Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Am I alone in wondering what is happening to free expression of thought and honest debate in liberal western democracies, even (potentially) in Australia?

I mean, in this country we are in danger of getting a Bill of Rights containing the kind of anti-vilification rules that might possibly make it an offence to challenge someone else's religious beliefs. Already the State of Victoria has vilification laws that resulted in a pastor being tried for comments he made about another belief system.

An amazing variety of people seem to think that this is a good idea. But a groundswell of opposition is gathering momentum.

Speaking personally, it would obviously be nice from my point of view - just sometimes - for there to be a little less vilification of the Christian faith in our newspapers, in the broadcast media and in the art world. Do you remember how in 1997 we had to put up with "Piss Christ", Andres Serrano's photograph of a plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's urine, on the basis that it is a "work of art"? Back then many people thought it was a real hoot that Christian leaders across the spectrum were upset. At the time I said to someone that maybe Serrano should demonstrate his convictions in a thoroughgoing manner and turn his work into a series with pictures of Buddha and Mohamed suspended in Serrano's urine, alongside "Piss Christ". Well, in all likelihood the Buddhists would have been as harmless as the Christians. But wouldn't it have been fun to watch the Muslim reaction! (Remember the Danish cartoonist?)

Now, I happen to think that in a multi-religious and multi-cultural society we should all learn to scrutinize each other's cherished views and opinions, while simultaneously respecting people's basic rights. This is surely a matter of developing the kind of sensitivity and respect that cannot easily be legislated and that probably includes stopping short of suspending symbols of anyone's belief system in urine!

Christians who survived the experience of growing up in robustly secular and cynical post war Australia are actually stronger as a result of constantly rethinking our beliefs and experiences in the light of the micky-taking received from friends, work mates, neighbours, the media, and the arts. So, I can honestly say that I don't want my beliefs to be artificially protected by the law of the land. They don't need to be. But I don't want anyone else's beliefs protected like that either! Why should ANYONE (Christian, Muslim, Secular Humanist or Atheist) be above the scrutiny of vigorous debate? I want the right to say when I think other people believe foolish things, accepting that their right to say so about my beliefs is a fair trade-off.

Unless this right is protected, the idea that there is such a thing as objective truth is in real danger.

My guess is that as this debate continues, a lot of Australians will see how unfair they have been to practising Christians. This point was made very well by the Australian social commentator Gerard Henderson of the Sydney Institute, who - in 2006 - reminded his readers that the MELBOURNE AGE

"editorialised that Serrano's image of Piss Christ was 'warm and soft and beautiful' and supported 'the exhibiting of his work'",

and that

"When the exhibition closed early due to an attack on Serrano's work by several vandals, The Age editorialised that this was the "the road to madness and the death of art".

Henderson continues:

"Fast forward to the present. Last week Age cartoonist Michael Leunig supported the decision not to publish the Danish cartoons on the grounds of respect, of course. He depicted the images of the Prophet as "taunts". This is the very same Leunig who has previously taunted Jews by equating the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in 1942 with democratic Israel in 2002. And this is the same cartoonist who has offended Christians by caricaturing Christ on the cross.

"Last week in Federal Parliament, Greens Senator Kerry Nettle wore a tee-shirt emblazoned with the message: 'Mr Abbott, Get your rosaries off my ovaries.' The reference to the Catholic prayer, the Rosary, was nothing but a sectarian attack on the Catholic Health Minister Tony Abbott. Maybe all is fair in love and (political) war. But would Nettle wear a tee-shirt bagging, say, the Koran? Not likely - despite the fact that most believing Muslims are more socially conservative than Abbott.

"In this controversy, Denmark's conservative prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has been more straight-forward than many journalistic outlets. He has asserted the absolute right to free speech of the media in democratic societies. The problem with some editors and producers is that they now assert a qualified right to freedom of speech. This entails that it is proper to upset some religious followers (i.e. Christians and Jews) but improper to upset other believers (i.e. Muslims). If genuine respect is to prevail, it must be universal."

Go HERE for Henderson's complete article.

I will post more on this topic tomorrow.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


"Mother of the Unborn" was painted by an American artist, Miss Tidwell. (I’ve never been able to find a date . . . the original prayer card was given to me a long time ago.) It portrays Mary grieving over the millions of aborted babies.

The stars around her head represent a decade of the Rosary. The large star is the "Star of Bethlehem." The rose coloured ball in the lower left corner is the earth in turmoil. The glow of Mary's heart is a sign of the love she has for all her children, especially the most helpless and vulnerable.

Continuous weeping over this horrendous evil has blackened our Lady's eyes. The baby's Guardian Angel seems to be both saddened over the death of his charge and grateful for Mary's care and concern. The baby bears the five wounds of our Saviour. Note, both baby and Angel are weeping and the baby's hands are clasped in prayer.

