Tuesday, January 25, 2011

God of Australia

This song can be sung to the tune of Waltzing Matilda. It was composed by Jesuit Father Joseph Sobb in 1988.Since today is Australia Day, it is a good day to remember the people of the Down Under country

God of Australia, you have loved this ancient land,
God of all peoples and God of the earth.
In the dreaming we find you, Lord of life and holiness,
Spirit among us creating new birth:

Praise God Australia!, Praise God, Australia!
Desert and seacoast and mountains give praise!
In the city, the workplace, bush and farm and home be praise!
Blest be the God who gives life to us all!


God of Australia, you have known us all by name,
God in our present and God of our past.
You have called us to walk with
justice and integrity, vision of hope for the first and the last.


God of Australa, you have loved us all our days,
God of the inland and God of the sea.
Guide us all in your mercy, as we hold your gifts in trust,
building a nation united and free.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Photos: Sea Smoke

To see photos of Sea Smoke, please click on the link below:

Pics of Sea Smoke

Sea Steam

It is about zero degrees Fahrenheit this morning. It is mighty cold. The ocean temperatures are warmer than the air and it is produces a great amount of steam. It gives the appearance that the ocean is simmering with fire. It just keeps swirling as if it is hiding a smoldering fire.

The wind chill brings the air temperature to -20 degrees (F). The good news is that we will have a snow storm tomorrow and it generally warms up in order to snow. I'm staying inside today. No five mile walk because the road ist still covered with ice.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Brother Sun, Sister Moon

The moon last night and tonight is intriguing. It is so clear and seems magnified and bright. It is nearly full and last night's rise over the ocean caused us such wonder. During dinner, every retreatant lost focus on their food and admired the sun. It drew them in and slowed them down. It seemed odd that it was there at all because of the eight inches of rain that was forecast. As it ascended further into the night, a light cloud cover obscured its brightness, but its glow made it more mysterious.

We did receive eight inches of snow but the storm passed quickly and we had another clean night with that bright orb in the night sky once again. It seems like an old friend. It feels like it should be a summer moon, but the temperatures are well below freezing. It will stay that way for days.

Another 8-day retreat is coming to an end. When they are situated in the middle of a 30-day retreat, it seems to begin and end quickly. I feel like a good friend is leaving all too soon. The marking of time is still a big curiosity to me. Time slips so quickly even when it may pass slowly.

We have gained over 30 minutes of daylight since January began. In another two months, we'll be looking at crocuses and other early spring flowers, even though March and April are cruel to us in New England. In a little over a week, the groundhog will come up out of its den. If it sees its shadow, it will burrow back into its den and winter will be extended another six weeks. If it doesn't, he will stay above ground and spring will come early. We have this signs of hope.

I'm reminded of the passages from Ecclesiastes: There is a time for everything under the sun. What does it profit a person to toil all day long and not find happiness in his or her toil? I used to find that passage so desolating, but now it is one of the richest, most consoling books of the bible. We are to create our happiness in the midst of the cycles of the world. Eat, drink, enjoy the gifts of the world wisely and find a way to be happy. Happiness, like love, is a daily choice.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Xavier Catholic School in Hervey Bay, Queensland

Here is an article from the Australian Jesuit publication "Province Express." I was assigned to this school to do the retreat in daily life.

A school with an evangelising mission


It is 8:40am on a Thursday morning and there is silence throughout Xavier Catholic College in Hervey Bay, Queensland. Even the groundskeepers and office staff have stopped what they are doing. Over the school’s PA system, soft music is played while the community takes time out for its weekly examen.

Xavier Catholic College Principal Mr Kerry Swann says the examen is one of many efforts the school has made to give students and staff an understanding of what it is to be Ignatian.

‘I really believe that Ignatian Spirituality speaks better to teenagers, and staff who may not be all that churched’, he says. ‘They respond to the challenge of “Finding God in all things”, the commitment to social justice, and to understanding different cultures.’

Xavier Catholic College was first opened in 2003 with 90 students. The Prep to Year 12 school has now grown to 1150 students, and expects to reach 1350 in the next two years. It is located in Hervey Bay, a coastal city with a booming population of young families looking for a ‘seachange’.

