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    In recent interviews with two noted writers, because both had recently been diagnosed with cancer, the subject of faith and death was raised, one was asked whether he shared the faith of his ancestors: 

    “No. I feel that as a burden. It must be fantastic to have a faith but I don’t. My father was a good Presbyterian. But no. I think it’s all over when it’s over. I think it’s a beautiful thing. But sadly fallacious …I still like the sound of a good hymn, though, you know. That can still move me … and I still read the Bible a lot. Not for any religious reason. I just like the sound of the King James version. I am interested in religion you see. And that’d be the thing about dying now – I wouldn’t mind reading more about religion. There’s all those things I haven’t read enough about yet.” 

    House for Sale

    The house I grew up in is for sale. Not the first house which was next door.  That has long gone. Some of my older brothers and sisters were born in the front room of the old one and I lived there until I went to boarding school at age eleven.  The one my father built in the late sixties when farming was very profitable is now up for grabs.

    Now is not the time

    We live in an extraordinary time. We live in a time of enormous change, in a time of the greatest movement of people across the globe, a time of amazing medical and scientific advancements, with communication techniques only dreamed about not so long ago. It is a time of extraordinary prosperity for some, a time of peace for many nations.

    This Special Moment

    2020 is a very important year for Catholics in Australia.  We are at a critical point in the life of our battered Church, here and across the world, but let’s focus on Australia.  Do we have courage enough to pray: “Come Holy Spirit, renew the face of our Church?”  Do we trust in the Spirit or have we already decided what it should look like?  Our church has a mission to the world we live in – we are not on about self -preservation (that’s what got our church into trouble in the first place) but rather about mission. What should it look like and to whom do we mission – just ourselves or the community, the nation we live in? How can we renew and bring life back to the parish?

    Happiness and joy or angst and consumerism?

    For many of us, Christmas is our favourite time of year, even for those who don't believe that it's really Jesus' birthday, or even for those who don’t believe that He ever existed. The decorations, the carols, the holidays, the family gatherings, the happiness and the joy that seems to be all around and the gifts – there’s something about Christmas, even if I spell it with an X. At the other end of the scale, this can be a period of angst, a retail-driven frenzy of consumerism that brings out the worst in people, sometimes on both sides of the counter.


    Welcome Summer

    But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.  Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?  In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.
    Job 12 7-10



    Stories are important. Stories have been with us since the beginning of time, some in picture form, rock art, in the Bible and in other sacred and historical writings too that have been preserved for thousands of years. Stories are not just for our amusement but they enable us to pass on messages and ideas, they enable us to teach important values and beliefs, to share memories and paint pictures of people and places in unique and wonderful ways. Stories entertain, they make us laugh, cry and make us feel vulnerable or safe and secure.

    One Thing Only I Ask

    Death is always a touchy subject, but strangely what we want done after death is often not. Buried or cremated? Or will it be a funeral service in a church or celebration of a life in a non-religious setting, which seems to be becoming the more popular option?

    The Signs of Our Times

     William Shakespeare wrote that: All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players….

    I wonder how Shakespeare would write about the age, ‘the stage’ we inhabit today and what part we play in it. Unlike his time, we live in a secularised society and we are often told, Religion is ‘on the nose’, as it were. Many people have rejected it or simply drifted away.

    The Richness of Diversity

    After being removed from his birth parents at three years of age, Australian Musician, Composer and Singer, Archie Roach lived with three different foster families. He particularly loved being a part of the third family, a Scottish family called Cox.  In an interview I read recently, he was asked: ‘When did you see yourself as different?’  ‘Never’, Archie said, ‘until I walked home with a mate after school one afternoon.

    The Challenge of Spring

     See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Song of Songs 2:11-13




    Father's Day

    Father’s Day was not invented by Bunnings or by big department stores or greeting card suppliers. It was not even invented in America! Father’s Day dates back to at least the Middle Ages in Europe, and over there it is observed on 19 March, the feast day of Saint Joseph. The Spanish and Portuguese brought Father’s Day to the Americas probably during the last years of the 14th century. Despite its current commercialism, it has for many, many years provided us with an opportunity to reflect on the important influence fathers play in our lives.

