If you missed one of the YAP CHAT columns we post on our homepage, never fear - you can always find it here!
It’s with great excitement that on behalf of our youth team, I welcome you all to our brand new Parramatta Youth and Young Adult Apostolate site! After a few months of consultation and hard work (a big thanks to the great IT team!), here we finally have a dedicated cyberspace where we can meet, share and be updated.
2010 has just started…who knows what’s in store for each one of us! If you want to know what’s happening for youth and young adults across the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta, put, this link on your favourites and check us out regularly. We have great plans for our journey ahead: come and join us! Our aim is to provide always new and interesting information and updates on what is going on in youth ministry across the Diocese and we would love to continue to develop and enrich the website with and for you. Any questions, suggestions, comments, idea?
Please use the “Post your comment” box to give us your feedback. Hope to meet you again here!
Diocesan Youth Coordinator
Tags: Youth & Young Apostolate Catholic Diocese of Parramatta columns
We are now in Holy Week, a very special time central to our Christian faith; a time to celebrate the mysteries of love and passion of our Lord.
On Holy Thursday at his last supper, Jesus showed us how to love one another.
On Good Friday we witness the time of the greatest suffering of Jesus; he died on the Cross out of love for each one of us.
On Easter Sunday Jesus rose from the dead and fulfilled his promise.
More than 2000 years have passed but Jesus is still calling us to follow him and be his witnesses!
A very JOYFUL AND PEACEFUL EASTER to each one of you from the Diocesan Youth & Young Adult Apostolate. May the Risen Lord be always with us and among us!
Tags: Youth & Young Adult Apostolate Catholic Diocese of Parramatta columns
Last Sunday I was particularly struck by the Gospel reading. I have heard it many times but it seemed that for the first time I realised what a great love Jesus had asking Peter if he loved him for three consecutive times. Soon after Jesus was arrested Peter denied Jesus three times and now he was given the opportunity to reaffirm his love and be reconciled.
Jesus in his great love gives us the chance to start again even when we do make mistakes!
I then asked myself: what is my attitude with the people around me? Am I willing to forgive in that same way? I have made the commitment to try and be more forgiving. How about you?
Tags: YAP CHAT column Youth & Young Adult Apostolate
I imagine that last weekend many of you attended services and ceremonies celebrating Anzac Day.
With that thought in mind I had a dream: that in the future war will only be something linked to the past and people will not need to suffer terribly because of conflicts.
Looking at our world today this might seem almost impossible, but we can all try to do our best in our daily life to start building little cells of peace around us.
It may seem as if it is only something very small, like a drop in the ocean; but isn’t the ocean made of many little drops?
Tags: YAPCHAT column Youth & Young Adult Apostolate
Have you ever wondered if your efforts in trying to share Christ with others, are really making a difference or if it's really worth all the struggles?... I came across a really nice reflection regarding this on the Doug Franklin Online website and it goes like this:
"The Ripple Effect
“Throw a rock into a pond. What happens? The water moves outward from the entry point in a series of concentric ripples. The bigger the rock, the wider the resulting circle. Similarly, the influence of leaders extends far beyond themselves. Like ripples in the water their impact moves from people close to them, to people further away, and to people on the perimeter. Leaders in key positions impact people they don’t know personally. Moreover, their impact may continue on beyond their own lifetime.”
What a good reflection to keep in mind especially when we are tired or tempted to give up! We will surely never know how many people were touched or the extent of our efforts in this life, but we will surely know in the next!
Tags: YAP Chat youth column Youth & Young Adult Apostolate
“I will go on hoeing my garden”.
These words were St Francis’ answer when someone asked him what he would do if he were to learn that he would die at sunset that day. We have a mission to fulfill in our life. It is unique from person to person. A story to tell. If we don’t fulfill our mission, then no one will be able to do it.
Often times we are busy adding days to our life but we have got get busy adding life to our days. It is more important in being than having or doing. The challenge for us today is to find out the reason for our Being. We are not going to repeat our life. We have got to use our life to the fullest ability. Let us start today, now, this moment.
We have to be grateful to God what we have received but at the same time never forgetting to fulfill the mission of spreading the Good News of the Kingdom of God in a tangible manner.
