This blog offers an Australian perspective on faith, religion and spirituality. It invites you to join the joys and hope, the grief and anguish of a middle aged Aussie Catholic.
The material reflects my interest in global as well as local issues.My perspective is probably more quirky than orthodox.
Back in 1976, Tim joined the Passionists in January, I was ordained in February, and by April I joined our community in Geelong. That brought about many encounters with the O’Toole and Hennessy Families. During the following four years I would encounter Tim the student at Templestowe, Tim the family man in Geelong. Of memory was Tim taking a few of us the listen to some Irish bands in pubs around Carlton, as Tim shared his love of music.
From the time of his ordination in December 1983, Tim became a specialist as a Parish Missioner, and his capacity to engage in the lives of families was amazing. Tim had the “smell of the sheep” before Pope Francis popularized the term. His parish assignments have taken him to Terrey Hills, Kamberatoro, Hobart, Endeavour Hills, Bourke, Endeavour Hills, and finally Marrickville. His Mission in Parish was by total immersion. He was there, in the thick of it. He knew everyone’s name, and who was related to who.
Immersing in the ordinary events of people’s lives placed him at the centre of a national tragedy in April 1996 with the Port Arthur Massacre in Tasmania. He was called to the Royal Hobart Hospital, where he hung out for days, assisting in the grief of those who had lost loved ones, and those seriously injured and awaiting return to their home cities. That work continued into weeks and months for some.
Tim was there. In the midst of this National tragedy, Tim was there. As new lives were born and parents sought the Sacraments of Initiation for them, Tim was there. In our wonderful parish schools and regional colleges, Tim was there. As young people from here married in our fancy city churches, and sometimes here, Tim was there. As people wanted the Healing Sacraments, Tim was there. And as your family members died and returned to the Father, Tim was there. At Men’s Clubs, and RE classes, and Dinner Dances, Tim was there. He had the smell of the sheep because he was a Shepherd.
I worked with him three times, twice here and once in Marrickville. He assumed leadership from me in both places, and continued the good work of all his predecessors, here the wonderful founding Father, Frank Martin, and Gerry McKernan. In both places, both of us reveled in the work of partnership with great lay leaders on parish committee and groups. The joke we shared this year was, that I’m only working in Marlborough NZ to prepare the place for him to take over in a few years. He was planning to come to NZ in November for a break after his operation, but alas, that was not to be.
Kevin Dance has now inherited 20 years of Passionist Ministry here. He has also inherited the partnership we enjoy with our Sisters, Joan, Brigid, and Karen. I wish them all well. They are all excellent pastoral practitioners, and I know there are many good leaders here today who will share this Parish Mission. And they continue to enjoy the support of other Passionists in Endeavour Hills and Templestowe.
As you would realize, working with Tim was a lot of fun, but it also had some frustration and uncertainty. • Would he be here for the 9am Mass? • Would he come to the dinner dance? • Would we have dinner tonight? • Oh, and more so, will he answer his phone? In our early weeks here after 1 July 1998, yes, early 20 years ago, Tim and Ray and I were doing house preparations on the afternoons and evenings. Tim went off to get some dinner for us. After waiting 45 minutes, I went shopping! When Tim arrived later, he said “Sorry, had just dropped in the see someone!” That became the predictable pattern of life. Always visit the Sheep.
Being No 2 on the Parish Team was frustrating for him. Once he became PP, he said to me “I was saying to myself, someone should do something about … (some issue), then I realized I was that someone!” He had the great gift to laugh at himself.
Saturday afternoons we played a non contact sport called, “don’t contact me!” He would beach himself on his bed with Gospel commentaries galore, and sweat it out for hours wondering, what can I say this weekend? What came forth during the homilies, might have been a bit clumsy at times, with a few ums thrown in, but we related to him because he was sharing our stories, and God gave him the ability to help us make connections between the ordinary events of our lives and our faith. We shared his struggle. He was for real.
At Thursday’s funeral in Sydney, John Curtis spoke of him as the great procrastinator, always putting things off. Yesterday a couple of people here used the same words. But we know that once that inner bomb exploded inside him, the message was, “step aside, here we go”. And what a wonderful journey we shared.
The Word of God today is spoken to us as an encouragement in these times we are sharing, of an unplanned loss: • I have appointed you as a prophet/messenger to the nations. Don’t be afraid, I put my words in your mouth. • We have this God given treasure in clay jars. • A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.