    Something Missing

    I recently visited a very large city to our north. It was spotlessly clean and neat; there were literally hundreds of new sky scrapers, some very, very impressively designed. Much of the old city centre had been demolished or modernised. Streets were tree-lined and beautiful gardens were delightful. But for all its efficiency and design, its impressive features, to my mind the place lacked an essential ingredient – it was soul-less.

    Is there anything left in which we can all believe?

    Last year a very comprehensive study focussing on young Catholics was undertaken across the US. The study asked: Why are young Catholics going, going, gone? Much of what was revealed was not only about young people but it could well apply to Catholics of all ages.

    Insights, Not Just Sights

    This catch phrase was attached to an advertisement for a tour to be accompanied by various local experts in art, music and food. It adds a new dimension to just another trip. It is not uncommon to see tourists get off the bus, take photos and get straight back on. You are left wondering, what did they see? What did they understand about this place, about its history, its people?

    Five Sparrows

    "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Jesus asked. "Fear not, you are of more value than many sparrows."

    In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus again urges us "Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" (Matthew 6:26)

    Reaching Out

    A few weeks before he was elected Pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said at the funeral of Luigi Giussani, founder of the renewal movement known as Communion and Liberation, “Christianity is not an intellectual system, a collection of dogmas, or a moralism. Christianity is instead an encounter, a love story, an event.” As Pope, he returned to that theme on a number of occasions. During this time of consultation for the Plenary Council, asking ourselves what sort of an event we are creating would seem to be a good starting point. What kind of a love story do we create in our homes, our churches, our parishes and schools? And is this the event we want?

    The Christchurch Symphony Orchestra

    Following the devastating earthquake in February 2011, the Christchurch orchestra bureaucracy had to sort out their priorities having lost their performance centre, the Town Hall. They decided that was the least of their priorities and divided the musicians into small subsections and sent them to schools and other groups in that city to keep up their performance goals. When the full orchestra managed to get together and perform, it did so in an air force hanger which required the shifting of helicopters and planes. The conductor advised the orchestra to play fortissimo in case of rain on the tin roof. The outcome of these changes was that subscriptions and memberships increased fourfold.

    Doing Something Worthwhile

    How many times have we been told or have we counselled others: “Don't waste your time, do something worthwhile with it." That is good, well-meaning advice, no matter what age we may be but what does it mean? What do we mean by ‘worthwhile’ anyway?

    Daily Resurrection

    In his book The Cellist of Sarajevo, Steven Golloway recounts the story of a man who for twenty-two days, played Adagio in memory of the dead. He played in the same place at the same time each day, in the middle of a war ravaged street where mortars fell and snipers fired unchecked. In the middle of fear and suffering this act of courage raised the spirits of those who lived in this precarious place.

    Everything is a Gift

    President Truman is reported to have offered this gem: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

    We probably don’t meet many unsung heroes in life, those who work quietly away without fanfare or fame. They just get on and do what has to be done, encouraging others to use their gifts and talents. They stand out because they don’t seek to!

    Coming to Know God

    I recently took some time to listen to two street preachers in a busy shopping centre. I admire their dedication and their courage. I couldn’t do it! But what they had to say was so depressing – the words abomination and vengeance came up regularly and the picture of God they painted for anyone who cared to listen was, to say the least, a real turn off, an unforgiving and terrifying God, hell bent, as it were, on punishment and retribution. Where was the God of love, the God of forgiveness, compassion and mercy revealed to us by Jesus?

    The Gift of Autumn

    Be patient, therefore, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. James 5:7

    Being and Building Community

    Throughout the writings of the Hebrew Scriptures, there is a strong religious challenge to always welcome the stranger, the foreigner. Why? Because the Jewish people themselves had once been foreigners, immigrants and exiles. Their scriptures kept reminding them not to forget that. Second, they believed that God’s revelation very often, comes to us through the stranger, in what’s foreign to us. That belief was integral to their faith.

