Friday, 8 January 2021

Feast of the Baptism Of The Lord (Year B)

 Mersey Leven Catholic Parish 

OUR VISION

To be a vibrant Catholic Community 
unified in its commitment 
to growing disciples for Christ
 

Administrator: Fr Jaison Kuzhiyil
Mob: 0401 829 686
Assistant Priest: Fr Steven Smith
Mob: 0411 522 630 
Priest in Residence:  Fr Phil McCormack  
Mob: 0437 521 257 
Postal Address: PO Box 362, Devonport 7310
Parish Office: 90 Stewart Street, Devonport 7310 
(Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 10am - 3pm)
Office Phone: 6424 2783  Email: merseyleven@aohtas.org.au 
Secretary: Annie Davies Finance Officer: Anne Fisher


Mersey Leven Catholic Parish Weekly Newslettermlcathparish.blogspot.com.au
Parish Mass times for the Month: mlcpmasstimes.blogspot.com.au
Weekly Homily Podcast: mikedelaney.podomatic.com 

Archdiocesan Website: www.hobart.catholic.org.au for news, information and details of other Parishes.
                          

         

PLENARY COUNCIL PRAYER
Come, Holy Spirit of Pentecost.
Come, Holy Spirit of the great South Land.
O God, bless and unite all your people in Australia 
and guide us on the pilgrim way of the Plenary Council.
Give us the grace to see your face in one another 
and to recognise Jesus, our companion on the road.
Give us the courage to tell our stories and to speak boldly of your truth.
Give us ears to listen humbly to each other 
and a discerning heart to hear what you are saying.
Lead your Church into a hope-filled future, 
that we may live the joy of the Gospel.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, bread for the journey from age to age.   
Amen.
Our Lady Help of Christians, pray for us.
St Mary MacKillop, pray for us.


Parish Prayer


Heavenly Father,
We thank you for gathering us together 
and calling us to serve as your disciples.
You have charged us through Your Son, Jesus, with the great mission
  of evangelising and witnessing your love to the world.
Send your Holy Spirit to guide us as we discern your will
 for the spiritual renewal of our parish.
Give us strength, courage, and clear vision 
as we use our gifts to serve you.
We entrust our parish family to the care of Mary, our mother,
and ask for her intercession and guidance 
as we strive to bear witness
 to the Gospel and build an amazing parish.
Amen.
Our Parish Sacramental Life
Baptism: Arrangements are made by contacting Parish Office. Parents attend a Baptismal Preparation Session organised with a Priest.
Reconciliation, Confirmation and Eucharist: Are received following a Family–centred, Parish-based, School-supported Preparation Program.
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults: prepares adults for reception into the Catholic community.
Marriage: arrangements are made by contacting one of our priests - couples attend a Pre-marriage Program
Anointing of the Sick: please contact one of our priests
Reconciliation:  Ulverstone - Fridays (10am - 10:30am), Devonport - Saturday (5:15pm– 5.45pm) 
Eucharistic Adoration - Devonport: No Adoration for the month of January, 2021
Prayer Group: Charismatic Renewal – In Recess until February, 2021

SUNDAY MASS ONLINE: 
Please go to the following link on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MLCP1
Mon 11th Jan      NO MASS
Tues12th Jan       Devonport   9:30am
Wed 13th Jan      Ulverstone   9:30am 
Thurs 14th Jan    Devonport   12Noon
Fri 15th Jan        Ulverstone  9:30am 
Sat 16th Jan        Devonport   6:00pm 
                   Ulverstone   6:00pm
Sun 17th Jan      Devonport   10:00am ... 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time: Livestreamed
                   Ulverstone   10:00am

If you are looking for Sunday Mass readings or Daily Mass readings, Universalis has the readings as well as the various Hours of the Divine Office  - https://universalis.com/mass.htm
                          

Your prayers are asked for the sick: 
Ray Downes, Dot Prior, Regina Locket, Allan McIntyre, Loretta Visser, Aidan Ravaillion, David Ockwell, Judy Redgrove, Sam Eiler, Susan Montella, & ...

Let us pray for those who have died recently:
Claudia Radford, Fr Frank Hart, Gladys Mulcahy, Frances Robinson, Erin Kyriazis, Sr Annette Condon, Mary Bosworth, Fr Frank Young, Ann Radford, Marianne Riek, Alida Marx, Peter Althaus

Let us pray for those whose anniversary occurs about this time: 6th - 12th January, 2021
Catherine Gibbons, Graham Hollister, Agnes & William Marshall, Kevin Lawler, Ronald Bramich, Ellen Fay, Geoffrey Whitchurch, Gerald Kramer, Bridget Richards, Bernice Vidler, Gerard Reynolds, Brett Hunniford, Hilda Kennedy, Kelvin French, Richard Coad, Alan Newland.

