Wednesday 30 May 2012

The Year of Grace

The Year of Grace which opened in Australian Dioceses on Pentecost Sunday and which runs through until Pentecost next year, is given to the Church in Australia to lead her to a deeper encounter with Jesus.
The word grace, which we use so often, means the gift of sharing in God's life. Grace then, is the person of Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, whom the Father and Jesus have sent to us.
In many parts of the world today Jesus is marginalised, people have heard about him and think that this is the time for us all to move on from the Jesus 'story'. The radical truth is that Jesus as both God and man reveals to us now the love of God!
Again in many corners, following Jesus is thought of as a whole series of rules and regulations which must be observed. The reality is very different; following Jesus means living in freedom and truth!
Today many still prefer the opinion that God is either dead or never existed. The fact is that Jesus rose from the dead and is alive in His Church, living  and working today in His followers!
Another contemporary opinion is that to believe means to live in fear of a watchful and judgemental God. The extraordinary truth is that Jesus is full of merciful love and leads his followers into the fullness of life!
Again, many still claim that the Gospel is a purely human text, secretly invented. The real secret is that the Gospel is inspired by the Holy Spirit and introduces human beings into the life of God!
This is grace - the person of Jesus who is proclaimed by the Church and who wants us all to know Him.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

But when they are gone?

Bob Dylan's award at the White House yesterday - by the way, well done Bob! - puts me in mind of one of our culture's main building bricks: the rock and pop culture of the 60s through to the 90s, which our generation has been fixated with. You can already sense the intensity which is being applied to maintain this culture now that some of the figures of this era are passing. The incesant hype in the media calling us to relive this era, the repeticious playing of the songs of this era in shopping malls, in movies, in mobile phone tones. A strange phenomenon indeed, yet the times are indeed changing and when this generation passes what will there be then. What vision of life has the rock and pop generation handed on to the new generation which is emerging? Is it a vision which deserves to remain?

Saturday 26 May 2012

A favourite painting

Yesterday evening I gave a talk to the Immaculata youth group in Lewisham, part of a mini-series which we are doing on St Paul. The Scripture passage which we looked at was St Paul's address at the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17). This section of Acts, together with Paul's departure from Athens for Corinth, is my favourite section of the Acts. I have long known about Leo von Klenz' painting of the Acropolis reconstructed. It is a magnificent painting housed in Munich. I insert here an image of the painting. It does, in fact, depict St Paul's speech at the Areopagus; you can see Paul speaking to a crowd in the forefront of the painting. The crowd even includes soem girls who are laughing at the speaker.

Thursday 24 May 2012

The seminary and the new evangelisation

Fr Robert Barron brings the two together. Read his article here.

Monday 21 May 2012

Hot off the press

Two years ago, Bishop Julian Porteous, anxiliary bishop in Sydney, published a Maual of Minor Exorcisms for priests, and a small maual of prayers for lay people who are encountering evil spirits. Both of these books have now been published by the CTS in London. I warmly recommend both of these books - the Manual to priests, and the Prayer Book to lay people.
Up till now priests who are not Exorcists have had few resources and little guidance in their ministry of confronting and thwarting evil. This new Manual of Minor Exorcisms places in priests hands a whole understanding of the priest's power over evil spirits, together with a ritual for use in their ordinary pastoral ministry. Powerful prayers have been drawn out of the Tradition and are here offered again to priests, with indications for their appropriate use.
The Prayer Book for those in spiritual affliction contains a whole inventory of prayers, again from the Tradition, and with indications for their appropriate use, which lay people can powerfully use against evil spirits.
Bishop Julian has done the Church, and especially priests, a great service in developing both these resources.    

Patrick Madrid and company

Here is an excellent photograph of Patrick Madrid and the men's group in Parramatta last Saturday morning. You can make me out just to the right of Patrick's head.

Sunday 20 May 2012

Turning away from childish things.