    Something I Prepared Earlier

    Do you remember those cooking shows where the host would mix together all the ingredients and, after popping that into the oven, he or she would produce a perfect dish ‘prepared earlier.’ No room for mistakes or imperfections, the cake or whatever was without blemish or flaws. But life isn’t always like that! In our own way, we strive to be the best we can be but that doesn’t always work out as we planned.

    A Better World

    How beautiful would it be to leave the world a better place than the way we found it.

    Although this statement has been attributed to Pope Francis, many famous people have expressed a similar wish. Quite often, however, those reading or hearing it assume that it is a sentiment expressed about the time of death, our legacy as it were. But what if we used this wish as a morning prayer and an evening reflection?

    A Christmas Blessing 2018

    But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
    Today in the City of David a Saviour has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord! Luke 2:10-11

    Christmas doesn't happen automatically; it needs our participation. In a very real sense, we have to help make the joy of Christmas continue to happen.

    We Need Christmas

    For many of us, it may seem to get harder each year to gear up for another Christmas. The pressures of commercialisation, the rush to get everything done, coping with family pressures and tensions at times can make it difficult to capture the mood of Christmas.


    The first time I experienced double-glazing, it wasn’t only the warmth that was impressive, it was the silence. You could watch the noisy world outside and hear virtually nothing. 

    Silence is a simple, yet complex and powerful thing. We can be silent, remain silent, we can enjoy it, be afraid of it, avoid it, use it. 

    Grief is a Lonely Journey

    When my father died and the family came back from taking him to his final place of rest, the school buses were picking up students at the end of the school day as usual. It was a shock. Nothing had changed! The world had not stopped because our father had died! I think that upset me more than anything else on that day.

    Bringing the Past to Life

    Over the past twelve months I have been writing the family history. Rather than a catalogue of facts and statistics or a genealogical table, it has been an attempt to give some insight into the story beginning in 1858 of Michael, the heavily pregnant Catherine and their two little boys who left their home country knowing they would never return.   

    Wattle and Gum

    Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Jerusalem. Ps 137:1

    When the Jewish people were taken into exile in Babylon, they mourned for their country and its ways. It was a deeply sad time for them. Some of the most beautiful prayers and psalms were written during this exile. Sometimes it was the small things that reminded them of home, of their life lost – a bush, a tree, a familiar song.

    The Getting of Wisdom.

    Every day we are faced with many choices, some great, some trivial but they all make their mark and in their own way, they change us. Good or bad habits start by small decisions. Virtues grow out of daily choices. Every day we rethink old decisions and make new ones. We grapple and struggle, we commit and repent over and over again. Every day of our lives our souls, our spirit within grows a little more into God or a little more into self, more focused on our own priorities or our decisions may lead us to be more open and wiser.

    The Book

    Helen Garner wrote in her book, Everywhere I Look, about a visit to her home by Australian author and friend, Tim Winton. At the time Helen was sharing a house with a recently born-again, very fundamentalist Christian. She left Tim with him, ‘the big black Bible on the table between them’. When she returned, Tim was alone. What happened? Winton said: “I told him to give the book a rest and let his life be the witness”.

    The Challenge of Faith

    The last census taken in Australia indicates that religious belief is on the decline and the numbers of those who espouse no religious belief is on the increase. For many, the Christian ethos appears tied to the past, its beliefs antiquated, out of step with modern times.

    Lessons from Chooks

    I recently watched six bantam silky hens being gently herded around a back lawn. It was a novel and very calming experience. The owner of the hens told me that she does it every day for half an hour or so. “This is how the hens know I love them”, she told me, “so they give me an egg every day”.