Let us begin today, if we have not lived up to the expectations of God. We have got to travel a long journey so let us include everyone not leaving behind even a single soul. Let us reach out those who are in need. Let our smile spread the fragrance of God’s love. Let our lives be the living Gospel.
“Fast – life”.
We live in a digital world. ‘Cutting edge technology’ has given way to ‘Bleeding edge technology’. Everything seems to be happening at the fraction of a second. Our life is filled with ‘instant’ formula. Instant coffee, instant tea, instant food, instant entertainment and even instant relationships! Where is the place for God or where is God in our life? We try to have that God experience instantly. We expect God to react immediately to our prayers. Our interpretations of the transcendence leads to have a different spirituality. A spirituality of the unknown. God comes in search of us since we are lost in the world. We have lost our identity of being the Children of God. We need to stop! To listen to the voice of God. He speaks through the voices of nature. He smiles through the smile of an infant. He laughs with the rippling of the running brook. Do we have the ‘time’? God wants to make one point clear, that is, about His love. Unconditional! Sacrificial!
Let us listen to the silence of God in the stillness of life. His words give us life!
Fr Suresh Kumar
“Give me the share of my property that will belong to me”. Is there anything as such in our life? What is that belongs to us really? Did we own it from the ‘beginning’? Or did we acquire it along the way?
Often times, the prodigal nature in us takes us away from God and others. We go in search of a happiness that remains a mirage in our lives. The moment comes in our lives too wherein we realize that we are far from home and we need to return back. That is the journey that can lead us to real happiness – a journey to return. The Father awaits for us at home. To restore us back with our dignity to be called and recognized as sons and daughters. He awaits for us with the new robe and ring. Moreover, to be accepted as heirs of the kingdom.
Where are we now? Or What are we now? Sons and daughters or slaves working for someone else rather than enjoying the prestige of the Father’s home. It is our choice that has taken us away from home. It can only be our choice that can take us back to home again. Let us make up our minds and give it our best shot!
Fr. Suresh Kumar MSFS
Time and again we hear people say, 'Let us make this world a better place to live in'. I wonder whether we can really better what was made by God. In Genesis we come across God having an evaluation of his creation after each day's work and HE found it to be 'good'. How and when did it become bad so that we make it 'better'? Somewhere down the line we have begun to change the world from good to bad. This world is a gift from God, a free gift. The God who created this marvellous universe placed us in this world ensuring that we are safe. This world is loved by God Himself. (Jn 3:16). But we humans have changed this world into an unsafe place. When God created it, there was no hunger and decease. Peace and tranquility prevailed. The problem began when the humans wanted 'to be God'. He is a good Father, could we try to be His good children?
Tags: YAP Chat youth column Catholic Youth Parramatta
On Sunday Evan Ellis and I will be launching the Bishops’ Social Justice Statement for 2010 which is on Violence in Australia and what we can do to be peacemakers. Given how strong this theme of anti-violence is in our Catholic tradition and our current efforts at peacemaking, Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple in today’s Gospel might seem a strange event.
For one thing, the Jesus who is so much against violence, who commands Peter to put away the sword and for all of us to resolve our differences, turn other cheek and forgive endlessly, is running around turning over tables and chastising people with a whip! Of course, it demonstrates that there can be righteous anger: we should be angry when innocent babies are killed or when pension funds are robbed, or when people are driven out of their own country and forced to search for asylum, or when such desperate people cannot find safety and welcome anywhere...
So, yes, there is a time for righteous anger and a certain energetic activity that comes with that; but would we work up such a sweat about a building? Jesus clearly cares a lot about sacred spaces. Though he was known to preach and pray on mountains, hills and waterways, he did very regularly do so in synagogues and the Temple, their cathedral. Today’s Gospel says taht at this stage of his life ‘he taught in the Temple every day’.
Jesus’ concern for the Temple was not about a superstitious attachment to a building. Rather it was His sense of piety – that is, grateful reverence for ancestors and all sources of our being. His own ancestors had built the Temple around the ark of the covenant, beautified and defended it, and hallowed it with their prayers; their enemies had sacked and profaned it; another generation of Jesus’ ancestors had won it back and rebuilt it with their blood, sweat and tears. God was honoured there and friendship with God sealed by that.
