Thursday, July 23, 2015

Christina the Astonishing, Virgin Patron of Holy Irritants

MY VERY CATHOLIC PARENTS made intentional choices when naming their children. At my baptism I was given the spiritual mentors, Anthony of Padua and Gerard Majella. Both inspiring men who were so captured by commitment to the reign of God they dedicated their lives in consecrated service in their particular time and culture.

The Catholic Culture in which I was nurtured also led me to adopt Dominic Savio as my Confirmation patron. This was no mean feat in a largely Anglo-Celtic community. On our confirmation day in the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Geelong West the beloved priest, Father John Perkins recited the traditional "Irish" names of Peter, Paul, Patrick, James and the like chosen by the boys of St Patrick's School. After all these years, I can still hear the sudden gasp from the congregation as my chosen name was announced with a definite Italian ring to it.

Anthony, Gerard and Dominic all died young, lived chastely and were not exactly fun role models for a young teen caught up in the spirit of the 60's. However, their passion for God's reign of truth and service of the poor inspired my childhood and youth.

In latter years I have also adopted another patron and spiritual mentor whose feastday falls on July 24. In keeping with my heightened sense of the "feminine", my newly adopted patron is a woman saint.

Christian the Astonishing, Virgin
My adopted mentor is Christina the Astonishing, Virgin (1150 - 1224) (when read aloud the word "comma" should be pronounced) Christina's bio reads like the script from a Dan Brown and Steven Spielberg collaboration. This is definitely a PG rated text. It is best read, seated with all lights on and the children safely in bed.

This image depicts the first recording of Christina's public appearances when she was believed to have died, but managed to soar from her coffin during her funeral Mass. Not surprisingly, such behaviour saw a quick exodus from the Church with only the dutiful priest and her distressed sister left to witness this amazing resurrection. And yes, there was more: while presumed to be dead, she had in fact been "on tour" to Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. Upon this return visit she decide to dedicate her life to a sort of public pyschodrama performance where she acted out the downside of the nasty behaviour she saw around her.

For the next forty years Christina managed to cause alarm and anxiety in her local community by performing Olympian spiritual exercises which included extreme prayer balanced on poles. She had no dress sense, ignored any protocols about workplace health and safety and refused to be tamed by doctors priests or any other well intentioned men of the town.
Yet, the records of the time also note that her advice was sought by both civic and religious leaders of her day.She was even summoned to the death bed of a local Count to hear his confession.

Like other popular residents of the celestial realm Christina had been provided with w series of patronages to keep her busy. It may not surprise readers that the list includes:

Christina has her own entry in Wikipedia and appears prominently in a Google search. She has been the subject of art, study and even song:



So, I invite you to join me on her feast day  as we celebrate Christina, a parable of the reign of God. The eccentric grace that drove her to extremes is the spirit in which I now invoke her as patron of "Holy Irritants".

In this age, the mere example of nonconformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time. On Liberty John Stuart Mill

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Archbishop Hart and Gay Students

One of the quirky observations I made at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne is that the official portrait of Archbishop Denis Hart with Pope John Paul II  is mounted under a bright 'Exit" sign.

"Exit" seems to be the Archbishops preferred term for gay students in schools of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. This weekend's media includes a report in The Age, in which Archbishop Hart  weighs in about the "gay lifestyle": Catholic Archbishop warned against "tolerating" gay students" . The photo of the Archbishop in this article has him  looking to the left  Hope springs eternal!!

I find the weasal words of "gay lifestyle" used by Archbishop Hart pretty meaningless. My lifestyle includes, catching public transport, going to work, catching up with friends, praying, and a host of mundane activities like hanging out the washing.Much of my lifestyle is pretty similar I imagine to a "non-gay lifestyle"And like Archbishop Hart I love a good dose of pomp and circumstance. Does that suggest the Archbishop may be taking a plunge into the "gay lifestyle"?