May the souls of the faithful departed, 
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen
                              

PREGO REFLECTION ON TODAY’S GOSPEL
I become still, using my preferred and practised method, as I open myself to really listen to the Gospel. 
I do not rush this.
At his baptism, Jesus takes his first prophetic action. 
He is the pilgrim from heaven who comes to accompany us on our pilgrimage to heaven. 
Though sinless, Jesus joins fully his sinful people – he is truly one of us.
Somebody once said, ‘I need a God with a skin, one I can touch and feel’ – though Isaiah, in the First Reading, tells us that God’s ways and thoughts are far above my own. 
So how do I feel about this ‘pilgrim God’ who journeys to me to enter fully into my life?
I may have been baptised as a child or as an adult. 
What does baptism – my baptism – mean for me?
Do I feel a partner of Jesus, as he is partner to me? 
Do I invite him, daily, to fully enter my life with all the fullness of his life?
Jesus’s relationship with his family and townsfolk, and his solidarity with the world was a very real one. 
How do I myself respond to the demands of care and love, especially in these times? 
In what ways do I feel called to be prophetic?
I spend some time with the Lord ... listening to him, letting my soul come alive. 
If I want, I could ask him about his word and will for me, that will not return empty-handed.
Perhaps I might like to end by really thanking him from the heart. 
Glory be ...
                               

Weekly Ramblings

Dear Parishioners,

Let me start by saying that I didn’t expect to be writing this final Weekly Ramblings at the beginning of 2021 – my hope was that it would be sometime towards the end of 2026 – after my 75th birthday. Sadly, at least for me, that is not how it ended up.

When I arrived in the Parish at the beginning of 2014, I already knew the Parish was like my previous 3 Parishes – made up of several communities of various sizes with each one having a strong tie to their local area. Over time I have come to appreciate that these ties have been the important ‘sauce’ which has allowed the various Mass Centres to continue through the years.

Whilst this is a strength it is also a weakness if we work on the present model of what a Parish is called to be and I know that I have caused some consternation over these years by having a dream of the Parish being one community rather than a community of communities.

In the light of Covid-19, and all that has happened over these past months, I have come to realise that how we understand Parish into the future has to change. I’m now going out on a limb, perhaps even too far for me – I don’t think we know what to do and because we don’t know what to do it is highly unlikely that anything will change. Or, if it does change, it will be because we are forced to change and not because we have looked for new directions.

So, as I reflect on my 7 years, I recognise that my dreams and the Parish Vision that was produced 6 years ago, are still a work in progress. And I’m quite comfortable with that. It is now almost 60 years since Vatican II ended and it has been through the efforts of Pope Francis and his advisers that the vision is once more being presented to the world, so, for me to be presumptuous and expect that my dream might be achieved in 7 years is beyond belief.

But I want to focus on some of the good things that have happened and on the great people, you, who have been part of these years. One area which has been a highlight for me is the increase in quiet times during Mass where parishioners have been able to take time and reflect on what has happened, is happening, and is going to happen. Whilst you might think this to be too simple to be important – just take a moment to think how few people in our world have moments of stillness and quiet to reflect on the wonder of God and how even these few moments are a blessing.

Another aspect of prayer and reflection has been the acceptance of the invitation to take the daily reflection booklets for Advent and Lent from the Diocese of Wollongong and the continued use of the Lenten Booklets from the Archdiocese of Brisbane for discussion groups. In 2021 Brisbane are moving away from the discussion model to a daily reflection model with suggestions as to how the program might be used for groups – watch the newsletter for information about how the Parish will move forward this Lent. Please be assured that there will be material available.

Another area which provided great blessings for me but which is also a cause of sadness has been the Sacramental Program. Almost all parents of children who have participated in the program acknowledged that it was a good program which gave them great opportunities to share something of their journey with their children and so in that sense it was successful.

The sadness comes from the fact that it did not bear fruit in an increase in attendance at Mass on a regular basis. And therein lies another dilemma for me – sorry, I said I was only going to be positive, but – what does regular attendance really mean anymore?

As I say this, I am not being judgmental, but where once regular attendance was every Sunday now, for many people, it is once or twice a month and they are happy with that. And this is a worldwide trend and, post covid, this is likely to be the norm rather than the exception. And there are many others who come even more rarely, or not at all. So, how do we, as the Church, as the Parish, look to support people who are part of our broader community but who aren’t ‘here’ that often?

I don’t have any immediate answers but I do believe that relying on what worked in the past is a recipe for disaster. Albert Einstein is reputed to have said - "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."  That is why I continually pray that we will keep looking for new ways to reach people and that we will better understand how we are being called to witness to what our faith means by any and every way open to us. This is an important challenge to us as we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord because it was at his Baptism that Jesus was proclaimed as the Son of God. This is what we hear in Mark’s Gospel - ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’ Today he begins his ministry and our baptismal vocation is to live this same ministry – to show God’s favour to all.

On that challenge I would now like to say THANKS. To individually try to thank everyone is impossible because there are too many. As I write this I’m listening to the Hymn – One Bread, One Body – and it is reminding me that everyone is part of the story and so I hope that you all realise that you are a very real part of the memory that I will carry with me as I leave Mersey-Leven next week.

I know I get emotional about many things but what affects me the most are people and my interaction with them. For many of you that might just have been at Mass and/or one of the various sacramental celebrations which have been part of your family story. For others it will have been because I have been a part of major life events for you personally and I thanks God for those moments and ask your forgiveness because I have not always been the best in keeping in touch after those moments.

For others it is because you have been a part of the fabric of the life of the Parish through your involvement in a Parish Ministry and have been an important and essential partner in our community. I know that, sometimes, I might have seemed to simply accept your efforts without expressing my appreciation – that has never been the case but thanks for coming back when you have felt otherwise and continuing to make our Parish a place of welcome and hospitality.

Thanks to all those who have worked closely with me through the PPC, Finance committee and Liturgy committee – you have been very tolerant even when I have been so focused on what I wanted that I have not always listened to your advice. Thanks for continuing to be there.

One parishioner said recently – I have had many priests who were friends, I’ve never had a friend who is a priest. I hope, despite my frailties, that some or even many of you might feel the same because I will leave here having made many friends.

As I’ve signed off my Weekly Ramblings, almost from the beginning, please take care as you travel, stay safe and stay sane. As I say goodbye, please know that goodbyes are not forever, are not the end; it simply means I'll miss you until we meet again.


 PS: My new address: Kingston Channel Catholic Parish
                                    PO Box 38              or              2 Jindabyne Rd
                                    Kingston                                   Kingston Beach
                                    Tas 7051                                   Tas 7050
Email: mike.delaney@aohtas.org.au                            Mobile: 0417 279 437
                               

SINULOG FESTIVAL 2021
The Feast of Santo Nino de Cebu, the Holy Child Jesus of Cebu, will be celebrated next Sunday, 17th January, with Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes at 10am followed by a luncheon in the Parish Hall. Over times this Sinulog Festival has become one of our annual Parish events so an invitation is extended to all parishioners to join the Filipino community in making this occasion also an opportunity to meet Fr Jaison on his first weekend. 
Please bring a plate of food to share. 
Novena to Sr Sto Nino will run for nine days, starting 8th January until 16th January prior to the Feast Day. Details of the Novena are posted on the Church noticeboards and on FaceBook. A copy of the schedule is available on request.
                               

PEACE PILGRIMAGE
CWL George Town invite you on a “Picnic Pilgrimage” to the historic churches at Mangana and Fingal on Friday 22nd January.  Mass at St Joseph’s, Fingal, at 11.00 followed by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction. A short trip to Mangana for a picnic lunch, a look inside the church and a Rosary procession. BYO lunch, a seat and drinks. Hot drinks will be supplied.
                               

Letter From Rome 

"President Biden, Send A Non-Catholic Ambassador To The Vatican'


Why the second Catholic president in U.S. history should avoid making a fellow Catholic his top envoy to the Holy See -  Robert Mickens, Rome, January 8, 2021 
This article is from the La-Croix International website - you can access the site here but complete full access is via paid subscription

President-elect Joe Biden should choose a non-Catholic to be the next U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

However, the odds are heavily stacked in favor of him not doing that. Instead, they suggest he's likely to name one of his fellow Catholics to the post.

Eleven Americans have represented the United States to the Holy See since 1984, the year the two states formally established full diplomatic relations. And every one of those envoys has been a Catholic.

But there are very good -- if counter-intuitive -- reasons why bucking that trend could actually be advantageous to Mr. Biden, as well as to the country, the Vatican and the Church.

Healing the country, healing the Church
The incoming president has said that one of his goals is to bring unity to his deeply divided country. But that will remain impossible as long as Catholics in the United States remain divided in two opposing camps.

Biden is just the second Catholic president in U.S. history. That should make members of his Church proud and excited. After all, he's a loyal Sunday churchgoer who even attends weekday Mass with some regularity.

And he's likely going to be the first resident of the White House in living memory to attend Mass each weekend.

But one side of the Catholic divide in America is not happy with Joe Biden's religious credentials. They contend he's not a "good Catholic" because of some of the political positions he holds, most notably his refusal to oppose legalized abortion.

So, the incoming president, who is now the country's most prominent Catholic layman by virtue of holding the highest office in the land, is actually a divisive figure in his own Church.

What kind of Catholic would be acceptable?
It is inconceivable that those Catholics who oppose him will accept any fellow Catholic whom he might choose to be ambassador to the Holy See. After all, an ambassador is the representative, not only of the country, but just (or even more) importantly of the president and his or her administration.

Could Biden find a single a member of his Church in the United States right now who could, on the one hand, faithfully represent him and his policies before the pope and his aides and, on the other hand, win the confidence of that large faction of anti-Biden Catholics?

The new president must also keep in mind that the U.S. Congress counts 24 senators and 134 representatives who are Catholics. They form the single largest denomination in the legislature. But they, too are divided.

Indeed, U.S. Catholics have been divided for a long time. And although the divisions have not been as deep and vicious as they are today, previous presidents have been careful not to further accentuate them by the Catholics they've chosen for the ambassador's job at the Vatican.

Few were successful.

Democratic presidents have tended to choose professed Catholic Democrats -- often those one might label as "liberal", "Vatican II" or "peace and justice" types.

Republican presidents, obviously, have usually tapped those proud to be called Catholic Republicans. And in this case, these have generally been wealthy campaign donors or influential members of their political party.

Political appointees, each and every one
But there's one thing that the 11 people who have served as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See have in common. They have all have been political appointees, in the sense that they were not career diplomats.

Thomas Melady, a political science professor who served as George H.W. Bush's ambassador to the from 1989-1993, had probably the most diplomatic experience of the lot, though it was limited.

He had been Richard Nixon's ambassador to Burundi (1969-72) and Uganda (1972-73), before becoming president of Sacred Heart University in his native Connecticut (1976-86) and then an official in Ronald Reagan's administration.

Frank Shakespeare, who was Reagan's second ambassador to the Holy See (1986-1989), was a wealthy TV executive from New York who had been envoy to Portugal just prior to that. But both posts were in recognition for the large financial contributions he had made to Reagan's two successful presidential campaigns.

Political appointees often come with slim credentials to represent the United States or its president to the Holy See. The current ambassador, Callista Gingrich, is a prime example.

Her only qualification is being the wife of Newt Gingrich, the former Georgia politician who was the Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1995-1999 and is a great friend and confidante of Donald Trump.

Look to a seasoned career diplomat
President-elect Biden should do away the longstanding policy that the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican is a campaign donor or just a prominent Catholic who supports the political party of the person in the White House.

There are several reasons for this. But these two seem most compelling:

First, the Church in the United States has become so divided precisely over national political differences. No matter which Catholic Biden chooses it will likely further the divisions and further politicize the Church.

It is enough that the new president is Catholic. He should pick a someone who is not Catholic as his envoy to the Holy See. Obviously, it should be a figure who is recognized as someone who has deep respect for Catholicism and the pope and is not anti-religion. That should be enough.

Second, that figure should be a career U.S. diplomat. And a top notch one at that.

That would send a clear message to the American people -- especially those Catholics (including the bishops) who did not support Biden's campaign -- and officials at the Vatican that the new administration respects the Holy See and is committed more than ever to strengthening the bilateral relationship.

It would make a statement bolder than any other U.S. president has ever made before; namely that the United States is willing to send a first-rate career diplomat to Rome because it believes that the Catholic Church and the Holy See matter.

Obviously, there will be those who will balk at whomever Biden chooses. But this, at least, seems a better and more creative way forward.
                               

Signs of the Times

The Tragedy Of All-Pervading Church Politics


In the Catholic Church in the United States, one of the most important Churches in the world, the structures of ecclesial conversation have all but broken down -  Massimo Faggioli, Rome, January 6, 2021. 
This article is from the La-Croix International website - you can access the site here but complete full access is via paid subscription

One of the tragedies of contemporary Catholicism is that the Church has become overly politicized.

We're not talking about being political in the elevated sense of the word -- that is, committed to the ecclesial community as well as to the polis. Rather, the Church has become politicized in the sense that political divisions among its own members tend to dominate everything.

They dominate not only the crafting of careful public statements by those who work in and for the Church, but also the very process of forming ideas, worldviews and opinions.

The Church has become politicized in a way that reflects the slogan of Charles Maurras, one of the heroes of the neo-integralist Catholics: "la politique d'abord!".

It's not politics in the sense of day-to-day politics. It's politics in the sense that the political order comes first as key to all other questions: ecclesial, theological and spiritual.

It also comes at the expense of all other questions. It's not about how to avoid tripping a wire. Indeed, political survival is now the very wiring of Catholic leadership and is much more decisive than possessing intellectual, spiritual or even managerial skills.

Examples of how politics has taken over completely within the Church
One recent example of the ruthlessness of this primacy of the political are the December 31 departures of a senior journalist and the editor-in-chief of the US-based Catholic News Agency.

The news came just one day after the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) announced a number of changes to its television and radio programming including the ouster of Gloria Purvis, an outspoken champion of racial justice and host of the "Morning Glory" radio show.

On one level this is an egregious example of the fact that, in American Catholicism today, Black Catholics continue to pay the price for anti-racism work.

But on another level, it demonstrates how politics has taken over completely, when a conservative Catholic media conglomerate like EWTN thinks it can get away with so blatantly signaling its position on the issue of racism in a country where Trump and his Catholic supporters will likely refuse to leave the stage even after Joe Biden is inaugurated president on January 20.

Another example of the primacy of politics in current American Catholicism is the way the US bishops have dealt with Donald Trump's threats to democracy during his presidency, his failed re-election campaign and in the aftermath of Biden's clear victory.

The silence of the shepherds
As a national body, the bishops have said nothing about how Trump -- a president many of them saw as an ally in the "culture wars" -- has posed a threat to the Republic.

Their silence is due, in part, to a kind of constitutional agnosticism. It is also partly out of fear that they might send a political message too uncomfortable to stomach for Catholics who voted for Trump. And it's due, in good measure, to the political sympathy many of the bishops have for the outgoing president.

In Trump's assault on the rule of law, with flagrant attempts to overthrow an election and institute authoritarian rule, the US Catholic leaders' efforts to remain neutral show a detachment that absolves the extremists.

They also display the culture limitations and lack of leadership in the generation of clerics currently in power in the Church.

But such ecclesial politicization is evident not only in the Church in the United States. It's a problem wherever the Church has become complacent to the threat of ethno-nationalism. It is a problem both of political and theological culture.

The fatal alliance of faith and political power
On the one hand, it is clear that the damage done by Christian nationalism cannot be repaired from within a religious framework alone, as Victoria J. Barnett wrote recently.

Catholics in America must recognize the fatal alliance of faith and political power. Civic reconciliation must begin with the clear repudiation of religiously driven nationalism and hatred, with a discernment in the public square that is politically visible.

On the other hand, there also has to be a de-politicization of the internal debate in the Catholic Church.

In Catholicism today, the chaos at the level of political conscience is the result of inverting the roles of the Church's ecclesial-sacramental life and its media-virtual existence, with the latter now imposing its language and morality upon the former.

"This new media ecology threatens the unity of the Church, as it replaces Catholic ecclesial notions of communion with an imported secular model of cultural identity that reduces ritual and doctrine to tools to mark difference," wrote Catholic theologian Vincent Miller in an essay published in 2015.

"At its extreme, unity is reduced to the mere internal result of the external marking of difference," he said.

The serious threats of ecclesial politicization
This is the framework -- not sacramental, but political -- in which American Catholics understand the bishops' threat to impose sanctions on President Biden's access to the Eucharist.

It manifests how such an ecclesial politicization threatens to destroy the Church's sacramental orientation.

It also extinguishes the Church's ability to deal with internal differences in a way that is not dominated by a superimposing partisan framework, including the way Catholic politicians deal with the abortion issue.

As Terry Eagleton wrote in his book Hope Without Optimism, the true calamity is the extinction of the word: when language is obliterated, hope is extinguished and meaning collapses.

The problem of polarization in the Church is not just due to the extremism of the positions.

It is also related to the fact that the current model of the Church is the result of the projection of political faiths on an ecclesial screen. The notion of Church unity has been reduced to expectations of political uniformity.

On top of all the huge challenges facing an institutional structure struggling to make sense of itself in the wake of momentous and all-encompassing changes nationally and globally, it is urgent for the Catholic Church to assume a new matrix of understanding that gets rid of the mantras of right-wing ideologues that have led to this perilous politicization of the faith.

Catholicism did not start in the 1980s. There is a deep Catholic past from which we can and must draw.

In order to be truly counter-cultural, Catholics must be able to offer a sophisticated critique of modernity, and not some dubious "Catholic spin" on the critique leveled by such non-Catholic cultural warriors as Jordan Peterson or Ben Shapiro. The either-or lens offered by those playing theology as a blood sport has done enough damage already.

In the Catholic Church in the United States, one of the most important Churches in the world, the structures of ecclesial conversation have all but broken down.

And it's here, unfortunately, where Pope Francis' promise of synodality looks like nothing more than a mirage.
                               

A Commitment To NonViolence


This article is taken from the Daily Email sent by Fr Richard Rohr OFM from the Center for Action and Contemplation. You can subscribe to receive the email by clicking here 

My longtime friend, Catholic priest and peace activist John Dear, has dedicated his life to the practices and teaching of nonviolence. His work with the Fellowship of Reconciliation and other organizations is truly an example of contemplation expressing itself in action for peace and justice. He has now founded “The Beatitudes Center for the Nonviolent Jesus.” Our executive director, Michael Poffenberger, and I recently visited John at his new home in California, and received much gracious hospitality and kindness.

The Fellowship of Reconciliation [FOR] has worked to bring together people on all sides in all the conflicts of the world, in pursuit of peace and reconciliation. . . . FOR started a wide variety of campaigns—sending delegations around the world . . . teaching people creative alternatives of nonviolence. . . . In the 1940s, FOR helped form the Congress of Racial Equality and set up “Journeys of Reconciliation,” which promoted integration in the segregated South. . . . [Today,] after nearly a century of dedicated peacemaking, members of the Fellowship of Reconciliation remain as committed as ever to the mission of promoting peace, justice, and nonviolent action. . . .

FOR is learning the great wisdom of the ages: that making peace requires persistent reconciliation. Peace does not happen overnight. There is no immediate result. It is a lifelong struggle and requires a lifetime commitment. It necessitates patience and dedication, even facing the worst odds. The challenge of reconciliation is to keep at it—to keep opponents talking, to encourage compassionate listening, to invite forgiveness, to compromise for the sake of peace, and to never give up the dream.

When FOR moved from being exclusively Christian to truly interfaith in the late 1950s, it broadened its mission to include building bridges between all the world’s religions for the sake of peace. Today, FOR embraces Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, other people of faith, and those with no formal religious affiliation. Through this interfaith commitment to nonviolence, we are forging a modest, new path into a new future for us all.

In contemplation, we empty ourselves of our own hurts, agendas, and even some of our most treasured beliefs. It is a practice of inner nonviolence, which gives us confidence to join with others to create a more peaceful world. John Dear continues:

The work of peace and reconciliation is not only political, it’s human work, and it’s spiritual. The God of peace is determined to reconcile the human race, and employs whomever will help in this great project. . . . As we have seen from the abolitionist, suffragist, civil rights, antiwar, human rights, and environmental movements, patient grassroots organizing and reconciliation over time has the power to transform nations and the world.

True contemplation always leads to action on behalf of a world in desperate need of healers and peacemakers, channels of God’s grace by any name. How might you join in that work in the year ahead?

Reference:
John Dear, Living Peace: A Spirituality of Action and Contemplation (Doubleday: 2001), 207–208, 210–213.

For Further Study:
Simone Campbell, Hunger for Hope: Prophetic Communities, Contemplation, and the Common Good (Orbis Books: 2020).

Contemplation in Action, Richard Rohr and Friends (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2006).

John Lewis with Brenda Jones, Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America (Hachette Books: 2017, ©2012).

Albert J. Raboteau, American Prophets: Seven Religious Radicals and Their Struggle for Social and Political Justice (Princeton University Press: 2016).

Richard Rohr, Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer (Paulist Press: 2014).

“Unity and Diversity,” Oneing, vol. 6, no. 2 (CAC Publishing: 2018), especially the essays “Unity and Diversity in the Land of Nonviolence,” by John Dear, and “Love and Kenosis: Contemplative Foundations of Social Justice,” by Gigi Ross.
                               

What Is Your Practice?

This article is taken from the archive of Fr Ron Rolheiser OMI. You can find this article and many others by clicking here

Today, the common question in spiritual circles is not, “What is your church or your religion?” But, “what is your practice?”

What is your practice? What is your particular explicit prayer practice? Is it Christian? Buddhist? Islamic? Secular?  Do you meditate? Do you do Centering prayer? Do you practice Mindfulness? For how long do you do this each day?

These are good questions and the prayer practices they refer to are good practices; but I take issue with one thing. The tendency here is to identify the essence of one’s discipleship and religious observance with a single explicit prayer practice, and that can be reductionist and simplistic. Discipleship is about more than one prayer practice.

A friend of mine shares this story. He was at a spirituality gathering where the question most asked of everyone was this: what is your practice? One woman replied, “My practice is raising my kids!” She may have meant it in jest, but her quip contains an insight that can serve as an important corrective to the tendency to identify the essence of one’s discipleship with a single explicit prayer practice.

Monks have secrets worth knowing. One of these is the truth that for any single prayer practice to be transformative it must be embedded in a larger set of practices, a much larger “monastic routine”, which commits one to a lot more than a single prayer practice. For a monk, each prayer practice is embedded inside a monastic routine and that routine, rather than any one single prayer practice, becomes the monk’s practice. Further still, that monastic routine, to have real value, must be itself predicated on fidelity to one’s vows.

Hence, the question “what is your practice?” is a good one if it refers to more than just a single explicit prayer practice. It must also ask whether you are keeping the commandments. Are you faithful to your vows and commitments? Are you raising your kids well? Are you staying within Christian community? Do you reach out to the poor? And, yes, do you have some regular, explicit, habitual prayer practice?

What is my own practice?

I lean heavily on regularity and ritual, on a “monastic routine”. Here is my normal routine: Each morning I pray the Office of Lauds (usually in community). Then, before going to my office, I read a spiritual book for at least 20 minutes.  At noon, I participate in the Eucharist, and sometime during the day, I go for a long walk and pray for an hour (mostly using the rosary as a mantra and praying for a lot of people by name).  On days when I do not take a walk, I sit in meditation or Centering prayer for about fifteen minutes. Each evening, I pray Vespers (again, usually in community). Once a week, I spend the evening writing a column on some aspect of spirituality. Once a month I celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, always with the same confessor; and, when possible, I try to carve out a week each year to do a retreat. My practice survives on routine, rhythm, and ritual. These hold me and keep me inside my discipleship and my vows. They hold me more than I hold them. No matter how busy I am, no matter how distracted I am, and no matter whether or not I feel like praying on any given day, these rituals draw me into prayer and fidelity.

To be a disciple is to put yourself under a discipline.  Thus, the bigger part of my practice is my ministry and the chronic discipline this demands of me. Full disclosure, ministry is often more stimulating than prayer; but it also demands more of you and, if done in fidelity, can be powerfully transformative in terms of bringing you to maturity and altruism.

Carlo Carretto, the renowned spiritual writer, spend much of his adult life in the Sahara Desert, living in solitude as a monk, spending many hours in formal prayer. However, after years of solitude and prayer in the desert, he went to visit his aging mother who had dedicated many years of her life to raising children, leaving little time for formal prayer. Visiting her, he realized something, namely, his mother was more of contemplative than he was! To his credit, Carretto drew the right lesson: there was nothing wrong with what he had been doing in the solitude of the desert for all those years, but there was something very right in what his mother had been doing in the busy bustle of raising children for so many years. Her life was its own monastery. Her practice was “raising kids”.

I have always loved this line from Robert Lax: “The task in life is not so much finding a path in the woods as of finding a rhythm to walk in.” Perhaps your rhythm is “monastic”, perhaps “domestic”. An explicit prayer practice is very important as a religious practice, but so too are our duties of state.
                               

Where Do We Start?


This article is taken from the weekly Blog of Fr Michael White, Pastor of the Church of the Nativity, Timoneum, Baltimore. You can read his blog here

We can all warmly welcome 2021, even as we agree we are happy to see 2020 go. For all of us, each in our own way, it was a difficult year. We had the rapid shut down of our lives, constantly unsure of what else would be taken away, daily navigating work and school, family and friends through a changing landscape of rules and regulations, and dire warnings and flat-out doubt.

Most churches were on complete lockdown for a period of time, disrupting the normal rhythms of the parish year. Here at Nativity, we had to reimagine almost everything we did as a parish. It was stressful and exhausting. I remember going home most evenings exhausted, even though it felt like I hadn’t actually done anything.

We are all waiting for some kind of return to normal. However, I think we would all also acknowledge that it is impossible for the last 9 months to not have changed us materially. COVID has brought changes to the way we live, the way we work, the way we shop, and the way we worship that are, in some instances, here to stay.

For instance, Pre-COVID we were a physical church on Ridgely Road that just happened to have an online service (mostly for the convenience of those traveling or home bound). COVID has blown up our on line service, with exponential growth. And while gathering in person to celebrate and receive the Eucharist is elemental to who we are and cannot ever change, moving forward, the virus notwithstanding, a lot more people are going to choose to join us a lot more often online. At least, that’s what I think.

We have to be careful about falling into magical or wishful thinking that there is a finish line to all this, or a single date that marks the end. We have to be careful about thinking that the crowds will all start coming back to church once the dispensation is lifted or that financial giving will rebound once we can past the basket again.

While it is tempting to focus our energy and attention on what has been taken from us, we still have the ability to set our own priorities and follow our own agenda. The people and organizations (and churches) who grasp this truth are the ones who will not only survive but thrive through this period.

But with all the disruption and change to normal parish operations caused by this crisis, the question is: Where Do I Start?

The short answer is: be proactive with your priorities.

Our faith tells us that God is in control and wants to work with us in helping to set priorities. You are not all alone and on your own to figure out how to set priorities for your life.

Faith sees that you can set priorities with God and ideally in a community of believers who are working towards the same goal – taking responsibility for their life with God in partnership with God.

If you’re a pastor…
Re-evaluate the ways you spend your time. If your last year has been anything like mine, you are probably busier now than you were in March. But an overwhelmed leader is an ineffective one and your ministry will probably suffer as things fall through the cracks. It is crucial to eliminate or delegate anything that is not directly related to your role as leader and pastor. Make that a priority.

If you’re a lay staff member…
Refuse to put parish life on hold. Instead, find creative ways to engage your parishioners to keep them active and connected. Lots of parishes are coming up with lots of ideas, learn from them. Make that a priority.

If you’re a lay volunteer who wants to see your parish succeed…
Stay engaged or get engaged. If you’re able, go back to in-person Mass attendance as an example to others. If you’re attending online, get involved in the online chat. And don’t just “watch” Mass, give the experience your full, active participation. And by all means, support and encourage your pastor. Make that a priority.

For examples on how to support your pastor, check out our Rebuilt resource: “7 Ways to Support Your Pastor.

Who knows what the year ahead will hold? It’s important to stay positive, but really, if we’re being entirely honest with ourselves, nobody really knows. It’s not up to us. We have no choice when it comes to public health policy, state regulations, economic downturns, civil unrest.

What we do get to choose are our priorities. Our priorities can be like the magi’s star, guiding us through 2021.
                               

A Wise Man

‘I had brought a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes – enough for a king’s burial. But here was a king already buried, if you know what I mean. Not in the jewelled courts of Jerusalem. Not in the palaces. But in a hovel fit only for stinking cattle.’ Rob Marsh SJ gives voice to the musings of one of the magi whose visit to the manger shapes our Epiphany prayer.
Rob Marsh SJ is a tutor in spirituality at Campion Hall, University of Oxford.
This text was first preached as a homily to the Jesuit Community of the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, Santa Clara University, in January 1999.
This article is taken from the ThinkingFaith.org website where you can find a wide range of articles by clicking here

I read the words the messenger had brought me: ‘Buried with a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes’. I had almost forgotten him … God knows I’ve tried! Nothing has been quite right since that fool’s errand thirty years ago in my misspent, mystical youth. And now he’s dead, embalmed and buried with my spices, my myrrh.

Oh, the journey didn’t seem so stupid back then. The signs were there … in the heavens, in the cards, in the embers of the fire. And when the three of us met, each on the same quest, well, it seemed beyond doubt that we were to be witnesses to some great event. A new king among the Hebrews certainly, but something more, said our oracles, something much more. We rode so confidently for those two years. Can you imagine it? Two years tramping the ways, staying in fleapits, hiding from bandits, constantly fleeced by merchants with no scruples. Two years building each other up with dreams and visions, and ever more exact calculations of the time and place.

And then things began to go wrong. The complex computation was a little off – not a lot, just that there was the Holy City up ahead, Jerusalem of the mountains, crowned by its golden temple … while the charts said, no, down there to the south a little ways.

We trusted our common sense instead of the signs and ended up face to face with that monster, Herod – as bad as and worse than his reputation – trying to conceal his fear at our na├»ve declaration of our quest: ‘where is the babe born to be king?’

Fools, we were, but fools laden with gifts and fools who had travelled for years, and yes, fools who knew a threat when we heard it. So we set off quietly, dodged Herod’s spies, and this time followed our star maps, to Bethlehem, some little hole in the middle of nowhere. Ironic, really: so close to the centre of the turning world but enough off axis to throw us all askew.

Well, we reached the town by nightfall, bathed as best we could, dressed in our finest, readied our gifts, and wondered where to go. Determined not to be misled again by common sense, we stuck to the stars and passed the big houses, passed the inns glittering with commerce, passed even the meanest hovel, following our star until we couldn’t be mistaken, though we prayed to the gods we were.

A stable, a cattle barn. No mistake … a baby howling inside and a woman shushing it and a man stroking her hair.

They had to be pushed in there, the other two with their gold and incense. I had to push. And the inner voice that had demanded I carry so much myrrh began to make strange sense. A hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes – enough for a king’s burial. But here was a king already buried, if you know what I mean. Not in the jewelled courts of Jerusalem. Not in the palaces. But in a hovel fit only for stinking cattle. And it was cold. And they looked exhausted, afraid, embarrassed. And we added to that as we knelt to do our part. Melchior with his king’s ransom in gold; Caspar burning his precious incense like it didn’t cost an arm and a leg … and me, with half a tonne of burial spices. All trying to maintain our dignity as we crushed into a shed. Which is not to say that man and woman and tiny babe were not gracious – even when they realised that our greatest gift had been betrayal, the hungry gaze of Herod now upon them. We had made them refugees. What was this little family going to do with the stuff we had brought as they fled furtively across the border to be strangers in a strange land? We never knew. At least until today.

We ourselves had to be furtive as we came home a different way. It seemed we were different, too. Anti-climax? It may have been that. Or the fear of what we had done. But we spoke little except to debate the irony of what we had seen. And when that began to run in the same confused circles we spoke hardly at all. Truth be told, I was relieved at the parting of our ways and the fall of silence. More relieved to reach home again. Familiar. Comfortable. But strange, too. In the stillness I was still moving, at night dreaming of fleeing families.

Of course, I made up a story. I couldn’t tell the stupid truth: oh, yes, we gave away our riches to some poor people in a barn. To be honest I tried to forget. But every year at that time I’d find myself back there wondering, wondering what kind of king is born in a cattle shed and enthroned in a trough. And from time to time I would dream of him, glimpse him growing in obscurity, and wonder whether I dreamed the truth or fancy.

These last few years, the dreams have been more frequent and more puzzling. Maybe he was a king after all. His dream-self spoke of a kingdom, God’s kingdom, as he worked his wonders, lived with the poor, scandalised the powerful, gathered the crowds … but then the dreams ended in blood and pain, and I prayed they were false. But it seems not. Buried with a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes.

But also the rumours: of resurrection, of new life, of a kingdom come. Yet the empires go on. Cruelty goes on. The poor still flee the mighty. And I think I have another journey to make. But where in the world do you go to find the kingdom he promised?