I have been coming to Summer Schools for a while – first at Aquinas, then Bindoon and now here just outside Bunbury. It is a good time for me to come; the week is almost over, a lot of things have happened in your lives, and you are anxious to talk about that and celebrate what the Lord has done for you during the week. I get the benefit of that. I see so many committed young people. Committed in their faith, people that already knew Jesus, others that have come to know Him and already experience the transforming affects that the knowledge and love of Jesus can have in us. So I see that and I hear about it and go away heartened.
The other aspect of the Friday night that I like is your love, and obvious love for the Cross, embracing the Cross because that has a double meaning. You embrace it physically but you also embrace it with your heart. Knowing that Jesus said “If you want to follow me, be my disciple and take up your cross daily”. So you are doing that and embracing the Cross – not denying the cross as much as the world does. The world keeps saying “No, no, no suffering has not got any part of it; we want to get rid of suffering”. The more they try to get rid of suffering, the more suffering there is. We have to accept it as part of our purification, our journey with Jesus and add our little contribution in union with Jesus who has saved the world.
So I am talking to people who are on side.
The other aspect of Friday night, not just the embracing of the cross but also your profound love for Jesus under the appearance of bread – that it is really Jesus who is there and your love for Him as you light the candle, as you pray on your knees or on the floor before Him, is very encouraging to others, and particularly satisfying to me because I see a lot of disrespect for Christ in the Eucharist and I think it is either ignorance or it is a lack of faith in the real presence of Jesus. But that faith here is strong.
You combine love for the Word of God, with the deep love for the Cross and a love for Jesus in the Blessed Eucharist and indeed in all the Sacraments. So that is a great source of encouragement for me.
I am not talking either to people who have just a superficial surface knowledge of the Bible. But you believe that the power of God is in the Word of God. You believe that, you know it, you understand it, and try to understand what the Word of God is saying in the written word of the Bible. In that you are fairly rare breed even among Catholics who’s knowledge of the Bible is perhaps not as profound as it should be but you have discovered it.
You have discovered the power of the Spirit working through the Word of God and that affects your life, and the Bible is a source of life and of light for you. So it is the Word and it is the Sacrament, it is the power of the Spirit through the word of God, the power of the Spirit through the Word of God made man, Jesus Christ. We need both.
Nor am I talking to critics of the Church (I do a lot of that and have exposed a lot of that). People telling me Church has got it all wrong, the Church is out of date, the Church is really on the way out, it should modernise, and it should get real. You know, when it talks about sexual restraint it is really out of touch. When it talks about being open to life, the Church is really out of touch. When it talks about the sacredness of life in the world, it is really denying the freedom of choice of people to run their lives as they like. When it talks about the importance of the Priesthood and of the successor of the Apostles through the Pope and the Bishops of the Church, it is really grabbing power and there is nothing to it, it is out of touch with the democratic mentality of the world. When I talk about the presence of Christ in the Sacraments and the rituals of the Church and the Sacraments I am talking mumbo jumbo.
[as an aside] People do the hokey-pokey sometimes. Well that’s an anti-Catholic thing. Sorry to say. The word hokey-pokey and the phrase – hocus-pocus – like magic tricks were really, in Elizabethan times, a parody of the Mass. The Mass was said in Latin of course and the words of consecration are “Hoc est Corpus maion” – “This is my Body”. So “Hoc est Corpus”, those very sacred words in Mass, have been turned around to be hocus pocus and hokey-pokey. If you think about the dance; you know, you do the hokey-pokey and your heads go down, then you turn right around and that’s what it is all about. In other words that is what the Catholic Mass is all about – just a lot of hocus- pocus and meaningless gestures. Sorry to spoil anyone’s fun. If you don’t know the true meaning it doesn’t matter, but once you do you can’t do that dance anymore.
I really take this opportunity therefore – of speaking to other people who are committed to following Christ – as an opportunity to share things from my perspective. It is a rather unique perspective I suppose, the perspective of the Archbishop because he has to be pastor of the whole Church and see how every aspect of it is going. It is an impossible task because the diocese, like Perth is just big, and you can’t get to know everything that happens and you can’t personally get involved in all the things that are going on, even though you would like to. But one does ones best.
