Life after Epiphany


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Sonnet of Self-Dedication

Otherwise entitled: “Prayer of a Postulant.” This was written during my Postulant year – but the themes hold true even out here in lay life. Perhaps even more than at the time of writing.

– – – – –

King of the deep, Lord of the storm
Command mine raging heart be still
To ponder Your Incarnate form
To contemplate Your holy will.

Now stir me up with zeal for souls
and send me out to push the plough
To run t’ward the Eternal Goal
Then live the Everlasting Now.

Yet in my weakness, Lord, I fall
Please help me humbly stand again
Would that for love of You, my all
Be in Your service wholly spent.

Saviour, King, Beloved, Friend:
Totus Tuus, till my life’s end.

– – – – –

(A dusty sketch from October 2011)


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Salvation: my first attempt at recording and sharing my own music

Back in April I blogged about a song I wrote some years ago during a difficult time in my life, a time where I was experiencing a crippling slavery to the things of this world and to certain behaviours that were quite simply destructive to my interior life.

I wrote the song on Easter Sunday of 2009, and it was my first glimmer of hope – grounded in the Resurrection – that the Lord could free me from this slavery and draw me more closely to Himself in love.

When I wrote about the song I posted the lyrics, but did not include an audio version. Since leaving my previous cloistered environment I’ve discovered Soundcloud and this is my first attempt at recording and sharing – so there are a lot of mistakes! In your generosity, please forgive/ignore the mistakes – I’ll clean them up later – but for now, here goes:


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Sometimes I think my most intense moments are lived in my car… (JGL 6)

Ever heard that song “Woke Up in America” by Matt Maher?

That song has been a little bit of a personal theme song, given my American convent adventure…  and the fact that Australia, as an island nation, is basically a rock in the middle of the ocean (even though technically it is NOT the rock to which Matt Maher was referring!).

So many of the lyrics just truly resonate with me! I really did wake up in America for the love of God, for something bigger than myself!

Tonight as I was driving along and rocking out to the song, though, I was struck by the fact that the preposition TO could also work there… instead of FOR. I woke up in America TO the love of God: my unique encounter with Him woke me up to the reality that His particular and personal love for me is deep beyond my comprehension… I woke up to this reality in such a way that it is far more than “head knowledge” now. Somehow this has become a lived reality for me, something that finally embarked upon that massive journey from my head to my heart, covered the distance and started to take root there.

I woke up in America TO something bigger than myself. I was confronted by the dreadful extent of my own selfishness. In my pride, I was scandalised by my own weakness. But living in community has a way of opening one’s heart to love others… slowly, almost against your will at first… until one sees that there is a world out there of people who need to be loved, people for whom I could be the instrument of God’s own love. Once again, what had been head knowledge started to penetrate my rocky heart.

I guess perhaps the impact of this is lost somewhat in the telling, but I was simply overwhelmed with gratitude for the incredible gift of my time there. Sometimes I get bogged down in the grief of the loss that came with leaving my Community, and the surprising extent to which the adjustment of resettling into lay life has been so very arduous. On this particular occasion, however, I was engulfed with an awareness of what an amazing blessing had been given me.

I think back upon that time, and I realise that it was about as far from “one size fits all” formation that you could get. There were particular experiences and lessons that my peers did not receive – experiences and lessons that were gifted only to me, custom-designed for my formation and salvation. I am sure that the reverse is also true. A gift… a delightfully personal gift… one that continues to form me.

As for Matt Maher – he makes FANTASTIC driving music. I sing, I dance at the traffic lights, I drum-beat the steering wheel… I must look like a lunatic! But the whole thing is a prayer 🙂 Mostly, its just time enjoyed singing praise… but every now and then there is a moment of significance, a moment of discovery, a moment of gratitude.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good! His love endures for ever!

– – – – – – –

NB: JGL = Journal of God’s Love
What IS the Journal of God’s Love?


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My sunburnt country: Bushfires near Bilpin, NSW

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The Australian Flag flying proudly against a backdrop that threatens a terrifying summer.

My home is one of the many that lies on the projected fire path of the State Mine bushfire that is currently blazing a devastating trail through the Blue Mountains. We are watching the Rural Fire Service updates and we’ve cleared the leaves out of our gutters and we’ve kept the ground around our house moist. At present we don’t need to evacuate, but we may have to with very little notice… all we can do is watch, and wait, and try to fit as much normal life into the gaps in between the half-hourly bushfire updates on our local radio station.

The updates for the fires and instructions to residents can be found at: http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/dsp_content.cfm?cat_id=684

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The colour of the flames reflecting from just over the horizon.