The reason Mary's hand and fingernails are dirty is because she has to scoop and dig out these precious souls from trash bins, garbage dumps, and, as in Wichita, Kansas, from a pile ready to be burned with dead animals at their dog pound.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
intercede for us
that there may be an end
to all the willful killing of life in the womb;
that the little ones be kept safe
in the care of their guardian angels,
and that their mothers experience
the forgiveness and healing of your Son, Jesus.
Mother of the Unborn, pray for us


Gallipoli: Landing Heavy Guns During Dardanelles Operations. Photo taken at Gaba Tepe (Anzac), the scene of the landing of the Australian troops upon the Gallipoli Peninsula, shows the disembarkation of a six inch hewitzer for sue against the defending Turks.
© Bettmann/CORBIS Go HERE for more details about the photo.

ANZAC DAY is really big in Australia and New Zealand. It is when we formally remember the landing of the troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipolli in Turkey early on the morning of 25 April 1915 during the First World War (1914-1918).

Over 8,000 Australian and 2,700 New Zealand soldiers died in a campaign that failed in its objective of taking Turkey out of the war. But it has become Australia's most significant national day, on which we remember the sacrifice of those who have served, and especially those who died, not only in that war, but in all wars and other military operations on behalf of our country.

Because Anzac Day has evolved in our culture to be "the one day of the year" that brings us all together, the Church in Australia and New Zealand has wisely moved St Mark's Day to 26th April (which, of course, means that this year he slips into the background, his day falling on a Sunday . . . not that he minds, I'm sure!)

Lord our God, boundless provider,
source of peace that the world cannot give,
kindly hear our constant prayer
for those who bore witness to your own fidelity
by giving their lives for those they loved.
Resurrect them in our true homeland
And perfect that peace for which they longed and died.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


All my adult life I have had to contend with well-meaning liberal Christians who reduce the events at the heart of the Christian faith to a collection of culturally conditioned metaphors that nudge us along our faith journey. "Liberal protestants in chasubles" was how Bishop Hazlewood described so-called Anglo-catholics of this stripe, who though they had pretty well become agnostics, continued to love the "culture" and aesthetics of Christian worship.

Now, of course, they run the show as far as the declining first world Anglican scene is concerned.

And although there is at the present time a recovery and renewal of the Gospel and the true Faith within the Roman Catholic Church, especially among young adults, it is still all too easy to find priests and religious there who believe very little.

So, it was a blessing to read this latest piece by Fr Dwight Longenecker:

The main plague of modern Christianity is, well, modern Christianity. That is to say, modernism. Modernism may be defined as the conviction that the truths of Christianity were determined by the cultural circumstances of the first century, and that they are therefore no longer relevant of credible by modern people. The truths of Christianity must be 're-interpreted' for modern, scientific, technologically adept people.

Now, if the modernist were honest about his scheme we wouldn't mind so much. If he said (as some admirably honest modernists do) "The miracles stories are nothing more than symbolic" we would know where we stood. If he said, "The resurrection is a beautiful fairy tale" we would be clear. If he said, "The Virgin Birth is a make believe fantasy story" we'd understand. Then when he (or she) resigned from being a Christian minister we would accept their resignation with understanding (and not a little delight) and wish them well in their new career as a social worker.

But he doesn't do this. Instead the modernist priest continues to use the traditional language and liturgy of Christianity. He sings with gusto, "Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o'er his foes...." He stands up on Easter day and says with a theatrical tone, "Christ is risen from the dead, Alleluia!" to which his faithful people reply, "He is risen indeed. Alleluia!" And everyone feels warm and comfortable.

Furthermore, the modernist minister feels no qualms about drawing his salary, putting in his expense claims and having the rectory redecorated. Indeed, he perceives himself as something of a pioneer. He boldly goes where others fear to tread. He has faced the difficult questions of Christianity and found a new way through. He sees himself as a true man of faith for "isn't faith daring to ask the difficult questions and stepping out into the unknown--letting go all the quaint certainties to launch out into the deep?" Indeed, he even sees himself as a martyr for he has gone through persecution at the hands of the Pharisaical and self righteous orthodox Christians.

So Reverend Wooly continues to use all the conventional language of belief. He does so because he recognizes a certain 'psychological depth' in the 'ancient mythical symbolism'. He believes it helps people. It inspires them. But take him on one side and quiz him a bit you discover that he doesn't really believe in the resurrection at all. For him it is "a beautiful story about life and love eventually overcoming death" or "In some mysterious way the truth and goodness of Jesus continued to live long after his physical body passed away, and isn't that what we all hope for ourselves and our loved ones?"

Of course this is total and utter nonsense. The resurrection means that the physical person who died rose up from the dead and wasn't dead anymore. The tomb was empty. They saw him and they were scared. They ate with him and touched his new body. If this didn't happen then it wasn't resurrection at all. It was just a beautiful idea, but the beautiful idea couldn't even be a beautiful idea if the resurrection didn't happen. The beautiful idea would only be an imaginative story, in which case it wasn't even a beautiful idea, it was just a fairy tale, and it wasn't even a very nice fairy tale, because it promised something it could never deliver.