When I think of the ten years since I have been Archbishop of Perth and the grand vision of the renewal of everything, I wonder what has happened because in many respects the tide has gone against us. The media had gone against us. Someone spoke yesterday about the hostility towards the Good News – the resistance is there. Going to Mass is not cool, and in Catholic schools the atmosphere gets in amongst some of the students. Even those who want to go feel they shouldn’t because it’s not cool. So even in the heart of the Church there is resistance building up. The other half of our Catholic children go to state schools and our outreach to them is limited to primary schools and very little into high schools. You have some exposure to it but our outreach is still minimal.
When I look at the laws that are passed I see society going in the opposite direction to Christ. When I think of what is becoming acceptable in community I am appalled. You might remember, those of you who are here in Western Australia or were living here just before Christmas, that Christmas bonuses were handed out by some big businesses in the form of free trips to brothels and sex parties on boats in the Swan River. It was justified as being the same cost as throwing a big dinner party and the staff seemed to enjoy it more. That is the culture that we are in and over my ten years I feel I haven’t made much of a dent into that. I can’t take all the blame on myself, but it is a disappointment to see the tide going the other way and it just highlights how much there is for us to do in the name of Christ.
When I look at how ready we are to evangelise this current century, I don’t think we are geared up well enough. I look at our parishes, and the parishes do a great job for those who come, but not many of them reach out to those who don’t come.
When I look at our schools I see they have everything in place, but the Christian faith is dampened down by the forces around us and by peer pressure. Our special groups, our organisations, they’re still going and there are many of them but their outreach to the community, to society, is not very strong.
There are some voices that are raised to stop some of the (if we could) legislation going through that we believe is harmful to people. But those voices are few. Recently, I was very pleased to see at a public demonstration, many of the Churches that are usually very silent coming out and standing strong with one another in defence of Christian values and the values of marriage and human sexuality. It is just disappointing to see to see that the hostility for things we stand for seems to be growing and the traditional methods don’t seem to work.
We do need as the Pope says, to re-evangelise and evangelise. He keeps on saying that over and over again. He knows what the Church should be doing in the modern world. But when I talk to parishes and organisations generally, I see they are not really prepared to do what you already know must be done and to a great extent are already doing it. I am very proud of you.
The other reason it is good for Bishops to come down here, for you to invite them down, is that they can take heart, and they can also see some of their people are already out there proclaiming the name of Jesus and that is a great sense of encouragement for them. Then they can spread the news where ever they go, and they can talk about what they have experienced here. Then they can encourage others and give others a vision. They say “You are not alone there are others already doing it, learn how to do it. Trust in the Lord and go out and evangelise. Otherwise the hostility will grow more and more”.
Part of my vision was a vision of renewal in the Church. It still is, a renewal of vocations to the Priesthood, and to some extent that has happened. I have had the pleasure of ordaining many, many young men to the Priesthood over the last ten years. Far more, with all due respect to others, than any other diocese in Australia. One at least has come from the Disciples, and another one from the Disciples has been ordained for the diocese of Bunbury.
So in terms of diocesan Priesthood I am very pleased with the formation that you offer. That’s true; Perth has been a leader around the country in the last ten years. The numbers are beginning to decline again, so don’t stop your praying! The renewal of vocations to religious life – some of you might know that over the last few months five women, young women, have opted for consecrated religious life from Perth. That hasn’t happened for years, and years and years. So how did it happen – through the power of the Holy Spirit of course and Jesus calling people into this. But why did they listen, because Jesus is always calling people?
One of the reasons was, the Ursuline Sisters, a group of Italian Sisters down in Fremantle, were told by their boss in Rome, no I think their boss lives up in Moderna in northern Italy, to start formation groups. She said ‘you sisters have received formation. Pass that on to the young people because our Order is dying we are not getting any recruits just do this’. The sisters here said ‘No we are too old; we can’t relate to the young ones, we’ve got nothing to offer them. We live a different lifestyle, all the rest of it, we can’t do it.’ And good Mother said, ‘But you will, won’t you.’ ‘Of course, we are obedient.’ So they did.