When the school was first being planned, the local parish came up with three possible names. Xavier College was the one approved by the Brisbane Archdiocese.

‘Because this school would have an important evangelising role in the community it was decided that St Francis Xavier would be an appropriate patron’, says Kerry.

Believing strongly that a school with a strong historical story would be more successful at passing on values to students, Kerry decided to find out more about St Francis Xavier’s life. Martin Scroope, from the Loyola Institute, was brought in to work with Kerry and the school’s leadership team.

‘The whole school culture and ethos have been developed around the patron saint’, says Kerry. ‘We’ve really looked to build our culture around Ignatian Spirituality, St Francis Xavier, and of course the Jesuits.’

Along with the weekly examen, the school has sought to bring the Ignatian story to life by naming many of its buildings after historical Jesuit figures like Claver and Arrupe. Each year, the school celebrates Xavier Day on the birthday of their patron, with students undertaking community service activities such as cleaning up the environment or visiting retirement homes.

Another recent initiative has been a new award system called ‘Magis Moments’, recognising students who have gone the extra distance in living out the school’s ethos of ‘competence, conscience, compassion and service’.

‘It’s sending a message that we’re all called to go the extra bit, to do “the more”’, says Kerry.

In 2008, Xavier Catholic College was invited by the Australian Jesuit Province to become a Jesuit Partnered School. A Memorandum of Understanding between the Archdiocese of Brisbane, the Society of Jesus, and the College was signed in 2009.

Kerry says being part of the network of Ignatian schools across Australia has broadened the college community’s horizons.

‘The students feel part of a big story’, he says. ‘For a regional city like Hervey Bay, to be part of a bigger picture outside of our local area is something that really inspires students.’

Flooding in Toowong, Queensland, Australia

The Jesuit parish of St Ignatius in Toowong, Brisbane, is helping coordinate some of the volunteers that have provided an inspirational response to the devastating floods in Australia.

Fr Greg Jacobs SJ, the assistant priest in the parish, said the disaster was bringing out the best side of people.

‘There has been a great sense of people coming together. It’s been amazing, particularly for those of us who didn’t go through the 1974 floods’, he said.

Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria have been devastated by flooding over the last month, with many parts of the country still bracing themselves. Brisbane was the biggest urban centre hit by the floods, with many houses in riverside suburbs swamped with water.

The floodwaters are currently receding in Brisbane, leaving a massive clean-up task for the community. None of the parish’s buildings were affected by the waters, although the floods were just down the hill from Holy Spirit Church in Auchenflower.

The parish offered the church hall in Toowong as a place for people to take shelter. However, generous parishioners provided rooms and beds for any families in need. Much of the accommodation will be ongoing while the clean-up takes place.

‘We had a family who had lost everything, and who won’t be able to get back in their house for at least six months’, said Fr Jacobs. ‘Another family offered them a granny flat out the back of their home for the next six months. It wasn’t even a member of the parish, just a lady who lived down the road from one of the parishioners.’

Volunteers from the parish and primary school community have been organising themselves to clean the mud and damaged items from the affected houses.

Fr Jacobs says he has been moved by how the cycle of generosity moves from place to place.

‘We had a collection before the flood hit Brisbane for the people affected by floods in Emerald, just north of here’, he said. ‘Then when we got hit, North Sydney had a collection and they’ve been very generous to us. I think a number of people around Australia are finding that. When you’re being generous, you get the generosity coming back to you.’

Along with the funds from North Sydney, the Province Office has also given the parish money to support in the relief efforts. The school and parish will be looking at building an ongoing network of volunteers, to continue any clean-up work needed as others go back to work. They are also hoping to support those who don’t have a parish network to hook into.

‘We do have a number of volunteers still around, and we’ve got some funds available to us at the moment. So we’re looking at how we can be with people as they look to the next stage of the recovery process’, said Fr Jacobs.

Parish priest Fr Peter Quin said the next week will be an important one for people.

‘We’re going to be trying to help people with new carpets and whitegoods’, he said. ‘Once the river has gone down, and once people start really cleaning out their place, that’s when we’ll know a bit more about what’s needed.’

