Catholic in Yanchep

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2nd Sunday of Advent | Filled with the knowledge of the Lord

It’s such an encouragement to the faithful when we see young men willing to step up and give themselves to the priesthood.  Last night I had the joy of attending the ordination to the diaconate of four young men from the Perth Archdiocese.  Many of you will know Mariusz Grzech who has been serving at our ‘parent’ parish of St Andrew’s, Clarkson, for the past year (if you didn’t know, Yanchep was part of St Andrew’s parish from 1994 until about 2001).  Ordained with him were Konrad Gagatek, Joseph Laundy and Tung Vu, whom you can read more about here.  I thought that I’d share with you some photos from the Ordination Mass …

This first photo shows the Promise of the Elect, where the Deacons make various promises about their new role (discharging the office of Deacon with ‘humble charity’, proclaiming the faith in word and deed, remaining celibate, deepening their prayer lives – especially by praying the Liturgy of the Hours – and conforming their lives to the example of Christ).

promise-of-the-elect-1

Promise of the Elect

The Deacons lie prostrate to receive the Lord’s blessing while our prayers fly to heaven in the soaring, otherworldly Litany of Supplication.  (You can view this on the Record’s FB page.)

litany-of-supplication

The Litany of Supplication

Next comes the Prayer of Ordination and the Laying on of Hands, where we bring to mind those first seven Deacons, appointed in similar fashion in Acts 6:1-7.  This prayer has some beautiful words …

Send forth upon them, Lord, we pray,
the Holy Spirit,
that they may be strengthened
by the gift of your sevenfold grace …

May there abound in them every Gospel virtue
unfeigned love,
concern for the sick and poor,
unassuming authority,
the purity of innocence
and the observance of spiritual discipline.

(Excuse the blurriness of this photo, but my hands are not as steady as they used to be, I didn’t want to use a camera because of the shutter noise, and tablets are notoriously wobbly for still shots!)

laying-on-of-hands

The laying on of hands and the Prayer of Ordination

The Deacons are vested by their nominated priests, assisted by their families, with the Diaconal Stole and Dalmatic.  Here Mariusz is helped by Fr Conor Steadman and his brothers.  If you’re interested in the history of church vestments there is quite a nice article here, with illustrations, which calls the Dalmatic a garment with ‘festive origins’.

investiture-of-diaconal-stole

Investiture of the Diaconal Stole and Dalmatic

The Deacons receive the Book of the Gospels from Archbishop Costelloe.

Receive the Gospel of Christ,
whose herald you have become.
Believe what you read,
Teach what you believe,
and practice what you teach.

… says it all, really.

handing-on-of-the-book-of-the-gospels-2

Handing on of the Book of the Gospels

Here the Archbishop makes his final address, where he conveys the Deacons’ messages of thanks to their families and all who have helped them get to this point.

final-address-bishop-timothy-costelloe

Final address from Archbishop Timothy Costelloe to the new Deacons, from left Mariusz Grzech, Tung Vu, Joseph Laundy and Konrad Gagatek.

This morning, it being the first Saturday of the month, I made the trip down to Clarkson and was pleased to be able to hear Mariusz’s first homily – which as a Deacon, he is now able to deliver. Appropriately enough, the Gospel was about asking the Lord of the harvest ‘to send labourers to the harvest’ (funny how God does that!)  It also happened to be the memorial of St Francis Xavier, the most effective evangelist in history.  So Mariusz’s homily was about St Francis Xavier, and also about our own role in mission – we don’t have to go overseas to go on mission – our mission field is Australia, our mission field is Perth, our mission field is our own Parish, our mission field is our family.

I must say I was pleased to hear it, as this blog is part of what I see as my mission … to whoever might read it.  For example, what I write here is shared to my profiles on various social media platforms, one of them being LinkedIn.  Now LinkedIn connects me with all my contacts in my capacity as Company Director.  And LinkedIn is telling me that 30 of my business associates read my entry for last week, the First Sunday of Advent (and that’s not including FB or other platforms).  I find this quite extraordinary – I have no idea who they are, but those people are quietly discovering the way prayer makes a difference in my life – and the Holy Spirit is waiting to invade, with his powerful presence, the lives of any of them who might be open to Him.  Only this week, I discovered an extraordinary coincidence between a prayer uttered fourteen years ago, and the results now bearing fruit (but I will have to save that story for another time.)  It’s a shame that many people are afraid to talk about their faith today (because we receive so much ridicule from secularists), but if we don’t toughen up and become unafraid to admit to following Christ, how will other people hear the kerygma – the message of the Gospel and the gift of eternal life?

