Life after Epiphany


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Novena to St. Therese of Lisieux – starts Sunday 22nd September

EWTN as always have proven just to be an awesome Catholic resource, a great contributor to the rebuilding of Catholic Culture.

I’ve mentioned before that St. Therese of Lisieux has a very special significance to me. In anticipation of her upcoming feast day on the Roman Calendar, I’ll be praying the novena that EWTN have published on their website:

http://www.ewtn.com/therese/novena.htm#pray

Please do consider joining me!


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tears

2468946This past week in Australia has seen public outcry at the fact that the newly announced cabinet includes only one woman. Whilst I will plainly state my opinion that this is a cosmetic and transparently partisan complaint of little substance, given that our leadership should entirely be selected on capability and merit rather than meaningless gender quotas, I do not want to get stuck on this point. Rather, I would like to acknowledge that the vocation of woman is different to the vocation of man, and I would like to explore one aspect of this vocation of woman.

Now before the radical feminists of the world get all up in arms let me be very clear: I am NOT saying that there is not a role for women to play in leadership or government in this day and age. Absolutely not. There is overlap between the roles of women and men, but there are also characteristics of serving the Lord and building up the Church that tend to be unique to femininity and masculinity. I would envisage women as leaders to fall within the overlap, but perhaps a woman’s style of leadership might then veer into the area of what is unique to femininity.

overlappedvocationven

Fr. Gerald Vann OP, in a book that is a personal favourite of mine, Heart of Compassion: The Vocation of Woman Today, appeals to the teaching of St. Paul in the Mystical Body of Christ and its composition comprising many different parts with different roles (1 Cor 12:21). He tells us that we will not achieve the freedom and dignity of woman by trying to make her a man – and then goes on to examine some of the ways in which the differences are complimentary. His underlying thesis appears to be that the woman’s contribution is ESSENTIAL to the success of the masculine vocation, and that the masculine vocation helps to give meaning or context to the feminine vocation.

After an examination on a generic level, Fr. Vann moves to a detailed exploration of the ‘Vocation of Tears’ that I found very striking… and moving. It is of course fitting that he establishes the Blessed Mother as the exemplar of a feminine vocation well-lived… she who kept all things and pondered them in her heart.

stMarysCathedralMAR2013 021What a precious gift, that the woman is, by nature, receptive and contemplative! Pondering deeply will almost always entail some kind of personal response, and often this is one of compassion. Maternity, whether biological or spiritual, requires compassion, and the Mother of Sorrow, depicted in the pieta holding her precious Son, teaches us trust during despair and courage in the face of suffering.

“We cannot think adequately of woman’s vocation within the Mystical Body of Christ without thinking of the mystery of vicarious suffering and expiation”

~ Fr. Gerald Vann OP (p70, Heart of Compassion)

Fr. Vann further illustrates with a look at St. Monica, quiet and patient over many years weeping and crying out to the Lord on behalf of her son, St. Augustine. He tells us that St. Monica would take part in the philosophical discussions that were involved in St. Augustine’s catechetical preparation for Baptism, but emphasised that the conversion came much earlier, a movement of the Spirit in St. Augustine’s life, an answer to prayer… the fruit of tears, not words.

“We are concerned with the tears that express a deep feeling of responsibility in the sight of God, that are themselves a prayer and a sacrifice to God, and that are part of the vocation of Christian motherhood because the love of the son who causes them is in itself an aspect of the love of God. It is tears such as these that can be the channel of saving grace; it is the children of tears such as these who cannot perish.”

~ Fr. Gerald Vann OP (p72, Heart of Compassion)

Fr. Vann exhorts women to learn to pray the De Profundis, i.e. Psalm 129 (130), on behalf of humankind, and in so doing, to unite our very prayer life with the one efficacious sacrifice made by Jesus on the Cross. If we look around us, we see so many reasons to despair, so many reasons to weep. Our tears, though, are not tears of despair. Our tears are fundamentally an expression of hope, hope in the love and mercy of the Father who keeps His promise to His children.


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Excluded Middles: Quitting Facebook

I really think there is a great point to be made here about the way we experience things. The Facebook phenomenon is that so many people have forgotten what it is to live an experience and drink it in, enjoying it for what it is, living in the present moment. Now, experiences are lived with the future in mind – experiences seem to be lived for bragging rights. I think John Mayer made a similar point pre-Facebook, in his song “3 x 5” from his 2001 Room for Squares album…

Good Things Run Wild

Originally published as “The Sosyal Network” in the Manila Bulletin, October 26, 2011

I recently shut down my Facebook account. This is partly for pragmatic reasons: doing so has saved me a lot more time for work and leisure reading. It is partly for security reasons: like most people, I live with an exaggerated sense of self-importance, and am in constant fear of creepy strangers looking at my bikini photos.