    Story Telling

    Is it time that we started telling new stories? We hear so many bad stories, bad news, talk of catastrophe and predictions of doom and gloom, so many twisted facts and opinions. It is easy to fall under their spell, to fall into despair and begin telling our own stories of woe, our own predictions of how the sky is falling in. When we are served such a diet, it is not difficult to see where fear and suspicion come from, where prejudice and hatred are born and fuelled.

    Being Hopeful

    Loneliness is a dreadful thing. It has sometimes been described as a living death. That’s not being over dramatic. There is a reluctance to even talk about it, to share the feelings that drag us away from others, to talk about those things which make us turn inwards.

    Soundtrack Music

    During a boat ride on Loch Ness the guide vividly described the memory of his first supposed encounter with Nessie. “She rose up out of the water”, he said “and began swaying to music only she could hear.”

    Being Fantastic

    Recently I went looking for a book in one of Melbourne’s biggest bookshops. Over many years, I don’t think I have ever been in there without buying something. I was looking for a rather interesting book reviewed in The Age that promised to ask ‘The Big Questions’ about philosophy, doctrine and religious practice. After some time I found it, and other religious books…….. in the Fantasy Section!

    Life to the Full Takes Time

    Initially van Gogh harboured thoughts of becoming a preacher but decided instead to learn to draw. He wasn’t much good but he persevered for years before things began to improve. He transformed himself into one of our greatest artists. Haunted by a sense that time was running out and that he might not live past forty (he died at 37), he painted 860 paintings in ten years. His best-known works were all painted in the last two years of his life during what could be called a chance move to the south of France.

    Soaked in Miracle

    "To grow up Catholic is to be especially lucky as an artist because you are soaked in miracle and mystery and symbol and smoke and the confident assertion that every moment is pregnant with miracle and possibility and stuffed with holiness …..”  

    So wrote the late Brian Doyle, poet, award winning author, international speaker.   He was an extraordinary ‘man of words’ with insights that graced our world during his short sixty years of life. 


    Easter Joy

    It is not unusual to see in the media Christians being described as curmudgeons. Curmudgeons are defined as grumps, with little or no tolerance, at times self-righteous and not suffering fools gladly, full of stubborn ideas or opinions. If others see us that way, if that is how our ways of living and our beliefs come across, what a travesty that is! There is a saying that Christians are "so heavenly minded they are no earthly good." Sadly, people of faith, those who follow a religious tradition are often portrayed as serious, humourless, out of step with the ‘modern’ world. We are not seen as people of joy. That’s a great pity. The resurrection reminds us that we are called to work in the here and now, to make this world a better place, a fairer place, a happier place, to work to bring about the New Creation, to be Good News people.

    Crucify Him!

    It is easy enough to stir up a crowd, whip up anger, to find a quick answer to a problem, to play on fear and suspicion. It was in Jesus’ day too.

    Early in the week the people were welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem:
    A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
    “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
    “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
    “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
    When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
    The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

    Mt 21 8-11


    French poet and mystic Simone Weil wrote that: Grace is like little sparks, the little explosions within the world of gravity that invite us to repay war with peace, fire with water, hatred with love.


    Recently I heard a person tell the story of her great, great grandparent who came to Australia as a thirteen year old. His brother had been previously transported at age thirteen for stealing a handkerchief. A group of little boys were playing and grabbing the handkerchief out of the pocket, it was a dare, with terrible consequences. His younger brother (aged eleven) missed him so much that two years later he also stole a handkerchief so he could join his brother. That’s how he came to be in Australia.

    Letting Go and Beginning Again

    George Bernard Shaw is reported to have said that the only person who never makes a mistake is the person who never does anything. He may well have said that but so have a lot of other people. It simply makes sense.

    Telling the Truth

    When the Israelites fled from Egypt and began their long journey home, Moses came down from the holy mountain with the commandments, the foundation stones on which to base their new society, their new nation. These were to be the building blocks of a just and fair society, where people not only cared for each other but a community which encouraged all to live in harmony with God and with each other, a society where individual rights were respected.

    The Best Christmas Gift

    On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Mtt 2:11

    The Gift of Christmas

    While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:6 – 7)

    Staying Mindful

    During November, we remember those who have died and those who grieve for them.