But now, it seems, the Temple was being profaned again, not this time by foreign powers, but by the people’s own apostasy, their own compromise with the world, with their rulers and neighbours, with the culture, with comfort and convenience, with power and privilege.
When Jesus takes possession of Temple he throws a challenge out to all Temple authorities and worshippers, taht is to you and me: are we betraying the blood, sweat and tears of those who gave their lives for our Church? Thuis very month of November we’ve remembered those who died to defend our liberty (on Remembrance Day) and those who were made saints by building up the Church in our land (at Mary MacKillop’s canonisation and on All Saints Day).
Do we, in the Temple of our hearts, risk another great apostasy, another great compromise with the world, our neighbours, the culture, with comfort and convenience, power and privilege?
Do we profane the Holy Place of our lives, our people, ourselves, by turning our own hearts, those houses of prayer, that dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, into a robbers’ den, into an altar to mammon, into a sanctuary for consumption, a synagogue of self-indulgence?
And if so, or if it’s sometimes so, now is the time to allow Christ back in to drive out all that is unworthy from our hearts.
Bishop Anthony Fisher
Tags: YAP Chat Bishop Anthony Fisher Catholic Youth Parramatta
TRUST IN GOD.
“In God we Trust”, is the motto of the United States of America. The Americans are proud and happy to inscribe this motto on their currency. Jesus reminds us of the same in Jn 14:1. “TRUST IN GOD”, says plainly. We are exhausted and overwhelmed with our problems and difficulties. We seem to arrive at a point of no return. It is a human tendency to rely upon the strengths of our own person but fail to realize that we are not ‘Almighty’. God is all powerful, Creator. He created us in His image and likeness and wants us to be happy. Being the Creator, He has given us everything that we need which may not be what we want. Our lives depend on Him. Whether it is victory or defeat, it belongs to God. We are His children and we are expected to behave like His children. People become restless and impatient when things don’t go as per their wish. But God has His plan for each of us. It is easy for us to blame God when things go wrong but we need to realize that God always wishes the best in our lives. So let us TRUST IN GOD.
Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Rouse Hill, 24th June 2012
The phoney vocations crisis
There’s a priestly vocations crisis at the moment right? Actually, I’m not so sure – for a few reasons…
First, because no bishop ever thinks he’s got enough priests. You can always do with more. I’ve got good work for at least another hundred to do, in my diocese alone, right now. If Fr Warren finds me another hundred, as I expect he will, I’ll have tasks for another hundred after that. That’s because the work of priests, proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world, offering the eternal sacrifice of the Son to the Father and mediating its graces through the sacraments and pastoral care, and leading and co-ordinating a community of service to our world, is a work that’s never done. No matter how well we do it, we could do more and better. There’s no right number of God’s agents. It’s like the old magic trick that starts with pick a number, then double it…
Some people peg the right number at the number we had in 1950 or 1970 or 1990. But why are those the years that we had it right? Or they peg it at the number of parishes. But why only one priest per parish and what’s the magic in the present parish boundaries anyway? Or they set a goal based on one priest for every 500 Catholics or 5,000 Catholics or 15,000 Catholics. But again: why that ratio? If we went by the number of active priests per active Catholic, you’d have to say that things just get better and better! Why? Because the number of active Catholics has been falling faster than the number of active priests, making the priest-to-practising-Catholic ratio better: but is that anything to be proud of? Not good enough, I say. So if there is a vocations crisis it’s the same shortage of labourers for the divine harvest which Jesus himself identified in around the year 31 ad and which the Church has had ever since: the shortage that means there’s always more we could do.
