Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Christian Meditation Community Day Brisbane



“Meditation and God’s Gifts”. Come aside and spend some time to deepen your understanding of Meditation and God’s Gift’s and join with others walking the contemplative path.
Sat 18 Apr 2015, 9:30am – 2:30pm
Location : Holy Spirit School Hall, 36 Villiers St, New Farm

Contact : Johanna Lawrence
Phone : 3314 1404
Email : jahannal1@optusnet.com.au
Our community is part of the World Community for Christian Meditation WCCM 


Sunday, April 05, 2015

Easter in the Midst of Violence



As most of us pick over the leftovers of our Easter feasting in the land of the long weekend it is hard to imagine the cries of 'He is Risen" being proclaimed this weekend in the churches and places of worship in Kenya.

And yet the sacred feast was celebrated  with the tears and sorrow of a nation grieving the massacre at Garissa University College by the Somali-based  extremists al-Shabaab. 

The country is now in three days of mourning while they celebrate the mystery that gives so much meaning to their lives. Religion, spirituality and politics collide in  the disturbing images of young bodies slain for their faith. For many of us the public display of the bullet ridden bodies of the Garissa attackers challenges our cultural sense of superiority and civil behaviour.

So, what can we do? You can send messages of solidarity and condolence to the Archdiocese of Mombasa. You could also send messages to the facebook page  of the Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa Youth office. You  can also send messages to the Kenyan Association of Australia. 

You can follow developments in Kenya here. Most of all we can sing with our sisters and brothers and share our solidarity and compassion at this time of Easter


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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Palm Sunday 2015

Today our religious observance and language will be meaningless if we refuse to confront the powers of empire that imprison children in our name.
Our cries of "Hosanna" must echo the cries for freedom and liberation of those detained because they seek refuge and asylum in our land.
This week will not be Holy unless we refuse to crucify the innocent.
This week will not be Holy unless we break bread and drink wine with the poor and abandoned of our community.
This week will not be Holy unless we walk the passion of the earth.
This week will be Holy if we commit to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with all that is sacred. 


Thanks to @lucyham for image.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Singing My Way Through Catholicism


Sunday March 8  this year marks the 62nd  anniversary of my baptism at the Church of St John the Evangelist in 1953.

Part of Catholic culture at the time of my birth was to name children after great saints This was my parents choice rather than dedicate me to Troy Donahue or even "Bing Crosby" one of my father's idols. Family lore tells that I was entitled to be called "Alexander" in the custom of my father and grandfather as a first born son. However, Irish Catholicism won the day and I was named in honour of St Anthony (of Padua) and St Gerard (Majella). Both these men have been associated with working among the poor and being pretty passionate about most things in  life except sex.. Pity most of the popular images of such men portray them as insipid blokes with total disinterest in the world around them.

My parents initiated me into a Catholicism that continues to be a core community of faith and challenge in my life. At the heart of this community are relationships that have nurtured and sustained my questions, my passions and my spirituality. Finding these relationships has been a life long journey from the Irish clericalism that dominated my Primary education through the machismo of life at a Christian Brothers College and the exposure to a global vision in a community of Capuchin Friars.

This anniversary also falls on International Women's Day. I acknowledge the women in my family history, those who educated me, my friends and work colleagues. My women mentors in faith have included  Margaret Oats, Mum" Shirl and, Dorothy Day.

I have been Catholic across three  countries three states, four Archdioceses one religious order, numerous professional associations, groups and everything Catholic!!!I remain "in the Church" because I cannot be elsewhere. I have a right by baptism to membership and participation in this community. Its ambiguity and its weakness are part of my reality and give me a context for personal conversion and commitment to maturity. 