Funds not used directly in the parish will be given to St Vincent de Paul and other agencies that will be providing long-term support to affected families.

Fr Jacobs said the people of Brisbane appreciated all of the support that was flowing in from around the country.

“There are a lot of people who can go and clean up a backyard. But there is also a lot of value to prayer, and letting people know they are in our thoughts. That can be an equally valuable gift to some people.’

Flood donations

St Vincent de Paul: http://www.vinnies.org.au/qldfloodappeal

Queensland Premier’s Appeal: http://www.qld.gov.au/floods/donate.html

Monday, January 17, 2011


One year ago today, I set foot for the first time in Sydney, Australia. I was greeted by Adrian Lyons, the tertian director, and was given a tour of Sydney Harbour. I could not wait to venture into the city to explore more of this distinguished city. I was greeted with a Sunday lamb meal - one of my favorites and my soul was open to the new possibilities that were too unfold. I feel very blessed.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It is over for the Patriots

I am sad because the football season for the New England Patriots is over. They won over the hearts of many this year because it was a very young team that kept improving throughout the year. While the Jets played modestly well, the Patriots didn't execute according to plan. Anyways, while it is just a game, the game encompasses much more of human life.

And at the same time, it is just a game. I watch the men and women on the 30-day retreat and I listen to some of their stories and the game pales nothing in comparison to what they are going through. Thank God I believe in Jesus Christ and place my hope within him. He is who and what matters.

Yesterday we had a day of repose and I visited some new friends and gave them a brief day of prayer. I could tell they enjoyed it and hunger for Ignatian Spirituality. I find the old Scriptural quote to be true: the harvest is great and the laborers are few. Ask the Father to send more laborers into the vineyard.

I will watch the opening night of the final season of Big Love. I find it to be a fascinating show because it really challenges our cultural assumptions. It is about a minority culture that moves closer into mainstream culture with many vulnerabilities and demands. It is set in the context of an offshoot group to the Mormon religion that adheres to a guiding principle much different from my own. The characters embrace polygamy as a way of fulfilling the will of the Heavenly Father. The show emphasizes how we live in relationship with one another and it shows our human power and foibles.

While the polygamous relationship is the immediate context, the over-arching context is how the dominant majority struggles with a reality they do not embrace. The minority group holds things in silence and is basically in the closet about their relationship even though the relationship is a place where they find God present to them. The juxtaposition of these two groups present challenges for each side and they are forever changed by the human interaction and response. I find it compelling.

Tomorrow we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day who began the push for civil rights for African-Americans. It is everyone's holiday because our country continues to move towards greater civil rights to those minority groups that are pushed down and bullied by the larger dominant majority. Together we change our society to become one in which the arc of justice takes care of those who are disenfranchised or powerless. We have lots of work to do and we have to learn ways of combating the bullying structures that are imbedded deep within our social systems. In all of this, we need God to save us from ourselves.

Tomorrow will be a cold day with warmer days coming on Tuesday and later in the week. We could use some good snowmelt.

Anyways, it seems like each day, daylight stays at least a minute longer. The days seem bright. Light has won out over the darkness. Alleluia.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Vegemite Delight

I received a nice Christmas gift from my friend, Cathy, in Australia who visisted her family in December and January - a nice jar of Vegemite. Vegemite is a yeast extract product that was originally made from the residue left at the bottom of a cask of beer. It is a salty, brown spread that looks like Nutella, but with a radically different taste. I believe most people think they will be tasting the chocolatey hazelnut taste of Nutella when they first take a whiff of Vegemite and their olfactory senses don't jive with their visual images. Instead of something sweet, the taste is savory and salty. It is a great spread on morning toast. I like to make a sandwich of it with some alfalfa sprouts and a sharp cheddar cheese. Yum.

Anyways, I enjoyed Cathy's gift this morning. I had a little more time to enjoy breakfast because the 8-day retreat was ending, though the 30-day retreat continued.

I had anothe Down-Under treat when a priest from New Zealand at the end of his 8-day retreat at Gloucester left behind some taffy-like white mints made in New Zealand. It was another delight. I had it as an after tea delight. My tea was Vanilla Caramel. I'm glad these herbal teas are zero calories - basically hot flavored water.

