The Catholic Enquiry Centre receives various questions throughout the year. Recently, we received one about the symbolism of the cross, its origins and relevance and the concern of idolatry and worshipping imagery.The cross is most certainly apparent in Christianity; you would be hard-pressed to visit a Christian community without the visible symbol.
|In the garden at St Michael’s Ashburton in the Archdiocese of Melbourne there is a large sculpture made of steel and installed into a rock and pebble base. You might imagine 9 wing shaped metal panels standing vertically and interacting with the light and shadow as you walk around the sculpture. While the sculpture does not move an illusion of movement or shimmering occurs as the viewer walks around the work of art. The context in which this sculpture is located and viewed is of course very important. Interestingly there is no plaque with a name or interpretive information accompanying this work of art. It is simply wings apparently rising in the garden of a Catholic Church whose patron is the Archangel Michael.|
This blog is a response to number of enquirers who have asked by email how they could have their name deleted from the baptismal records. One enquirer also requested to have the record of the baptism of his children also deleted. The following sentence is representative of the tone of these enquiries: “I no longer consider myself to be a Catholic and in the light of the recently reported behaviour I ask that all records related to me be removed from the record.” In short, they are seeking to be 'unbaptised'.
While there is not an avalanche of such requests there is a constant stream of such enquiries and of late, it seems that what prompts people to make such a decisive choice is the information coming out of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.1 From this Royal Commission there are horrific accounts of clergy abusing children and instances of what is sometimes referred to as ‘institutional denial’ or ‘covering up’ by the Church.
With the feast of St Martha just passed it reminds me of the beautiful story in Luke 10:38-42. Martha’s busy preparations distract her from what is important. Although she is serving Jesus with great fervour, love and action she neglects her relationship with him – to just sit and spend time with him.
Does this sound familiar? Many of us serve Christ in the best way we can and many of us will fill up our time with good service to the Lord. But are we so busy that we are distracted from Jesus himself? Is our service taking so much time that we do not have space for prayer or sitting at the Lord’s feet?
|Some football fans are more enthusiastic than others and when I say enthusiastic, I mean obsessed. As far as I can remember, my father has been one of the more enthusiastic football fans and will happily joke it is his Religion. This year he set a new level of religiosity and took a month of leave so he could watch all the games on television (seriously, why not just go to Brazil?) But wait there‘s more. He dedicated the time in between the games to study the Football Bible and compose thesis sized labour of love writing a summary of History of the Development of Rules in Association Football.|
|My wife and I recently had a short break in a popular summer holiday town to mark our 25th wedding anniversary. As part of the holiday with we attended the Saturday evening Vigil Mass. Even though it was "off season" the Church was reasonably full and there was a sense that something special was about to happen. Following the entrance procession it became clear that eighteen children were to receive their First Holy Communion. It was the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ so it was most appropriate weekend for First Holy Communion. This feast is also known as Corpus Christi and it originated in France in the mid thirteenth century. Pope Urban IV extended the feast to the whole Church in 1264.|
|Recently while I was in waiting for my delayed flight I decided to spend some time in the airport bookstore. I always begin such visits by seeking out the religion and philosophy section. I am usually very disappointed. On this occasion I came across the intriguing title Religion for Atheists (2012) written by the now somewhat popular philosopher Alain de Botton. The premise of this book is that there are good ideas that non believers may steal from the world’s religions on how people might live and how societies might be arranged. De Botton is an influential figure in popular culture so at the very least it is useful to see what he is up to.|
As a family we recently celebrated a birthday at a restaurant. In the course of conversation over Vietnamese food my 24 year old son informed us of an activity that he had recently been engaged in. He relayed that as he surfed the internet he came across a little known fact in relation to homeless people. What he discovered was that it is often the case that through “Thrift” shops homeless people access clothes that keep them warm but what they really need is socks and underwear. This piece of information must have somehow stuck as one Saturday night as my son walked along the city footpath as part of a group of four mates he asked a homeless person whether what he had read on the web was indeed the case. As reported, the homeless person said “Yeah that’s right mate. Jocks and socks would be great”. Conversation continued amongst the four young men as they made their way down the street. Two of them, my son included, decided that they would do something in regard to meeting this unmet need. Others in the group dismissed the idea saying “you guys will never do that”.