Peak experiences include:
  • Suffering Catholic Trauma at my first communion mass with the anxiety of the host getting stuck in the roof of my mouth
  • Endless childhood confessions admitting to sins I could barely pronounce
  • Induction into the Guild of St Stephen by the famous Guilford Young at our first National Conference for Altar Boys (as we were in those days !!)in 1964.
  • Taking vows of poverty chastity and obedience in a Franciscan community with the Capuchin Friars and then discovering that 2 out of three wasn't a pass.
  • Falling in love with Bing Crosby instead of Julie Andrews
To celebrate this anniversary I have compiled a list of 62  hymns and religious music  that have influenced my faith and spirituality across a lifetime. The choice has been partly limited by the availability of the music on youtube and an attempt to cover at least every decade of the rosary of my life.I chose an alphabetical ordering as this offers a great mix of eras and tastes as well as being an easy reference.

Readers are welcome to sing-a-long to their favourite and add comments and stories of their memories of these and similar hymns that nurtured the Catholic baby boomers.

All Creatures of Our God and King is one of those majestic pieces that sounds best in great Cathedrals and is usually dragged to death in the local parish. Naturally this comes from the Franciscan influence in my Catholicism and I got to sing it in Capuchin and other parishes all over the country.

Allelu Folk Mass is part of the work of Ray Repp who was one of the first 'folk" style church musicians beginning his publications in 1966.His settings and songs were a regular feature of my weekly singing at Nazareth House Brisbane in 1973. This clip gives you access to hours of happy listening to an era now lost in the archives of most parishes. if you haven't done so go back and read the bio. No wonder I felt the vibes singing his songs!!

Ave Verum was last sing with the parish choir at the now burnt out Church of St Joseph's in Collingwood.

Be Thou My Vision Rop tú mo baile or Rob tú mo bhoile in its original Gaelic.It remains one of those stirring  hymns where the old English phrasing sits comfortably.

Bring Flowers of the Fairest is one of those songs from my primary school days. Once a year the girls got to have their 15 minutes of Church fame with the crowning of the statue of Our Lady. This somewhat romantic ritual included the less than workplace health and safety practice of the lucky lass. wrapped in yards of coloured cloth climbing a less than sturdy ladder to plonk a wreathe of flowers on Mary's head.

Christ be Our Light has been one of the standards at St Mary's in Exile.

Christ The Lord Is Risen Today One of the great numbers form the Living Parish Hymnal that made up my choral work in Geelong.

Come Back To Me This became a classic in my collection for for Lent from  the days when Gregory Norbett was a member of the  Monks of Weston Priory

Come To The Water A beautiful clip of a choral movement. A classic John Foley hymn from the St Louis Jesuits. It was the gathering hymn for my Dad's funeral mass. 

Dominique. Long before Janet Mead rocked the charts, the anonymous Singing Nun was in the charts. Jeanne Paule Deckers  life is one of tragic love and  the upheaval that marked the 60s. Stay on this channel to check the 1982 release of this one.

Dona Nobis Pacem. My first public performance of this great piece from the pen of Mr Mozart himself was at my first profession ceremony in the chapel of Nazareth House Brisbane in 1974

Faith of Our Fathers Bing Crosby was the second most important man in our house after Dad. His "White Christmas album was a sacred relic brought out for the season. Among the tracks was this version of the classic patriarchal hymn. Local Catholics will of course recognize this tune as the popular O Bread of Heaven from the Living Parish Hymnal.

Faith of Our Fathers  The mothers, sisters, aunts and parish housekeepers were all left in the back row for this one. Testosterone  with incense.

Filipino Mass Songs In 1979 I spent a month in the Philippines where the music and passion of a people living under a repressive martial law sang boldly and loudly of their faith.

Frank Anderson msc is here because almost every Australian parish has sung one of his songs at some stage.

Glory and Praise to Our God is now one of the standards that we sang even though it was canned by Thomas Day when he wrote Why Catholics Can't Sing.

God of Mercy and Compassion was in the Lent  pages of  the Living Parish Hymnal

Hail Glorious St Patrick comes from my six year stint as a primary student at St Patrick's in Geelong West.

