Tag Archives: Pope Francis

Restoration and Refugees

The steps to the Cathedral in the city are made of slate from the village where I live. At the moment the Cathedral is under renovation. Francis is blowing a gale through the Vatican and all the restoration on the Cathedral will repair the damage done. The chair of this Bishop of Rome is made of something less brittle than slate. It’s a kind of leadership that many have been yearning for, a hark back to the founder of the firm, not an echo from the silence of stone in the empty chambers where pilgrims once filled the pews. Like so many of our institutions, the church is renovating and restoring, and that is not the answer to whatever question they think they are asking. Now is the time to stop conserving heritage listed spaces in our hearts and break open in true Eucharistic fashion the body and blood and spill it onto all the spaces empty of body and soul.   And heaven knows there are so many of those.

The tragedy of people displaced by war, persecution, natural disasters is alarming. In my country the borders of the land are almost as impenetrable as our hearts. Fear and compassion traded blows in the streets of Melbourne yesterday. (I did wonder if anyone from Francis’ team was there – I am sure there would have been a few.) As a young mum I campaigned in the 80s and then into the 90s on issues of refugees and racism. For my efforts, our house was attacked with bricks through the windows of our sleeping children’s home, graffiti on the outside walls of the house, tyres on our car damaged and public vilification and intimidation by a right wing terrorist group. Our phone was tapped and from time to time I am pretty sure I was followed. Acting in solidarity has a price. My efforts were very modest, writing, producing materials and building a community of activists to spread the word in their workplaces, churches, schools and families. I didn’t organise any big rallies and it was long before social media so no flash mob protests were visible. I was under the protection of the Council of Churches and I felt protected by their care for me and for my family. This is the work of communion.

The UN says we have reached 60M people displaced for the first time in history. When I was campaigning it was 15M – the last time it was even close to the number we have now was during the Second World War.

Disrupting traffic is not enough, thoughts and behaviours need to be disrupted. The slate on the Cathedral steps are baying for a new dawn of whole heartedness. My own efforts are almost invisible these days.  I am shaken not stirred by the deaths in Austria in the back of a van, the scenes of children on their parents shoulders at the borders of Greece, the broken bones floating in the seas of the Mediterranean and off our Australian coast …. And the list goes on …

Blessed are you who have a home

               For you shall be invited to open your doors

Blessed are you who have food

               For you shall add another seat to your table

Blessed are you who are safe

                For you shall share your haven

Blessed are you who are leaders

                For you shall serve

Blessed are you who know how to speak to power

               For you shall speak for the powerless

Blessed are you who are fearless

              For you shall give courage to others.

Spring Love

The heady scented blend of freesias, jasmine and native frangipani are inhaled and fill me with confidence that the season of spring is here. The buds on the Geraldton wax are synchronising with the roses and coming into fullness as a duet. It is however the grevilleas that support the bees and honey eaters to fill their hives and nests and bring the promise of new life, that ground me in this season of spring.

The vineyards that I see every day are beginning to green, just as the baby birds are feathering up.  It is no wonder that spring and love inspire poets, writers, composers, artists – spring and love were made for each other.

In the beautiful new collection of Australian Love Poems 2013 there is a haiku from one of Australia’s greatest living poets and lyricists, Paul Kelly writes:

Time is elastic

Together, days disappear

Apart, seconds crawl.

Distilled in new words, the essence of the longing of separation and the eternity of union is the duet of spring and love. I can’t really imagine one without the other – the blossom,  the expectation, the sanctity.

Keeping yourself in springtime and in love is knowing that the seasons all give way to one another in a virtuous cycle. It is one of the reasons I have loved living near vineyards, which I have fortunately been able it do most if my life. The seasons unfold and remind me of all the lessons of life – pruning, renewal, harvest, rest, new beginnings from old growth.

The attraction of spring can also mask the reason it is here – to herald a new era and to let the old season pass. It is seductive to want to be in springtime all the time … and it is not possible.  What is possible is to know that spring comes and love comes back to life even when it might have looked dead.

I am constantly falling in love, with new ideas, new stories, old stories, new people, people who have been with me for a long time and each time spring turns up I fall in love with spring too.  I sprout some new shoots, or birth a new part of my being, or breath in deeper to inhale the new fruits take  shape.

As I enjoy the spring, my God is getting bigger and there is more than enough room in the nest for everyone.

The seeds sown in the dark, are all finding their way to greet the light on the surface and are dancing now as new life in the sunshine and being soaked every now and again by the heavy seasonal showers.  I have even been kept awake by this full moon, insisting I remain vigilant to springtime and love.

The Canticle of the Sun by Francis of Assisi must have been written for this time and it is with great joy that I too can proclaim:  “so much in love with all that I survey” this spring.  His namesake in Rome is announcing spring; just as clearly as the magpie does; and like the maggie, is swooping down from the nest to remind us that spring is here and it is time to protect all that we love that is in the nest. Morality anxiety must give way to Big Love.

My favourite blessing to sing is the Long Time Sun Song and I offer it to all you who are reading this blog so that you too might have your spring enriched.

2013-09-16 15.51.58

First Day at the Office

I wonder how Pope Francis is spending his first day in his new office?

Will he have tax forms to complete, a National Police Check  to be submitted, authorisation for his bank to be filed?  I wonder if he will call home and check that all is well or get a text from a friend and a Facebook message from a younger niece or a tweet from his peeps in Argentina?

He won’t need a seniors card or a bus pass or a disability car park or show his union credentials to anyone. He won’t pop his lunch in the fridge or have to turn off the urn if it over flows, or keep an eye out for the courier. He won’t need to find someone to show him where the toilets are, or where the stationery cupboard is or to check that his payslip is correct.  He probably won’t need to learn how to access his email off-line while out of the office or need a new email address or learn another password to access the server.

In these days of 140 characters to communicate a clear message, I am truly impressed with the genius of this Argentinian who with just 7 characters has firmly, clearly and loaded with meaning, told the world, who he is and what he is all about: Francis.

What a statement and a powerful way to brand himself on his first day on the job. What fun it would be if we could all take a name when we take on a new job – what would yours be?  As he was leaving the Cardinals after a festive supper, and after thanking them,  he said “may God forgive you [for what you have done]”. I rather like this touch of connecting the collective to the individual and the underwriting of what has been a process of discernment and selection.  He is a man of science with a chemistry degree and also a MBA so he must know something about business as well. Anyone who survived the wicked years of the Pinochet years and with all that Jesuit training he obviously knows about governing and how to talk and think his way through problems too. I think Hildegard would be happy with the choice. She could share potions, politics and prayer with him and I bet she is sending some of her wisdom his way.

I am hoping, in Francis’s first few days in the his new job, that he will tap into the wise ones like Hildegard and Francis and remember that they are accessible to him as he gets to work.  I am hoping he will embrace the prophetic way and recognise himself as a shoot flooded in light.  As I too have new days in new offices I am embracing the image of the prophet and if I could choose a name to inspire me and to send a clear message it would be Hildegard.

“Who are the prophets? They are a royal people, who penetrate mystery and see with the spirit’s eyes.

In illuminating darkness they speak out.

They are living, penetrating clarity.

They are a blossom blooming only on the shoot that is rooted in the flood of light.” Hildegard

Pope Francis