Thursday, July 31, 2008
Today is the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola and the Office of Readings this morning struck me as particularly appropriate for those who left this Great South Land with a sense of vocation. I guess that, while it is easy to discern the call in the fervour of the WYD exerience, our feet hit the ground when we get home and any sense of vocation can easily be squeezed out by the concerns of daily life. St Ignatius, we are told, like to read stories of herioc bravery but when he was in hosptial had to make do with the "Imitation of Christ" and one or two other spiritual works. In time he noticed a difference between the two sorts of reading, in that the secular stories gave him an immediate thrill whereas the religious works led him to a more lasting sense of tranquillity and joy. This led him to his famous "discernment of spirits".
It may be that you went back home enthusiastic to do God's will and with a desire to respond generously to hiss call but that now you are already distracted by the TV, socialising and everything else that crowds in on your everyday life. Like St Ignatius, ask yourself what gives you a greater sense of purpose and meaning: Playstation or Praystation? Perhaps the next step should be a discernment retreat...
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
"The grace of the Spirit, is not something we can merit or achieve, but only receive as pure gift. God’s love can only unleash its power when it is allowed to change us from within. We have to let it break through the hard crust of our indifference, our spiritual weariness, our blind conformity to the spirit of this age. Only then can we let it ignite our imagination and shape our deepest desires. That is why prayer is so important: daily prayer, private prayer in the quiet of our hearts and before the Blessed Sacrament, and liturgical prayer in the heart of the Church. Prayer is pure receptivity to God’s grace, love in action, communion with the Spirit who dwells within us, leading us, through Jesus, in the Church, to our heavenly Father. In the power of his Spirit, Jesus is always present in our hearts, quietly waiting for us to be still with him, to hear his voice, to abide in his love, and to receive “power from on high”, enabling us to be salt and light for our world".
"Dear young people, let me now ask you a question. What will you leave to the next generation? Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure? Are you living your lives in a way that opens up space for the Spirit in the midst of a world that wants to forget God, or even rejects him in the name of a falsely-conceived freedom? How are you using the gifts you have been given, the “power” which the Holy Spirit is even now prepared to release within you? What legacy will you leave to young people yet to come? What difference will you make?"
Pope Benedict himself goes on to speak to the young people as protagonists in the task of building a nw world and again his words merit our prayerful consideration:
"Don't let your life be barren. Be useful. Make yourself felt. Shine forth with the torch of your faith and your love. With your apostolic life, wipe out the trail of filth and slime left by the corrupt sowers of hatred. And set aflame all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you bear in your heart".
"Empowered by the Spirit, and drawing upon faith’s rich vision, a new generation of Christians is being called to help build a world in which God’s gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished – not rejected, feared as a threat and destroyed. A new age in which love is not greedy or self-seeking, but pure, faithful and genuinely free, open to others, respectful of their dignity, seeking their good, radiating joy and beauty. A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships. Dear young friends, the Lord is asking you to be prophets of this new age, messengers of his love, drawing people to the Father and building a future of hope for all humanity."
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Friday, July 25, 2008
One of the things about WYD that I haven't yet mentioned is the welcoming speech from Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister. In England we all remember the famous remark that a certain politician "doesn't do religion". So what could we expect from a former Catholic (he now practises with his wife at an Anglican church) who has received a lot of criticism from the secularists over WYD? Platitudes? A hollow welcome and a suggestion that WYD represents peace and tolerance just like his own political party? Not at all!
Linda Morris writing in the Sydney Morning Herald commented: "Cardinal Pell always intended that this was one day when secular Sydney would be shaken to is core. God, not Mammon, was the centrepiece of a public display of Christian devotion rarely seen. The faithful sang prayers, bowed their heads and lifted their hearts in collective prayer...".
Meanwhile, here are some comments from John Huxley, also in an article for the Sydney Morning Herald:
"Young and old, black andwhite, austere and flamboyant, they defied easy stereotyping. As 16-year old Canadian Sami Dib, whose ears are pierced with diamond studs and fingers stained with cigarettes, said, 'We're the future of the Church'. Sydney, regarded by some as a hedonistic if not downright sinful city, has not seen anything like it before. No footbal match. No Olympic final. No previous religious leader's visit is believed to have attracted quite so many people. [...] Such a huge, noisy, enthusiastic turnout will surprise some, alarm others. But, Catholic or non-Catholic, believer or non-believer, being there was an undeniably uplifting experience for most, such was the feel-good spirit generated by the Mass and the masses".
Why am I still publishing extracts from the papers? Because, like the Prime Minister's welcome, they should encourage us to take heart. It is possible to defend the faith in an avowedly secularist context. What is required is a little bit of courage. An experience such as WYD breaks down barriers of hostiliy, prejudice and indifference. People who presumed the Church was finished are surprised not just to see her vigour - but also because they quite like what they see!
Thursday, July 24, 2008
It was reported in England that several WYD pilgrims walked out of a house when they discovered their host was homosexual. The origin was a call to an ABC chat show to create a sense of outrage at the fundamentalist bigotry of the pilgrims. The chat show decided to check the story with the WYD organisers and found that the caller didn't appear on the database of WYD hosts. They then contacted him again to be told that he hadn't registered through WYD but through his local parish. A call to the the parish revealed that wasn't true either.