If you chance across this post and would like to help those many people who have lost their homes and everything they own, you can do so over the phone by calling the Red Cross donation phone line: 1800 811 700

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Huh? The sky is BLUE, you say? Not here in the Mountains. Apricot is the new blue.

Our gratitude goes out to the many volunteer and career fire fighters who are trying to contain these threats to our homes. Also to the many wonderful volunteers helping victims and running evacuation centres.

The Holy Father Pope Francis, ever mindful of those who suffer, has sent word through his Secretary of State to encourage Australians at this time:

MESSAGE FROM THE HOLY FATHER ON THE AUSTRALIAN BUSHFIRES

His Holiness Pope Francis has asked me to express his concern for the people of New South Wales and all who are affected the devastation wrought by the extensive fires in the region.

He prays especially for those who have died and for those who have lost their homes and workplaces, as well as for the numerous personnel working to combat the fires and provide comfort and care for those who are suffering.

Invoking the spiritual gifts of solidarity and perseverance upon the communities touched by these trying events, the Holy Father sends his blessing.

+Archbishop Pietro Parolin,
Secretary of State

From the Vatican, 19 October, 2013

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The billowing smoke on its approach as it settles over the Mountains like a pall.

The photographs included here were taken last Thursday from the vantage point of my front yard. This was just the beginning. The angry sun, the apricot glow and the smokey haze have all intensified as the situation has worsened. Please pray for all those who are affected by this disaster!

I love a sunburnt country
A land of sweeping plains
Of rugged mountain ranges
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons
I love her jewel seas
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me.

~ Dorothea Mackellar

The Angry Sun: Fluorescent Pink!

The Angry Sun: Fluorescent Pink!

Burnt leaves and ash have been falling in the yard.

Burnt leaves and ash have been falling in the yard.


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Feminists fighting females, socialists being anti-social… the types of people who think abortion is OK

I was on retreat this weekend. I switched my phone off, I left my laptop at home – I voluntarily disengaged from all news and contact with the outside world for 2 short but precious days of silence, prayer, and growth.

I returned home from that relative calm to read a report of chaos and violence in the following article:
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/the-left-reveals-an-ugly-face-in-antiabortion-rally/story-fni0ffxg-1226739222330

As I read the observations reported of what transpired in Melbourne during the annual March for Babies, I have to admit that as disgusted as I was, I wasn’t really all that surprised. This behaviour is GENTLE compared with the murderous practices for which these people are campaigning.

Fanatical feminists attacking women whose opinions differ from their own; socialists denying the right of ordinary people to rally against oppression… it is no wonder that the journalist reporting felt the need to conclude that the left in Australia is the “natural home of the totalitarian and the bully.” That is precisely what we are seeing here.

In this demonstration I saw socialists and feminists betray almost every principle they profess to hold.     ~ Andrew Bolt

Let it be understood that I am not promoting the right side of politics in Australia either. Both extremes are far from perfect and both hold unconscionable views on a range of issues of ethical import. On the issue of abortion, however, the ideological opposition to truth, goodness and beauty does appear to have its primary thrust from the left.

As we pray and work and try to make Australia better, there is something important that I think we need to keep in mind. Our well-intentioned efforts to make the world a better place can result in consequentialist behaviour, in the loss of our own ability to love God and others, if we go about things the wrong way. Father Paul Scalia teaches on this far better than I could, and so I direct you to his article and sincerely recommend that you read it with an open heart, lest we who wish to see peace fall casualty to our own battle against evil: http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/the-church-militant-or-the-church-belligerent


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Prayer to St. Thérèse of Lisieux (taken from the book “Blessed be God”)

O servant of God, Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, who in thy dying moments did say: “I will spend my heaven in doing good upon the earth,” hasten to let fall upon me a Shower of Roses that I too may be inflamed with that fire of love which burned so brilliantly in thy breast and which brought thee so gloriously to the arms of Jesus, my Lord and my God. Amen

Happy Feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux!
If you prayed the novena with me, I thank you!

The book Blessed be God: A Complete Catholic Prayer Book with Epistles and Gospels for Every Sunday and Holiday of the Year  by  Fr Charles J. Callan OP and Fr. John A. McHugh OP (reprinted in 2010 by Preserving Christian Publications) is a real little treasure. It was published in 1960 so it is modelled on the old Roman calendar rather than the current calendar, but it is absolutely teeming with beautiful prayers and devotions. Vinyl bound with gold edging on the pages and a page-marker ribbon, just beautiful!It includes aspects of catechesis on the virtues and whatnot, too (c’mon, the authors were Dominican!) and I can’t recommend it enough. I received mine as a gift from a friend just last week. It is already well-used and well-loved!


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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.

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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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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.

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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.