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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dulce et decorum est

The Poet quoth the Roman:

“Dulce et decorum est
pro patria mori”
Were “Patria” Your Kingdom,
the Truth this mayhap be
and yet, if mori happens
though not for love of You
it makes these words sheer vanity
and renders them untrue.

– – – – –

(A dusty sketch started in November 2012, completed September 2013)


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Taking all things and rendering them unto Christ… thank you to all who make cyberspace a place where the Lord can work in us!

I found out last night that my grandmother had been diagnosed with cancer, and that due to her heart condition, her pacemaker and the advanced state of some other health complications, the usual avenues of treatment were possibly not open to her.

I tweeted a very simple prayer request.

Less than 2 minutes later I had an overwhelming number of responses and retweets popping up from not just the people who follow me, but from people who follow people who follow me, people I have no connection with whatsoever.

I was just overwhelmed at the Body of Christ in action even in cyberspace.

Electronic communities can never replace good, in-person human relationships. But where electronic connections DO exist, it is a beautiful thing to see that they are being used to further the Kingdom. We hear a lot about cyber-bulling and other negatives. I thought it was heart-warming to see that much good can also be achieved in an online setting.

Blessed be God! And thank you to all who pray for my grandmother. I ask that the Lord bless you even as He blesses her.


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Thomas of Surry Hills – the blind taxi driver who discovered love

lovepoursitselfoutThere was a doubting Thomas living in Surry Hills, Sydney. He was a sworn enemy of the Christians in his community and determined to sabotage whatever he could of their activities that in anyway moved beyond the confines of the building in which they worshipped. Any initiative of theirs that involved public spaces or common property? He made it his mission to campaign against it.

This particular gentleman – and we’ll call him Thomas in honour of today’s Gospel, was in the process of bringing a lawsuit against the local Baptist church in his area when he discovered that due to serious illness, he was going to rapidly lose the use of his eyes. He was a taxi-driver by trade and this meant the loss of his livelihood.

One of his neighbours, a member of the very Baptist church on the other end of Thomas’ legal action, learned of his condition and began a huge fundraising campaign to raise the money for surgery that could salvage his sight. He was a little taken aback, of course, but refused the money and opted  against the surgery. Love never takes offense, and neither did the Baptist community. They simply asked if there was anything they COULD do for him.

He responded that since he had lost his livelihood, he would appreciate a little help with his household expenses. Expecting occasional cheques of $10 or $20 here or there, you can imagine how stunned he was at regular cheques of $400 or more – substantial living assistance. This constituted a very real sacrifice on behalf of the community providing the money… this all took place during the worst of the global financial crisis; yet nothing was asked or expected in return. Thomas had never encountered such unconditional, sacrificing love and it began to change him. He began to learn what real love was. His atheistic objections to Christianity slowly weakened and disappeared.

In 2012 he became a Christian and joined the community that treated him like a brother, before he had even realized that he was!

What a beautiful example of love our non-Catholic brothers and sisters have set for us here in authentic love that pours itself out for another. When Our Lord showed His wounds to Thomas, He was showing the badges of authentic love that pours itself out. It was this love that enabled Thomas then to see.

Fr. J shared this little anecdote as one component of a multi-pronged homily today for Divine Mercy Sunday, Low Sunday in the Easter Octave. Fr. J, if you ever see this – thank you! You were ON FIRE today 🙂

And thank you for the reminder regarding the formula for the Act of Contrition during the sacrament of Confession. It was SO GOOD to see so many lining up for confession today!! God is so good, He is working wonders in the hearts of ordinary people all over our diocese – what a privilege to see that work in action today! We all need His Mercy – the love that pours itself out.


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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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subverting shame – a symbol of love

goodFridayVenerationCross

Crucifix laid out for Good Friday veneration.

 Shame is a lie.

Likewise, discouragement is a device of the evil one and must be seen for the deception it is.

Shame is our instinctive response to an internal acknowledgement of inadequacy or wrongdoing. Discouragement is a response to an awareness of shame. A spiral of lies.

Before Jesus shouldered our sin upon Himself and died to reconcile the world to Himself, the cross was the instrument of the most shameful death in society. Crucifixion was the execution of choice for criminals and agitators; there was nothing dignified nor heroic about it.

Setting humanity straight in more ways than one, Jesus subverts everything we think we know about the world. The Cross had no power over the Creator of its makers, nor the nails over the Lord of the man who hammered them into place.

A friend of mine wrote a wonderful song, a reflection on this very point. Her song was called “Not by Nails” and it speaks of the Love which held Our Saviour to the Cross. God is love, and Jesus is God. Jesus was physically nailed to the Cross but it was Jesus’ own choice to be bound by that physical reality. Love and obedience carried the day. Jesus did the Will of His Father out of such a pure, personal, particular and preferential love for you, for me, for each individual that ever has or ever will live that we can’t even begin to fathom it.

Horror is juxtaposed with beauty. That Holy Face which was Transfigured has, for a time, become disfigured. (Pope John Paul II writes eloquently on this reality in Vita Consecrata.)

As a child, I understood on some level my complicity in Christ’s death, but rather than solemnly contemplate in silent gratitude the gift of our salvation and the means by which it was wrought, I used to get very upset about the brutal way in which Jesus was executed. It took some time before I started to learn that love was more than a feeling. Love is a choice. Love is the choice symbolized by the Cross.