Secondly, the ‘vocations crisis’ in marriage and family life is much graver than that for clergy at the moment. Fewer and fewer people are deciding to marry at all: fewer than half in Australia of marriageable age are married today. Those who do, marry much later, usually after cohabiting with a series of partners, which sociologists tell us significantly reduces their ‘marital sticking power’. Most now marry outside religion and many decide from the start to have few or no children. A larger proportion of married vocations ‘fail’ (in the sense of being abandoned) than priestly and religious vocations fail. As a result many children grow up in fragmented or complicated families. All this presents a massive social challenge, as well as a tragedy for many individuals, including people we all know and love. And people are more muddled than ever about what marriage is these days, with talk of same-sex marriage, multi-partner marriage, even marriage to yourself! Yet we don’t hear sky-falling-in talk of a crisis of married vocations: perhaps we should, but until we do it is premature to talk about a crisis of priestly vocations.
Of course there is a case to be made that there is a problem at present amongst some priests regarding their sense of priestly identity and morale, though both are I think overstated. There is a case to be made that there is a crisis of reverence or regard for the priesthood amongst ordinary people and certainly in the media, especially as a result of celebrated sexual abuse cases and spectacular priestly defections. Yet, again, the disappointment that ordinary people feel when priests fail is tribute to the tenacity of their high regard for the priesthood. No one is disappointed when thieves prove to be inept or unfaithful to their trade because no one expects much of them. But with priests it’s still different because deep down ordinary Catholics – and maybe even some journalists – expect more of them, want more from them.
Now when I call into question the talk of priestly vocations crisis, I’m not jumping on the bandwagon of those who say good riddance to the priesthood, or that numbers of priests don’t matter, or that lay people can do and do do and will do the job better anyway, or that we should explore new models of ministry, or that we should ordain people not traditionally regarded as ordainable, or that we should pretend that protestant ministers are Catholic priests, or that we should plan for ‘priestless parishes’. There’s no such thing as priestless parishes: parishes are Eucharistic communities and units of pastoral life served by a parish priest. Some parishes might be waiting for a priest, hungering for a priest, but we should never resign ourselves to having parishes without the Eucharist and the rest that priests do. Nor can we ordain what we can’t ordain, or recognize as valid orders that are invalid. And nor can we reasonably rely upon the laity, who already do more and more to relieve their priests of unnecessary burdens, also to take on what are necessarily priestly burdens. So we do need priests. We always do.
My main reason for saying there is no crisis in priestly vocations is that God always provides. He doesn’t hold back the supply and let us wait it out for a while as a punishment for something, and then let just a few through to tantalize us. There’s no such thing as a ‘vocations shortage’ in the sense of a ‘water shortage’, because God always calls as many as He knows we need. The shortage, if any, is not in God calling but in people responding to His call.
Not rocket science
This year we celebrate fifty years since the opening of the Second Vatican Council. That’s like ancient history to most of you guys. But let me tell you it was an important moment for the Church, and still is today, and one of its central messages was that Christ calls every human being to holiness. That means you! You are called to holiness. You are called to be a saint. No excuses. No ‘I don’t know enough theology’ or ‘I’m not prayerful enough’ or ‘I’m not pastoral enough’ and ‘I’m not gifted enough’. Christ has called you to be a saint, His Church calls you to be a saint, and Christ and His Church never ask you to do what you cannot do. If Christ calls you to be a saint He gives you the wherewithal.
So if you don’t want to be a saint, if you are not planning on being a saint, go away, think about joining the Catholic Church, and once you do, you will know that that’s what we are, that’s all we are, sinners becoming saints.
Once that’s clear in your heads, you’ll notice there are an enormous variety of saints - every temperament, walk of life, history and interest. The Church has its scholar saints it calls ‘the Doctors’. It has its witness saints, who testify to Christ even unto death, it calls ‘the Martyrs’. It has its radically religious saints it calls ‘the Virgins’. It has its lay saints in the world it calls ‘the Holy Men and Women’. And it has its priest saints it calls ‘the Pastors’. So, one way of being a saint is by being a good priest. The process of figuring out what kind of saint you can best be is called vocational discernment. It’s an issue for every Christian, not just for certain young men. And it’s not rocket science.
I think there is a lot of nonsense talked about vocational discernment and that some of it is quite off-putting for people who might very well be good priests.