They spread the word around and invited young people that they knew, most had left school but some were still in year twelve I think. Young people boys and girls – it wasn’t a vocations program at all, it was a formation program in spirituality, in knowing Jesus, in following Him, in understanding the teachings of the Church in how we pray, in looking at the riches of the Church in different types of spirituality – St Francis, St Ignatius all these great saints and within twelve months four of their number put their hands up to be religious.
Two for the Ursulines and they are now in Rome studying and very, very happy. I saw them in October. Two in the sort of south east of Italy also very happy who joined the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate. Of those four in Italy three had attended this group. The other one is near Wollongong – a group called the Institute of the Holy Family of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. A young girl from the Fremantle area has gone over there and writes to me every now and again. She is very happy and they are all young. Two of them might be coming to Perth soon at my invitation to do a special work. Five young women, one not so young she is a widow, have entered religious life, consecrated life and the tough orders too. Four of them attended this formation group. That has given me lots of encouragement to promote formation groups of all sorts within the diocese not just for vocations but vocations are going to come from them.
When I go through this list that I believe are important and I have a personal role to play I mentioned renewal of vocations to the Priesthood and religious life; renewal of Parishes giving them especially a sense of evangelism; renewal of youth groups throughout the Diocese; renewal of marriage and family life because modern lifestyle does terrible damage to our marriages and family life; the protection of children and the proper development of Christian families, development of Children; the renewal of personal morality of people in the world, in all sectors in society.
You can’t really contribute much to society if your personal life is in a mess. Really the two have got to go together, you must bring your personal values of honesty, integrity, a love for others and all that into your public life. You can’t say my public life I can do morally, but I will do what I like in my personal life. The two go together. A renewal of political morality; that people should always act according to their conscience in political life and people should always try to bring their personal values, high values of morality into political life and to avoid all taint of corruption in political life. A renewal of corporate morality. The businesses, the businesses practices what they do with the wealth they get. I mentioned one particular unsavoury practice that has crept in and is becoming common place. All these moralities are absolutely essential. I don’t think I have made much of an impact on any of them, but we keep on trying.
Many of you know Brother Andrew, he has been in the west often, and he used to go down to ‘God’s Farm’. He died recently. This is a book (holds up a book) put out by Betty Peaker of God’s farm and Fr Myer of Melbourne, Victoria. This book came out in December. It’s only $15, but I can’t give you this, this is mine! If you ever see it around, it’s worth buying (Title) “What I Met Along the Way”.
Brother Andrew was the founder of the male side of Mother Theresa’s sisters- The Little Brothers of Charity. He was forced to stand down; he talks a bit about that here. He admitted he had a gambling problem and a drinking problem. He had a few problems, but they were under control and he really didn’t think he should have stood down, but he did, and that must have been personally devastating to him and yet, it was a great gift to the world and certainly to Australia, because he came back to Australia and just said “This is what God wanted to happen to me, I accept it and I will continue to do my work as simply as I can”. So he went around Australia with a few possessions in a knapsack, preaching the love of Christ and gave wonderful retreats wherever he went and tried to live that simplicity that he learned over the years in India, and brought it to Australia.
He said, “I have seen physical poverty all around the world and it makes my heart bleed to see children dying in poverty. I came to the West and I find spiritual poverty that is even more crushing than physical”.
In one of his talks, here he really gets angry at the way children and young people are exploited by big business and how these businesses don’t care about anything except selling their products – and some of them are illegal products. He thinks the spiritual hunger and spiritual starvation is doing as much harm in countries like Australia as physical poverty is doing in countries like Bolivia and other places he has been to. So he is someone to look at because he is a model of trust in God and acceptance of the Cross. When I say I don’t think I have succeeded any of these things, I often think about that.
Why is it that we have sort of lost a bit of vitality? Why is it that priests sometimes make their lives very comfortable? Why is it that religious life is in a bit of trouble? Why is it that we fight amongst ourselves instead of being united to convert the world? I don’t think it is all my fault, I hope it is not!
