Sunday 13 December 2009

The wrong venue

Should the Holy Father beatify Cardinal Newman at Wembley Stadium? No, of course not. Remember what John Henry Newman gave up in life and what he embraced; the challenges he faced, the greatest thinker which England has produced in centuries and the learning he gave to the Church. His beatification is not a stadium event, but is an event of great dignity. What about Westminster Cathedral, or St Chad's or the Oratory in Birmingham, or Oscott College?

There is a major blog-gap coming up now as I take a break over Christmas. I'll be back later in January.

Thursday 10 December 2009

Spirit of the age

Recently, I have been in conversations with a number of young people on the subject of Richard Dawkins, whose secular brief is puzzling many. The comment which I made in these conversations was that Dawkins is a product of this age and, as such, we shouldn't be at all surprised by his approach.
In the contemporary age we have become estranged from the Great Mystery - that God wants us to share His life. In the new, abberative, vision of life, our spirits have been relegated to the domaign of psychology and our bodies have been likened not with God, but with animals. Dawkins proposal is entirely in keeping with this age - that our bodies do not receive life from the Spirit, and that man ceases to live as a person but is engaged in a battle for existence, the desperate search for gain.
With modern rationalism being so opposed to the mystery of man as the image and likeness of God, it is only fitting that this human project should throw up its public advocate. However, Dawkins will not be able to prevent the Wedding from taking place, for our Redeemer is the Bridgroom - the primordial and unique source of human life and love.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Up close

Recently in the skies above Sydney a small plane was writing in smoke. I captured a part of its progress on camera. Eventually the words read "Jesus is Life", then it went on to write "Jesus is Lord", before beginning a third phrase which I didn't have time to see. A good sign.
Another day, on the outskirts of Sydney, while out walking, I came upon a herd of wild Kangaroos - my first encounter. They let me approach to within 30 ft of the female with the joey in her pouch. The presence of two huge males in the centre of the herd convinced me to come no closer.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Community and reality

Everyday we are subjected to oppressive demands from the artificiality which characterises our societies. Today, climate change and its corresponding taxation are leading us to focus our lives upon an idea of human community as a basis for living, traditionally advocated by socialists, and further away from the essential basis of human community.
Any idea of human community, when placed next to the actual reality of human community, will always be somewhat unreal. Human community does not lie 'out there', but has its origin and its essence in the family. Nor is there a tax owed to governments for this essential human endeavour. Our contemporary societies are misplacing their focus.
The Gospel, on the other hand, invites us to consider all our relationships as agencies of Christ - how can we be brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers to each other. Such a call applies to the whole social community, but most of all it applies to the family. Here, and not in the Committees of the State, do we find the whole focus of human community.
Aidan Nichols in his book "Christendom Awake" has a superb chapter entitled "A society of households", in which he presents the foundational truth about all political and social life. How, for instance, this first community can live in such a way that it respects the order and providence of creation, living frugally and always seeking God's light. In Australia for instance, a third of women have had an abortion. How unreal is that!
The advocates of the global community and governments who apply more and more tax are not the leaders we need in the world right now. We should not allow our focus to be diverted by political trends or neuroses. We need leaders who will lead us to rediscover our identity as human beings, created and redeemed, and to grow in our family relationships first. Christian spouses - may God bless and lead you all!

Monday 7 December 2009

Following up

Fr Percy and myself invited the iwitness leadership team round to the seminary last night for a little reunion in the wake of the iwitness congress. Not all the team were available, but seven of the team were able to come. Thanks are due to them for making the iwitness initiative a reality in the lives of so many young people.

Sunday 6 December 2009

A Congress of the young Church

iwitness 2009 - a congress for young Catholics was a very impressive event. Held at Collaroy, overlooking one of Sydney's northern beaches, it drew 250 young people from around Sydney as well as a small number from other states. It reminded me of the many Youth 2000 festivals which I have been a part of in the UK in the past. The Liturgy however, at iwitness was a few steps up from that of Y2K.

iwitness (2008) was created last year by a group of young people as a spontaneous response to World Youth Day in Sydney; young people stepping forward as a new generation of leaders and enabling others to become leaders too. School-leavers, uni students, graduates and those newly employed took part, all seeking a richer life of faith in the Catholic Church for themselves and their peers. iwitness is just one way in which young people in Sydney have responded to Yorld Youth Day and which has been embraced by the Church. The Cardinal was interviewed, on the last evening of the Congress, by the youngest participant, Tom. Bishop Porteous came on the last day to celebrate Mass for the delegates. A range of speakers came and delivered some very impressive and well received talks. The days were punctuated by prayer. A very fitting adoration chapel was established, with the Blessed Sacrament exposed from late evening till early morning each night.

On the Saturday afternoon we all took part in the iwitness pilgrimage. Teams of young people pitting themselves against one another in a range of outdoor challenges. It fell to me to administrate the hilarious Thunder Volleyball challenge - using water-filled balloons. Behind me was the Water Slide and, to the front, a panoramic view over the Pacific.

We are all extremely grateful to the iwitness organising team for what you have given to the Church in Australia. You have begun something very powerful here which God is using to build up His Church. What a tremendous place for young people to come together to encounter Christ and His Church, to spend time with one another. This is one of the finest Catholic events for young people that I have taken part in. Thank you!

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Pressing on

The academic year might have finished but it's full steam ahead for the young Church. Last week I took part in a week-long parish mission - the Parish of Christ the King, Sydney - which lead me into schools, to house visiting, to street evangelisation and to address the parish on the subject of the Church's call to mission.
Also, a month-long residential formation course has begun on the outskirts of the city, the third time this course has been held. The course looks to form young people for the life of the Church in Sydney. The other day I gave some teaching to the young people on the subject of the New Evangelisation.
Last night, I took part in a end of term thanksgiving event for the "Theology on Tap" group. This group, which is inspired lead by young people, has created a new context for the formation of young Catholics in the Sydney area. There was much to celebrate as a lot of hard work goes into holding the monthly TOT sessions. Here I am below pictured with Fr Percy and some of the Nashville Dominican Sisters. We were joined by many of the Capuchin Novices from Sydney.

This coming weekend I shall be taking part in the iWitness Conference, also in Sydney. Again, this is organised by young Catholics and will be the second such conference to be held in the wake of WYDSYD.