I do not regret it. Getting rid of my Facebook account has liberated me from the bondage of constantly keeping up with my peers. I no longer know where everyone else is going and with whom and what they are doing there, and I no longer feel bad or uncool about not being there too. It has also saved me the trouble of trying to find good photos of myself to post, and evaluating my self-worth on the number of…

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blowtorch

I love when word-play accidentally hits upon a truth and makes it fun.

Last night, I attended a priestly ordination in the Diocese of Parramatta. With two of my relatives (my brother, and my cousin) currently seminarians of the Diocese, it was for me an exciting glimpse into the future, at the same time as being a joyous occasion in its own right.

Please pray for the newly ordained Fr. John Paul Escarlan!

Anyway, this is all just setting the scene. My family and I were walking back to the car after the evening and somehow there was a context in our conversation for the word “asceticism” to come up.

My father made a classic, tragic “Dad Joke” and asked: “isn’t that what you mix with oxygen to make a blowtorch work?”

Dad was just trying to be funny, but actually, he was stumbling onto a deep spiritual truth about which mystics have been writing for centuries.

Enter John Cassian. He tells us that asceticism bears fruit in contemplative prayer. When we investigate contemplative prayer, even at a surface level, we come across John of the Cross and his famous poem The Living Flame of Love. We encounter Therese of Lisieux’s triumphant discovery of her love-vocation as she prays

O Luminous Beacon of Love! I know how to reach you, I have found the secret of possessing your flame…Yes, in order that Love be fully satisfied, it is necessary that it lower itself, and that it lower itself to nothingness and transform this nothingness into fire.

~ Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul

Far from being monopolized by the Carmelites, we see it in St. Catherine of Siena’s injunction to be what we should be so that we set the world on fire. We see it in Bernard of Clairvaux’s fourfold breakdown of love.

We read a very striking account of Blaise Pascal’s “night of fire” where he was gifted with an experience of contemplative prayer of which he wrote and sewed in to the lining of his coat so that he could carry that experience with him always.

Just as acetylene and oxygen fuel the fire produced by a blowtorch, so asceticism nourished by the oxygen of the Sacraments and the Word of God produce the Living Flame of God’s Love in our lives.

Nice work, Dad 🙂


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the end of an era.

There are some in Australia right now who mourn the end of an era of government.

I am NOT among them, and look forward with (measured) hope to better times under the new Coalition government, even if my own electorate is stuck with a member of the opposition holding our seat. I intend to be an active constituent and make her work for the right to be there, put it that way. As far as I can tell, she is not on EMILY’s List, and that is encouraging, at least.

But really… lets put things in perspective.

beatles_abbey-road

It truly IS the end of an era… because THE BEATLES GRAFFITI WALL has been knocked down!! Since 2002 I’ve enjoyed it each morning that I’ve passed it on the roads. And now its gone! Add it to the list of Great Beatles Sites that No Longer Exist.

Some walls simply have to come down. The Berlin Wall – it had to go. But really? The harmless Beatles wall that lent such delight to the morning commute?

This Sydney driver mourns.


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Is freedom of religion in Australia a thing of the past?

I’m currently looking for work.

The part-time role that I have been covering since I returned from the convent is about to come to a close; it was only ever a temporary arrangement and I’m nearing the end of it, and trying to look for an alternative to move into when this one has finished.

I received an email today from a recruiter for a company with whom I have actively sought to obtain employment. Here is an extract from the letter:

I wanted to reach out to you to introduce myself and ask a few questions to learn a bit more about you and see if we can match what you’re looking for.
1. Availability
Were you seeking Part-Time or Full-Time position with us, and what days would you be able to work? Please note our Part-Time requirements are at least four full days of availability, including full availability over the weekend. Our Full-Time requirements are seven full days of availability.
Yes folks, that’s right.
This organisation requires availability ALL DAY on both Saturday and Sunday.What about people from Catholic, Jewish, Seventh Day Adventist and various other denominations of Christianity or other faiths that entail obligatory worship on either Saturday or Sunday?
The email closed with:
We are committed to diversity. <COMPANY NAME> are an Equal Opportunity Employer.
That sounds like they’re committed to diversity so long as you are prepared to waive your right to freedom of worship.
Is this even legal?
I’ve noticed that most organisations in the Retail industry are imposing similar availability requirements as a matter of policy. This sounds like institutionalised religious discrimination to me.

Having spent 24 hours considering all of this (and fuming over it!) I realise that the odds of getting any momentum behind an effort to do anything about this in any serious way is zero to none.And so this particular post remains a soapbox rant. Nothing more.

Seriously, though – am I the only one tired of a society where this sort of thing is OK?