It reminded me of the New Zealand Ice Cream called Hokey Pokey, which is vanilla peppered with crunchy bits of honeycomb. I also enjoyed Pavlova. The Kiwis and Ozzies fight over which nation actually made the meringue-like dessert first. Who cares? It is just good to eat.

You can see that retreat ministry makes a person hungry. For some reason we are voraciously eating at lunch and attempting some restraint at dinner. Active listening expends a great amount of energy and it needs to be replenished. I'm just regretful that because of the retreat and storms I have not been able to get to my 5 miles walks each day.

Gloucester did not get too much snow. We had about 5 inches while a mile inland the land received 14 inches. I enjoyed getting glimpses of the retreatants enjoying the snow. I'm sure it factored well into their retreats. It looked like they were having fun and having some interior laughter - a necessity for a good retreat.

I appreciate President Obama's words to the nation last night about the tragic shooting and killings in Arizona. I'm proud of his vision for our country.

It has almost been a year that I landed in Australia. In some ways, the place seems so alive to me today.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Just another Day

I am in the midst of directing the 30-day retreat and I'm pleased that so many people desire to walk with Christ on this journey as Ignatius of Loyola envisioned. I have great hope for the Society of Jesus that these young, dedicated men will be inflamed by the love of God as they prepare to minister in the church.

We are expecting 14 inches of snow tonight. I sense the forecasters are accurate because they seem to speak univocally. My hope it is it provides an overwhelming blanket of God's love for the retreatants. God showers down so many blessings upon them and sometimes it seems like it never stops. The retreatants deserve to feel God's providential mercy and generosity.

A friend of mine who lives in Australia visited the U.S. recently. I'm sorry that she and I were not able to catch up. She traveled halfway across the globe. She treated me well during my visit to Australia.

I am saddened by the shooting of the Democratic Representative Kathleen Giffords from Arizona. The rhetoric of political campaigns is too battle oriented. Even the word campaign is a military reference. The polarization in U.S. politics has gone too far. Dialogue cannot occur. Sharing of ideas cannot be done. Politicians want to win the soundbytes so they can get another vote and build up their side. You would think that Americans who think of themselves as enlightened would come to a more mature understanding of civic responsibility. Instead, our political process has been denigrated and thinly veiled hatreds are surfacing. We do need to care for our brothers and sisters better than we are doing. Instead, our processes are snuffing the life out of people. These highly charged violent political terms and images need to be dropped - now and forever.

I'm also saddened by the death of an Iraqi friend. He was a graduate of Baghdad College in Iraq. The Jesuits were there before the rise of the Ba'athist party in 1968 when schools were nationalized. Al Hikma University was Jesuit-run as well. Ramiz Hermiz was a brilliant mathematician. He graduated from Princeton University and settled in Chicago, Illinois. Remarkably, he spearheaded the reunions for the schools every 2 years. More than 5,000 people would attend these reunions 40 years after the school's closing. His spirit will be missed by his Iraqi friends and classmates. Rest in peace, Ramiz. Rest in peace, good friend.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Another Long Retreat

Last night 17 novices from New England, New York, Maryland, Detroit-Chicago, and the Wisconsin provinces arrived at Eastern Point to make the 30 long retreat called "The Spiritual Exercises." They are joined by 10 others who have decided to make their retreat this month. In addition, another 14 retreatants arrived today to make their 8-day retreat. We offer 3 8-day retreats in the midst of the longer 30-day retreat.

It doesn't seem all that long ago that I first made my 30-day retreat. I look at the Jesuits who have come from the six provinces and I recognize that I am staring at the future of the Church. It is quite an awesome feeling to realize I am part of something much larger and long lasting.

I feel privilege to delve inside the mind of Ignatius again through his annotations. I always understand something more fully when I hold it against my life experiences. How I would have liked to have met the man in person. I think we would have become good friends.

Anyways, I have to go pray over what to preach for the Baptism of the Lord on Sunday. Something will percolate.

The forecast is for snow on Friday. At first, the weather people were saying 12 inches, but now it is down to a dusting.

Photos: Boston's First Night

To see photos of New Year's Eve in Boston, please click on the link below:

Pics of Boston's 2011 First Night