    When a loved one dies, a part of us dies too. Our life will never be quite the same. They remain part of us not just in our memories; we carry them with us daily in who we are and what we do and hope for. Sometimes we yearn for the day when we will be reunited. We hang onto that hope as it can help us to bear our pain and the fear of death.

    The Lantern Bearers

    At a recent funeral these words from Rosemary Sutcliffe’s poem, The Lantern Bearers were read:
    It may be that night will close over us in the end, but I believe that morning will come again.
    Morning always grows out of darkness, though maybe not for the people who saw the sun go down.
    We are the Lantern Bearers my friend: for us to keep something burning, to carry what light we can forward into the darkness and the wind*.

    Someone will Remember for You

    Alzheimer’s or any form of dementia is cruel. It is difficult to stand on the sidelines as this insidious disease takes hold. If we were witnessing an accident or some mishap, we would step in and do what we could to fix it. But there is no cure. It just keeps on keeping on until the end. Everyone involved feels this pervading sense of helplessness.

    The Wedding

    At a recent wedding this short, beautiful blessing poem was part of the ceremony:
    Today you see down a mountainside
    Out over the islands to your sure horizon
    Your sight is sharp, your goal clear, and tides
    Of love lap around your desiring

    Voices from the Past

    Sometimes TV shows can hook you in. I have become addicted to a rather dark, police drama series on TV, because of the acting and particularly because of the script. It is extraordinarily good, thoughtful and at times, almost poetic. Just about every episode offers some gem, something that makes you think, something that makes you reconsider the mundane things of life, the ordinary, the things we take for granted, to see them in a new and perhaps more appreciative light. I will let you guess what the series may be.

    The Gift of Imagination

    It is a delight to spend time with small children. Sometimes it seems as if their imagination knows no limits. They can see heroes or monsters or all things magic, even in the most mundane. Books and films which explore and stretch children’s imagination (and our own) have become popular again in recent years. We can think of imagination as something for kids, an optional extra as it were, but it is a precious and enduring gift from God for people of all ages.

    My Autobiography

    Years ago, in a course on Mark’s Gospel, the lecturer reminded us of the importance of choosing words carefully. Mark’s Gospel was brief, straight to the point, showing great economy with words, he said. Why? The lecturer explained that writing materials were scarce and expensive so writers in those days had to choose wisely what they wrote, which sayings, stories, events and words were to be included.

    Not Smiling

    As I write this piece, I am sitting in a large, very, very busy IT store.  It is noisy – people are waiting, some patiently, some becoming increasingly frustrated and angry, others are bargaining, a few being tutored….and no-one is smiling.  I wonder why?  Outside the IT store in this large and very busy retail complex, people are rushing from one shop to the next, intent on getting the tasks done. After all, it is Friday. But no-one seems to be smiling.  No-one seems to be enjoying this experience. I wonder why?


    What do we See?

    The late Fred Hollows was an ophthalmologist who became famous for his work in restoring eyesight for countless thousands of people in Australia but more so many other countries where such an operation was rarely available or where people could not afford it. He was dedicated and tireless. An advertisement appealing for funds for his foundation is still run on TV at regular intervals – it is a wonderful clip depicting the joy in an elderly man when bandages are being removed. “What did he say? What did he say?” Hollows asks. ‘I can see again! I can see!’


    On a long drive recently I listened to talk back radio. For over an hour there was a very spirited discussion which tried to answer the question; Do we have to make comparisons to be happy?

    Bad Dog

    One of the daily newspapers included the story of a lawyer who, when working for Legal Aid, had to defend a seeing eye dog called Toby who used to walk down to the shops each day and take a large tin of dog food from the supermarket and bring it home in his mouth. His elderly owner thought he was getting it from the Salvos. The supermarket owner knew about it but was unconcerned.