Almost forgot … here is the Mass leaflet for today.

Today’s readings

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20th Sunday, Year C | Divisive? Only if you’re an enemy of Truth.

Christ in Majesty Washington Basilica

Christ in Majesty, Jan Henryk de Rosen, 1959, mosaic, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C.

‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’ (Luke 12:49-52)

Wait a second, didn’t Jesus say, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you?” (John 14:27)  And now he’s saying he’s come to bring division?  How can both of these statements be true?

Easy.  When Jesus is talking about giving us peace, he means that one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is that we will have peace in our hearts.  When we stay close to Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will experience a profound peace, in spite of any difficulties that may arise.

But there are many in the world who will see Christians as an enemy or a cause of division, because we do not (or should not, if we are being faithful) compromise on truth.  And this will lead others to hate us or think we are insane.  Those who do not follow Christ may, if they choose, decide to persecute us, take us to court or remove privileges (such as tax-free status) from us.  So it is that some of our family members will turn away from us, because we refuse to lie.  Now for some examples of lies we have to resist in our popular culture today:

  • We refuse to agree that an unborn child is just a clump of cells whose rights are trumped by the mother’s rights, but we say the developing human embryo or foetus is an individual worthy of respect, and that God intends the existence of each child:

 ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you’ (Jeremiah 1:5)

  • We refuse to agree that two men or two women in a sexual relationship are equivalent to the free, total, faithful and fruitful marriage of a man and a woman whose bodies are by nature complementary to one another. If you’re going to deface language by calling homosexual unions marriage, then we need a new name to define that kind of marriage which is made of opposite-sex partners, freely chosen, faithfully held, and open to fruitfulness.
  • We refuse to be quiet about saying that it is in the best interests of a child to have both a mother and a father.
  • We refuse to agree with the laughable suggestion that a person can choose their gender. People with gender dysphoria need counselling to treat their disorder, not pandering to affirm their disorder.
  • We refuse to believe the lies that are told about certain other religions.  [The Archdiocesan Media Office has just phoned me and asked me to tone down the paragraph I had previously written here (!!), as they thought I was being inflammatory.]  I will merely refer you to this article, for an indication of what I was driving at.

We Christians should not be afraid to speak the truth.  But the truth must be spoken with love.  We should not be the ones who start war and division, but if others choose to hate us or call us names, this just demonstrates that their arguments are so weak that they have to resort to name-calling.  We should return their hate with unconditional love.  Unconditional love doesn’t mean agreement, but it may mean reaching out with a smile and in friendship.  It may mean being an uncomplaining victim.  I stress the word uncomplaining because we need to model Jesus in this, and not be like all the other victim groups out there in SJW world.  Jesus, even though God incarnate, did not resist persecution, but offered himself up ‘as a lamb to the slaughter’, so that we might be saved from our sinfulness.

God’s love is like a fire: burning up the dross and purifying the world.  This is why Jesus says to us today:

I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already!

 Today’s readings:

Word format: Year C 20th Sunday 2016

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19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C | Faithful and Wise Stewardship

The Faithful and Wise Steward Jan Luyken Etching Bowyer Bible

The Faithful and Wise Steward, Jan Luyken (1649-1712), etching, Bowyer Bible, Bolton, Greater Manchester, England.