To say the resurrection is nothing more than "a beautiful idea" is as absurd as saying marriage is a beautiful idea. What if a man said he was married, but you never saw the woman, you never saw the engagement ring and you never saw the children which proved that he had made love to the woman? You'd say it wasn't marriage at all, and it wasn't even a beautiful idea. It was a lie. And what if humanity built a great civilization on this beautiful idea of marriage but none of the men were ever married to women, but still they talked in glowing terms of "the beautiful sacrament of marriage" You would consider the lot of them to be insane.

So modernism, with its theological sleight of hand is not only dishonest, it's insane. Those who follow it live in a world cut off from reality. They live in an alternative reality of their own imagination.

The poisonous thing about this modernism, is that it is so difficult to pin down. It has to come from the Father of Lies since it is so insidiously deceptive. Whenever it appears it never speaks plainly and openly. Instead it resorts to half truths, poetical deceptions and charming myths. It is all smoke and mirrors.

Even worse, it has got into every Christian denomination. It's easy to think this is the disease of the mainline liberal Protestant denominations. Sadly, it has gone deep in the Catholic Church and it affects everything we do. It affects the way we worship, the way we preach, the way we relate to the world, the way we do everything. It lies deeply hidden, and is the root cause of all our problems in the church. Furthermore, like Satan himself, the more a church attempts to root it out, the more subtle the deception goes and the more the lies become hidden under clever academic speak.

So the Catholic modernist hides his disbelief completely and never really says what he means at all, and if he is pushed to explain what he believes about the resurrection he'll say with a sweet smile, "Of course Christ is risen, and what we mean by that remains a glorious mystery", or even worse, he says nothing at all, keeps to the liturgical formulas and goes on through his ministry to undermine everything he says he stands for.

Well you can keep it. Give me the old time religion. I believe Jesus rose from the dead. I believe it was physical. If it wasn't I'd pack it all in tomorrow.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Go HERE for my latest article on this important matter.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


THANK YOU to the reader who alerted me to A.N. Wilson's prior article in the New Statesman of 2nd April. Here is the last bit:

. . . A materialist Darwinian was having dinner with me a few years ago and we laughingly alluded to how, as years go by, one forgets names. Eager, as committed Darwinians often are, to testify on any occasion, my friend asserted: “It is because when we were simply anthropoid apes, there was no need to distinguish between one another by giving names.”

This credal confession struck me as just as superstitious as believing in the historicity of Noah’s Ark. More so, really.

Do materialists really think that language just “evolved”, like finches’ beaks, or have they simply never thought about the matter rationally? Where’s the evidence? How could it come about that human beings all agreed that particular grunts carried particular connotations? How could it have come about that groups of anthropoid apes developed the amazing morphological complexity of a single sentence, let alone the whole grammatical mystery which has engaged Chomsky and others in our lifetime and linguists for time out of mind? No, the existence of language is one of the many phenomena – of which love and music are the two strongest – which suggest that human beings are very much more than collections of meat. They convince me that we are spiritual beings, and that the religion of the incarnation, asserting that God made humanity in His image, and continually restores humanity in His image, is simply true. As a working blueprint for life, as a template against which to measure experience, it fits.

For a few years, I resisted the admission that my atheist-conversion experience had been a bit of middle-aged madness. I do not find it easy to articulate thoughts about religion. I remain the sort of person who turns off Thought for the Day when it comes on the radio. I am shy to admit that I have followed the advice given all those years ago by a wise archbishop to a bewildered young man: that moments of unbelief “don’t matter”, that if you return to a practice of the faith, faith will return.

When I think about atheist friends, including my father, they seem to me like people who have no ear for music, or who have never been in love. It is not that (as they believe) they have rumbled the tremendous fraud of religion – prophets do that in every generation. Rather, these unbelievers are simply missing out on something that is not difficult to grasp. Perhaps it is too obvious to understand; obvious, as lovers feel it was obvious that they should have come together, or obvious as the final resolution of a fugue.

I haven’t mentioned morality, but one thing that finally put the tin hat on any aspirations to be an unbeliever was writing a book about the Wagner family and Nazi Germany, and realising how utterly incoherent were Hitler’s neo-Darwinian ravings, and how potent was the opposition, much of it from Christians; paid for, not with clear intellectual victory, but in blood. Read Pastor Bonhoeffer’s book Ethics, and ask yourself what sort of mad world is created by those who think that ethics are a purely human construct. Think of Bonhoeffer’s serenity before he was hanged, even though he was in love and had everything to look forward to.

