, does he obey, does he say “how can I help?” Does he show up early and contribute. Does he do humble things behind the scenes?

(Thanks to David Sloan for this idea.)

Monday 4 May 2009

The Priests

Yesterday evening saw well over 500 young people coming to "Theology on Tap" in Parramatta to meet and hear "The Priests". These three Northern Irish priests, escaping from their parishes for an opportunity to come "down under", raised the roof with their singing and the applause which followed. Most interesting of all were their answers to questions about how they managed to hold together humble priesthood and international stardom. Meanwhile, upstairs in the Pub, other priests, including myself, were hearing the Confessions of young people. "Theology on Tap" is beoming even more an evangelising environment. Thanks go primarily to Patrick and his team who set this venue up and organise it every first Monday of the month.

Sunday 3 May 2009

Walking on water

Apologies for the quietness of this Blog but, this past week I was in Queensland helping with the Queensland Catholic Homeschoolers Family Camp. What a great grace homeschoolers are! Here was a group of about fourteen families from all over Queensland (and one from New South Wales) who are building another kind of culture to the one prevalent in our societies. A culture which springs from the family itself and bears the hall marks of real humanity and grace. Thanks are due to these spouses and parents who are endeavouring to embrace the whole call which God makes to them through Marriage and, in openness to His will, to form communities of persons which are breathing life, culture and grace into the Church and into society.

The location of the Camp - a Retreat Centre set on the edge of an ancient volcanic crater near the Gold Coast - was idyllic, and the schedule of the week enabled individuals of all ages, families and the Church to be seen for who they truly are. We had Morning Prayer, activities, talks for the different age groups, Holy Mass, games, canoing, bush-walks, Adoration, films, and three excellent meals every day. Thanks especially go to the experienced organisers of this Camp, and thanks too for inviting me to take part in this grace-filled week.