As a life member of  St. Joseph's Old Collegians Association​ I applaud the decision of Paul Tobias and the College community to sign up to the Safe Schools Coalition. As a young gay student  in the late 60s I lived with the frightening silence and isolation that can haunt a young person coming to terms with sexuality. The culture of my local and faith community lacked the language of support that I needed.In recent years I have been welcomed back to SJC to tell my story to a new generation of young men who have a healthy respect for diversity among their peers

The Age article includes  call from Professor Peter Norden for the Catholic Church to develop a positive understanding of sexuality. I endorse this call today which happens to be the feast of the androgynous St Wilgefortis


Friday, July 10, 2015

Pope Francis' Address to Second World Meeting of the Popular Movements

Pope Francis spoke on  Thursday  8 July 2015 at the World Meeting of Popular Movements, taking place in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

The World Meeting of Popular Movements, organized in collaboration with Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, brings together delegates from popular movements from around the world.
Quotable Quotes from the Speech

We want change in our lives, in our neighborhoods, in our everyday reality. We want a change which can affect the entire world, since global interdependence calls for global answers to local problems. The globalization of hope, a hope which springs up from peoples and takes root among the poor, must replace the globalization of exclusion and indifference!

Time, my brothers and sisters, seems to be running out; we are not yet tearing one another apart, but we are tearing apart our common home. Today, the scientific community realizes what the poor have long told us: harm, perhaps irreversible harm, is being done to the ecosystem. The earth, entire peoples and individual persons are being brutally punished. And behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called “the dung of the devil”. An unfettered pursuit of money rules. The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home.

As members of popular movements, you carry out your work inspired by fraternal love, which you show in opposing social injustice. When we look into the eyes of the suffering, when we see the faces of the endangered campesino, the poor laborer, the downtrodden native, the homeless family, the persecuted migrant, the unemployed young person, the exploited child, the mother who lost her child in a shootout because the barrio was occupied by drugdealers, the father who lost his daughter to enslavement…. when we think of all those names and faces, our hearts break because of so much sorrow and pain.  And we are deeply moved…. We are moved because “we have seen and heard” not a cold statistic but the pain of a suffering humanity, our own pain, our own flesh. This is something quite different than abstract theorizing or eloquent indignation. It moves us; it makes us attentive to others in an effort to move forward together. That emotion which turns into community action is not something which can be understood by reason alone: it has a surplus of meaning which only peoples understand, and it gives a special feel to genuine popular movements.

The Church cannot and must not remain aloof from this process in her proclamation of the Gospel. Many priests and pastoral workers carry out an enormous work of accompanying and promoting the excluded throughout the world, alongside cooperatives, favouring businesses, providing housing, working generously in the fields of health, sports and education. I am convinced that respectful cooperation with the popular movements can revitalize these efforts and strengthen processes of change.

Here I wish to bring up an important issue. Some may rightly say, “When the Pope speaks of colonialism, he overlooks certain actions of the Church”. I say this to you with regret: many grave sins were committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God. My predecessors acknowledged this, CELAM has said it, and I too wish to say it. Like Saint John Paul II, I ask that the Church “kneel before God and implore forgiveness for the past and present sins of her sons and daughters”.[6] I would also say, and here I wish to be quite clear, as was Saint John Paul II: I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the Church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.

In conclusion, I would like to repeat: the future of humanity does not lie solely in the hands of great leaders, the great powers and the elites. It is fundamentally in the hands of peoples and in their ability to organize. It is in their hands, which can guide with humility and conviction this process of change. I am with you. Let us together say from the heart: no family without lodging, no rural worker without land, no laborer without rights, no people without sovereignty, no individual without dignity, no child without childhood, no young person without a future, no elderly person without a venerable old age. Keep up your struggle and, please, take great care of Mother Earth.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

The Jihad of Jesus Brisbane Launch


Over the last few years I've been involved in some meaningful Christian-Muslim dialogue. And out of those conversations I have published two well-received books - one was on the Bismillah, in the Qur'an, celebrating the grace of God and the other was on Isa, reflecting on the grace of God celebrated in the life of Jesus according to the views common to the Qur'an and the Gospels.