“What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time?  Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment.” (Luke 12: 43-44)

This week’s Gospel talks about responsible stewardship.  I want to continue my theme from last week and ask if we are being wise and faithful stewards of our Pastoral Area from Yanchep to Lancelin.  It’s interesting that Jesus says that one of the steward’s jobs is to ‘give them their allowance of food’.  Yes, we can interpret this as referring to the Eucharist, but there is more to following Christ than the Mass and the Eucharist.  Christians need to be fed with the Word of God in Scripture, in excellent and inspirational homilies, and in the practice of the Word.  We need to remember that people leave Churches (or don’t even think of joining a Church) if they are not getting fed, if there is no sense of Communion in action.  They may be longing to see the Word of God being carried out in a communal plan.  We could say that a responsible steward gathers and feeds, but a slothful steward starves and scatters.  One of the signs that Jesus was the Christ, was that he gathered the tribes – he brought together the apostles and gathered a great many other disciples around himself; he took the trouble to heal, to talk to the crowds, to exorcise demons, to get out of his comfort zone par excellence.

One of the ways I was fed this week was through a thought-provoking interview of Andrew Bolt of Sky News by Pastor James Macpherson of Calvary Christian Church.  Bolt makes the point that

Tearing down things is a much easier way of asserting your individuality, your strength, your very existence, than creating something.  For every Leonardo da Vinci, there are ten thousand people that find it quite empowering to put a scratch in his work.

Bolt is an agnostic, but very aware that the popular trend of attacking Christianity will remove many of the freedoms and benefits that Christianity has brought to Western Civilisation.  So right here in our own little pastoral area, we need to be creating, gathering and building, witnessing strongly and not keeping our light under a bushel.  This week we have Census night and one of the questions is about religion.  How good have we been at making a difference to our local area’s Census results on the Catholic faith?

It seems to me that we should be asking (of ourselves) questions like these:

  1. Do the members of the church, under the leadership of the Priest, gather to ask questions like the ones I am asking?
  2. What is the mission of a Pastoral Area? Are we expecting ourselves to grow from a Pastoral Area to a Parish without actually doing any work or having a structured plan?  It seems to me that different members of our Pastoral Area  are carrying out some sort of mission in their own way, but there is no co-ordination of our activities so that we all feel we are working towards a common goal.
  3. Do we discuss how we can witness to Christ in our area, and actually form and document some implementable plans?
  4. Is it enough just to attend Mass, and not have any formal plans for outreach to former parishioners, outreach to the sick, outreach to the wider community, outreach to current members of our church who feel they are not being fed?
  5. Is anyone else, like me, interested in building our sense of Community, being fed through Bible Studies, film nights (I have plenty of inspirational Catholic material) and shared dinners.  Does anyone see that we need to meet together to give each other mutual support, plan for the future, reach out to the community and divide up the work so that we can all be assured that our stewardship duties are being addressed?

I am happy to host a discussion, if only I can find others who are on the same page.  Fellow parishioners or, for that matter, any residents of Yanchep, Guilderton and Lancelin, please let me know what you would like to see done in our Pastoral Area (just reply via the comment box – or phone me (Deirdre) at 0400 660 337).  If you are doing something already, please let us know how you are already contributing.

And do watch the Andrew Bolt interview!

Today’s readings:

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18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C | The Spiritual Equivalent of the Rich Man

Jesus-Christ

Christ Blessing Children (detail), Pacecco de Rosa, 1600-1654, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

“I will say to my soul: ‘My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink and have a good time.” (Luke 12:19)

If we are not particularly well off, it might be easy for us NOT to identify with the man in the parable in today’s readings.  Or if we are, say, a priest, we might feel that we’re immune from being compared with the rich man in the parable.  But I think Jesus wants us all to have a good hard look at how attached we are to worldly comfort, rather than storing up treasure for ourselves in heaven.

For instance, would it be right for a priest to say, “I offer Mass every day, and I pray the Divine Office,  meditating on every word, so now I can relax and enjoy the other worldly comforts of my life”?  In fact, it is easy for Priests to be somewhat removed from the realities which confront their ordinary parishioners.  No matter how poorly a priest might carry out his job, he receives a guaranteed income from the Archdiocese.  His parishioners who might be running businesses or working for the public or private sector, understand that they only hold their jobs if the business is profitable, or if they are meeting key performance review criteria.  And a business will only be profitable with the dedicated hard work of the employees.  Employers who sit back and cream off the profits created by the efforts of their workforce, breed resentment and will not grow their enterprise with integrity.  When the workers know that the employer doesn’t have any interest in hearing their input, attending to their concerns or being, so to speak, a shepherd to them, they will have little loyalty to the company and will readily seek for employment elsewhere.