My departure from the Faith was like a conversion on the road to Damascus. My return was slow, hesitant, doubting. So it will always be; but I know I shall never make the same mistake again. Gilbert Ryle, with donnish absurdity, called God “a category mistake”. Yet the real category mistake made by atheists is not about God, but about human beings. Turn to the Table Talk of Samuel Taylor Coleridge – “Read the first chapter of Genesis without prejudice and you will be convinced at once . . . ‘The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’.” And then Coleridge adds: “‘And man became a living soul.’ Materialism will never explain those last words.”

Go HERE for the entire article.

Religion of hatred: Why we should no longer be cowed by the chattering classes ruling Britain who sneer at Christianity

I have a number of books on my shelves that were given to me over the years by the late Father Austin Day of Christ Church St Laurence, Sydney. Twenty-nine years ago he introduced me to the work of the English author A.N. Wilson with the gift of Wilson’s novel published that year, “The Healing Light.” It was a great read.

From then on, when we met or spoke on the phone, Father Austin and I would compare notes on “the latest A.N. Wilson book”!

They’re not all novels (which, incidentally, are not for the faint-hearted!). Wilson’s biographical and historical works are masterpieces, too, even when they make you angry.

I was in England in 1994 and stayed for a few nights with a priest and his family who had quite a few A.N. Wilson books on their shelves. When I remarked about the author’s then current aggressiveness towards the Faith as we understood it, my friend simply said, “I’ve known Wilson for a long time; he’ll be back one day. His heart’s in the right place, and a lot of us are praying for him.” Actually, I thought back then that A.N. Wilson’s writings did seem to leave the door just a tiny bit ajar. (In any case, for those with eyes to see, Wilson was more than capable of making the very best case for a particular proposition, only to undermine it himself with one irascable remark!)

All of that sounds very condescending, but it’s not supposed to. I would never dream of putting myself in the same intellectual league as A.N. Wilson. Nonetheless, what a spectacular surprise it was to read his Holy Saturday article in the (London) Daily Mail of 11th April. He’s well and truly back!

Religion of hatred:
Why we should no longer be cowed
by the chattering classes ruling Britain who sneer at Christianity

by A.N. Wilson

A week ago, there were Palm Sunday processions all over the world. Near my house in North London is a parish with two churches. About 70 or 80 of us gathered at one of these buildings to collect our palms.

We were told by the priest: ‘Where we are standing in Kentish Town does not look much like a Judaean hillside, and the other church to which we are walking does not look much like Jerusalem. But as we go, holding our palms, let us try to imagine the first Palm Sunday.’ 

And so we set off, singing All Glory, Laud And Honour! and holding up our palm crosses, to the faint bemusement of passersby, who looked out of their windows at us, tooted their horns as we blocked the traffic or smiled from sunny pavements.

We were walking, as it were, in the footsteps of Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on a donkey while crowds threw palms before him. Except our journey was along the pavements strewn with the usual North London discarded syringes, chewing gum and Kentucky Fried Chicken boxes.

When we had reached our destination, a small choir and two priests sang the whole of St Mark’s account of the last week of Jesus’s life - that part of the Gospel that is called The Passion.

It is said the chant used for this recitation dates back to the music used in the Jewish Temple in Jesus’s day.

We heard of his triumphal, palm-strewn procession into Jerusalem, his clash with the Temple authorities, his agonised prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, his arrest by the Roman guards, his torture, his trial before Pontius Pilate, his Crucifixion and his death.

So there we were, all believers, and a disparate group of people, of various ages, races and classes, re-enacting once more this extraordinary story.

A story of a Jewish prophet falling foul of the authorities in an eastern province of the Roman Empire, and being punished, as were thousands of Jews during the governorship of Pontius Pilate, by the gruesome torture of crucifixion.

This Easter weekend we revisit the extraordinary ending of that story - the discovery by some women friends of Jesus that his tomb was empty. And we read of the reactions of the disciples - fearful, incredulous, but eventually believing that, as millions of Christians will proclaim tomorrow morning: ‘The Lord is risen indeed!’ 

But how many in Britain today actually believe the story? Most recent polls have shown that considerably less than half of us do - yet that won’t, of course, stop us tucking into Easter eggs (symbolising new life) and simnel cake (decorated with 11 marzipan balls representing the 11 true disciples, with Judas missing).

For much of my life, I, too, have been one of those who did not believe. It was in my young manhood that I began to wonder how much of the Easter story I accepted, and in my 30s I lost any religious belief whatsoever.

Like many people who lost faith, I felt anger with myself for having been ‘conned’ by such a story. I began to rail against Christianity, and wrote a book, entitled Jesus, which endeavoured to establish that he had been no more than a messianic prophet who had well and truly failed, and died.

Why did I, along with so many others, become so dismissive of Christianity?

Like most educated people in Britain and Northern Europe (I was born in 1950), I have grown up in a culture that is overwhelmingly secular and anti-religious. The universities, broadcasters and media generally are not merely non-religious, they are positively anti.