As Tim did, so we should do: • We are God’s messengers … share the message, God is here, he won’t abandon us. • We are as fragile as stone jars, but we hold the gift of the Lord to share. Drink of God’s love and share it. • If we were all to lay down our lives, share widely our lives, the world would be so much better.
Tim’s question, “how do you die”, needed to be asked for Tim. The Answer? Be open to the mystery of God here amongst us. It may simply mean, hop in the boat of life and go with the flow, and let Jesus the Good Shepherd take the rudder.
How do you die? You live!
John Pearce CP. 30th December 2017.
Postscript: This post is shared with condolences to the Passionist Community and the O'Toole family in Geelong. Tim and I never met but we shared a common heritage in our birth city, our time at St Joseph's College Newtown and our mutual connection to the Passionists. As a young teen I often visited St Gabriel's Monastery with my family. The Passionist connection thickens as another member of the community, Kevin Hennessy and I were altar servers at Ss Peter and Paul's Geelong West known to the locals as "Ashby".
Today is a great day for a party and the rules call for frivolity, cross-dressing and wonderful recipes for food and drink. It is the day to rediscover "Wassailing and Mumming".
At the start of Twelfth Night the Twelfth Night cake was eaten. This was a rich cake made with eggs and butter, fruit, nuts and spices. The modern Italian Panettone is the cake we currently have that's most like the old Twelfth Night cake.
A dried pea or bean was cooked in the cake. Whoever found it was the Lord (or Lady) of Misrule for night. The Lord of Misrule led the celebrations and was dressed like a King (or Queen). This tradition goes back to the Roman celebrations of Saturnalia. In later times, from about the Georgian period onwards, to make the Twelfth Night 'gentile', two tokens were put in the cake (one for a man and one for a women) and whoever found them became the the 'King' and 'Queen' of the Twelfth Night party.
In English Cathedrals, during the middle ages, there was the custom of the 'Boy Bishop' where a boy from the Cathedral or monastery school was elected as a Bishop on 6th December (St Nicholas's Day) and had the authority of a Bishop (except to perform Mass) until 28th December. King Henry VIII banned the practice in 1542 although it came back briefly under Mary I in 1552 but Elizabeth I finally stopped it during her reign.We keep this a remnant of tradition alive in Australia with the current Catholic Archbishop of Sydney affectionately known as "Boy George". It's a busy day as it's time to take down your Christmas decorations and install those missing three kings to the Nativity set at least for the day. When you have completed your Christmas duties and feasted with great gusto you will probably be ready to sit back and watch the midnight hour approach with a good dose of Shapesperean comedy:
In case you miss the opportunity for another great Christmas custom you have a couple of days to go out and buy the chalk you left off your Christmas shopping list. One of the lost customs of the season is the "Chalking of the Door" at Epiphany. The ever reliable Wikipedia tells us:
Either on Twelfth Night (January 5), the twelfth day of Christmastide and eve of the feast of the Epiphany, or on Epiphany Day (January 6) itself, many Christians chalk their doors with a pattern such as this, "20 † C † M † B † 17", with the numbers referring "to the calendar year (20 and 18, for instance, for the year 2018); the crosses stand for Christ; and the letters have a two-fold significance: C, M, and B are the initials for the traditional names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar), but they are also an abbreviation of the Latin blessing Christus mansionem benedicat, which means, May Christ bless this house." In some localities, but not in all, the chalk used to write the Epiphanytide pattern is blessed by a Christian priest or minister on Epiphany Day; Christians then take the chalk home and use it to write the pattern. The reason families chalk their front door is because it represents the hospitality of the Holy Family to the Magi.