First, being a Catholic priest is a pretty ordinary thing for Catholics and so something every Catholic boy and young Catholic man should think about. The great English Catholic novelist and commentator Evelyn Waugh once remarked in his diary that being a priest is as ordinary as any other trade. Some men see to the water, electricity, gas or laying-on of bricks. Others lay on Grace. When a priest goes to the altar or font or confessional he has his tools like any other tradesman. He has to do an apprenticeship and, like modern apprentices, he also does a bit of college learning as well. He has to practice and listen to the older tradies. He has continually to see if the same thing can be done better. He isn’t a pagan shaman following the whispers of ancestral spirits; he doesn’t conduct auspices over the entrails of small birds – unless in reputable restaurants. He most certainly is not a psychotherapist trying to make people feel good about themselves. He just has a job to do – bringing Christ into people’s lives by preaching the Gospel and celebrating the sacraments – and that’s the easiest and most difficult of callings. It requires nothing except everything.
Our Lord Himself, when He spoke to His disciples, who had until that point been members of a very honourable trade – fishers – said, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. Jesus knew and used as examples various trades: shepherds, fishermen, vignerons, day labourers, builders, investors, stewards, waiters, bridesmaids, pearl merchants, home-makers. Particularly often he used imagery from the agricultural and cooking trades – seeds, shrubs, trees, wheat, tares, harvests, vines and vineyards, yeast and bread, oil, figs, mustard and various herbs, eggs, a fatted calf, fish and birds. What is required from the agricultural and cooking trades is patience. If faith itself is like the mustard seed, then we wait for it to grow in God’s time – a slow business. The fish and fowl too have minds of their own and dart hither and thither without any thought for fisher or fowler. You have to sneak up and lurk with intent. The yeast in the dough doesn’t rise as we want – it has its own rules. Just because you don’t feel holy enough, or smart enough, or dedicated enough doesn’t mean that Christ can’t teach you His trade. You just have be ‘ready, willing and able’, in fact only willing: the Church decides when you’re ‘ready’ and Christ supplies the ‘able’.
Discerning which kind of saint to be
You can begin your priestly apprenticeship now. You don’t have to wait till you go to a seminary or monastery to learn the tricks. Let me give you some practical, tradesman-like advice. If the road to hell is paved with grand intentions, the road to heaven is paved with small daily acts of fidelity. A good place to start is the Creed. You say it every Sunday at Mass. You say it when you pray the Rosary. If you don’t go to Mass or don’t say the Rosary, do. And when you do, you attend to the Creed.
The Creed tells us that God started it all and sustains it all – not us, God. God the Father Almighty made the world and God the Son in Jesus Christ remade it. By His Holy Cross He redeemed the world. Like the good carpenter that He was, He didn’t just fill in the cracked wood with wood putty, He gouged out the termites, replaced the foundations, restored the roof. He replaced the bad timber of the tree of the Fall with the good timber of the tree of the Cross, sin with grace. He set the table of the Eucharist at the heart of His new world, so that His bride the Church might live here joyfully until the end of time. From the ashes of sin and ugliness arose the Glory of God, from the corruption of the Tomb, Life Himself. Recite the Creed daily and remember that it’s a summary of the Gospels: so don’t forget to read them to. Let Christ speak to you through them.
What Christ has given to us, though, in His Gospels and in the Church’s creed, is more than words and doctrines, beautiful as they undoubtedly are. He has brought them to life in the Holy Liturgy, most especially in the Holy Eucharist. The divine tradesman hasn’t just left us instructions, the Bible and Creed as our cookbook, as it were. No, He actually cooks for us. The real Master Chef still kneads and bakes the bread that will become His Body. He still changes the water of ordinary life into the wine of the promise, then changes the wine of promise into the Precious Blood of divine life. The Gardener still wanders around watering, fertilizing, harvesting the wheat, dressing the vines, pruning us from time to time with little humiliations. The Shepherd still has us in His keep, the Fisherman in His net. So go to Him in the Holy Eucharist. If you want to know Him, spend time at His house – like any friend. Make sure you go to Mass on Sundays and sometimes during the week as well. Drop in for a quick word, then stay a while. That way, any seed of vocation that Christ has planted can be watered, and yeast can expand. It can grow through Him, with Him and in Him. Don’t forget to invite Him back to your house too – into your heart and into your life.
