Life after Epiphany


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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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Global hour of power – shout it from the rooftops!

In a world first, Pope Francis is inviting everyone around the globe to participate in an hour of Eucharistic Adoration. This is to take place on 2nd June at 5pm-6pm (Vatican local time.)

Sydney-siders… this means an early morning that hopefully comes with Divine protection against “Monday-itis!” This will be Monday at 1.00am, EST.

Here are the times for a few other places around the world:

Houston, TX USA:                 Sunday 10.00am
Los Angeles, CA USA:           Sunday 8.00am
London, UK:                           Sunday 4.00pm
Seoul, South Korea:              Monday 12.00am (Yep, Sunday Midnight)
Mumbai, India:                      Sunday 8.30pm
Jerusalem, Israel:                  Sunday, 6.00pm

What wonderful leadership this initiative represents! Blessed be God for the gift of Pope Francis, who truly is leading his flock to the Lord. Let us follow – let us all participate in this holy hour if at all possible. What a wonderful thing to be a part of, the very first time in human history where there has been a global coordinated effort to ensure that someone in every place on earth is praising God ALL AT THE ONE TIME!

The holy Father’s intentions are:

1. “For the Church spread throughout the world and united today in the adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist as a sign of unity. May the Lord make her ever more obedient to hearing his Word in order to stand before the world ‘ever more beautiful, without stain or blemish, but holy and blameless.’ That through her faithful announcement, the Word that saves may still resonate as the bearer of mercy and may increase love to give full meaning to pain and suffering, giving
back joy and serenity.”

2. “For those around the world who still suffer slavery and who are victims of war, human trafficking, drug running, and slave labour. For the children and women who are suffering from every type of violence. May their silent scream for help be heard by a vigilant Church so that, gazing upon the crucified Christ, she may not forget the many brothers and sisters who are left at the mercy of violence.
Also, for all those who find themselves in economically precarious situations,
above all for the unemployed, the elderly, migrants, the homeless, prisoners,
and those who experience marginalization. That the Church’s prayer and its
active nearness give them comfort and assistance in hope and strength and
courage in defending human dignity.”

Thankyou to the Vatican Radio website for reporting this exciting event!
Update: Vatican News Service have released a booklet for this event – click here to download


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Does the devil have a girlfriend? (…and other bizarre things that 9-year-olds say)

I used to teach Catechism to a combined 3rd and 4th grade class at our local public school.

I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence. I was confident in my grasp of the Faith, holding postgraduate qualifications in theology – but how do you boil that down and give it to a 9-year-old in a way that he/she will understand and in a way that moves him/her to respond? I am NOT very good at teaching children. I love children – but I’m NOT very good at teaching them.

And lets face it – the degrees are meaningless at the end of the day. Can we share our Faith with others? THAT’S what counts. Can I help any given man, woman or child to encounter Jesus and begin a relationship with Him?

God willing I’ll gradually grow better at this.

Anyway, in this class there were two boys that were ringleaders for trouble. We’ll call one of them Tom, and the other one Harry.

Tom swears that his grandfather was best friends with Bl. Pier-Giorgio Frassati, which told me that he had already had some exposure to someone very devout, such that he understood that knowing a saint in real life is exciting!

Anyway, the class started one day with them all calling me Mrs Myname. I corrected them and explained that I was Miss because I wasn’t married. Harry piped in with the astonishing remark “but you’re so pretty!!”

Well, if that didn’t just melt my heart! Here’s the toughest kid in the class, the one who encourages all sorts of shenanigans that disrupt the class – but he starts the lesson with a compliment!

By now? I was on my guard already. I was NOT going to be distracted from the work we had to do. A compliment is NOT collateral against future mischief.

So I can’t actually remember what the class was SUPPOSED to be on, because it only took a few minutes more and I WAS distracted. The class turned into a general Q & A about all sorts of things to do with the Faith, things that they were generally too afraid to ask an adult because the questions were never taken seriously.

They asked me about Heaven and Hell, about Grace, about Angels, Saints, the devil… stuff that technically didn’t get covered as part of the course (but perhaps SHOULD be covered). One kid was asking me all sorts of strange questions about the nature of God and His attributes:

“Can God expand His size?”

THEN Tom did what I knew he couldn’t resist doing… he asked a silly question for cheap laughs from his classmate.

“Miss Myname, does the devil have a girlfriend?”

Aha. You’re not getting the better of me here, Tom! Nope. Sure you got your laughs… (even *I* had to stifle a giggle!) BUT… you didn’t bargain on getting a serious answer to your question, did ya?