I recently attended a family funeral. The requiem Mass was great the church was full and the priest was hospitable, thoughtful and prayerful. There was a cup of tea after Mass, crowds of people at the graveside and a genuine wake in the Irish tradition with storytelling, music, dancing and liberal imbibing. Seriously, people were commenting on what a good funeral it was and family members were being thanked by those they had informed/invited.
God in his infinite mercy, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, redeems us. It gets better though. Through the sending of the Holy Spirit we can now be adopted sons and daughters of God. We can share in eternal life, the same life Jesus shares. The end of our story is not death but resurrection...
Redemption gives us hope. Just like in the cold, bleak winter we anticipate the warmness and beauty of spring, in our sufferings and difficulties we expect transformation anew and as we move each moment towards earthly death thanks to the redemptive love of Jesus, we can hope in eternal life.
My work day normally starts with checking my email. Most mornings I scan the links to various Catholic news gathering services. In a short time-span I have a good overview of the main issues that are current concerning Catholics and the Church. As I followed the various links last week I noted with some interest a headline which read “Francis has shown us the human face of holiness in his first year.” The article, of course, was a reflective piece about Pope Francis which reviewed the first 12 months of his papacy. The article was one of many such articles on Holy Father in action. What caught my attention however was the connection made in the headline between the “human face” and “holiness”.The linking of these two terms got me thinking about what we might mean when we use the word “holy”. My first thought was along the lines of “can holiness be shown in anything other than a person?” Subsequent thoughts moved onto sacred spaces, religious art and icons, sacred sites, Cathedrals Churches and chapels, sacred seasons, Holy Days of Obligation, Holy water, Holy cards, the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the Tabernacle and One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Recently I was at a formal luncheon function. It was one of those events in which you are allocated to a table rather than choosing your own dining companions. On checking the displayed list I noted my table number and went in search of a seat. On reaching my allotted table I noticed two women sitting together and, as is the way in these events, I went to sit next to one of the women to engineer something of a gender balance around the table. I was just about to settle when I was encouraged to move up one space and allow a third woman to sit next to the other two. As I broke my bread roll and sipped on a glass of water I became aware that the three women I was sitting next to appeared to know each other well and all shared the same last name.
I was in Melbourne over the last weekend visiting my aging parents. My father was in hospital again fighting a stubborn infection, suffering the ravages of old age and scheming of ways to get home quickly. I came away from the hospital visit with a sense of enormous gratitude with regard to the quality of health care provided at Cabrini hospital in Malvern; both in terms of facilities but more importantly in terms of nursing personnel. I stayed with my mother who is recovering from hip operations and currently occupies herself watching Fox Classics and sport on cable television. We were channel surfing between “High Plains Drifter” staring a young Clint Eastwood, the Cricket Test in South Africa, AFL pre-season matches and the Ice Dancing at the Sochi Olympics. This cornucopia of image and sound was all delivered through a large flat plasma screen. As one who does not watch much television I could see the attraction of this form of entertainment.
I was sitting around with a group of men the other evening discussing a whole range of issues from health and parenting to the world of work. As one of the men in the conversation was a priest he began to share a little on his work as an official witness at marriages.One story he told related to a fellow priest who may “marry” up to six couples over any weekend. This very generous priest is willing to travel but he is deadly when it comes to timeframes.When this priest makes arrangements with the couple he makes it very clear that that he works on a very strict finishing time as often he has another wedding across town. In other words if the bride is late the ceremony is not adjusted, it is just shorter. On one particular occasion it is reported that a Bride was 30 minutes late. When questioned as to why she was late the response was “It is my day I can do what I like”. The ceremony was over in 15 minutes and the motor-priest was off to his next assignment.
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. A large sigh expires from my lungs as I think about how I am still single and desperately wonder about “True Love”, whether it will ever exist for me! O the Melodrama!
All dramatic antics aside, the mystery of Love is something we spend a lifetime trying to discover. As a teenager and young adult it is quite easy to reduce love to that ‘funny feeling inside’ a whirlwind of emotions overtake you, your heart flutters and legs turn to jelly every time your “True Love” is near.
It’s easy to love when you see the world through rose-coloured glasses. But what happens when the honeymoon period is over? Is it all about the fuzzy feeling? Are you in love anymore?