So, What’s Next?

For most of the last several months I have been enjoying the luxury of sabbatical leave, a time for refreshment and re-creation that followed the conclusion of my last ministry setting centred on the Diocesan cathedral church. I recognise that this time is indeed a luxury, something that not too many people have access to, and I am extremely grateful to those who facilitated the possibility.

The fruits of my sabbatical leave have already been many as I have had the opportunity to reflect on the nature of ministry, how I approach ministry, and how I might wish to live out my ministry going forward. I have read many a delightful book to help that process, and I have had the precious gift of time to simply sit and be. There have been thoughts and reflections that will flourish only when I have returned, and there have been choices made as to what and how my life as a priest might manifest itself in the future.

Yet all good things must come to an and. As I approach the conclusion of my sabbatical leave – at the time of writing this I have two weeks of leave left – the question of what next is surfacing, not only by myself but also by those who have an interest in the answer to that question.

And the answer is…

From Monday 18 July 2022, I will take up an appointment to the twinned parishes of Dungog and Gresford.

The two parishes are in the hinterlands north of Maitland, about an hour’s drive from Newcastle itself, and represent a completely different setting of ministry to anything I have had the opportunity to experience before, and I am very much looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that the parishes and I will face together over the coming years.

Papal Prayer Intention – July 2022

The prayer intention of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for July 2022 is:

We pray for the elderly, who represent the roots and memory of a people; may their experience and wisdom help young people to look towards the future with hope and responsibility.

In his 2020 Address to Participants in the International Congress “The Richness of Many Years of Life”, Pope Francis said:

The “richness of many years” is a richness of people, of each individual person who has many years of life, experience and history behind them. It is the precious treasure that takes form in the life journey of each man and woman, whatever their origin, provenance, and economic or social condition. Life is a gift, and when it is long it is a privilege, for each one and for others. Always, it is always so.

When we think of the elderly and talk about them, especially in the pastoral dimension, we must learn to alter the tenses of verbs a little. There is not only the past, as if, for the elderly, there were only a life behind them and a mouldy archive. No. The Lord can and wants to write with them also new pages, pages of holiness, of service, of prayer…. Today I wish to tell you that the elderly are also the present and the future of the Church. Yes, they are also the future of a Church that, together with the young, prophesies and dreams! This is why it is so important that those advanced in years and the young speak to each other, it is so important.

The prophecy of the elderly takes place when the light of the Gospel enters fully into their lives; when, like Simeon and Anne, they take Jesus in their arms and announce the revolution of tenderness, the Good News of the One who came into the world to bring the light of the Father. That is why I ask you not to spare yourselves in proclaiming the Gospel to grandparents and the elders. Go to them with a smile on your lips and the Gospel in your hands. Go out into the streets of your parishes and seek out the elderly who live alone. Old age is not an illness, it is a privilege! Loneliness can be an illness, but with charity, closeness and spiritual comfort we can heal it.

God has a large population of grandparents throughout the world. Nowadays, in secularized societies in many countries, parents do not have, for the most part, the Christian formation and living faith that the grandparents have which they can pass on to their grandchildren. They are the indispensable link in educating children and young people in the faith. We must get used to including them in our pastoral horizons and to considering them, in a non-episodic way, as one of the vital components of our communities. They are not only people whom we are called to safeguard. They can be the protagonists of a pastoral evangelizing ministry, privileged witnesses of God’s faithful love.

Changes to Book Review Availability

For a range of reasons, I will not go into, I have moved away from housing my book reviews on Goodreads.

As such, earlier reviews that have featured on my website may no longer be accessible using the links originally inserted on the website. Future book reviews will take a slightly different format from what has previously appeared.

I apologise for any inconvenience that is caused by this development.

Homilies: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

My homily for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C. This was preached during my sabbatical leave at a location outside my usual preaching locations. This particular occasion was a 5pm Saturday evening Mass.

The readings proclaimed were 1 Kings 19:16, 19-21; Galatians 5:1, 13-18; Luke 9:51-62. Today’s psalm is Psalm 15: “You are my inheritance, O Lord.”