To my shame, I believe it was this that made me lose faith and heart in my youth. It felt so uncool to be religious. With the mentality of a child in the playground, I felt at some visceral level that being religious was unsexy, like having spots or wearing specs.

This playground attitude accounts for much of the attitude towards Christianity that you pick up, say, from the alternative comedians, and the casual light blasphemy of jokes on TV or radio.

It also lends weight to the fervour of the anti-God fanatics, such as the writer Christopher Hitchens and the geneticist Richard Dawkins, who think all the evil in the world is actually caused by religion.
The vast majority of media pundits and intelligentsia in Britain are unbelievers, many of them quite fervent in their hatred of religion itself.

The Guardian’s fanatical feminist-in-chief, Polly Toynbee, is one of the most dismissive of religion and Christianity in particular. She is president of the British Humanist Association, an associate of the National Secular Society and openly scornful of the millions of Britons who will quietly proclaim their faith in Church tomorrow. 

‘Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?’ she asked in a puerile article decrying the wickedness of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia stories, which have bewitched children for more than 50 years. Or, to take another of her utterances: ‘When absolute God-given righteousness beckons, blood flows and women are in chains.’

The sneering Ms Toynbee, like Richard Dawkins, believes in rational explanations for our existence and behaviour. She is deeply committed to the Rationalist Association, but her approach to religion is too fanatical to be described as rational. 

Perhaps it goes back to her relationship with her nice old dad, Philip Toynbee, a Thirties public school Marxist who, before he died, made the hesitant journey from unbelief to a questing Christianity.

The Polly Toynbees of this world ignore all the benign aspects of religion and see it purely as a sinister agent of control, especially over women.

One suspects this is how it is viewed in most liberal circles, in university common rooms, at the BBC and, perhaps above all, sadly, by the bishops of the Church of England, who despite their episcopal regalia, nourish few discernible beliefs that could be distinguished from the liberalism of the age.

When I took part in the procession last Sunday and heard the Gospel being chanted, I assented to it with complete simplicity. For ten or 15 of my middle years, I, too, was one of the mockers. But, as time passed, I found myself going back to church, although at first only as a fellow traveller with the believers, not as one who shared the faith that Jesus had truly risen from the grave. Some time over the past five or six years - I could not tell you exactly when - I found that I had changed.

My own return to faith has surprised no one more than myself. Why did I return to it? Partially, perhaps it is no more than the confidence I have gained with age.

Rather than being cowed by them, I relish the notion that, by asserting a belief in the risen Christ, I am defying all the liberal clever-clogs on the block: cutting-edge novelists such as Martin Amis; foul-mouthed, self-satisfied TV presenters such as Jonathan Ross and Jo Brand; and the smug, tieless architects of so much television output.

But there is more to it than that. My belief has come about in large measure because of the lives and examples of people I have known - not the famous, not saints, but friends and relations who have lived, and faced death, in the light of the Resurrection story, or in the quiet acceptance that they have a future after they die.

The Easter story answers their questions about the spiritual aspects of humanity. It changes people’s lives because it helps us understand that we, like Jesus, are born as spiritual beings.

Every inner prompting of conscience, every glimmering sense of beauty, every response we make to music, every experience we have of love - whether of physical love, sexual love, family love or the love of friends - and every experience of bereavement, reminds us of this fact about ourselves.

Ah, say the rationalists. But no one can possibly rise again after death, for that is beyond the realm of scientific possibility.

And it is true to say that no one can ever prove - nor, indeed, disprove - the existence of an after-life or God, or answer the conundrums of honest doubters (how does a loving God allow an earthquake in Italy?)

Easter does not answer such questions by clever-clever logic. Nor is it irrational. On the contrary, it meets our reason and our hearts together, for it addresses the whole person.

In the past, I have questioned its veracity and suggested that it should not be taken literally. But the more I read the Easter story, the better it seems to fit and apply to the human condition. That, too, is why I now believe in it.

Easter confronts us with a historical event set in time. We are faced with a story of an empty tomb, of a small group of men and women who were at one stage hiding for their lives and at the next were brave enough to face the full judicial persecution of the Roman Empire and proclaim their belief in a risen Christ.

Historians of Roman and Jewish law have argued at length about the details of Jesus’s trial - and just how historical the Gospel accounts are.

Anyone who believes in the truth must heed the fine points that such scholars unearth. But at this distance of time, there is never going to be historical evidence one way or the other that could dissolve or sustain faith.

Of course, only hard evidence will satisfy the secularists, but over time and after repeated readings of the story, I’ve been convinced without it.

And in contrast to those ephemeral pundits of today, I have as my companions in belief such Christians as Dostoevsky, T. S. Eliot, Samuel Johnson and all the saints, known and unknown, throughout the ages. 