Like any apprentice, you learn by doing. Do as He does. Follow the Master in His trade. Keep His Commandments of love: to love Him above all, to love your neighbour as yourself, to love your enemies as if they were neighbours, your neighbours as if they were brothers, to love as He has loved, love even to laying down your life. Keep His Ten Commandments or words about what to reverence: God, Church, family, life, health, sex, relationships, creation, truth, beauty, people and things. Start now being a good priest by being first a good man, a good Christian, a saint.
Christ understands our weakness, though, just as a builder understands the flaws in the wood or a cook the limitations of the ingredients. He taps and mends, digs and prunes. Let Him do His thing in you. Go to Confession regularly. Grace is everywhere, but for us discerners it is especially present in this wonderful sacrament. It is embarrassing to kneel in the dust and admit that you are a sinner – a leaky roof, a straggly plant – but such self-examination, such admission of defeat, of need, is always pleasing to God. It is you admitting that you need the Master Chef, the Master Builder, the Master of Mercy. It will also teach you how to be, one day, a good confessor yourself – the minister of forgiveness must first be forgiven himself. A faithful heart is the most important tool of the priest’s trade. The Cross of Christ enters our lives in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Go there!
Fasting and penance with youthful enthusiasm, is a good discipline at this time in your lives. With enthusiasm, I say, but not kooky stuff like carving Christ’s name in your flesh or getting yourself nailed to a cross in Holy Week. Better to go to bed early, get up early and pray for a while. Or fast for a time from SMSes. Or smile when you feel least like it – especially at your family – not like chimpanzees do, baring their teeth before attack, but with real love; not just when you don’t feel it, but especially when you don’t feel it.
Sometimes people think priesthood is out of the question because chastity is difficult. Well, to be frank, nearly everyone, married or unmarried, young or old, professed celibate or living in the world, finds chastity a challenge. My novice master told us it only stops being a challenge about fifteen minutes after death. This is not a get-out-jail-free card, merely a statement of the obvious. It’s no harder or easier for priests. If most people today are unmarried then most people today are called to a chastity without sexual activity, perhaps for life, certainly for long extended periods; but even married people must learn a faithful chastity and resist various temptations. The world of billboards, TV and internet are full of sexual titillation. Through them the Evil One whispers: ‘if you’re not getting it you’re dead’, ‘try before you buy’, ‘sew your wild oats’, ‘it’s only human’ and the rest. They are lies. You are not the only celibate on the planet. Most people are not having sex most of the time. Some for a very long time. Some never at all. There’s self-denial in that. Not just of pleasure, recreation, but also of intimacy, bonding, family. But there are many good things in life, and opportunity costs in them all: you just can’t have everything, despite the petulant demands of modernity.
Apart from guarding your senses you can make them strong by feasting the heart and mind on really beautiful things. Great art, music, films, literature and Nature itself all lead us to God – they make his Mysterious Glory manifest in our world. Our city is full of theatres, galleries, opera and museums – make the effort to go. (Some of them are even free.) Most of you will have iPods and CD players that can help you learn about the long tradition of music in our culture – including, dare I say, classics from before 2005, and even the long tradition of sacred art and music. Branch out, listen to and see different things. Above all you ought to find some way of serving Christ in others: in the poor, by feeding and clothing them; in children ignorant of their faith, by instructing them in CCD classes; in the old and sick, by visiting them; in the bereaved by grieving with them. Nothing burns up vice quicker than the flames of an ardent Faith expressed in works of Charity.
Good friends, as well, are an aid to purity – as well as many other aspects of your humanity. Getting to know people, learning about them, enjoying their company, being chastely affectionate, discussing things with them, are indispensable for any human being. Priests especially need to exercise the art of friendship. When you and your friends share the same Catholic values and can help one another through trials and temptations, can pray for and with one another, go to Mass together, study the Faith together, this is a battle line against Satan, this is what he fears most – Christians, “one heart and soul in Christ, brothers dwelling in unity”, as St Augustine put it.