Hail Mary Gentle Woman comes from the great Catholic warbler, Carey  Landry. From 1972 his songs became a staple in schools parishes retreat centres and I bet the members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference even sang along at one of their gatherings.So, what happened to Carey when the St Louis Jesuits arrived? Well, he upped and married his travelling companion, Carol Jean Kinghorn and they have been singing happily ever after as hospital chaplains.

Hail Queen of Heaven is one of those "Are you really Catholic" hymns. You can tell that young Regina singing in this clip failed the test. She is reading the words!!! 

Hail Redeemer King Divine is another one of those "real men" hymns from the Holy Name Society. My Dad used to take me along to this religious testosterone gathering every month at Ss Peter and Paul's Church in Geelong West. Love this version with its images of Christchurch Cathedral prior to the 2011 earthquake.

Here I Am Lord is one of those contemporary obligatory songs for major events. To be sung properly it should alternate between a soloist and the community. However most Catholics like to be God in this one.

Holy God We Praise Thy Name is another great anthem that rang out from the Holy Name Society gatherings in my childhood parish.

I'll Sing A Hymn to Mary probably rubs shoulders with O Purest of Creatures for the most sung Marian hymn from the Living Parish Hymnal

Jesus In Your Heart We Find comes from the Year of Faith collection of James McAuley and Richard Connolly.

Jesus Remember Me from the Taize Community.

Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All Another great sing-a-long from the Living Parish Hymnal

Joy is Like The Rain is one of the now archived songs of the 60s that most of us have agreed never to inflict on unsuspecting congregations again. However, listening to the story behind the song from one of my favourite feminist theologians gives me second thoughts.

Kyrie Eleison One of the beauties of Catholic singing is that you get to learn several languages including Greek.

Laudate Dominum I have thrown in a few of the Latin chants from the Taize community

Lead Kindly Light was rarely sung in my youth but it is a standard as an adult from the  inspiration of John Henry Newman..

Litany of the Saints is a chant that has featured in all my choral experiences from the plainchant to the newer settings such as this.

Lord of the Dance gets a mention not only because it comes from the great Sydney carter, but also because itt featured in Travelling to Freedom, the 1971 replacement for the LPH.

Make Me A Channel of Your Peace was never written by St Francis, but lets not let the facts get in  the way of  the Peace Prayer of St Francis. I've sung it in lots of places and sang along  with the TV when it featured at Diana's funeral.

Missa Luba One of the great musical discoveries of my youth was this mass Setting. I still love singing it

Music from Papua New Guinea For wo year I worked as a volunteer in the Diocese of Daru-Kiunga in Papua New Guinea. here is a set of images and hymns from their 2012 anniversary celebrations.

Now Thank We All Our God  was there in  the Living Parish Hymnal but I couldn't resist  giving the Mormons a chance to feature.

Now the Green Blade RisesA wonderful Easter song which i learnt from the Travelling to Freedom collection

O Sacrament Most Holy Another one where the Living Parish Hymnal opens automatically.

One Bread, One Body a contemporary standard loved and sung in many parishes.

Only A Shadow The Catholic version of shadow boxing religion from  Carey Landry. I have spared listeners from Carey on this one as there is a passable version from Daniel O'Donnell.

Our Father How could I not include the  song that still crops up in the most unexpected liturgies. And I got to meet the good lady many years later but didn't get her autograph!!

Pange Lingua Gloriousi It usually only got an airing on Holy Thursday but that was enough to have it firmly planted in the memory bank.

Peter Kearney  has been called a pioneer in contemporary religious song. His earliest hymns 'Fill My House' and 'The Beatitudes' published in 1966 became internationally known. From 1982 Peter made music his work. As well as writing and publishing he has toured in all Australian states and overseas in Ireland, the United Kingdom and the USA to present his workshops and concerts.I have sung Peter's material for years in many settings.  See his bio.

Priestly People For a brief time before SLJ (St Louis Jesuits) everyone in Catholic parishes sang the music of the gifted Lucien Deiss.

Shalom Chaverim got in as the most popular Hebrew text in Catholic parishes in the 1970s.

Sons of God is one of those 60s songs that most of us have left behind in the archives of  forgettable songs of the era.