Well… I told Tom to think about when they’re all out in the playground, how they don’t like hanging out with the kids who only talk about themselves, who are “full of themselves” as it were. I said that the devil was just like that – he was totally full of himself and he was such boring, tiresome company that no girl would want to be his girlfriend! We used this as a Segway to talk about pride and humility and how to be humble like Jesus.  It was a bizarre little turn to take in the conversation, but it actually opened us up to some really fascinating and worthwhile topics.

This is the favourite memory I have from my time as a Catechist – I remember this lesson and how much I enjoyed answering their questions and seeing them get all fired up and excited about their faith. The more they asked, the deeper their questions got – it was an absolute privilege to witness the growth that happened in that one lesson.

I’m a hopeless teacher. But sometimes the Lord works even through that.


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Did not our hearts burn as He talked to us on the road? An Eastertide Scripture reflection

This beautiful Emmaus Painting can be purchased as a print from the original artist, who has other work for sale also: http://www.emmauspainting.com/

I LOVE the Emmaus pericope.

Our human experience is so often characterized by our confusion at what is happening to us and around us. We get preoccupied with trying to make sense of it all and without our recognizing it, Jesus draws near.

How often we are oblivious to His presence!

Nevertheless, Jesus walks with us. He is present to us in our pain and confusion. Perhaps He is silent sometimes – but He is there.

Verse 16 tells us that the eyes of Cleopas and his companion (Luke himself?) were kept from recognizing Christ. I wonder if God doesn’t do this sometimes to help us see our need for Him, to help us desire Him more? Just like the lover in the Song of Songs, whose relationship with His beloved is characterized by alternating periods of presence and absence… yet even when He is absent, He leaves behind his fragrance, the rememberance of Him… is He ever TRULY absent?

The question He asks next seems indicative of an invitation to prayer. Jesus knows the answer to the question He asks – He is the Risen Lord, after all! He asks the question to prompt a conversation. Jesus wants us to bring our troubles to Him, even though He already knows about them. He helps us to reflect thoughtfully… and then He asks us to listen to Him.

The thoughtful reflection is important, but the crucial step is the listening, for it is then that our hearts burn. We are made for union with God. God is our ultimate end, our absolute good. It makes sense that as we listen to Him, something inside us starts to sing. “Only the lover sings” as Josef Pieper would say! Yes – something inside us starts to sing, and our deepest desires are revealed to us. The Lord knows our desires – but do we? Really?

The journey on earth is long and arduous at times, and it would perhaps be cruel if the Lord were to heighten our desires but never to satiate them. Whilst our desire for fullness of union with God, and the ability to see Him as He is, can never be realized until the next life, we can receive a foretaste of this union at the Mass, our portal as it were into the heavenly banquet, the wedding feast of the Lamb.

This very account is the Scriptural basis for the structure of the Mass. The Mass consists of a celebration of the Word where we allow the Lord to speak to us through Scripture, and the priest in his homily seeks to help us understand the Gospel message by explaining the Scriptures in the broader context of Salvation History such that we can see how it points to Christ. Then we celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist, a representation (in the Hebrew understanding) of the once and for all Paschal Sacrifice. Time and space diminish in their relevance – all of the angels and saints are truly present at each Mass, where heaven is united with earth, and it is NOT a repetition of the Sacrifice that transpires – rather it is the very same Sacrifice – we become mysteriously present at Calvary.

It is here, in this place, during the breaking of the bread, that we are able to recognize the Lord and understand what He has spoken to us.

“O Sacred Banquet – in which Christ is received, the memory of His Passion is recalled and the pledge of future glory is given to us!” – St. Thomas Aquinas

Do you desire intimacy with Christ?
Come to Mass and meet Him there!


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charity begins at home… Pope encouraging grassroots change

We saw major steps in ecumenism and cultural interchange with Pope Benedict XVI. This movement on the “big picture” was truly beautiful and enriching for the Church.

It certainly seems as though we are now receiving enrichment of a different kind; Pope Francis in his preaching and in his public messages to date seems to be honing in on the individual and his/her relationship with God.

Pope Francis’ recent Twitter feed is my case in point:

pontifextwitterfeed

And most recently: “Never speak poorly of others.”

These tweets are all short extracts taken from recent homilies and addresses. Each speaks to an aspect of one’s personal relationship with Christ and the nature of how that relationship expresses itself in relationship with others. It is the encounter with Christ that is important! Pope Francis is inviting each one of us to take a good look at ourselves, to stand as we are before the Lord and to receive His love and mercy and seek to live out the love we have received. His messages are simple but important…  and potentially very powerful in their effect, if we take them to heart.

Its almost like Pope Francis is acting as a personal spiritual director to every single individual in the Church throughout the world! How amazing that such a thing is even possible! Changing hearts. This can only be done by the Holy Spirit. It seems that He is working through our Holy Father in this way… we need to open ourselves up to these graces!

