Forget The Weeds

An evangelizing community is always concerned with fruit, because the Lord wants her to be fruitful. It cares for the grain and does not grow impatient at the weeds. The sower, when he sees weeds sprouting among the grain does not grumble or overreact. He or she finds a way to let the word take flesh in a particular situation and bear fruits of new life, however imperfect or incomplete these may appear.

Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, no. 24

Understanding of Tradition

[There is a theological and liturgical presupposition] clustered around the understanding of “tradition.” As the world moved into the twenty-first century, the Roman Curia limited liturgical tradition to the continuing use of ancient Latin texts. Yet liturgical tradition also consists of the dynamics by which texts, genres, and rites came into existence, their reception within their original context, and their reappropriation in new contexts. This also includes the recognition that most ancient orations and rites were originally in the vernacular, while noting that their transmission across history often occurred when Latin was no longer a vernacular and the majority of the worshipping community could neither understand the prayers nor participate in the ritual forms.

Gerard Moore, “Let Justice Find a Voice: Reflections on the Relationship between Worship and Justice”, Worship 90 (May 2016): 214-215.

The Retreat From Justice

The 2001 promulgation of the document on translation, Liturgiam authenticam (LA), accompanied by the rejection and abandonment of the 1998 English translation of the Roman Missal and the forced reconstitution of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) signalled a retreat from allowing the concerns of contemporary English-speaking worshippers to influence liturgical texts. This retreat happened on many levels, all of which discouraged engagement with the justice dimensions of worship.

The restrictions specified in LA (106-8) about the creation of new vernacular prayers to be used alongside the (mostly ancient) Roman orations had a range of impacts. Justice is a vernacular pursuit, involving local people either in local situations or in situations where they are oppressed by forces far from their control. The cry of the poor is vernacular, particular, and contemporary. The suppression and prohibition of new texts meant that the voice of the needy in prayer was silenced unless it reflected situations of injustice already named in prayers written in the second half of the first millennium, and in particular those composed in Rome in the then-vernacular Latin.

Gerard Moore, “Let Justice Find a Voice: Reflections on the Relationship between Worship and Justice”, Worship 90 (May 2016): 210.

Review: Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship

Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with JesusSeven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with Jesus by James Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this short, pithy and engaging book during a Retreat. It was a shame, in one sense, that the retreat wasn’t taking place during Holy Week or late Lent, as I would consider that the perfect time to engage with James Martin’s reflections on the Seven Last Words of Jesus.

The most engaging part of the reflections was that they weren’t what might be considered the expected saccharine-sweet, overly devotional and pietistic fare that one can at times encounter when dealing with this subject matter. These reflections cut to the bone, challenging me – and hopefully other readers – to engage in going beyond the surface level sentimentality of the Passion of Christ right to the stuff-of-contemporary-life that these Seven Last Words have to offer to the believer of the 21st century.

I found the style of Martin’s writing accessible and engaging, as I have with the other works of his that I have read. Their origin as spoken reflections may have significantly enhanced this quality; you can almost hear the voice of Martin speaking these words…even though I’ve never heard his voice!

Thoroughly recommended, and I’ll be putting this book on my list to be re-read closer to Holy Week next year.

From the blurb:

Based on his talks at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Good Friday 2015, the New York Times bestselling author and editor at large of America magazine offers a portrait of Jesus, using his last words on the cross to reveal how deeply he understood our predicaments, what it means to be fully human, and why we can turn to Christ completely, in mind, heart, and soul.

Each meditation is dedicated to one of the seven sayings:

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

“Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

“Woman, this is your son” . . . “This is your mother.”

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

“I thirst.”

“It is finished.”

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

With the warmth, wisdom, and grace that infuse his works, Father James Martin explains why Jesus’s crucifixion and death on the cross is an important teaching moment in the Gospels. Jesus’s final statements, words that are deeply cherished by his followers, exemplify the depth of his suffering but also provide a key to his empathy and why we can connect with him so deeply.

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Review: Changing Minds: The Go-To Guide to Mental Health for You, Family and Friends

Changing Minds: The go-to Guide to Mental Health for You, Family and FriendsChanging Minds: The go-to Guide to Mental Health for You, Family and Friends by Dr Mark Cross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A well-written and engaging book, based on the television documentary series by the same name, that explores a topic that unfortunately is still not spoken of nearly enough in Australia – and it should be!

The lead author, Dr Mark Cross, explores the major areas of mental illness that impact on Australians, mixing the imparting of information with the stories of those who have been afflicted by these diseases that still carry such stigma with them. The result of a compassionate and passionate presentation of the reality of mental illness drawn from Cross’ twenty-five years of medical practice as a psychiatrist across three continents.

For those wanting to know a little bit more about the various major disorder groups, this book is a godsend. For those who have been afflicted by one of these illnesses, or whose family member or loved one has been afflicted, this book makes it clear that a) you’re not alone, and b) there is help available out there. Cross’ compassionate presentation does a lot to destigmatize what is all too present in contemporary society, and which should not be considered in a way different to any other disease.

This book is almost compulsory reading for any Australian, but especially any Australian whose work, job or vocation has the potential to bring them into contact with people who live with one of the conditions outlined in this book.

From the blurb:

This compassionate and insightful guide will demystify mental health issues and help anyone concerned about themselves or loved ones.

Leading psychiatrist Dr Mark Cross, from the acclaimed ABC TV series ‘Changing Minds’, feels strongly that everyone should have easy access to information they can trust about common mental health problems, whether for themselves or to help family or friends. The result is this empowering guide which aims to cut through the myths and taboos about mental health and offer clear, practical help. It covers a wide range of common issues, from bipolar, anxiety, personality and eating disorders, to depression, post-traumatic stress and schizophrenia, and includes how to get help, what treatments are available and how to live successfully with a mental illness. Most importantly, it shows how carers and families can help a loved one through what can be a very challenging time. Since almost half of all Australians will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lifetime, this book is for everyone.

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Review: Daily Prayer in the Early Church: A Study of the Origin and Early Development of the Divine Office

Daily Prayer in the Early Church: A Study of the Origin and Early Development of the Divine OfficeDaily Prayer in the Early Church: A Study of the Origin and Early Development of the Divine Office by Paul Bradshaw
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A very thorough and in-depth study of the origin of the ‘Divine Office’ or ‘Liturgy of the Hours’ or the ‘Prayer of the Church’ – whatever name you wish to give to this aspect of the liturgical life of the Church. Drawing on a wide variety of sources, Paul Bradshaw takes the reader on a tour of the history of this liturgy that, while heavy going at times, provides a solid basis for those who wish to know more or for those who celebrate this liturgy on a regular basis.

Highly recommended, though may not be to everyone’s taste.

From the back cover:

In liturgical study, and especially in English liturgical study, the subject of the daily office has always been something of the poor relation,” writes the author in his preface. This volume aims to do something to fill that gap. It begins with a detailed examination of the Jewish background and of the practice of daily prayer in the first three centuries of the Church, and goes on to trace the evolution of the divine office in both its monastic and secular forms in East and West down to the time of St. Benedict. Intended as a replace for The Influence of the Synagogue upon the Divine Office by C.W. Dugmore (Alcuin Club Collection No. 45), it not only incorporates the results of recent research by continental scholars and others but also challenges traditional assumptions at a number of important points, offering a fresh interpretation of the evidence.

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