One step at a time
My generation didn’t hear much about religious and priestly vocations, whether at Church, at school or at home. Research suggests that one of the reasons for my generation’s relative absence from the clergy is that no-one ever invited them, gave them the space, the permission, to think of such a thing, to think about themselves and their suitability for vocation. The world around says: get into sex early and often; focus on career and accumulate lots of experiences, lots of possessions; keep ourselves busy and keep the noise levels up. Discernment calls for space, quiet, reflection. I grew up in the noisy world and it’s only got more so since. But even as the noise and the whispers conspired with my own cowardice and ungenerosity, there remained a nagging feeling that this is what God wanted from me: no thunderbolts, no angels, just an increasing certainty that in the priesthood and religious life I could be most happy and could help most others to experience ‘life to the full’. If you are waiting for an apostle, dressed in shining white robes, to appear and point his finger at you and say, ‘Hey, you, you’re called, get to the seminary’ well, here I am, a successor of the apostles, dressed in a whitish habit, and I’m pointing my finger at you!
God is usually more discreet. In my first days in the Dominican Order I recall an elderly lady giving me a copy of a prayer for vocations which was prayed in that parish every day. She said she had been praying it for me, long before she ever met me, that she was pleased to know who she was praying it for, and that she promised to keep doing it every day into eternity. I guess she’s still praying it now before the throne of God. It was and is deeply consoling that God’s people still want us priests, want holy priests, and will support us in so many ways if we are willing to be that for them. And that God calls us through them.
Well, I took about ten years to make up my mind, and when I finally decided to give up my life as a lawyer, my big income, my good social life, and all the rest, some of those closest to me thought I was mad and sometimes I thought I was too. Can you be sane and happy as a priest or religious? Well I’ll leave it to you to judge how sane I am, but after 25 years in vows and 20 in holy orders, with the little old ladies praying for me and now, as a bishop, a whole diocese praying for me, I can tell you I am happy, very happy. I love being a priest. It’s the best of lives.
Tags: YAP Chat Bishop Anthony Fisher Vocations Reflection Afternoon Catholic Youth Parramatta
One Year to Go to World Youth Day 2013 in Rio
Homily for Saturday Vigil Mass, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, 28 July 2012
In favourable conditions the fastest way up a mountain without transport or paths is often to scramble up unroped, making use of the ridges and cracks. But when there are hazards – like inclement weather, rock-falls and crevasses, or various wrong directions you could easily take, when the paths are steep, slippery or unpredictable – then mountaineers know it’s safest to go in groups, well prepped and equipped, and to be properly roped. Anyone who’s gone climbing in groups knows that you have to work as a team, synchronize your efforts, assist each other belay and arrest. Having a line connecting all the climbers enables them to help each other achieve the goal despite the obstacles nature and human error put in their way. If one stumbles while climbing a cliff, the rest yell a warning and fall immediately into a self-arrest position, locking themselves to the rock wall and hopefully arresting the fall of the one stumbling.
Amidst all the current Olympic fever we might reflect on what sports Jesus and His team specialized in. Jesus was so good at water sports they said He could walk on water! He also took part in an equestrian event on Palm Sunday. There are several reports of Peter jumping, though whether long or high isn’t clear. He dived into the water on occasion, though he lacked the medallist’s style. He tried his hand at fencing in the Garden of Gethsemane. We don’t know much about the athletic activities of the other apostles, except that John beat Peter in a sprint to the tomb on Resurrection Day. Several of them were into fishing boat racing, though they got the jitters in bad weather and sometimes nearly drowned. They did a lot of walking, maybe even occasionally had a walking race, and sometimes they were quite competitive, as when they argued about who was the greatest and should get the silver and bronze medals, either side of Jesus the gold medallist in the kingdom of heaven. In tonight’s Gospel – the Gospel from which the theme for World Youth Day 2012 is taken – its mountaineering they are up to, with the eleven surviving disciples joining Jesus after the Resurrection on top of a mountain and then falling flat in amazement before Him (Mt 28:16-20).