Before Jesus died for us, shame was the only appropriate response to sinfulness and inadequacy. In dying, Christ won for us the freedom to choose between  continuing to dwell in that shame, or a radically different response: love… and the trust and the gratitude that go along with it. I no longer look to myself and my weakness. Yes – my weakness is there… but I’m not scandalized, I’m not ashamed. No… I no longer look to myself. I have Christ ahead of me and I choose to look to Him, to He who is Love.


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feeling emotions vs. harboring bitterness

glowingCrucifixVarovilleThere are two major differences that I think are immediately observable between “feeling what you’re feeling when you’re feeling it” and “harboring bitterness”:

  1. Freedom
  2. Love

Feeling in its first instance is a passive act and is a morally neutral act. Essentially it involves the apprehension of some aspect of an external reality through the senses (whether external/physically or internal/emotionally.) Using a Thomistic benchmark, it does not yet even qualify as a “human act”; a non-rational being with a sensitive soul is capable of this act.

The human response to this initial sensation is where the will is first employed.

As far as I can see, in the case where someone causes a situation whereby the reality is apprehended and interpreted as emotional pain, a few things happen:

  • There is an awareness of the unpleasant sensation of pain.
  • Then there is an attempt to ascertain the cause of the pain… and the selection of an appropriate response.

Depending on the extent to which this causal chain is followed back, this is often where the wheels come off the cart. If the attempt stops at “person x did action y” then there is no major problem here. But if the attempt proceeds further back to “person x did action y because of cause z” then we’re in trouble. Attributing motives to anyone is a dangerous exercise… the suspected motives may or may not correspond with reality and the mere perception of mal-intent is enough to arouse some degree of anger or one of its variants – e.g. indignation, regardless of the actuality.Having said that, at this point, even considering the possibility of mal-intent and experiencing a sensation of anger is natural (albeit irrational, given that intention is still unknown) and this in itself has not reached a stage where “harbouring bitterness” is a problem.

When a person starts to turn the situation over one’s mind and replay it, seeking more and more to understand the cause, something for which there is inadequate data, one sets oneself in a pattern of repeated sensation and then emotional response. To attempt to ascertain a motive with inadequate data is a futile exercise and as such the person is no longer operating in a rational way.

1. Freedom

This irrational, cyclical pattern establishes a slavery of sorts. It’s a slavery to the desire to know a question to which the answer is unavailable. It’s also a slavery to an emotional response to supposition rather than reality. If the irrational nature of the internal behaviour was demonstrated to you, and you were free to break out of the cycle, you would. Your will can only choose what your intellect paints as the good. The problem is, you’re not free. You impede your sight by the compounding of the emotional response and your ability to correctly apprehend reality is hampered. Since you cannot apprehend reality correctly, your intellect has incomplete or incorrect information. Therefore it cannot correctly inform the will. Obviously its not as linear as this in reality, but this is an approximation of what’s going on.

FEELING precedes the response. Feeling allows for freedom, because it is a morally neutral act, but the subsequent acts that take on a moral value are as yet undetermined.

Bitterness, or resentment, has a moral value. It is an act subsequent to the feeling. (And, not subscribing to post hoc ergo propter hoc, there is no assigning a necessary causal link between feeling and responding with bitterness/resentment. ) In reality, I believe that bitterness/resentment is caused by the cyclical pattern of behaviour that I have outlined above. So there is an act (or many) between initial feeling and the resultant bitterness, and this/these has/have moral value too. As far as I can see, bitterness/resentment could be characterised by the simple act of allowing this cyclical pattern to continue. Allowing slavery to continue.

FEELING doesn’t impede freedom. Bitterness does.

2. Love

OK – so at this point, out comes the obvious Scriptural description of some of the characteristics of love:

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

And so we’re positioned for a syllogism:
1. Love is not resentful. (1 Cor 13:5)
2. A thing can’t be and not be at the same time.
(Aristotle, Metaphysics Book 11 Part 5)
conclusion: Therefore love and resentment are mutually
exclusive realities. (1 + 2 really does = 3!!)

This means If one performs an act that is characterised by love, then it is not characterised by resentment. The converse is also true.
Given that the Great Commandment is an injunction to love, then love is the due good of any act. Given that resentment is tantamount to an absence of love, it is an absence of the due good, i.e. evil. Bitterness/resentment is, quite simply, a sin against charity.

therefore… note to self!!

Analysing a scenario where someone has hurt me is normal. Working through what happened and testing various different possibilities (even on the level of motives) is normal. In most cases it is not possible to know what the other’s motives are, so once possibilities have been tested, to continue to wonder is futile. It creates the risk of bitterness/resentment – an occasion for sin.

Replaying events and causes and motives – this is to be avoided. Having considered all data and seen that insufficient data exists to draw a rational conclusion, the only course of action is to LEAVE IT, to embrace it as God’s Will, to see that whatever the circumstances, God has allowed this to happen in His Providence for my ultimate good. Any other perpetrators/agents involved need to be disregarded. This is how God wills the situation to be, and I seek to do His Will in all things.

As for FEELING it – that’s fine. To feel it, to suffer it in union with Him – that is profoundly human. Whatever it is – well its bound to be such a little thing, really, in the context of His Cross.

Best thing to do is to THANK Him for this opportunity to suffer for Him even in a small way, and then to move on, to choose to leave the past in the past, and to live in the present moment.


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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.

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