Soul of My Saviour is in the top ten selection from the Living Parish Hymnal

Spirit of God was blown all over Churches and schools in the 60s and 70s. I just love the reference to Sr Bubble .

Sr Irene O'Conner also predated Sr Janet Mead, but never broke into the charts. Irene was a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary with an aunt, Majella Tracey.I sang some of Irene's songs in mt days as a Capuchin Friar.

Sweet Sacrament Divine Concert performances of these classic hymns from my childhood days overwhelm the memories of our local parish choir.

Take Our Bread has been sung to death and should now be quietly put in the dusty cupboard in the sacristy or vestry if you are reading from the USA.

Tantum Ergo That preconciliar Latin just gets in you and  every verse comes back from Sunday arvo Benediction.

The Lourdes Hymn Another great classic that sorts the real from the wannabees. if you need to read  the words you aren't really Catholic.

The Rose A Catholic hymn? It's presence in the list is again personal. In  the late 1970s a friend's sister was tragically gunned down by her police co-workers in an accident. The rendition of The Rose sung at her funeral haunts me to this day.

The Spirit of God From the work of the great Lucien Deiss.. Check out the other examples of his work on the sidebar of this clip.

Ubi Caritas another beautiful chant form Taize.

We Stand for God Another one of those "if you are really Catholic" hymns. Another anthem of the old Holy Name Society from our family parish of Ss Peter and Paul's in Geelong West.

Wherever You Go A lost treasure from the Monks of Weston Priory.


Yahweh, I Know You Are Near is now consigned to the "naughty corner" of Catholic hymns.See this instruction from  Rome in 2008.



Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Limerick for George Cardinal Pell

Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican's financial watchdog, slammed for lavish spending



We gave Rome a "true blue" called Pell. 
Who decided to give them all hell. 
He slipped on his lace.
Got egg on his face. 
That's; taken the shine off his bell


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lent 2015

Baptismal Cup  8 March 1953
It probably takes a certain type of Catholic eccentricity to be able to proclaim that I am a  Lent baby. In 1953, the year of my birth, Ash Wednesday fell on  18 Feb,5 days before I was born.. And again this year as I celebrate my 62nd Lent my birthday  falls within the season.However I have also decided that I will celebrate this birthday in the the Biblical spirit of jubilee.

Graciously due to my age I am exempted from some of the Lenten discipline: Canon 1252  All persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence; all adults are bound by the law of fast up to the beginning of their sixtieth year. Nevertheless, pastors and parents are to see to it that minors who are not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are educated in an authentic sense of penance.

However, Jubilee is not about age but rather a deep and challenging journey into relationships and forgiveness

Abstinence is hardly penitential  for many of us who have abandoned the  meat based diets of our childhood and see a mixed diet as a more graceful way of living for body and soul. The call to penitential practice is a tradition in many religious communities. These practices are about transformation of our values and behaviours. Our penitential  commitment is a call to live in the light.

The call to live more simply also invites us to fasting in solidarity with those who live in hunger and poverty in our global village. My commitment to Fair Trade shopping also ensures that I am supporting sustainable projects to provide dignity and work in developing communities.

The annual Project Compassion appeal of the Australian Catholic Church  awakens me to my  global relationships and responsibilities. My first photographic appearance in Catholic media  happened in 1979 when I did a busking gig for  the launch Project Compassion  on the steps of the GPO in Bourke Street Melbourne.

There are an almost exhausting number of online resources for Lent with the challenge being to "keep it simple". My prayer in Lent will continue to be my morning bus ride with the "Pray as You Go" meditation.  My fasting will be guided by Robert Herrick's poem: "To Keep A True Lent". My giving this year will be the start of a new  way of living. Rather than "giving up" I have decided that from now on I will give away  much of the 'stuff" I have gathered over these past 60 years.Any gift I now give to family and friends will come from my shelves and cupboards so that it will have new life in a new house.and I can learn to live with less.

So, let the Jubilee begun in my 60th year continue!!