Friday, April 28, 2006

New resource for Building Communities of Faith and Justice

Compassionate Community Work

In “Compassionate Community Work”, Dave Andrews has provided a truly remarkable and comprehensive resource for teaching and learning about community development. This “introductory course on community work for churches”, is much more than a text book. It is an invitation to participate in an experiential, highly practical, spiritually rich, and potentially life-changing learning process

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Feast of St Joseph the Worker and Labour Day 1st May 2006

Feast of St Joseph the Worker and Labour Day 1st May 2006

I led a prayer service at St Mary's South Brisbane prior to the Labour Day march. For those who don't know much about the Catholic community at South Brisbane and it's ability to stir more than the possum, I suggest you visit Dreadnought, whose frenzied attack on our local Church includes a descriptor of me as a "communist crank". Well, it's a lot to live up. I'm more comfortable with "Holy Irritant".

For our prayer, we gathered around our new community banner and an open copy of the Scriptures. We silently used the sign of the cross as our gathering ritual and acknowledged the Indigenous Owners of the land on which we gathered. We sang They'll Know We Are Christians, an old favourite which enough of us could sing from memory. The readings of the day for the feast of St Joseph, the Worker provided food for reflection. Our prayers and petitions included those used in the Church last week for the International Day of Mourning:

We concluded our prayer in a circle around the banner singing "We Shall Overcome" for as Paul reminds us in the Letter to the Romans: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (12:21) and nothing can separate us from the love of God, neither legislation, nor exploitation, nor injustice.

I have uploaded my collection of images from Monday's Labour Day Celebraton. If you need ahigher resolution copies, please feel free to let me know. Any use of the images in the public domain, should include the caption: "Tony Robertson, Community Photographer"

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Easter Message from the Chapel of the Holy Irritant

Easter 2006!!! It's that time of the year again. The mob are somewhat overwhelemed by the combination of Chocolate, a full moon and the anticipation that comes with the Bert compering the Logies yet again.

Religion has been the preferred choice of the media this month as the wannabe experts get themselves into a lather over the discovery of the Judas Gospel. Also worth a read is this transcript from The World Today. The program is broadcast around Australia at 12:10pm on ABC Local Radio. This interview includes ELEANOR HALLwith Father John Flader from the Catholic Adult Education Centre in the Sydney Archdiocese and Dr Malcolm Choat from Macquarie University.

Meanwhile back at Vatican City the real scoop of the month is the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church complete with piccies and quotable quotes. Bit more commentary on this volume at: Sentire cum Ecclesia: The Compendium is here!

Well, I waited a few days and managed to pick my copy up with a $3 discount from the cute seminarian that helps out at our local St Paul's Bookshop here in Brisbane. Now, there's quite a saga about the poor old bookshop. During the very expensive fit out of the new Francis Rush Centre Father Bruno and his staff including the effusive Heather were all relocated to a cavern that fronts the dead end of Elizabeth Street. Usually there are more people laying on the grass topped roof in the sun than browsing the shelves underneath. However they continue to "soldier on" in the most remote outpost of the Catholic Centre in Brisbane.

So, back to the Compendium of the Catholic Catechism. It's quite a neat looking volume with a good collection of images that were apparently hand picked by B16 hisself!! It shows.Papa has a very Euro-centric taste and there is nothing from any other continent and nothing from contemporary religious art.

The text is faithful to the original Catechism using the late Archbishop D'Arcy's preference for exclusive male langugae for God and humanity It also has a series of blue boxes of quotable quotes. Once again, I ask myself, where is the wisdom of the women? Every single quote is from an old cleric of some fame and the most recent quoted cleric is dear old John Vianney (1786-1869)who scored the parish of Ars !!

My next quandry was where to locate this volume? Shelf space is now a premium and short of a devestating cull,I feared it may have to sit on top of some other texts for a while. However, some clever re-stocking and here it is right next to its big sister volume and close to some of the more interesting contemporary thinkers in Christianity today. The more observant among you will alos recognize that it is supported at one end with the classic Butler's Lives of the Saints and right at the end of the shelf is , yes, it is!! good old Fulton Sheen's These Are The Sacraments.

However, the volume that really stands out on this shelf has to be a 1958 edition of Fortescue-O'Connell's The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described.
I hear you ask,"how does one come by such a volume? Well, that's a tale of its own. The book is stamped with "Chrsitin Brothers Wagga" and came into my hands via a former cleric now living outside Canberra. More details in my last will and testament.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Introduction to The Holy Irritant Chapel

Welcome! A bit of background about the Holy Irritant:(regularly updated and expanded)

Born Catholic and given the baptismal patrons of Anthony and Gerard, two men who never had sex and died young. Continued the custom begun by my parents and chose another male patron for my confirmation who never had sex and died young, Dominic Savio. 

March 8 marks the 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 life. 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 Catholicsm 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. My mentors in faith have included women like Margaret Oats, "Mum" Shirl, Dorothy Day.

The power of symbol in Catholicism has always attracted me and came home to me when my parents renovated our family home some years ago. During my childhood in the era prior to the Vatican Council, the living room in our family home was dominated by the image of the Sacred Heart. The eyes of the image could spot you wherever you were in the room. When the house was renovated in the 70's the picture was moved to a discrete position above the front entrance where it would be the last image seen by visitors leaving the house. This was particularly effective for JW's and Mormons as most visitors used the back door. What is more interesting is that the space in the living room which had been home for the Sacred Heart for almost 25 years was taken up with a mirror. The new image reflected God's eyes in the members of our family.

I make a clear distinction between the faith community of Catholicism and the structural processes which have contributed to much of the alienation of family and friends from the Church. The popular metaphor of "supermarket Catholicism" where we pick and choose what we need is more appealing than the fixed menu at an exclusive restaurant. which seems to be the preferred model for Church leaders such as Cardinal George Pell . Our history suggests that we have failed to feed the hunger of the diversity of the human family for whom Jesus lived and died.

I have been Catholic across two 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. I remain as a "holy irritant" among those who conserve a stifling patriarchy. I live my faith as a a gay man challenging the theology and practices that have alienated sexual minorities for too long. My sexuality has been a catalyst for moving into a religious commitment that takes me to the edge of the church. At the edge I find a new centre that offers opportunities and relationships affirming that which the church denies and I find a vision of the Divine which embraces new realities and great dreams for the planet and humanity.

Ss Peter and Paul's Ashby, Geelong West where my parents met and married. The parish where I joined the Altar Servers, the Crusaders of the Blessed Sacrament and the Tennis Club which was the first catholic group I joined that included girls! As a young boy I was member of the choir which in those days was accompanied by a young Roger Heagney who would go on to lead St Francis Church Choir in Melbourne.

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

Education History
St John's Primary School, North Geelong
St Patrick's Primary School, West Geelong
St Joseph's College Newtown
Catholic Theological Union Hunters Hill
Australian Catholic University McAuley Campus