Blessing the Chalk V. Our help is the name of the Lord: R. The maker of heaven and earth. V. The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in: R. From this time forth for evermore. Let us pray.Loving God, bless this chalk which you have created, that it may be helpful to your people; and grant that through the invocation of your most Holy Name that we who use it in faith to write upon the door of our home the names of your holy ones Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, may receive health of body and protection of soul for all who dwell in or visit our home; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Instructions for Blessing the Home Using the blessed chalk mark the lintel of your front door (or front porch step) as follows:
20 + C + M + B + 18 while saying:
The three Wise Men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar followed the star of God’s Son who became human two thousand and seventeen years ago. May Christ bless our home and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen. Then offer the following prayer: Visit, O blessed Lord, this home with the gladness of your presence. Bless all who live or visit here with the gift of your love; and grant that we may manifest your love to each other and to all whose lives we touch. May we grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of you; guide, comfort, and strengthen us in peace, O Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen “Chalking the door” is a way to celebrate and literally mark the occasion of the Epiphany and God’s blessing of our lives and home. With time the chalk will fade. As it does we let the meaning of the symbols written sink into the depths of our heart and be manifest in our words and actions the Latin words, Christus mansionem benedictat, “May Christ bless the house.” (Source)
One of my favourite Liturgy sites from Aotearoa-New Zealand includes more prayer choices for this ritual. And for the more visual there is even a youtube tutorial:
Of course for the more adventurous there is the Greek custom of the dive for the Cross which is much more challenging in the Northern Hemisphere while our locals get to take advatage of a decent summer dive.
In response to a request for a Memorial Service from a survivor of sexual abuse by a Church Worker the Anglican Church SQ engaged in a process of consultation with survivor support groups and agencies. These encouraged us to pursue the idea, with a number of agency and group representatives indicating that it could be a very significant offering to survivors of abuse, and to the families and friends of those who died by suicide.
The initial conversations also strongly and wisely advised that the event should be held after the Royal Commission had finished its public hearings to avoid any suggestion that the Church was simply trying to limit damage to its reputation during the hearing process. We heeded this advice and sought to leave time between the end of the hearings and the scheduling of this liturgy.
Originally a November 2017 date was agreed upon and advertised. Representations from survivor groups after this decision was made encouraged us to change the date to one that occurs well after the Royal Commission has reported. We are grateful for that wise counsel. The Memorial Service will be held in St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane on Thursday 8th March 2018 at 7.00pm.
For more information please contact the Dean, Peter Catt, by email or by phone on 07 3835 2239.
It hasn't taken long for the "Christmas Sales" signs to be replaced by "Stocktake Sales" in the major stores around our cities.These sales are basically incentives to add to our consumer appetite at bargain prices. Today can also be a great day to "take stock" of life as the year draws to a close. Our new year resolutions are best informed by the reflection of the previous year. Today is a day to take stock of core values and commitments. It means I place my commitment in small communities such as L'Arche, in the activism of groups like Amnesty International and Oxfam, in the commitment of NGOs like Micah Projects and Palms Australia to bring about social change.
December 31 also provides opportunities for media outlets and commentators (like me) to review the year. The following offer some of the best of the 2017 reviews:
When I take stock of my core values I recognize my duty to use social networking tools for raising awareness of justice and peace concerns and building solidarity with those who occupy our cities for the cause of justice.
I invite you to share the story of your "stocktake" of 2017
The message also poses the question, why so many migrants and refugees? Pope Francis answers this by considering the many conflicts forcing people to leave their homelands, but he notes also the desire for a better life.
The Holy Father notes that some people consider the growth in migration as a threat.. But, “for my part, he says, I ask you to view it with confidence, as an opportunity to build peace.”
Welcome to January 1st. In the "Land of the Long Weekend" This is the day to recover from the NYE parties and celebrations. It\s a day at the beach or home with a 'Barby".
In good old Catholic Tradition this day was known as the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord. Yes, it is the only Catholic feast for a medical procedure. As with all great Biblical accounts there is a picture galleryavailable on google. As with all great Catholic and Orthodox Celebrations there is a hymn or two for the feast. Circumcision gets some pretty good press in the Scriptures as a popular practice and metaphor. By the time you have worked through the Hebrew Scriptures and made your way to some of Paul's letters you get to the most cutting of his statements: "Beware of the cutters," (Ph.3:2). So, there you have it, time to stop infant circumcision!! If Paul was around today he would probably join one of the Facebook pages against infant circumcision. Circumcision has made its way into the public forum. SBS Insight had a public forum: The First Cut. Two of my good friends appeared as guests Elwyn Moir and Sharon Orapeleng. By strange coincidence they were seated next to each other for the recording. Thanks to this feast we also have a great new word for scrabble: prepuce. The Holy Prepuce or the story of the foreskin relics is another contribution of Catholicism to the religious entertainment industry. It seems that we can also learn a bit from Michelangelo about this practice. And so a new year is upon us. May it bring you blessings of peace and happiness. May we work together to build a community of hope and justice in our neighbourhoods and on our planet.