So it is, that in our parish life, there are several things that pastors are supposed to be doing to store up their treasure in heaven and to build parish life.  If a pastor says he only has time to say Mass and pray the Divine Office, he has seriously misunderstood his role and responsibilities.  I would ask such a pastor to meditate and reflect on Canon 528 and 529 about the duties of pastors.  It is important for pastors to be aware that parishioners will vote with their feet by walking away to a different parish (or if their faith is wavering, even leaving the Church altogether) if they feel that the pastor is inward-looking, not outward-looking, defensive when questioned, prone to report parishioners who have genuine concerns to the vicar general  for correction, instead of dealing with their concerns courageously and honestly, and with a genuine spirit of humility and self-examination.

When God makes a demand for our souls, will we truly be able to say that we have stored up treasure in heaven and addressed the duties outlined below in our pastoral area?  What example are we setting in the wider community?  Do people see us as a clique turned in on itself, or as people filled with the light of Christ who bring a message of hope, help and outreach to Yanchep, Guilderton and Lancelin?

Here are some excerpts from the duties of pastors according to Canon Law:

PARISHES, PASTORS  AND PAROCHIAL VICARS

Can. 528 §1  … He is to make every effort, even with the collaboration of the Christian faithful, so that the message of the gospel comes also to those who have ceased the practice of their religion or do not profess the true faith.

Can. 528 §2 … The pastor … is bound to watch over [the parish] so that no abuses creep in.

Can. 529 §1.  In order to fulfil his office diligently, a pastor is to strive to know the faithful entrusted to his care.  Therefore he is to visit families, sharing especially in the cares, anxieties and griefs of the faithful, strengthening them in the Lord.  With generous love, he is to help the sick, particularly those close to death, by refreshing them solicitously with the sacraments and commending their souls to God; with particular diligence he is to seek out the poor, the afflicted, the lonely … and similarly those weighed down by special difficulties.  He is to work so that spouses and parents are supported in fulfilling their proper duties and is to foster growth of Christian life in the family.

Can 529 §2 . A pastor is to recognize and promote the proper part which the lay members of the Christian faithful have in the mission of the Church, by fostering their associations for the purpose of religion.

Let’s all pray for our Pastoral Area, that it will be able to carry out its mission with greater faithfulness and zeal for the people of our area to encounter the love of God.

Today’s readings:

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17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C | A blueprint for prayer

Abraham-and-the-three-angels-Dore-600x820

Abraham and the Three Angels, Gustav Doré (1832-1883), woodcut.

Have you tried praying?  When people tell me they don’t believe in God, I ask them how much they’ve spoken to God about that.  Why are they so ready to trust their own preconceived ideas on the matter (or is it that deep down, they don’t want God to be true)?  You see, Jesus says in our Gospel today, “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  So go on, ask away.

I don’t want to drone on, so I’ll merely refer you to Bishop Barron’s homily for today’s readings, as well as Brant Pitre’s video presentation here:

Today’s readings

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16th Sunday in Ordinary Time | God, are you in control or do I have to take over?

Detail Jesus in the home of Mary and Martha Tintoretto

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (detail), Jacopo Tintoretto, c. 1570, oil on canvas, Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany.

How often do you want to tell God what he’s supposed to be doing?  I find myself doing this increasingly, especially now in our unusually mixed-up times.

Martha does it, in today’s Gospel:   ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’  James and John did it when they said, of the inhospitable Samaritans, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and destroy them?’  Peter did it, when he rebuked Jesus for foretelling the suffering he would undergo: ‘Never, Lord!  This shall never happen to you!’  Even Mary and Joseph did it when they said, ‘Son, why have you treated us like this?  Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.’

Jesus just doesn’t seem to do what any normal, sensible person would.

But then, perhaps that’s because he’s God, and we are not.

‘As the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ (Isaiah 55:9)

We have to remember that we aren’t God, and that God has ways of doing things that might not occur to us from our cramped and self-indulgent perspective.