I went through an examination of conscience recently, produced by one of our priests here in Perth, it was pretty tough! It calls a spade a spade and goes through all the sins and is worth doing. It shakes you up a bit, but he left out my sins! I think the sins of anybody in authority are about compromise and playing it safe – because it’s a dangerous game to turn things around, to rush in and change things straight off because you can go terribly wrong and mess the whole thing up and the last state is worse than the first. You say, “Well, it’s just an ego trip, you want to make a name for yourself by doing this, that, and the other”. All these combine to produce the sins of ‘playing it safe’, ‘don’t push too hard’, and ‘near enough is good enough’. “If people make a little bit of an effort, well you can’t expect too much”. It’s all compromise and playing it safe, and I think it is the sin that bedevils anybody in authority even in the Church. So, I think we will rewrite that examination of conscience and put in a couple of extra sins. But the thing is to be aware of them and then maybe, the Holy Spirit will help you overcome them.
On the positive side, we believe the Holy Spirit lives within the Church. On the positive side, we believe Christ is the head of the Church. On the positive side, we believe that Jesus is with all those who want to follow Him, and it is His plan not my plan, that will save the world. I can work up all sorts of different schemes and projects, and consult people, and work out a nice blueprint of what ought to happen, but then, I have to stand aside because Jesus will say, “No, I don’t want it that way, I want it a different way.” So when we think things are falling apart, what is really happening I think is that the soil is being prepared for a new harvest.
When Jesus was trying to preach his good news, and met the Samaritan Woman, did He go on saying, “Things are bad, Israel is under Roman occupation, and people will never believe I am the Messiah. They won’t understand what I am saying about this, that, and the other.” No. He said to his apostles after the Samaritan woman had gone, “Look around you, look up, the fields are ripe for the harvest”. He just saw that, that instant was the time to bring people back to God. So we should not just look at the negatives and say “The tide is all against us, and things are crashing around us.” We have to be realistic to see what is happening but from the eyes of Jesus, we have to say “Even now this day, the fields are ripe for the harvest”. Preach the good news and people will listen. We don’t presume they won’t listen, they will, many will listen and come and join Jesus on His journey through the world’s history.
The Pope has called for vocations. I read recently, and jotted down his approach. He said that there are vocations to the priesthood but there are vocations of lay people too, to be followers of Christ in the world and he was telling people like me how to go about it. He said to talk of Christ’s encounter to the young. When I read his words, he does exactly that, talk of Christ’s encounter to the young people, especially His invitation to the rich young man and His sadness that the invitation was rejected. Think about and talk about His love for children and young people growing up. Present then, Christ as the answer to our deepest longings, to the deepest longings of young people, that Christ will fulfil them, the one who will help them find some meaning in life, the one who will help them see through the false failings of the world around them.
Invite them to get to know Christ more and more. Find the good in youth culture, like their enthusiasm, their idealism, and their love for the truth. Be a friend to the young and invite them to a friendship with Jesus. Invite them to meet Him in the sacraments, invite them also to take up their cross and follow Jesus. He said that if you do all this, because you are on their side, they will come to know Christ, and he will be the one to work miracles in their hearts. I think he [the Pope] has come up with a good programme.
To it I would add what you taught me last night or early this morning, the need to hang around people who believe what you believe – for your own support and their support. If you go off alone, then things happen, it just becomes too hard, search out for the groups for the experiences, for other people who think likewise and they will give you support and you will give them support. So next time I see the Pope, I will ask him to add that to his talk.
I have got down here something that you already do, but we need to emphasise it again and again, and that is to live biblically, to live biblically. I found that phrase in the English tablet. What do I mean about living biblically? Live as if you are one of the characters in the Acts of the Apostles. The Acts of the Apostles is a description of some of the Apostles but also of the early Church, how people lived, how they prayed, what they did, and it is full of extraordinary things. It is full of miracles that were accepted and just normal. It is full of the Holy Spirit and the awareness of the Holy Spirit working among them. It is full of a love for Jesus and an expectation that Jesus was going to come again. It is full of examples of how the Christian’s loved one another and wanted to be with one another.
We know that all bore fruit because their faith was so strong, that when the Roman Empire came to crush them out, it couldn’t! All those years and centuries of martyrdom could never crush that spirit. So to live biblically also means not just an awareness of God, of Christ’s presence and of the presence of the Holy Spirit but that also God is speaking to us, that God reveals himself to us – that the Lord does speak to us.