So what did this local ABC radio station do, even as the world's media were broadcasting the story all over the world? Pass over the revelation in silence? Continue the deception? No. They issued a clarification to say that they followed up the story and found it impossible to substantiate "just so that our listeners who heard the caller aren't left hanging".
An interesting follow-up on the supposed desecration of a Cenotaph by WYD pilgrims. International media picked up the story that the war memorial had been defaced with the words "Ratzinger Rules". It's unusual for Catholics to refer to the Holy Father as "Ratzinger" and from the start there was something fishy about this insult to the Australian war-dead. It now turns out that other inscriptions included the phrase: "God bless you Diggers". There's also something odd here: "Digger" is the local slang for a soldier. The good news is that the police are reviewing CTV footage. Let's hope they catch whoever was responsible. No one over here believes it was a pilgrim, as the NSW Police Commissioner said, "this is enormously disrespectful, particularly to our returned servicemen, as well as to a visiting head of state, the Pope".
"It was intensely joyful and thought-provoking; prayerful and vibrant, richly colourful and above all transcendent. In an outdoor cathedral, the likes of which the world has never seen, the spirituality in Sydney yesterday was palpable".
Tess Livingstone on the Opening Mass at Barangaroo.
"There is a major event underway in Sydney and, once again, the city is awash with innocents from abroad. [...] They are people of faith. After a full day on the railways, some still believe that a train may yet arrive. Unlike Sydneysiders, who carry with them the princely burden of pricey real-estate, these pilgrims are shiny, happy people. Each is coloured like a Tequila Sunrise, with an official jacket hat is a little bit red and a little bit orange. Each also has a hat (if Australian it comes with corks), a flaming backpack and a flag, worn like a cape, across the shoulders. If they are German, they also wear sandals with socks".
In fact, the WYD08 was so well organised that there was no traffic breakdown. As Imre Salusinsky reported: "Welcom to a Sydney motorist's paradise, aka World Youth Day"!
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
"Under a brilliant winter sky, wild cheers erupted across Barangaroo when the biggest youth Mass in Australian history got underway in Sydney yesterday afternoon. More than 150,000 pilgrims, spirits soaring, had spent the day flooding into the venue in anticipation of the extraordinary celebration led by Cardinal George Pell which marked the official opening of World Youth Day. [...] Scores of young people from around the world, wearing their national dress, took communion at the altar. Later, flags were hoisted high and the audience sang along as the World Youth Day theme song was played to the by-then reverential crowd"
Michelle Cazzulino & Lauren Williams
"From every walk of life and corner of the world, this United Nations of Catholic pilgrims illustrated yesterday the faith and joy of the international visitors inundating Sydney" - Gemma Jones
"Barangaroo came alive with impromptu dancing, as pilgrims from around the world came together in a party-like atmosphere to mark the official opening of WYD08. National flags were draped around shoulders with pride, but they were all united in devotion to their Church. Across town in George St, the pulsing artery of Sydney was transformed into an impromptu parade that became the beating heart of the world's pilgrims". Kate Sikora et al.
"The sun was just rising. It was around 6am and bloody cold on Sunday morning at the top of a hill in a Suburban street in Berowra Hieghts. That's when I first saw it. [...] It was pure goodwill from two strangers with no apparent reason to be laughing at that time of the morning as they waited for their lift in the freezing cold. That was the first time I noticed the unprovoked, unrehearsed and utterly infectious happiness the pilgrims have brought to Sydney. [...] This is a natural high we haven't seen in this city since the 2000 Olympics, only, dare I say, even better. ... It is unadulterated joy and it was noticeable yesterday at every turn.
[...] As I was speaking to a cool young group of Sisters of Nazareth nuns in their funky sneakers and oversized sunglasses at Darling Harbour yesterday, Sr Marianna asked me to join their picnic... And I was holding my handbag tight in this crowd? There is nothing malicous about these gorgeous young people... Indeed, you don't have to be Catholic for this one, Sydney. Just walk through the wash of colourful flags and bright smiles and you will feel this city breathing again."
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
On the ground things are fantastic! We had a superb opening Mass yesterday with a particulalrly warm welcome from the PM who really nailed his colours to the mast in defence of Christianity and the Christian - especially the Catholic - heritage of Australia. Cardinal Pell gave a heartfelt homily that touched the thousands of people present. The Mass was reverent and very prayerful - even allowing for the joyful enthusiasm of the young people.
Sydney has been won over. Everywhere we go people wave and toot their horns, we are thanked for coming and welcomed warmly. The local response couldn't be better. So waht's the local media saying? Well they found a taxi driver who isn't getting any trade. His response? "That's fine. I just like watching them. They are soo good". And a woman sitting in 'Hungry Jacks' who is disturbed by a big group of young people and nuns - "They look so cute"!
Whatever the British media might say, WDY Sydney 2008 is a massive success story. And having spent the afternoon in the prayer room and hearing confessions, I have seen that God's grace is touching hearts, breaking through barriers, and winning converts: Big Time!!!
I can't upload photos but I will. Meanwhile keep us in your prayers!
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Saturday, July 05, 2008
Today I head back to London and plan to post more about the course itself before heading off to Sydney on Tuesday. In the meantime, can I draw your attention to one of the comments requesting prayers for Fr David. Fr David is a recently ordained priest from Madrid. He is 27 years old and has been diagnosed with advanced cancer.