I took part, yesterday morning, in a half day retreat for men led by Patrick Madrid, the American Apologist for the Faith. The event took place at Parramatta Cathedral and drew two hundred men of all ages. Many of them commented about wonderful it was to be a part of this masculine company of prayer and faith.
Patrick spoke very easily to this great crowd of men and his talk was warmly received; indeed, there was a discernible response of faith to his strong message.
He spoke first about the three hinges upon which one becomes a man: through mastering one's own body, particularly in the area of sexuality, through overcoming an innate selfishness, and through learning what it is to tell the truth, to be an agent of truth.
Then he spoke about the three levels of conversion which every man is called to undergo, not just once in life, but continually. First, there is spiritual conversion, which he keenly defined as letting Christ act in your life. Then there is moral coversion which hinges upon us turing away from anything which prevents us from being what Christ wants us to be. Finally, he spoke of intellectual conversion which he described as being open to formation - getting one's Catholic intellect in shape.
This tremendous proclamation about genuine masculinity concluded with the call to live the truth, speak the truth, and even to suffer for the truth. For most men, who have wives and families, these are the primary focus of their protecting mission: to protect their families, then to protect genuine culture, then to seek to advance the Kingdom of Christ.
What a fantastic vision of masculinity Patrick Madrid gave to us Sydneysiders! For more information visit . 

Friday 18 May 2012

A word from Cardinal Newman

These words are from a sermon which he preached in Advent 1835.

"This is what I have to say about the last persecution and its signs. And surely it is profitable to think about it, though we be quite mistaken in the detail. For instance, after all perhaps it may not be a persecution of blood and death, but of craft and subtlety only—not of miracles, but of natural wonders and powers of human skill, human acquirements in the hands of the devil. Satan may adopt the more alarming weapons of deceit—he may hide himself—he may attempt to seduce us in little things, and so to move Christians, not all at once, but by little and little from their true position. We know he has done much in this way in the course of the last centuries. It is his policy to split us up and divide us, to dislodge us gradually from off our rock of strength. And if there is to be a persecution, perhaps it will be then; then, perhaps, when we are all of us in all parts of Christendom so divided, and so reduced, so full of schism, so close upon heresy. When we have cast ourselves upon the world, and depend for protection upon it, and have given up our independence and our strength, then he may burst upon us in fury, as far as God allows him. Then suddenly the Roman Empire may break up, and Antichrist appear as a persecutor, and the barbarous nations around break in. But all these things are in God's hand and God's knowledge, and there let us leave them.
This alone I will say, in conclusion, as I have already said several times, that such meditations as these may be turned to good account. It will act as a curb upon our self-willed, selfish hearts, to believe that a persecution is in store for the Church, whether or not it comes in our days. Surely, with this prospect before us, we cannot bear to give ourselves up to thoughts of ease and comfort, of making money, settling well, or rising in the world. Surely, with this prospect before us, we cannot but feel that we are, what all Christians really are in the best estate (nay, rather would wish to be, had they their will, if they be Christians in heart), pilgrims, watchers waiting for the morning, waiting for the light, eagerly straining our eyes for the first dawn of day—looking out for our Lord's coming, His glorious advent, when He will end the reign of sin and wickedness, accomplish the number of His elect, and perfect those who at present struggle with infirmity, yet in their hearts love and obey Him."

The image above is a segment of Luca Signorelli's 'Last Judgement' from Orvieto Cathedral. Satan holds a 'Christ' figure in his embrace on a podium. But the figure which Satan is embracing is not Christ, but the AntiChrist.

Thursday 3 May 2012

Three views for Christ: 3

The third and final vision for the Christian Formation of young people which I want to speak about is one for which I can only give a brief scetch: creating spirituality centres. Now I realise that these two words, 'Spirituality Centre', can make us think in terms of laberinths, enneagrams and ceramic therapy; what I am thinking of when I say 'Spirituality Centres' are places of formation which nurture and establish prayer in young peoples lives. Such centres then would be given over to helping young people to pray, to discover and establish a basic foundation to prayer in their lives, and to discover the richness of the Church's tradition in this regard by being properly introduced to some of the Church's classical spiritualities - Carmelite, Ignatian, monastic, family etc. This could be done through short or extended retreats and through personal Spiritual Direction. 
I know of very few such places and I really do believe that there is a need for them. Two such 'centres' which come to mind are:
The Diocesan Centre of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Valladolid, Spain, You will need some Spanish here.
The Craig Lodge Family House of Prayer in Scotland,, which has enabled so many young people to grow in Christ.
I'm sure that there are other Centres which you could name - we need them.