    A Sense of Place

    A new road is to be built to by-pass the town near where I spent my childhood. There are several plans on the drawing board but the most likely options mean that the old house where I lived will be demolished - if not, it will be the old school on the opposite side of the road and the other few neighbouring houses.

    How We Speak

    Words matter. How we speak, what we say and how we say it, how we describe things matters. How we address each other, how we speak to each other or about each other matters. Words are powerful – they can be invitations, they can welcome, encourage, amuse, express love and gratitude, hope and enthusiasm. They can inspire and touch people’s hearts and they even invite dialogue.

    Peaceful Co-existence

    For a brief period I lived in the beautiful town of Marysville. The Australian bush looked down on this picturesque little community where old style guest houses gave such pleasure to holiday makers for decades and decades. They were beautiful rambling buildings which spoke of a by-gone era. Some had been meticulously restored and tastefully modernised. The surrounding bush invited slowness and quiet and nothing encouraged haste or speed. The pristine creeks and waterfalls were incredible.

    New Life

    Victor Frankl, was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor, in fact he survived the degradation and abject misery of three concentration camps. At a later stage in his extraordinarily fruitful life, Frankl wrote ‘One very important aspect of life after such an experience is that everything gets precious, gets piercingly important.

    Living in Exile

    Deep down, each of us has a longing for God. Sometimes it nags at us, other times we take it for granted, other times we just put it aside, some say they don’t feel anything like that at all. But we all have a restlessness, a sense of incompleteness, a desire to do something else, a sense of wanting more, of seeking to better ourselves in some way, and that’s where God finds us.

    How is Your Eyesight?

    We can see a lot by just looking. Or very little at all. I was wandering around in a famous art gallery some years ago and one of the guides was speaking about one of the great art works to a small group of onlookers. I had just taken some time to look at that particular painting so I stayed to listen. It was incredible. She revealed features I had not noticed, details I had overlooked, colours I had missed.

    Finding Treasure in the Field

    A friend of mine spends a lot of his spare time looking for the treasure in the field, any field or creek or patch of bush will do. He joins many others who systematically scan sections of land using metal detectors, in the hope of discovering buried treasure. He hasn’t found much but, ever the optimist, he continues to search for the elusive treasure.

    Bringing Out the Best

    A multi-award winning winemaker told me once that ‘there’s nothing much to it really. I just bring out what the grape has to offer. It’s already there.’ I think he was being a little too ‘humble’ but there is an element of truth to it. One of the joys of working in a school is to watch a good teacher at work, encouraging, affirming, challenging, recognising the latent skills and bringing them to life, bringing out the best in her or his students.

    The Year of the Rooster

    For Chinese people this is the Year of the Rooster. No offence is intended to those people who fall under this zodiac sign but my father used to say that rooster’s crow as the sun rises, hoping that everyone would think they are responsible for it!

    Our Need for Ritual

    Are you ever struck by the increasing number of roadside memorials appearing in recent years – bunches of flowers, a photo, perhaps a cross, a handwritten message or some personal memento?  These expressions of grief are sad reminders of a tragedy, a life lost in unhappy circumstances.

    Roll Back the Stone

    The raising of Lazarus (John 11:38-53) is a complex and poignant story. When Jesus hears that his friend is ill, at the point of death, he delays, he puts off going to see him. He leaves it ‘too late’. When He does arrive, Jesus is deeply moved by the death of his friend and by the grief of Lazarus’ sisters.

    Being Remembered

    There is a sign in a hospital foyer I visited recently which read:
    Those who die in God's love go only as far as God . . . and God is very near.
    What does it mean to die in God’s love? To answer that, it’s worth taking some time occasionally to read the obituaries which appear in the daily newspapers.


    For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139: 13

    So it’s your birthday.  Another year has passed. Another year older and a new one begins.


    Winners are grinners and losers can make their own arrangements…or so the saying goes. Winning is considered to be very important in our culture, as is success in work-life, achieving some sort of importance or status.  We tell our children they can be anything they want but sadly (pardon the pun) that isn’t true. Emotions like sadness don’t have much place in our culture today because there is so much focus on beauty and success, light and happiness.