A lot of us think we are God (or at least we ought to be).  We want to be able to define things for ourselves.  Some of us want to redefine the scope and purpose of marriage.  Some of us want to define exactly when a baby can be regarded as a human (or not).  Some of us want to be able to decide the manner and the time of our death.  Some of us want to subjugate anyone who refuses to submit to Allah.  Some of us want to hound Christians out of the public square.  Some of us are just very angry at all the other people who are being disagreeable.  With all these people wanting to take over God’s role, it’s enough to make anyone anxious, or at least want to crawl into a hole.

Well, in today’s Gospel, Mary has chosen ‘the better part’.  She is sitting in rapt attention at Jesus’ feet, absorbing everything he says.  Jesus’ advice to Martha?  ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said, ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’

If you’re feeling anxious, get close to Jesus.  He knows your problems.  Trust him to have a plan.  If you can’t see his plan right now, immerse yourself in the Gospel and cast all your worries on Him.  It’s easier if we remember that we’re not in Paradise yet, and this life wasn’t meant to be comfortable.  We only get there if we navigate through life, remaining faithful to Him throughout our quest.  God probably hasn’t put you in control of the world, so stick to doing good in the little things you can control – small acts of kindness, for example.

Today’s readings:

Word format: Year C 16th Sunday 2016

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14th Sunday, Year C | Our Binary Option

Seventy Apostles Russian Icon

Cathedral of 70 Apostles (miniature from the Greek-Georgian Manuscripts , XV century ). Собор 70 апостолов (миниатюра из греко-грузинской рукописи, XV век).

We all have a fundamental choice, and it’s not complicated.  Imagine your life as a computer program.  At every moment, God presents you with certain choices.  It’s up to you to decide what you do.  The fact that you’re given a choice is a good thing.  It means that God is not trying to compel you – he respects your freedom.  But it’s not the freedom to choose as such that decides your outcome, it’s the actual choice you make that determines where you end up: heaven or hell.

Let’s take as an example the towns Jesus is sending the 72 apostles to this week.  They are travelling from Galilee to Jerusalem via Samaria, announcing that the kingdom is at hand.  Jesus is ‘gathering the tribes’ as prophesied in Isaiah 11:12 “He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”

The people in these towns have the fundamental option of welcoming the apostles or rejecting them.  It’s that simple.  Now maybe some of the people are naturally fearful of strangers, or possibly Samaritan haters of Jews.  No wonder our Lord instructs the disciples to make their first statement “Peace to this house”.  But Jews in general (and also Samaritans) followed the Pentateuch, which clearly states the principles of hospitality, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia.

The “ger,” the sojourner who lived with a Hebrew family or clan, was assured by the Biblical law not only of protection against oppression (Ex. xxiii. 9) and deceit (Lev. xix. 33), but also of love from the natives (Deut. xvi. 14), who were to love him even as themselves (Lev. xix. 34).

So, when the apostles report back, it seems that many of the towns have in fact been welcoming to them and accepted the proclamation of the Kingdom:

The seventy-two came back rejoicing!

We understand that some did actually reject Christ and his apostles, for he says,

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.”

We’re all afraid of evangelizing our friends and families, because we’re fundamentally afraid of rejection.  Stop worrying and start obeying Jesus.  Yes, our families may choose to reject us.  But keep trying in various ways, and go as a man of peace, and not as an argumentative spirit, and the Holy Spirit will open hearts and minds wherever there is an opportunity.

Concrete example: every night I do some spiritual reading on the Saint of the next day.  On Thursday night, I read about St Thierry, who died on 1 July, 533.  I happen to know someone called Thierry, and thought, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if he happened to ring on 1 July.  I could tell him about this saint!”  Now I usually only hear from Thierry about half a dozen times a year, and it’s always in a work context.  But lo and behold, at 12 o’clock on Friday, my mobile rang and who should it be but Thierry himself, so I was able to carry out my plan by sending him a link to this saint’s life story.  (Fortunately, he reads French.)  I’m always amazed when God creates these opportunities.

Jesus says in Luke 10: ‘Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.’  The more you give people the opportunity of listening to you explain the kingdom of God, the more likely they are to move towards the option of following Christ themselves.  And don’t we want everyone to be able to ‘rejoice that their names are written in heaven’?

Today’s readings:

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