Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Round Trip

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, by Francesco Botticini, ca.1446-1498

There's been no post on the blog for 17 days on account of my being away. I was able to do a round trip visiting our people in Sydney, Christchurch (New Zealand) and Auckland (New Zealand).

The TAC Parish in Sydney is "St Mary the Virgin", and they meet in the chapel of the Lady Davidson Private Hospital, Bobbin Head Road, North Turramurra. The chapel is set in the beautiful bushland for which that part of Sydney is well-known.

The Parish priest of St Mary's is Father Warren Wade (pictured left), a man with long experience as a Bush Brother, and then in working with young people who had gone astray. Like many truly dedicated TAC priests of the "old school" he is using his retirement to continue his ministry. In fact, he has his own radio program, which is, in its own way, a vital outreach on the central coast.

It was great to celebrate Mass and preach for our brothers and sisters at St Mary's who were, of course, keeping their patronal festival, the Solemnity of the Assumption. We considered Mary as the "firstfruits of redeeming love." We thought of her not just as the Mother of all her Son's people, but also as our Sister in Christ whose experience of God's grace, openness to the Holy Spirit and response to the Word - at each point of her pilgrimage helps us to understand God's way with us as we, too, journey toward heaven's glory, supported by Mary's love and prayers.

This turned out to be something of an ecumenical occasion, as people from Roman Catholic and Protestant churches in the surrounding area came to support us. The Mass was followed by a parish lunch.

The next day, those at the core of parish life returned for a discussion of future directions and ways of facing up to the challenge of evangelism and outreach so as to draw new people to the Lord.

I then flew to Christchurch and was met by Ed Bakker who was ordained to the Diaconate in February this year. Deacon Ed and his wife Liz are just out of Christchurch in the small town of Oxford, not far from the foothills of the Southern Alps. There has been plenty of snow this year as you can see in this photo (which proves I was there!).

Readers will understand that although the "official" Anglican Church in New Zealand has had women priests for thirty years, a new situation has developed in the Diocese of Christchurch with the appointment of a woman bishop. A small number of Anglicans who see the "ordination" of women not just as a "difference of opinion on a second-order issue" but as a rupture of sacramental grace and inconsistent with the teaching of historic Anglican formularies which commit us to Catholic faith and practice, are considering their options. Under these circumstances it is fortuitous that we have a small but growing presence in that part of New Zealand.

Deacon Ed (pictured left) has just obtained the use of a church at Cust, halfway between Oxford and Rangiora, where he will conduct fortnightly services on Sunday afternoons, and - when he has been ordained to the priesthood - celebrate Mass. This church is part of the Oxford Union Parish with whom we have good ecumenical relations.

From Christchurch I flew to Auckland to visit our congregation who are under the patronage of St Hilda and St Sebastian. Their priest is Canon Ian Woodman, and they, too, have a new deacon, Andrew Wooding (pictured right). It is always good to catch up with Father Ian, a fine Catholic evangelist who reaches out in all sorts of ways to a wide range of people. We had an adult Confirmation during Mass on Sunday, as well as a meeting to think about growth, development and outreach in years to come. Below I and Fr Ian are holding up the new sign for the main road just near the church building.

May the Lord continue to pour out his blessings on our people in Sydney and New Zealand!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

THE PATMOS REVIEW Christmas 2008 Edition

Click HERE and send me your name & email address if you would like to receive the PATMOS REVIEW as a pdf email attachment.

(The Patmos Review, is a magazine of teaching, devotional articles and news from my own parish, the Patmos House Community.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008


What a great set of readings we had at Mass today! There was poor old Elijah being restored and healed on the inside, finding God, not in the earthquake, the wind or the fire . . . but in the "still, small voice" (1 Kings 19:9,11-13). The Gospel Reading (Matthew 14:22-33) began with Jesus, too, taking "time out" for prayer with his Father. It then continued with the well-known account of his walking on the water.

Among the points in the homily were these:

1. The disciples were in a situation conducive to fear. The danger was real. They were "beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them" (v.24) We thought about how that is so often the condition of our lives - as individuals, and also sometimes as a church community.