We’re not told how they got up the mountain. Christ left in spectacular fashion, ascending into the heavens; perhaps the disciples abseiled down afterwards. But first they got their coaching. He had done it before on mountains, most famously the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon is much shorter – as you might often wish they were. Jesus sums up His teaching and their mission: that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit; that the Father sent and has given all authority to the Son who is Jesus; that He in turn sends the eleven – He passes on the baton of mission to His relay team, the Church; and that they must now carry forward the baptizing, discipling, teaching, especially teaching his commandments, and must do so with supreme confidence that He is with them always.
What is that teaching that they must pass on, in word and deed? It is that teaching – those commandments – that they heard on their first mountaineering expedition with Him. It was in the Sermon on the Mount that they learnt the key to happiness that is Jesus’ wonderful beatitudes and His teaching that we must be salt of the earth and light to the world, that we must be genuine in our piety and eschew all hypocrisy, that we must be prayerful and charitable, living a kind of divine mercy and perfection, that we must put God’s kingdom first and keep His words.
In just one year from now, we too will be traversing mountains in Lima, waterfalls in Iguassu and beaches in Rio. Atop the famous Corcovado – or ‘hunchback’ mountain – in Rio harbour we will see Jesus the mountaineer, Cristo Redentor, Christ Redeemer. We will surely think again of Jesus preaching on the mountain and charging his apostles to go out from there to all nations making disciples. Such pilgrim climbing will make physical demands of us and even greater spiritual demands. But like wise mountaineers in hazardous conditions, we will not go it alone. Christ the Redeemer is already waiting for us there. Our coaches will include Blessed John Paul II, founder of World Youth Day and avid skier, canoeist and hiker; his close collaborator and successor who will meet us in Rio, Pope Benedict XVI; and Bld Pier Giorgio Frassati, the young mountaineer who often said: ‘Verso l’alto! Reach to the highest! Upwards, upwards towards heaven!’ And we will be in good company, on the winning team: we will have with us the young people of Parramatta Diocese and the universal Church.
Like mountain climbing our lives have their external hazards and internal mistakes. There is the equivalent of inclement weather, rock-falls and crevasses, wrong paths easily taken, courses on occasion slippery and unpredictable. How are we to negotiate such challenges? How are we to persevere when the going gets tough? First, in this Year of Grace, by ‘contemplating the face of Christ’ and so being wholly focussed on getting to Him, on ascending His mountain, on reaching for the stars, for heaven. Secondly, by doing it together, roped to a team of fellow pilgrim climbers, in a friendship with Christ and through Him with all Christians, that communion of saints both on earth and in heaven, striving l’alto verso, for the top.
So my young friends, get ready. Get the coaching, the prep, you need at our formation sessions and reflect on what you hear. Get the gear you need also: I don’t mean a walking pole like the one I’m carrying tonight or a climbing helmet like the one I’m wearing; I don’t even mean the WYD T-shirts you now have and will wear, I hope, as living billboards telling your generation all about World Youth Day. No, I’m principally talking about the spiritual ropes, harnesses and karabiners you need: getting deeper into the Scriptures and the Catechism, the best navigational aids and safety harnesses for the expedition of life. Get to Mass and Confession often so that you build up your spiritual stamina.
Adopt a regime that contributes to your spiritual fitness. You might not yet be ready to do all that Our Lady of Guadeloupe, Rose of Lima, Martin de Porres or the Jesuit martyrs we’ll meet on our WYD journey, did. But you can start living the Sermon on the Mount and the Charge from the Mount right now, in smaller ways, improving the way you relate, looking at how you spend your time or who and what you give your attention. Try to be, by God’s grace, a little bit holier each day, a little bit more transparent with that grace that is within you. Spiritual altitude training is about acclimatizing yourself to the atmosphere in the kingdom of God – by ongoing, daily conversion, resisting the selfishness and envy, sloth and pride in our hearts and making those hearts fitting homes for that God we learnt in tonight’s Gospel to call Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
My young friends, you are called. Your climb to WYD 2013 begins tonight. Say yes, right now, tonight, to the challenge of getting yourself or someone else to Rio. I declare the spiritual Olympics are open.
Tags: YAP Chat Youth Column Bishop Anthony Fisher World Youth Day 2013 WYD 2013 One year to go St Patrick's Cathedral
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