Both the “big picture” and the “grassroots growth” need attention. Each of us needs a shepherd to help lead us to Christ as individuals, and we also as the People of God, as a Church, need a shepherd. Both men are different, and the Holy Spirit has given each individual holding the Office of Pope a different task. Isn’t encouraging to see that all of us are being well tended?


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the harrowing of hell

stMarysCathedralMAR2013 023 (733x423)

An empty tabernacle

In churches around the world today, the Tabernacles are empty. The Lord Jesus, who makes Himself truly present to us in the form of bread and wine and dwells Sacramentally among us in our churches, cannot be found where He usually resides.

The empty tabernacle calls to mind the Lord’s lifeless Body in the tomb. Jesus, who is God, truly died on that First Century Passover. What transpired between His Death and Resurrection? We profess in the Apostles Creed to believe that He descended into Hell, and on the third day rose from the dead.

The following is an “ancient homily on Holy Saturday” – a moving, powerful piece that dares to imagine the Majesty of the Lord enacting His victory over death:

The Lord descends into hell

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and rasied him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.

For your sake I, your God, became your son; I the Lord, took the form of a slave; I whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol o life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by the cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

— Taken from the Office of Readings for Holy Saturday


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turn on the ignition!

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A lot of us are sitting in the driveway in beautiful cars, tanks full of gas, oil in the crankshaft, fluid in the radiator… and we’re sitting there saying “I wish I could go places!”

Turn on the ignition!

Listening to a talk on “Fanning the Flame of Faith” by Alex Jones, I was struck by this remark that he made. How impotent we make ourselves!!

We are so blessed in the Catholic Church to have all we need. We have the Truth, revealed to us in the twofold deposit of faith in both Scripture and Tradition. We have the Sacraments. We have the Saints to show us how the Lord can be followed in every circumstance. We have the Blessed Mother to intercede for us to her Son. We have the Blessed Trinity dwelling within us by virtue of our Baptism… but none of us can benefit from these things or help others to benefit from them if we don’t turn on the ignition!

What is the ignition?

Well.. next time you hear one of our Protestant brothers or sisters talking about a personal relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, DO NOT ROLL YOUR EYES and assume that this is buzz-word rhetoric. Our brothers and sisters in other denominations of Christianity differ with us in some very crucial ways, but on this point they are 100% correct.

You and I – each one of us – needs a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The ENCOUNTER with Christ is the spark that is ignited when the starter engine turns. The starter engine is the movement of Actual Grace – the Holy Spirit at work. Turning on the ignition, then, is surely represented in the action of begging the Lord for receptivity to grace.

The Mother General of the Community to which I used to belong once said to me that the first task of the New Evangelization is RECEPTIVITY TO GRACE. As a religious Novice, cloistered away from what one would generally consider the “mission field” of the New Evangelization, this made a profound impact on me. We need to RECEIVE from the Lord so that we can give to others. We have nothing, NOTHING, without Him. He asks us to give generously, but He first gives that we may then give to others! The life of a Novice is prayer, domestic work and prayer, study and prayer, more prayer. That prayer is less a talkative prayer and more a listening prayer. That prayer is receptivity in action. As a Novice, I was uniquely placed in the privileged position of being able to contribute authentically to the apostolate of my Community by being receptive to grace.

I often think of St. Paul, and the years that passed between his conversion and the beginning of his missionary journeys. Paul needed to be formed and strengthened in the Lord. He needed to receive before He could give.

Now, the Lord has called me away from religious life, but not before teaching me why He called me to that life in the first place. He wanted to give me something precious. The cloistered environment on the other side of the world were precisely the lengths to which He went to enable me to receive the gift He wanted to give to me. Here, out in the world again, I need to concern myself with sharing this with others. Giving myself to others is limited in its usefulness, for I am nothing and He is all. No – I want to give CHRIST to others! Paul tells us “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”

Crucial lesson from this: the receptivity cannot stop! My time in cloister is behind me now. But to live a life of effective, authentic service to His People out of love for Him, even as a lay person, requires fidelity to prayer in that inner cell that my patroness, St. Catherine of Siena, teaches us all about. Every day I need to turn on that ignition again, I need to beg the Lord for receptivity to grace and then I need to spend time in prayer with Him, receiving Him that I may share Him with others.

We can really go places. The Lord wants to take us there! So turn on the ignition and see what wonders He works in you!


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Genesis + Song of Songs = What I learned about nakedness, honesty, intimacy with the Lord

Too often, I am hiding.