2. Their fear increased as Jesus appeared to them, walking on the sea. "In the fourth watch" meant between 3.00 a.m. and 6.00 a.m. The disciples must have been exhausted by then. They were startled by Jesus and thought he was "a ghost." Jesus said to them, "Take heart, it is I; have no fear" (v.27)

3. Faith stirred in the heart of Peter. "Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water." (v.28) The Gospels show Peter to have been impulsive by nature. He often got things wrong. But he loved Jesus. (When he did well, he REALLY did well; when he bombed out, he REALLY bombed out!) So, when Jesus replied, "Come", Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. We thought about how Peter didn't walk on the water for the sake of performing a feat of faith, but in order to get closer to Jesus. Our steps of faith are likewise important, not for their own sake, but because they, too, bring us closer to him. (We also remarked that although it might seem that Peter walked on the water, he really "walked on the Word" that Jesus spoke. The water just happened to be underneath! Peter trusted that Word; he responded to that Word.)

4. Peter was O.K. for as long as he kept his eyes fixed on Jesus. But, he did what we all do. He took his eyes off Jesus and "saw saw the wind." In other words his focus shifted from Jesus to the storm, the circumstances of his life that were beyond his control. He became afraid - maybe even questioning the reality of what he was doing - and began to sink. We all know what that feels like!

4. Jesus rescued Peter. He did say "O man of little faith,why did you doubt?" (v.31) From our vantage point we sometimes look down on Peter and concentrate on his failure. But his "little faith" was more than that of those who were still in the boat. Maybe they were "safe", but it was Peter who took the risk to get closer to Jesus. There is always an element of risk when we respond to the Word in a new way. Today's Gospel shows that if and when we fail, the Lord will rescue us. Failing and being rescued by Jesus is much better than not having responded to his Word in the first place!

5. When Jesus and Peter reached the boat together (in my imagination I see them now dancing for joy on the water rather than just walking!) the others in the boat "worshipped him, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God.'" (v.33). A moment of revelation for the onlookers. What that says to me is that our continued response to the Word, and our preparedness to take the "risks of faith" God puts before us, is an important part of our witness to others. If more us us responded to the Lord as Peter did, it is likely that those around us would - like the men in the boat - come to a fresh realization of who Jesus really is!

And hence also is that which was just now read, “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.” Matt. xiv. 28. For I cannot do this in myself, but in Thee. He acknowledged what he had of himself, and what of Him, by whose will he believed that he could do that, which no human weakness could do. Therefore, “if it be Thou, bid me;” because when thou biddest, it will be done. What I cannot do by taking it upon myself, Thou canst do by bidding me.

And the Lord said “Come.” And without any doubting, at the word of Him who bade him, at the presence of Him who sustained, at the presence of Him who guided him, without any delay, Peter leaped down into the water, and began to walk. He was able to do what the Lord was doing, not in himself, but in the Lord. “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.”(Eph. v.8)

What no one can do in Paul, no one in Peter, no one in any other of the Apostles, this can he do in the Lord. Therefore well said Paul by a wholesome despising of himself, and commending of Him; “Was Paul crucified for you, or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”1 Cor. i. 13. So then, ye are not in me, but together with me; not under me, but under Him.

Therefore Peter walked on the water by the bidding of the Lord, knowing that he could not have this power of himself. By faith he had strength to do what human weakness could not do. . .

So Peter also said, “Bid me come unto Thee on the water.” I who dare this am but a man, but it is no man whom I beseech. Let the God-man bid, that man may be able to do what man cannot do. “Come,” said He. And He went down, and began to walk on the water; and Peter was able, because the Rock had bidden him. Lo, what Peter was in the Lord; what was he in himself? “When he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried out, Lord, I perish, save me.”

When he looked for strength from the Lord, he had strength from the Lord; as a man he tottered, but he returned to the Lord. “If I said, my foot hath slipped” Ps.xciv. 18. (they are the words of a Psalm, the notes of a holy song; and if we acknowledge them they are our words too; yea, if we will, they are ours also). “If I said my foot hath slipped.” How slipped, except because it was mine own. And what follows? “Thy mercy, Lord, helped me.” Not mine own strength, but Thy mercy. For will God forsake him as he totters, whom He heard when calling upon Him? Where then is that, “Who hath called upon God, and hath been forsaken by Him?” Ecclus. ii. 10 (Sept). Where again is that, “Whosoever shall call on the Name of the Lord, shall be delivered.” Joel ii. 32. Immediately reaching forth the help of His right hand, He lifted him up as he was sinking, and rebuked his distrust; “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Once thou didst trust in Me, hast thou now doubted of Me?
The entire sermon is HERE.