Given continued distressing references to 'jihad' in newspaper, radio and tv headlines some of my friends, both Christian and Muslim, suggested I write a book about Jesus and 'jihad' and call it The Jihad of Jesus. It was hoped the provocative title would get a lot of attention, and we could introduce Christians and Muslims to a Qur'anic reconstruction of the concept of 'jihad' in the light of the radical practical nonviolence of Jesus.

I have not written this book as an expert. I am not. I have not written this book as a specialist. I am not. I have simply written this book in conversation with Muslim friends, seeking to find a way we can struggle for love and justice that is true to the best in our faith traditions. (Dave Andrews)

Launch Date:Thursday, 30, July, 2015

Venue:Avid Reader Bookshop , 193 Boundary St, West End, Brisbane, Queensland 4101 (AU).

Free Event RSVP required here


Monday, July 06, 2015

“Along the Camino” Brisbane Event

Friday July 17th, 7.30pm. The Aspinall Centre, 
4 Klumpp Road, Upper Mt Gravatt. 



An 80 minute audio-visual presentation by Peter Kearney about a 800 km walk through northern Spain along an ancient pilgrimage path to the burial place of St. James the Apostle. Photos, music and live commentary by Peter who has walked the Camino. Beautiful landscapes, medieval villages, useful information. Q&A session at conclusion. $10/$8 concession pp at door.

 Registration essential preferably via email to Peter Kearney: camino@peterkearneysongs.com.au Please specify event location 'Upper Mt Gravatt' and number of seats needed. 
Or sms 0425 328 185. Or at Parish Office. 07 3849 7158

Fr. Dhya Aziz ofm. released Safely

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I ask my sisters and brothers of faith, Christian and Muslim to pray for the  Fr. Dhya Aziz ofm. 

He was born at Mosul, the ancient Niniveh, in Iraq, on 10 January 1974. After some studies at the Medical Institute of his city, he embraced religious life and after the novitiate at Ain Karem he made his first profession of the religious vows on 1 April 2002. 

In 2003 he transferred to Egypt, where he remained for many years. In 2010 he came back into the Custody and was sent to Amman. Subsequently he was transferred to Syria, at Lattakia

He then rendered himself voluntarily willing to assist the community of Yacoubieh, in the region of the Orontes (province of Idlib, district of Jisr al-Chougour), which has become particularly dangerous since it fell under the control of Jahbar al-Nusra.

The Custody of the Holy Land announced that the Fr. Dhiya Azziz has been liberated.

The Custody had had no news of the Fr. Dihya since Saturday, July 4, in the late afternoon.


Conflicting news had nevertheless led people to believe that he had been taken by jihadists affiliated to Al-Nusra Jabhat, which administers the emirate in the sector.

This group has denied any involvement in his kidnapping and allegedly led the police investigation in neighboring villages which led to his liberation.

Fr. Dhiya was allegedly abducted by another group jihadists eager to profit on his release. In the region, there are a plethora of groups that operate with varied interests.

He was allegedly treated well during his kidnapping.

The Custody of the Holy Land thanks those around the world who prayed for a successful outcome to this trial that Fr. Dhiya endured, as well as the faithful of Yacoubieh, of which he is the pastor, his religious family and his family in Iraq.

The Custody does not forget that other religious are still missing in Syria and it invites everyone to continue praying for peace in this country. 


The Custody of the Holy Land

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Great Quotes From Australian Catholic Bishops

Bishop Anthony Fisher celebrates his favourite dining destination in Lent 2011

Extracts from Bishop Fisher's Message for Lent 2011

Lent is, then, a time to renounce some simple pleasures like chocolate or alcohol for 40 days, to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, to adopt other penances especially on Fridays, to give to the poor especially through Project Compassion, and to offer extra prayers and devotions (such as the Stations of the Cross).

But there’s a kind of fasting in Confession too. We have to give up something – our attachment to sin, our bad habits, our exaggerated pride in ourselves. It is humbling. Sometimes it is hard. It’s a harder kind of self-denial than giving up chocolate.