We need a bit of discernment because otherwise we will go off the track. It is good to remember Elijah the Prophet in 1 Kings 19. Elijah was on the run, people were trying to kill him and he went out into the desert and hid in a cave and waited for the Lord to speak. We are told that an enormous storm with lightning and thunder and all the rest of it came up, Elijah went out but the Lord wasn’t in the storm. Then a fierce wind blew, a cyclone wind, but the Lord’s voice wasn’t in the wind and then a fire broke out but the Lord was not in the fire. It was only when a gentle breeze came out that Elijah recognised that the Lord was speaking through this gentle breeze and had a message for him. So that’s the mentality of living biblically, to be aware that the Lord is speaking to us, saying things to us. We need to be attune to hear them, so be attune because the Lord is speaking to us today.
Over last night and today, I have heard many times people saying “I believe God is saying this to me in my heart”, and that’s all true, that is living biblically! We can’t just live with our head, but with our whole being and be aware of how close God has come to us. I think God spoke to me through Reg this morning when we were walking to breakfast. When I said something about the hostility to the Christian message which is growing very, very strongly (I don’t appreciate that because when I put my head up about anything, someone try’s to kick it. I get a bad time in the press), he (Reg) said “That kind of persecution only makes us stronger. When we look back over the Church’s history, the Church has been strongest when it has been under fierce attack and if that is the life we have to lead in this 21st century, so be it, it will make us stronger”.
So there’s a message from the Lord for you, don’t worry about the opposition, it only makes us stronger. So, live biblically with that understanding of the presence of the Spirit, of Christ, of the Holy Trinity with us all the time, that God is still speaking to us and miracles, spiritual healings, physical healings become everyday matters, we expect them, they happen, no big deal, we go on. We heard about one today. We go on because why wouldn’t God want to do that to us?
I just wanted to tell you something that encouraged me a bit, Mother Theresa, great woman, and will be a saint soon I’m sure, declared by the Church. I read a little article that said something that I had no idea about but should have known. She too went through this dark night of the soul when she thought God was not listening anymore and that could be your experience one day, maybe it has already happened. When you pray and you pray and there is no one there! What do you do? It is a form of purification, St John of the Cross talked about it again and again. He says not to rely on external consolations: the wonderful fervour of knowing God, the beautiful music that transports us, God can take all of that away from us.
Here it is, Mother Teresa saying in a letter to a friend. She said, “I love to pray, I feel often during the day the need for prayer and take trouble to pray. Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God’s gift of Himself.” She said, “But when I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven there is such utter emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. I want God with all the power of my soul yet between us there is a terrible separation. I don’t pray any longer.” Mother Teresa said that. “I call, I cling, I want, but there is no answer. I am told God lives in me yet the reality of darkness and coldness, and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Between us there is a terrible separation.”
She went through that dark night and she came out magnificently and it did purify her and make her trust God implicitly no matter what. We shouldn’t be surprised. See Jesus on the cross, He quoted a psalm – ‘My God, My God why have you abandoned me?’ Even in Christ’s humanity God His Father had let Him feel that desolation and we can relate to it. And yet it was part of the redemption, was all part of His way of redeeming us and He was the Son of God.
So Mother Teresa and all the nice things we say about her and all the nice things she said, in her private letter she said she too had dark moments but they were meant for her own spiritual good. So that is a consolation to me and I hope to you too because it can happen to all of us and if it does, know that God is working within us, helping get through it. The Holy Father said – keeps quoting the phrases Jesus said “Be not afraid”. He said that thousands of times and that is his own motto and we can see a man of great courage there.
The World Youth Day he said “Come and see”. That invitation of Jesus to John the Baptist’s followers ‘come and see’ because they wanted to know more about Him. So the Pope was using those words of Jesus. Jesus saying to us “Come and see, learn about Me, find out what I am about and your lives will change”.
The title of this Summer School is ‘Launch out into the deep” Put out into deep water. It is like ‘do not be afraid, go right out’.
On that note of courage to face what has to be faced, I ask you to pray for me; for my Priests; I ask you to pray for our lay leaders who are present in every Parish, present in every school, present in many of our organisations that we all have courage to do what Jesus wants us to do, to overcome the sins of half measures, of compromise and in the words said to Francis Xavier – “Set the world on fire.”
God bless you.