“. . . If we let our gaze be captivated by the tendency of the moment, by the wind that is blowing around our ears, then really our faith can only sink out of sight . . . If we do that, then we have already lost our true anchor, which consists in depending on our relationship to the One who can overcome brute force, the brute force of death, brute force of history and its impossibilities. Faith means resisting the brute force that would otherwise pull us under. Faith means fellowship with him who has the other kind of power, one that draws us up, that holds us fast, that carries us safely over the elements of death.” In God and the World (p. 240-241)

“Faith is an orientation of our existence as a whole. It is a fundamental option that affects every domain of our existence. Nor can it be realized unless all the energies of our existence go into maintaining it. Faith is not a merely intellectual, or merely volitional, or merely emotional activity – it is all of these things together. It is an act of the whole self, of the whole person in his concentrated unity. The Bible describes faith in this sense as an act of the ‘heart’" (Rom 10:9). In Gospel, Catechesis, Catechism: Sidelights on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (p.29)

And now, O Father, mindful of the love
That bought us, once for all, on Calvary’s tree,
And having with us him that pleads above,
We here present, we here spread forth to thee,
That only offering perfect in thine eyes,
The one true, pure, immortal sacrifice.

William Bright (1824-1901)

Monday, August 4, 2008


We'd like EVERYONE to come to a

Saturday, 30 August 2008
commencing at 10:30 am
at Orleigh Park, WEST END, BRISBANE

Payment is by donation
but for catering purposes
RSVP to Gail or Siu Bit by 23 August is essential.
Gail: Tel: 3341 3605 Mob: 0419 784 249 Siu Bit: Tel: 3841 2352 or email: s.iball@uq.edu.au

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Come to Jesus

What an important set of readings we have for today's Mass. [Isaiah 55:1-3; Romans 8:35,37-39, Matthew 14:13-21] They assure us that the Lord loves us, that NOTHING can separate us from that love, and that he feeds us, sustains us, nourishes us and refreshes us . . . not JUST so that we are strong enough for the journey to heaven, but also that we might celebrate his abundant blessings here and now.

I came across this homily from Fr Phil Bloom that says it all:

"The story is told about four men adrift on the Atlantic Ocean near the equator. They were so thirsty that they were trying to squeeze moisture from the pieces of canvas on their small lifeboat. When rescuers finally arrived, the men lay prostrate from dehydration. After gradually reviving them, the rescuers informed the men of an incredible irony:

"All the while they were fighting for a few drops of moisture, they had actually been floating on potable water! You see, they were near the Amazon River - a river so huge that it pushes fresh water far out into the ocean.
( *'The quantity of water released by the Amazon to the Atlantic Ocean is enormous: up to 300,000 m³ per second in the rainy season. The Amazon is responsible for a fifth of the total volume of fresh water entering the oceans worldwide. Offshore of the mouth of the Amazon, potable water can be drawn from the ocean while still out of sight of the coastline.') The men could have dipped a bucket off the side of their boat and drawn out drinkable water.

"People today resemble the men in that lifeboat - thirsty, but unaware of a readily accessible source of fresh water. Pope Benedict spoke about this at World Youth Day. Addressing a crowd of a half million in Sydney, Australia,
he said: 'In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair. How many of our contemporaries have built broken and empty cisterns (cf. Jer 2:13) in a desperate search for meaning...?'

"Speaking to the young people, Pope Benedict identified the things we are thirsting for: love that endures, opportunity to share gifts, unity based on truth, communion that respects the freedom of the other person. You can sum this up by saying that we long for three things: goodness, beauty and truth. But, said the Holy Father, instead of goodness, beauty and truth what our society offers is choice, novelty and subjective experience. Those things are not bad in themselves, but to stop there is like squeezing water out of canvas when we are floating on an immensity of drinkable water.

"And what is that ocean of living water? The pope answers in a single word: Jesus. Only by Jesus and his Holy Spirit will we find the goodness, beauty and truth we desire. Only he can give love that endures, freedom that respects each person.

"In today's Gospel, Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to the disciples to distribute. The evangelist notes, "They all ate and were satisfied." Isaiah says, "All you who are thirsty, come to the water!" And in the Psalm you and I spoke these words of gratitude to God: 'You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.'

"Come to the water. God wants to give a gift that will satisfy us, a gift that will change us. By way of conclusion, I would like to quote Pope Benedict's invitation to young people: "God's love can only unleash its power when he is allowed to change us from within. We have to let it to break through the hard crust of our indifference...our blind conformity to the spirit of this age. Only then can we let it ignite our imagination and shape our deepest desires." Come to Jesus. Come to the water."


Having checked out this blog, Father David Marriott from the Anglican Catholic Church in Vancouver, Canada, was kind enough to send me his sermon of a couple of weeks ago on St Mary Magdalene. It is so good that I have posted it HERE for you to read. Thank you, Fr Marriott!