George Cardinal Pell

Some of the hysteric and extreme claims about global warming are also a symptom of pagan emptiness, of Western fear when confronted by the immense and basically uncontrollable forces of nature. Belief in a benign God who is master of the universe has a steadying psychological effect, although it is no guarantee of Utopia, no guarantee that the continuing climate and geographic changes will be benign.
In the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. We await news of the Cardinal'e response to #Laudatosi


 In my own reading of the Koran, I began to note down invocations to violence. There are so many of them, however, that I abandoned this exercise after 50 or 60 or 70 pages.  
February 4 2006 


Homosexual activity is a much greater health hazard than smoking.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge


In the Gospel of Matthew we are told Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb on Easter morning and she is accompanied by a woman who is called simply ‘the other Mary’. I like to think that the ‘other Mary’ is in fact Mary MacKillop, who goes with Mary Magdalene and there, in the morning light, meets the risen Christ.(Full text)


A Swag of Views

Father Eric Hodgens, of Melbourne, an elder statesman among the clergy, also savaged Australia's Catholic bishops for what he regards as an abject performance during their five-yearly visit to Rome last month, particularly in failing to stand up for Bill Morris, sacked earlier this year as bishop of Toowoomba.
"They eat their own when fingered by Rome," Father Hodgens wrote of the bishops in The Swag, the national journal of Catholic priests. "How can you trust them?
''They are reckless with our patrimony. They seem incapable of protecting their own rights, let alone ours, in a system which is corrupt by today's secular standards. No wonder the attitude of so many priests and observant laity is moving from disappointment to disgust," he wrote.
Father Hodgens said the Domus Australia guest house in Rome - a beautifully refurbished old religious house with 33 rooms for paying visitors, a richly restored grand chapel and organ and a 150-seat auditorium opened by Pope Benedict XVI last month - cost between $30 million and $85 million, according to different estimates.
He said Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, had hoped all Australian dioceses would pay for it, but only Melbourne, Perth and Lismore had made contributions and the Sydney Archdiocese had paid the bulk.
He said Catholics of the four dioceses were not consulted, there was no prospect of a reasonable financial return and no accountability. "What does it say of us who trust bishops? The ethics of our secular state are higher than those of our church."
Secrecy also surrounded the sacking of Bishop Morris, who never saw the charges against him or the report by an "inquisitorial visitor", Archbishop Charles Chaput, then of Denver, he said.
"And the Australian bishops simply rolled over … . they thanked their humiliators for being generous with their time," Father Hodgens wrote.
"Thank God we live in a secular state and not in a Catholic theocracy," he said.

Australian Catholic Bishops Make A Mess

I was interested to hear of  the financial investment and distribution of the Australian. Catholic Bishops statement, Don't. Mess With Marriage throughout parishes, schools and agencies

 Read full text of Media Release here


I believe it is based on an ancient  statement now out of print, Don't. Mess With. Children


No doubt schools and parishes will be looking forward to the rest of the series.  Don't. Mess With Refugees and Don't. Mess With Indigenous People. I understand that the proposed booklet Don't Mess With The Climate has been shelved following the release of #laudatosi


In the light of the evidence in the Royal Commission I doubt that this pastoral letter will grab the imagination of the 'sensus fidelium" or have any credible impact on the discussion. I have written elsewhere of the credibility problems that plague the Bishops.

The lessons from Ireland are pretty plain and the Vatican response shows that there is a clerical blind spot that I suggest is not the work of the Spirit.

And in the latest news the American Supreme Court has voted to allow same sex couples to marry.

Justice Anthony Kennedy jUne 2015

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding.

A Nouwen Network - 'Mental Health Ministry Matters''s photo.
On Sunday 11 October 2015, people throughout Australia will participate in A Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding. 
You are encouraged to begin to plan now to be a part of this effort to promote pastoral sensitivity to, and inclusion of, all whose lives are affected by mental health issues.

Resources: