Books, Catholicism, Life, politics, refugees, Women

What should we read, right now?

9781408855706_309035.jpegDolores Umbridge: I am sorry, dear, but to question my practices is to question the Ministry, and by extension, the Minister himself. I am a tolerant woman, but the one thing I will not stand for is disloyalty. 
Minerva McGonagall: Disloyalty? 
Dolores Umbridge: Things at Hogwarts are far worse than I feared. 

If I were homeschooling now, in this age of fear of immigrants, of wishing to publish (weekly) crimes of ‘aliens’, of the rippling effects of such decisions across the world, I would re-read the Harry Potter books with my children. Heck, I’ll probably re-read them now myself, anyway.

J.K. Rowling got it right. The Ministry of Magic and Dolores Umbridge are perfect characterisations of swift, reactionary, dare I say populist policies delivered under the guise of protection. So that when others criticise the policies and actions, these others are criticised as simply being ‘others’, as being ‘disloyal’, as anti-ministry (anti-government) rebel rousers.

‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’, in particular, demonstrates the creeping effect of policies and culture that choose to focus on what appears to be good, or even on what is actually good, while ignoring that which is also bad in the regime. Indeed, the swift action in trying people who are against the Ministry of Magic, of picking targets for fear and hate, allows the Ministry to create a culture of fear with misinformation.

Harry Potter: But if I keep popping in and out of the Ministry, won’t it look like I approve of what they’re doing? 

Rufus Scrimgeour: It would give everyone a boost to think that- 

Harry Potter: No, sorry. I don’t think that will work. I don’t like some of the things the Ministry are doing. Locking up Stan Shunpike, for one. 

Rufus Scrimgeour: I would not expect you to understand. These are dangerous times. You are sixteen years old- 

Harry Potter: Dumbledore’s a lot older than sixteen, and he doesn’t think Stan should be locked up either. You’re making Stan a scapegoat, just like you’re trying to make me a mascot! Later. 

Rufus Scrimgeour: I see. You prefer – like your hero Dumbledore – to disassociate yourself from the Ministry. 

Harry Potter: I don’t want to be used. 

Rufus Scrimgeour: Some would say it’s your duty to be used by the Ministry! 

Harry Potter: Yeah, and others might say it’s your duty to check people actually are Death Eaters before you chuck them in prison! You’re doing what Barty Crouch did. You never get it right, you people, do you?! Either we’ve got Fudge, pretending everything’s lovely while people get murdered under their noses, or we’ve got you, putting the wrong people in prison and pretending you’ve got the Chosen One working for you!

The parallels with the current immigration crisis and subsequent vetos on immigration and dislike targeted towards groups of people, as though a few speak for the many, is evident.

And J. K. Rowling again got it right. Because the novels offer hope. Hope in the actions of those concerned for truth, compassion and mercy. Hope that we, too, like Harry and his friends, can make a positive difference in the narrative of fear. To fight for mercy, to be merciful, again and again.

[Harry thinks to himself] …’how they had talked about fighting a losing battle, and that it was important to fight, and to fight again, and to keep fighting, to keep evil at bay, though never quite eradicated.’

We can take positive action, in both small and big ways. Read, write, share information. Pray. Volunteer. Donate. Discuss. Take political action even. Look carefully at how we treat others and for whom we vote.

Remembering the dignity and respect that should be offered to all of humanity, even when it may be difficult or inconvenient or have an economic cost. For not everything can be counted in economic terms. Not everything is political. Most everything involves humanity, and remembering that people, you, me, mums, dads, sisters, brothers, not objects but people, are affected and are involved.

So that we keep on working for that which is good for all. There is no turning back once we realise the good.

You’ve said to us once before that there was a time to turn back if we wanted to. We’ve had time, haven’t we? (Hermione, ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’).

Catholicism, Life, Motherhood, religion, Unschooling, Women

It’s the small things

Our Lady of Lourdes

This is how I arranged the dining table centrepiece before bed last night..a visual reminder, for all who rise in the early or not so early hours of the morning…and who wander past the dining area to the kitchen for breakfast. A reminder of today’s feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.. Saints book, candles; Fr Lovasik book on Our Lady of Lourdes; dh’s statue of Our Lady, from his childhood home….and our art focus book.
A week or so ago, someone asked me Why I Bother. Their point was I am doing a lot of work outside the home at the moment, a lot of stuff in the home for Kumon and for volunteer stuff, and at midnight, before bed and an early start the next morning for Mass, I do things like arrange a centrepiece for the table.
Don’t bother, I was told. Let others do the chores and don’t worry about the extras.
But I do want to “worry” about the extras.
It is the extras that make the house a home, a refuge, something set apart. That make a life, really.
I said awhile back, to a priest, that women don’t always have time for the great inventions, for the great works, not because we are less inclined to these things but because our days and minds are often filled with little things…little things that never seem to amount to much, that no one may even notice if done or left undone, but which make a mark on the lives of family and friends.
Creating a space, a nook, for quiet reading and sitting. For movies. Putting out flowers and candles. Planning a dessert for a saints day. Plumping up cushions and scattering an interesting book. Texting friends. Having a person who is lonely over for a cuppa..and including the kids in the converation. Sending a smile.
I am not advising mothers and wives and women to be martyrs. I certainly take time for reading, for work, for my study, for workouts. But my mind and days are also full of All Those Small Things ( Blink 182).
And I bother.
‘A man,’ as one of them observed to me once, ‘is so in the way in the house!’ Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford.
And not at all true. But the point is made..a woman often does make a subtle difference. Shouldn’t that difference be calculated, for the good, for beauty, for people?
 Thus the “perfect woman” (cf. Prov 31:10) becomes an irreplaceable support and source of spiritual strength for other people, who perceive the great energies of her spirit. These “perfect women” are owed much by their families, and sometimes by whole nations.
In our own time, the successes of science and technology make it possible to attain material well-being to a degree hitherto unknown. While this favours some, it pushes others to the edges of society. In this way, unilateral progress can also lead to a gradual loss of sensitivity for man, that is, for what is essentially human. In this sense, our time in particular awaits the manifestation of that “genius” which belongs to women, and which can ensure sensitivity for human beings in every circumstance: because they are human! – and because “the greatest of these is love” (cf. 1 Cor 13:13).MULIERIS DIGNITATEM
Pope John Paul II
Why do I bother? Out of love..not just for family, but for friends, for others, for people I meet, for love of God.
A recent homily on St Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 13 ( If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal… ) challenged all of us, husbands, wives, women, men, single, married, religious..all of us to serve with love. If we love, we are not jealous; we do not act out of selfishness and concern for ourselves; we act with love and care for others.
I must act with that feminine genius of which the Pope spoke, with that sensitivity for human beings in every, yes, every, circumstance…
A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace. Mother Theresa
In my very busy life, I remember some of the stories of my childhood and early teen years, those stories that shaped me. The Little House on the Prairie series. The Anne of Green Gables books. The Meet the Austins series. The Dimity boarding school books. All those Pollyanna novels. Jane Austen. Swallows and Amazons. Noel Streatfield. Verily Anderson. Dodie Smith. Bridge to Terabithia. Amongst others.
What was it that attracted me to these books?
 Their vision of family life. Of normality. Of fun. Of dinners and chats and walks and time together.
 I take this vision and try to live it out, in my whirlwind of activity and technology.
 I bother with the little things.
 The extras that are not really extras. For, as we women, seek careers and study, seek good, seek to be truly ourselves it is sad if we also lose sight of what it is that makes a home…us.
Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of peace of the world. Mother Theresa
Catholicism, Life, Liturgy, Motherhood, religion, Women

The roar of Holy Week

As Holy Week roars in, shifting our perspective, forcefully nudging us out of the everyday and into a religious experience, we yank our mental gears and shift. What seems simple becomes difficult. And yet, too, what seems difficult becomes simple.

Even the simple act of attending the Holy Thursday Mass becomes less than simple. There is work to be done,  work to carve the time from employment, move schedules, rush family to get ready, drag everyone along, to sit, exhausted, trying to catch a breath.

The baby stirs. The toddler needs distraction, the teen shares a commiserating glance, the young adult sits, once a child and now a companion.

And the liturgy?  It requires a shift from our life of commitments to a sense of other-worldliness. Come here, the liturgy whispers, come here and contemplate what it means to be Christian. Servanthood, accompanied by the Cross.

I know, you silently cry. In my servanthood as a mother and woman I have known, in some small portion, the suffering of the Cross. Christ has suffered with me.

For He has been there, in the busyness and in the emptiness. In the hope and also in the despair.

Holy Week boldly proclaims His love and presence and ushers in the rejoicing of Easter. Even when we don’t feel His presence, Holy Week reminds us that he has been there all along. He will be there all along. There is that sense of suffering-with, and that glorious recognition, in our noisy lives, of the joy of the Resurrection.

The shift pushed on us in the Easter Triduum is a shift for recollection and reflection. It aligns itself with those far-removed, long forgotten New Year resolutions and ponderings. How is life for you, for me, the shift asks. Do we make time for Christ? To be Christ-like?

Ah. The soul stirs. It sighs. Time here to take stock while stepping ahead. For we recognize Christ in our rushing lives and in our peaceable discernment. We see Him in our family and friends. In those we have trouble knowing. Yes, even there, in that ugliness. Theirs and ours.

And so as Holy Week strides forward, our lives are turned askew again by His love and the Cross.

This is the importance of the liturgy in our lives. Helping us even when we don’t want the help.

holy-week

Catholicism, Life

Leaving out God?

Listened to a few homilies recently. Really listened .

And heard a lot of good stuff about politics and Australia and economics and indigenous peoples and multiculturalism.

Good stuff. Well, maybe “okay” stuff.

But nothing about God.

Doesn’t it seem strange to you, that in exhortations to be kind and just and equitable , that God is not mentioned? In church?

Indeed, it not just strange but sad. Sad because this may be the only time in a week that the faithful hear about Christ and all of life reflected in Christ and His teaching,

And it’s not just me who thinks this is sad, sad and wrong. It’s the Church. In Redemptionis Sacramentum

“[67.] Particular care is to be taken so that the homily is firmly based upon the mysteries of salvation, expounding the mysteries of the Faith and the norms of Christian life from the biblical readings and liturgical texts throughout the course of the liturgical year and providing commentary on the texts of the Ordinary or the Proper of the Mass, or of some other rite of the Church. It is clear that all interpretations of Sacred Scripture are to be referred back to Christ himself as the one upon whom the entire economy of salvation hinges, though this should be done in light of the specific context of the liturgical celebration. In the homily to be given, care is to be taken so that the light of Christ may shine upon life’s events. Even so, this is to be done so as not to obscure the true and unadulterated word of God: for instance, treating only of politics or profane subjects, or drawing upon notions derived from contemporary pseudo-religious currents as a source.

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Catholicism, religion

Do you read parish bulletins?

I must admit that mostly I don’t. Don’t read parish bulletins that is. (I often wonder if some parish priests also do not read the bulletin. Especially the pre-written piece copied onto the front page. You know, the related-to-today’s-Gospel bit.)

My sons, however, do read parish bulletins.

And one pointed out to me some interesting sections in a parish bulletin recently. (No, not my parish’s bulletin.)

I thought I’d share.

“May it be too bold to suggest that a successor of St Peter is to preach the resurrection with Pentecostal power and effect, that he too must be propelled into the world by a Spirit-filled gathering of female and male disciples. Why can’t the conclave of electors in the Sistine Chapel include women?”

Oh my.

Simple answer? Because it can’t. The Church has spoken elsewhere on the priesthood and on the role of women. How many times does this need to be re-iterated?:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (para. 1577) states:

“Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination.” The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ’s return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.”

And seriously, does this preclude a Pope from preaching “the resurrection with Pentecostal power and effect?”There seems no relevance , no connection between these two thoughts. The Pope preaches with the fire of the Holy Spirit,in the light of the Gospel and Tradition; he preaches to all with love for the common good; the sex of the electors in the conclave is a moot point. Really.

This bulletin passage denies the equality and differences of the sexes. Equality because we are all called to preach the Gospel in our daily lives; different because we bring our differences to the forefront in doing so. I do  not have to emulate a male to share God’s love; indeed, the world becomes a poorer place when we value the strengths of one sex over another, when we denounce the self giving love of women. For in giving of self, we women must first have a self to give; we must nurture and educate ourselves in prayer and in our vocations rather than seek to emulate others.

The bulletin continues..

“There is no single sacred language. All languages, all vernaculars, are capable of hearing and expressing what God wants to inspire, to breathe into human hearts.”

Oh my again. Does this writer possess even a glimmer of logic? For again the obvious must be stated.

Of course all languages can hear and express the Good News. There is no discussion, not now, not ever, about the ability of one language over another to share the Gospel.

This, however, has nothing to do with the use of a sacred language in liturgy. Sacred means set apart. And a language that is set apart and used in sacred liturgy, as Latin may be, is a language that is not open to many different interpretations and confusion. It is a language of unity. Set apart. Sacred. While also allowing the Gospel to be shared and breathed into our hearts.

I thanked my son for pointing out this bulletin piece. And I know now why it is a good thing that many of us do not read the bulletin.

We are saved from logical fallacies  in the form of theological reflection.

Catholicism, Life

Save me from pop psychology

Save me from pop psychology.

You know, the quick, superficial advice given in agony aunt columns or in twenty dollar books found in the motivation or self help section at Dymocks. Say affirmations, be affectionate, put it out to the Universe.

The suggestions may be helpful ( though I am a bit dubious about putting it out to the Universe!) but they are superficial;  band aids that seem to apply to every situation and to promise a fix…when in fact,  the band aids apply to very few situations – every situation is different, there is no one fix, we should look for principles and reflection, for  band aids can end up masking a problem.

Ask me how I know.

Save me, especially  from pop psychology masked as a homily. That one chance per week, for many people, to hear the word of God and to have a connection made with the Divine, should not be marred by popular psychology and tips on family life that can be gleaned from the latest self help and family books and that are devoid of any depth.

We could hear about the Divine, about devotion to the Holy Family.

Or we could hear the latest popular thought on families , out of the latest parenting and family advice book.

Guess which is the most appropriate for Holy Mass.

Guess which one we will not hear elsewhere. And why it is so important we hear the Scriptural message, not the current popular superficial message, at Holy Mass.

And ask me how I know.

 “Our continuing catechesis on prayer leads us, during this Christmas season, to reflect on the place of prayer in the life of the Holy Family of Nazareth. In the home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we learn to contemplate the mystery of God’s presence and to grow as faithful disciples of Christ. The Gospels present Mary as the supreme model of prayerful meditation on the mysteries of Christ’s life; in praying the Rosary, in fact, we unite ourselves to her contemplation of those mysteries in faith and hope. Saint Joseph fulfilled his vocation as the father of the Holy Family by teaching Jesus the importance of quiet fidelity to work, prayer and observance of the precepts of the Law. Jesus’ unique relationship with his heavenly Father was reflected in the prayer life of the Holy Family and stands at the heart of all Christian prayer. May the example of the Holy Family inspire all Christian families to be schools of prayer, where parents and children alike come to know that closeness to God which we joyfully celebrate in these days of Christmas.” The Holy Father, Feast of the Holy Family, 2011.