When that great saint Thomas More, Chancellor of England, was on trial for his life for daring to defy Henry VIII, one of his prosecutors asked him if it did not worry him that he was standing out against all the bishops of England.

He replied: ‘My lord, for one bishop of your opinion, I have a hundred saints of mine.’

Now, I think of that exchange and of his bravery in proclaiming his faith. Our bishops and theologians, frightened as they have been by the pounding of secularist guns, need that kind of bravery more than ever.

Sadly, they have all but accepted that only stupid people actually believe in Christianity, and that the few intelligent people left in the churches are there only for the music or believe it all in some symbolic or contorted way which, when examined, turns out not to be belief after all.

As a matter of fact, I am sure the opposite is the case and that materialist atheism is not merely an arid creed, but totally irrational.

Materialist atheism says we are just a collection of chemicals. It has no answer whatsoever to the question of how we should be capable of love or heroism or poetry if we are simply animated pieces of meat.

The Resurrection, which proclaims that matter and spirit are mysteriously conjoined, is the ultimate key to who we are. It confronts us with an extraordinarily haunting story.

J. S. Bach believed the story, and set it to music. Most of the greatest writers and thinkers of the past 1,500 years have believed it.

But an even stronger argument is the way that Christian faith transforms individual lives - the lives of the men and women with whom you mingle on a daily basis, the man, woman or child next to you in church tomorrow morning.


It was near the end of Easter Day, the first Easter Day. According to Luke Chapter 24, two disciples of Jesus were on their way back to Emmaus where they lived - about 11 km northwest of Jerusalem.

But their walk had become a trudge.

The bottom had fallen out of their world. Jesus of Nazareth, in whom they had placed their hope for a new and better world, had been killed by the authorities. He had such promise. How come he didn't use his supernatural power to bring in God's Kingdom then and there?

That was a question in the minds of many people.

To read more, click HERE . . . .

Monday, April 13, 2009

Time to say . . .


A recent photograph of the altar in the Patmos House Chapel

To my family, parishioners, colleagues and friends,
wishing you a very happy Easter.
Yours in the love of Jesus,
our Lord and risen Saviour.
Easter glory fills the sky, Alleluia!
Christ now lives, no more to die, Alleluia!
Darkness has been put to flight, Alleluia!
By the living Lord of light, Alleluia!

See, the stone is rolled away, Alleluia!
From the tomb where once he lay, Alleluia!
He has risen as he said, Alleluia!
Glorious Firstborn from the dead, Alleluia!

Mary, Mother, greet your Son, Alleluia!
Radiant from his triumph won; Alleluia!
By his cross you shared his pain, Alleluia!
So for ever share his reign, Alleluia!

Magd'len, wipe away your tears, Alleluia!
He has come who calms your fears. Alleluia!
Hear the Master speak your name; Alleluia!
Turn to him with heart aflame! Alleluia!

Shepherd, seek the sheep that strayed, Alleluia!
Come to contrite Peter’s aid, Alleluia!
Strengthen him to be the rock, Alleluia!
Make him shepherd of your flock, Alleluia!

Seek not life within the tomb, Alleluia!
Christ stands in the upper room, Alleluia!
Risen glory he conceals, Alleluia!
Risen body he reveals, Alleluia!

Though we see his face no more, Alleluia!

He is with us as before, Alleluia!
Glory veiled, he is our priest, Alleluia!
His true flesh and blood our feast, Alleluia!

- Fr James Quinn (1919-)

Friday, April 10, 2009


(at Patmos House)

9.30 am: SUNG MASS & Renewal of Baptismal Promises
(at Shafston College)

(at Patmos House)

"If there were no such thing as the resurrection of the flesh then the truth would lie with gnosticism and every form of idealism down to Schopenhauer and Hegel, for whom the finite must literally perish if it is to become spiritual and infinite. But the resurrection of the flesh vindicates the poets in a definitive sense: the aesthetic scheme of things, which allows us to posses the infinite within the finitude of form (however it is seen, understood or grasped spiritually), is right."
Balthasar, Seeing the Form, p. 155

He Chose the Nails (video clip) click HERE

The Catholic Christian knows that the most vital moment in human history took place outside Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago when a mother stood weeping by a cross upon which her torn and broken Son offered his life to unite mankind with God.

This is the event which the Holy Eucharist makes present, whatever the rite, throughout the world and throughout the centuries.

A. Baumstark expressed this well when he wrote that every worshipper taking part in this liturgy

‘feels himself to be at the point which links those who before him, since the very earliest days of Christianity, have offered prayer and sacrifice with those who in time to come will be offering the same prayer and the same sacrifice, long after the last fragment of his mortal remains have crumbled into the dust.’
Cited in A Shorter History of the Western Liturgy, T. Klauser, p. 18

Friday, April 3, 2009

Fifth Week of Lent: Saturday

FIRST READING (Ezekiel 37:21-28)
Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all sides, and bring them to their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms.