“Jesus resolutely sets his face for Jerusalem, there to fulfill the mission entrusted to him by God the Father. There is an urgency revealed in today’s gospel. Nothing can stand in the way of Jesus moving towards Jerusalem, and nothing must stand in the way of us fulfilling the ongoing and urgent task of proclaiming the Good News of God’s Reign.”

Impoverishment By Craven Exchange

The best way to dominate and gain control over people is to spread despair and discouragement, even under the guise of defending certain values. Today, in many countries, hyperbole, extremism and polarisation have become political tools. Employing a strategy of ridicule, suspicion and relentless criticism, in a variety of ways one denies the right of others to exist or to have an opinion. Their share of the truth and their values are rejected and, as a result, the life of society is impoverished and subjected to the hubris of the powerful. Political life no longer has to do with healthy debates about long-term plans to improve people’s lives and to advance the common good, but only with slick marketing techniques primarily aimed at discrediting others. In this craven exchange of charges and counter-charges, debate degenerates into a permanent state of disagreement and confrontation.

Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti, Encyclical Letter on Fraternity and Social Friendship, n.15

Homilies: Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year C

My homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), Year C. This was preached during my sabbatical leave at a location outside my usual preaching locations. This particular occasion was a 5pm Sunday evening Mass.

The readings proclaimed were Genesis 14:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 9:11-17. Today’s psalm is Psalm 109: “You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek.”

“Faithful to the Lord’s command, the Church has gathered to celebrate Eucharist in memory of him. Each time Eucharist is celebrated we receive God’s very self, and are transformed more and more into that which we receive, the Body of Christ, and nourished for the mission of proclaiming the Lord’s Death and Resurrection.”

Review: If You Meet George Herbert on the Road, Kill Him

If you meet George Herbert on the road, kill himIf you meet George Herbert on the road, kill him by Justin Lewis-Anthony
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a book that I was meant to read at the time I read it, i.e. during my present sabbatical in between parish assignments. Recommended to me by a Dominican friar a little over twelve months ago, this book has languished on my ‘to read’ list in the time since. I knew I would get to it eventually, but that ‘eventually’ was a nebulous thing always subject to something else that needed reading first. Reading it now was both fortuitous and a profound blessing.

Drawing on his own experience as a priest in the Church of England, Justin Lewis-Anthony is at pains to explore what he believes to be the most significant challenge facing parish ministry in the present age. And the answer Lewis-Anthony produces centres on an overly romanticised and (all but) deified memory of George Herbert, a priest of the Church of England, who spent less than four years as a parish priest in a country setting in the early 17th century.

Because of his poetry and hymn writing, Herbert is well remembered within the Church of England – and rightly so for those reasons. His accounts of how to be a priest, however, while perfectly set out for his time and place, are not easily transferable to the modern context (or any context outsider his own) of parish ministry. Despite that unsuitability, Herbert is often held out as the example to be emulated by parish clergy in all times and places according to Lewis-Anthony.

For a Catholic comparison think of the Cure d’Ars…

Lewis-Anthony sets about describing how the Herbertian model of parish ministry is no longer applicable and attempts to ‘kill it off’ (hence the book’s title) to be replaced by something that is more relevant to contemporary times. In doing so, Lewis-Anthony believes that a model of parish ministry centres on the role of the clergy as Witness, Watchman, and Weaver (the author is fond of mnemonics starting with the same letter!), which must take into consideration the five R’s: Rule (as in Rule of Life), Role (what am I here for in this place), Responsibilities (to whom, for whom, with whom), Reckoning (how am I to manage this), and Reconciling (how to manage expectations and conflict). There is a lot of wisdom in Lewis-Anthony’s model, most of which I would argue comes because he has managed to ‘kill off’ Herbertianism (Lewis-Anthony labels his model as the KGH model, the ‘Kill George Herbert’ model).

As I’ve already mentioned, this book is written in the context of the Church of England. However, there is wisdom here that is equally applicable to other contexts, including my own Australian Catholic setting. I am glad I read this book while between parish assignments for no other reason than it requires me to contemplate how I might go about moving into my next assignment, i.e., will I simply repeat what I have done before in other settings which may or may not have been effective and appropriate, or will move forward open to a possibility of doing things differently in a new setting that I will discover only once I get there.

Time will be the ultimate judge on that score.

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