    Love is in the Air

    The motto of the secondary school I went to was translated (in those days) as ‘seek the things that are above.’ I didn’t understand what that meant. It was never explained, only perhaps that we should be working at getting to heaven. It always seemed to me to be concerned with ambition, doing better, being a bit above others. Recently, I saw that motto translated as ‘set your minds on the higher gifts’ which comes from the prelude to St Paul’s great hymn to love written to the Christian community in Corinth


    Fleeting Glimpses

    Some time ago, Clive James wrote a very poignant article during a lull in his struggle with leukaemia. It contained the following extract:

    So I look out into the garden with anticipation as well as apprehension. My Japanese maple tree is now in its first flames. Last year I saw the transformation as a sign of the end. Now I prefer to see it as a portent of spring. 


    Justice or Mercy?

    Pope John XXIII wrote in the biography of his spiritual journey that mercy is the most beautiful attribute of God. Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his first encyclical (God is Love) that mercy is in reality the core of the Gospel message; it is the name of God Himself and now, Pope Francis calls us to a Jubilee Year of Mercy.


    Reflecting on the Journey

    Perhaps the words of Pope John Paul II best summarise the Camino experience:

    Duc in altum! (Put out into the deep) These words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence….


    Buon Camino

    On the way to Spain, I read an article about Stan Grant.  He vividly remembers the day he and the other aboriginal students of his age were called to the principal’s office and told that there was no place for them at that school. They were now at a legal age when they could leave school so, ‘go now’ they were told. Not surprisingly, that has stayed with him for the rest of his life – ‘there is no place for you here’.


    The Pilgrim

    ‘If you are not hurting, you have not done the Camino.’ That’s how our guide and companion finished our twelve-day, 240 kilometre Camino. And all of us were hurting somewhere.  It is not an easy walk!


    The Voices Within

    Pixar’s film called Inside Out tells the story of a young girl Riley who is uprooted from her life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. At this difficult time, Riley is guided by her emotions - Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. It is a clever take on the importance of our emotions and the role they play in our everyday lives, inspiring us, warning us, advising caution, helping us to rejoice in the good things of life.

    The Perfect Prayer

    One of the fondest memories I have of my father is of him kneeling in prayer by his bed first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I never thought of him as an especially holy man but his faith obviously meant a lot to him, even though in many ways life had dealt him a pretty tough hand. But, as he often said, he was always grateful ‘for many blessings’.


    The Illusion of Faith

    Faith is irrational and therefore delusional.  Atheism, on the other hand, is rational, clear sighted and based on solid evidence.  Or so the argument goes.



    As I write this, we have been enjoying a beautiful day – no wind, a clear sky and, unexpectedly for this time of the year, around twenty degrees. So I went for a walk, as did many others. It was so interesting to greet others with ‘What a beautiful day’ and the most common response was ‘Yes, but it is not going to last!’ or ‘But it’s going to rain tomorrow!’ ‘Winter is on the way!’


    Year of Mercy II

    So how is the Jubilee of Mercy going for you? In your home, your parish, your school, your organisation, your workplace? Are people feeling more welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged? How are we reaching out to all those who, in Pope Francis’ words, need a sign of tenderness?


    Whoever has ears, let them hear

    Jesus spoke to a variety of people who could not or did not want to hear. It was not only the Scribes and Pharisees who came with their own agendas, wanting to trap him, to discount or disprove what he was saying, to quibble over words. They were ready with the answer before He had time to speak. Even some of those who had followed Jesus found what he was saying just too hard to hear and they walked away (Jn 6:66).



    When I was young sectarianism was pretty rife. It started at an early age. As Catholic kids we were often subjected to this little ditty – "Catholic dogs sitting on logs, eating maggots out of frogs." Mind you, we had ditties of our own about the proddies too.


    Being Enriched

    The Roman philosopher, Seneca is reported to have said that if you want to enrich someone, don’t multiply their belongings but subtract from their desires. 