They shall not defile themselves any more with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

"My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes. They shall dwell in the land where your fathers dwelt that I gave to my servant Jacob; they and their children and their children's children shall dwell there for ever; and David my servant shall be their prince for ever.

"I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.

"My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations will know that I the Lord sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary is in the midst of them for evermore."

GOSPEL (John 11:45-57)
Many of the Jews who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him; but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council, and said, "What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on thus, every one will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation."

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish." He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they took counsel how to put him to death.

Jesus therefore no longer went about openly among the Jews, but went from there to the country near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim; and there he stayed with the disciples.

Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, "What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?"

Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if any one knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

Do you allow fear or opposition to hold you back from doing God's will? Jesus set his face like flint toward Jerusalem, knowing full well what awaited him there (Luke 9:51; Isaiah 50:7). It was Jewish belief that when the high priest asked for God's counsel for the nation, God spoke through him. What dramatic irony that Caiaphas prophesied that Jesus must die for the nation. The prophet Ezekiel announced that God would establish one people, one land, one prince, and one sanctuary forever. Luke adds to Caiphas's prophecy that Jesus would gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. Jesus came to lay down his life for the many, but not in a foolish reckless manner so as to throw it away before his work was done. He retired until the time had come when nothing would stop his coming to Jerusalem to fulfil his Father's mission.

St. Augustine wrote: "The passion of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the hope of glory and a lesson in patience. ..He loved us so much that, sinless himself, he suffered for us sinners the punishment we deserved for our sins. How then can he fail to give us the reward we deserve for our righteousness, for he is the source of righteousness? How can he, whose promises are true, fail to reward the saints when he bore the punishment of sinners, though without sin himself? Brethren, let us then fearlessly acknowledge, and even openly proclaim, that Christ was crucified for us; let us confess it, not in fear but in joy, not in shame but in glory. "The way to glory and victory for us is through the cross of Jesus Christ. Are you ready to take up your cross and follow Christ in his way of victory?
(From Don Schwager's Web Site) http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/apr4.htm

O my God,
I give myself to thee,
with all my liberty,
all my intellect,
heart and will.
O Holy Spirit of God,
make me as thy disciple;
guide me, illuminate me,
sanctify me.
Bind my hands,
that they may do no evil;
cover my eyes
that they may see it no more;
sanctify my heart,
that evil may not dwell within me.
Be thou my God; be thou my guide.
Wherever thou shall lead me, I shall go;
whatsoever thou forbid of me, I shall renounce;
and whatsoever thou command of me,
in thy strength I shall do.
Lead me, then, unto the fullness of thy truth. Amen.

Cardinal Henry Manning (1808-1892)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Fifth Week of Lent: Friday

FIRST READING (Jeremiah 20:10-13)
I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! "Denounce him! Let us denounce him!" say all my familiar friends, watching for my fall. "Perhaps he will be deceived, then we can overcome him, and take our revenge on him."

But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten.

O Lord of hosts, who triest the righteous, who seest the heart and the mind, let me see thy vengeance upon them, for to thee have I committed my cause.

Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers.

GOSPEL (John 10:31-42)
At that time: The Jews took up stones again to stone Jesus. Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me?"

The Jews answered him, "It is not for a good work that we stone you but for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God."

Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, `I said, you are gods'? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and scripture cannot be broken), do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, `You are blaspheming,' because I said, `I am the Son of God'? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father."

Again they tried to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John at first baptized, and there he remained. And many came to him; and they said, "John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true."

And many believed in him there.

Today's refrain from Psalm 18 gives us the theme of the readings: "In my distress, I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice."

Outside our church on Sunday mornings is parked a car with vanity plates that read "YMELORD", i.e., "Why me, Lord?" This is a question that comes up in all our lives. Jeremiah suffered through rejection of his prophetic mission at the time of the exile. And the gospel relates how Jesus also is rejected by "the Jews" who are trying to stone him for blasphemy.

Jesus is threatened by those who witness his "works." And Jesus challenges his accusers to clarify over which "good work" are they charging him. Jesus' time had not yet come so he fled down the mountain to the Jordon. His passion and death would come soon but he wanted to celebrate the Passover first with his disciples. Next Friday is Good Friday in our present day liturgy so all this drama fits together.

We asked the question, "Why me, Lord?" There are many ways to respond. We can join with him in his passion and death as we realize in our lives we also have many moments of crisis when we plead for God's help. There are times of mourning when a family member dies; there are economic crises when we lose a job or even a home; there are spiritual crises of faith when we find it hard to believe in a good God who cares for us, etc.

Our scriptural texts this past week have dwelt on crises: Monday with Jesus saving the woman caught in adultery; Wednesday with Daniel refusing to worship the golden statue of Nebachadnezzar and then being thrown into the fiery furnace with his three campanions and yesterday's readings where the Jews protest that Jesus could give them eternal life.