Too often, little truths about myself are too frightening to face, let alone to share with anyone else. Irrationally, I suppose, I try to hide even from the Omnipotent One, from He who knows everything about me (Ps 139:1-5), from He who beheld me before I was formed (Ps 139:16).

A little bit like in the garden, really. Hiding in shame (Gen 3:8).

He calls to me:

“O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
in the covert of the cliff,
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice” (Cant 2:14)

An ancient tradition in the Church interprets the cleft in the rock as symbolic of the wounded side of Christ (Arminjon 176). As the I nestle further and further into my hiding hole, I am actually moving more deeply into the very Heart from whom I am hiding! In my fear and in my pain, I struggle against His embrace – He holds me all the more firmly, yet gently.

As He calls to me, He is inviting me back to the garden. He is inviting me back to that original innocence where I could be naked before Him without shame.

In a moment of honesty before the Lord the other day, mid-genuflection, I wept unexpectedly and uncontrollably. I still don’t completely know exactly what passed between us… but I do know that He doesn’t want me to fear Him seeing me as I am, as He created me – before I felt the need to hide.

As You draw me more deeply into Your Sacred Heart, O Lord, let me be bathed in the Water and the Blood that poured forth as a fountain of mercy for the world.
– – – –

CITED: Arminjon, Blaise. The Cantata of Love. trans. Nelly Marans. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius, 1988.
THIS IS AN AWESOME BOOK, BTW!!


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receiving mercy, learning to relate

Controversial as it may be initially to hear this from a sincere Catholic, I REALLY love the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. In a qualified way.

Before I continue, let me clarify that I concur with all who claim that the portrayal of Christ is not one that can be taken seriously as an accurate representation of Christ. JCS portrays a very human Christ and neglects any treatment of His Divinity. This could be interpreted as implicit denial of the Divinity of Christ, the beginnings of an excursion into the realms of Arianism. However, strictly speaking, to arrive at such a conclusion is a blatant non sequitur. The only explicit denial of Christ’s Divinity comes from Judas, the traitor, who is portrayed in the musical as a troubled dissident amidst the ranks of the Twelve with a political agenda. As in all art, perspective in Rock Opera is important and any analysis or review that manages to avoid the charge of superficiality will take perspective into account. Christ has two natures – human AND Divine. Quite simply, JCS considers the humanity of Christ; in that it is essentially an artistic work, it does not aim for historical or theological accuracy as to a complete representation of the person of Christ. The only categorical conclusion that holds from the absence of treatment of Christ’s Divinity is that this is outside of the scope of consideration for this piece of art. Thus, to suggest that enjoyment of the show is tantamount to endorsement of Christological heresy (a charge that has been levelled at me in the past) is not a logically tenable position.

What has all of this to do with mercy and relationship, you ask?

An answer to this depends upon the realization that JCS is not a story about Jesus at all. The name of the show is unfortunate and misleading, really… well, not entirely. I guess the name of the show is part of the satirical treatment of the hero-worship that society directs toward the modern-day celebrity. Thats definitely packed in there, and perhaps it was more central to the original intention of Rice and Lloyd Webber than I’m acknowledging. A great deal of social commentary is built into the show, of particular relevance to the original 1971 audience, and of historical relevance to the audiences that have followed up to our own time and beyond. But none of this is the point.

What I am getting at is that the meat and potatoes of the show is contained within the several parallel subplots that each examine the encounter with Christ of a different character. The accurate representation of each character, again, is not what the show is aiming for. Rather, each encounter and the portrayal of its character is a “what-if?” exercise. The character is more a type than a person, one that is portable through time and space. The viewer is invited to enter into each “what-if” story, to really consider the emotions and circumstances of each encounter, and to apply it to his own experience. The show isn’t about who Jesus is. The show is about who I as a viewer am in relation to Jesus.

NOW we’re ready to talk about mercy and relationship.

Continue reading


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the premise

Some two thousand years ago, three men travelled a vast distance as they followed a sign in the heavens. Their journey led them to a Child who was born to be King. Their encounter with this Child has been recorded as one of great reverence and honour. The aftermath was described as follows:

And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they
departed to their own country by another way.

– Mat 2:12        

The literal meaning of this text is clear and odds are that this is exactly what St. Matthew intended to convey when he wrote his Gospel… yet I can’t help but wonder if the Holy Spirit, as the Divine Inspiration behind the work of the human author, doesn’t sometimes allow us a little creative license in our meditation? As I sit with this text, taking “another way” to be referring to “another way of being” as opposed to a different geographical route, I start to be drawn into prayerful ponderance of what it truly is to have encountered the person of Jesus Christ and be so transformed by the encounter that nothing I do can be done in the same way as it was before…