    Year of Mercy I

    The Year of Mercy is an extraordinary gift, and an extraordinary challenge. In summoning the Church to a Year of Mercy, Pope Francis is calling on each of us to become a living sign of compassionate love.

    Happy in the New Year

    When you think about it, so much of our life is repetitive.  We get up at the same time, follow a very similar routine each morning, we go to work at the same time and do pretty much the same thing there most days.  Weekends might include some different activities but then again….? When do we give ourselves the chance to explore, to dream, to be creative, to try new activities, to try new ways of thinking?  And why is that important anyway? 


    A Christmas Blessing 2015

    The birth of Christ which we celebrate at this time is meant for everyone.  It is meant to be news of great joy for everyone. So when people look at our family celebrations, the family traditions we have established, the patterns of behaviour we have created at this time, will they see people of joy and celebration, people who want all people to know about this great event? Will they see us as prayerful, looking for ways this Christmas to help others?


    Some travellers who go overseas get very annoyed at people selling products in the street.  Sometimes these visitors can be rude or aggressive. Admittedly, these ‘traders’ or spruikers can be a bit of a nuisance and some can be very, very persistent, but in general they are only trying to earn a living in countries where employment or other such opportunities are pretty scarce. It’s a case of this or nothing.  They live in a consumer society, just as we do.



    Waiting can be a real drag. In a world of instant communication, fast food, and easy travel (the Monash excluded!), most of us don’t have to wait for much. Most things are usually ‘on tap’. But sometimes we have to - we wait for test results; we wait for our loved ones to come home; we wait for the birth of a child, some wait for the change of seasons they don’t like much…we just have to wait.


    When Someone Dies

    Death is never easy. We often surround death by so many platitudes that it is hard to confront or even to come to terms with our loss. With every good intention, those who offer sympathy couch it in well-meaning but false comfort (he/she has gone to a better place, God wanted them early, The Lord never gives us more than we can handle (That is not how I feel right now). I know how you feel. (No we don’t - we never really know how someone else feels). Everything will be okay. (A nice sentiment but that can make it feel as if you are dismissing someone's grief). At least he or she is out of pain. (Well I am not!).


    Who Are We? and Why Are We?

    When we have children, whether as a parent, or a teacher or a carer, much of our time and energy is spent showing our children that they are loved, helping them to discover what they are good at, where their talents lie. Much of our time and energy goes into passing on beliefs and attitudes and values, providing positive and life-giving experiences. We want them to know that each of them is unique, each is gifted and talented in their own way.

    Celebrating Our Differences

    Some years ago I heard the story of a mother preparing her children for the visit of a friend who had only one leg. She told them not to stare at him or to ask any questions.  Just act normally! That, of course, heightened their curiosity and, inevitably, one of them asked “Why have you only got one leg?”  He told them that a friend of his needed it, so he gave it to him. And they were perfectly happy with that and went off to play.


    In the town where I live, the rather scruffy railway precinct has been developed into a car park. Old sleepers, rubble and rails have been removed, an old building has been relocated.  What was once a pretty unsightly area has been rejuvenated. As an added bonus, the restoration has revealed an unobstructed view of the wonderful, historic railway station building.

    Going Viral

    Isn’t it amazing how many times we see the expression ‘going viral’. It is supposed to be a feature of modern social media. When something goes viral, it spreads to a very large number of people in just a short period of time. But such fame can be fickle – we can probably only recall less than a handful of them after a short period. Going viral is not a sure foundation for fame or success.

    My Story

    Jewish philosopher Elie Wiesel wrote that God made us because God loves stories. It is a reminder that each of us has a story. It is unique, it is special.  It is ours alone.   If we look back with the eyes of faith, our story can reveal how we first came to experience the presence of God in our lives and how God’s Spirit has been at work in our journey, in the experiences, people and events which have shaped our faith. That is, for each of us, a very personal story of discovery. In a sense, God is a story being told in our lives.