We need to remember the comment made to Thomas in the Upper Room the week after Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus said, "Blessed are they who believe even though they do not see." This can also be translated to "Blessed are they who have trusted even though they do not understand!"

So "Why me , Lord?" If we truly trust the Lord we can respond "why not, Lord because blessed are we who do not understand even though we are bombarded on all sides with terrible pressures and anxieties.
(From Creighton University's Online Ministries Website)

O my God, I beseech thee, by thy loneliness,
not that thou shouldst spare me affliction,
but that thou not abandon me in it.
When I encounter affliction,
teach me to see thee in it
as my sole Comforter.
May affliction strengthen my faith,
fortify my hope,
and purify my love.
Grant me the grace to see thy hand
in my affliction,
and to desire no other comforter but thee. Amen.
St Bernadette of Lourdes (1844-1879)

Fifth Week of Lent: Thursday

FIRST READING (Genesis 17:3-9)
Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, "Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. And I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."

And God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.

GOSPEL (John 8:51-59)
Jesus said to the Jews, "Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death."

The Jews said to him, "Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, as did the prophets; and you say, `If any one keeps my word, he will never taste death.' Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you claim to be?"

Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is your God. But you have not known him; I know him. If I said, I do not know him, I should be a liar like you; but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad."

The Jews then said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?"
Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."

So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple. "

As he spoke thus, many believed in him.

Do you submit to Jesus' words as if your life depended on it? Jesus made a claim which only God can make - "if any one keeps my word, he will never see death." St. Augustine of Hippo, in his commentary on John's Gospel, explains this verse: "It means nothing less than he saw another death from he came to free us - the second death, eternal death, the death of hell, the death of the damned, which is shared with the devil and his angels! This is the real death; the other kind of death is only a passage."

When God established a relationship with Abraham, he offered him an "everlasting covenant" (Genesis 17:7). Jesus came to fulfill that covenant so that we could know the living God and be united with him both now and for all eternity. God made us to know him and he gives us the gift of faith and understanding so that we may grow in the knowledge of what he has accomplished for us through his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus challenged the people of Israel to accept his word as the very revelation of God himself. His claim challenged the very foundation of their belief and understanding of God. Jesus made a series of claims which are the very foundation of his life and mission. What are these claims? First, Jesus claims unique knowledge of God as the only begotten Son of the Father in heaven. Since he claims to be in direct personal communion with his Father in heaven, he knows everything about the Father. Jesus claims that the only way to full knowledge of the mind and heart of God is through himself. Jesus also claims unique obedience to God the Father. He thinks, lives and acts in the knowledge of his Father's word. To look at his life is to "see how God wishes me to live." In Jesus alone we see what God wants us to know and what he wants us to be.

When the Jewish authorities asked Jesus who do you claim to be? he answered, "before Abraham was, I am." Jesus claims to be timeless and there is only one in the universe who is timeless, namely God. Scripture tells us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus was not just a man who came, lived, died, and then rose again. He is the immortal timeless One, who always was and always will be. In Jesus we see the eternal God in visible flesh. He is God who became a man for our sake and our salvation. His death and resurrection make it possible for us to share in his immortality. Do you believe the words of Jesus and obey them with all your heart, mind, and strength?
(From Don Shwager's web site)

St JOHN CHRYSOSTOM (c.347-407) ON JOHN 8:58:
Do you see how He proved Himself to be greater than Abraham? For the man who rejoiced to see His day, and made this an object of earnest desire, plainly did so because it was a day that should be for a benefit, and belonging to one greater than himself. Because they had said, "The carpenter's son" Matthew 13:55, and imagined nothing more concerning Him, He leads them by degrees to an exalted notion of Him. Therefore when they heard the words, "You know not God," they were not grieved; but when they heard, "before Abraham was, I Am," as though the nobility of their descent were debased, they became furious, and would have stoned Him.

"He saw My day, and was glad." He shows, that not unwillingly He came to His Passion, since He praises him who was gladdened at the Cross. For this was the salvation of the world. But they cast stones at Him; so ready were they for murder, and they did this of their own accord, without enquiry.

But wherefore said He not, "Before Abraham was, I was," instead of "I Am"? As the Father uses this expression, "I Am," so also does Christ; for it signifies continuous Being, irrespective of all time. On which account the expression seemed to them to be blasphemous. Now if they could not bear the comparison with Abraham, although this was but a trifling one, had He continually made Himself equal to the Father, would they ever have ceased casting stones at Him?
(St John Chrysostom, from Homily 55 on the Gospel According to John)

Look, O Lord,
upon our sin-stained consciences,
and cleanse them with thy precious blood.
Look upon our divided hearts,
and heal them by thy redeeming grace.
Look upon our languid spirits;
kindle in them the fire of thy perfect love;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(William Booth 1829-1912)