The Front Page

The Front Page: Everyday Ignatian Spirituality

Christopher Gleeson
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: ATF (Australia) Ltd.
Pages: 175
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    The Front Page
    Book Description:

    For most of the front pages that follow, my inspiration has been twofold - to elaborate some touching story from my everyday life experience, however banal, and use it as a stepping stone to illustrate how we might more easily find God and be found by God in all things. Central to Ignatian spirituality is the belief that our world is transparent, reflecting constantly a God who works in the depths of everything. St Ignatius Loyola saw the world as very user friendly. For him every part of it, from the stars in the heavens to the flowers of the field, elevated his mind and heart to God. In Ribadeneiras Life of Ignatius we learn how even the smallest things could make his spirit soar upwards to God, who even in the smallest things is Greatest. At the sight of a little plant, a leaf, a flower or a fruit, an insignificant worm or a tiny animal Ignatius could soar free above the heavens and reach through into things which lie beyond the senses. (Life I11 5381) Seeking and finding God in all things works on the belief that God is already present in our world and it is our task to uncover his presence and help others to do the same. It is very different to the old, perhaps arrogant, concept of ministry which talked about bringing God to the world.

    eISBN: 978-1-921511-51-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-7)
  3. First Word A Transparent World
    (pp. 8-9)

    The following pages were written over a five year period for the front page of the weekly newsletter of St Ignatius Parish. Hence the title of the book. When that wily Toowong Parish Priest, Father Peter Quin SJ, originally asked me to write a weekly front page for the newsletter, the intention was to help parishioners and others reflect on the gospel of the Sunday. Since that time increasing work commitments made it very difficult to write a weekly column and relevance to the Sunday readings became less central. Nonetheless, an Index has been compiled at the end of the...

  4. 1. A Blessing
    (pp. 11-12)

    One of the favourite blessings of our beloved parish priest is found in the beautiful first reading for Mary’s Feast Day as Mother Of God on New Year’s Day, taken from the Book of Numbers: ‘May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you His face and bring you peace.’

    It is worth remembering that the act of blessing another is not some ponderous gesture reserved to priests and officials. In the Jewish tradition parents have always blessed their children. Indeed, for...

  5. 2. A Finger Pointing to the Moon
    (pp. 13-16)

    In Joan Chittister’s wonderful book,Called to Question: A Spiritual Memoir,she relates the following story of some disciples who were distraught at the imminent death of their Master: ‘“If you leave us, Master,” they pleaded, “how will we know what to do?” And the Master replied, “I am nothing but a finger pointing at the moon. Perhaps when I am gone you will see the moon.” The meaning is clear: It is God that religion must be about, not itself. When religion makes itself God, it ceases to be religion.’¹

    Entirely without self-preoccupation, John the Baptist points beyond himself...

  6. 3. A Garage Sale
    (pp. 17-18)

    During Lent we need a process of regeneration. We are challenged to regenerate our hearts. As one Jesuit writer has put it, ‘Lent is less a matter of “furniture moving” or “apple polishing” than it is a call to “heart surgery”.’ Another Catholic writer has called Lent a time for interior stock-taking, what he terms ‘a garage sale of the heart’. We need to get rid of all that clutter in our hearts to make more room for God. Lent is a very cardiac season.

    That word ‘Lent’ comes from an old English word ‘lengthen’. In the northern hemisphere at...

  7. 4. A New St Ignatius
    (pp. 19-20)

    For the first two days of this past week I was travelling as part of my work for the Loyola Institute mission formation team. Our role is to help all our companions in Jesuit ministry understand the Ignatian ethos and spirituality, learn to appreciate and even fall in love with it. All of us, Jesuit and lay companions, need to be singing from the same Ignatian song sheet as it were.

    On Tuesday I was asked to give an induction day to a new school called St Ignatius’ College. Actually, it has been in existence for over a decade or...

  8. 5. Beyond Our Comfort Zones
    (pp. 23-24)

    When I saw that this Sunday’s gospel was the story of the rich young man, I thought of two pieces I have read and to which I return from time to time. The first comes from Peter Nicholson’s 2003 report ‘Beyond the Comfort Zone: A Consultation with Young Adults Involved in the Edmund Rice Network Throughout Australia’. He wrote:

    On a cold Sunday morning in a bush setting south of Perth I listened to a group of young adults talking with great honesty and intensity about their lives. They spoke about their dreams, their hopes and their search for how...

  9. 6. Close at Hand
    (pp. 25-28)

    The story is told of two naughty little boys in their first years of school who were a constant thorn in the side of their teachers who had tried everything to make them behave—time-outs, notes home, even some detention—but all to no avail. Finally, in desperation, the two little boys were sent to see the parish priest to see if he could straighten them out.

    The first boy went in and sat in a chair across the desk from the priest. The priest asked him, ‘Do you know where God is?’ The little boy just sat there. The...

  10. 7. Dangerous Questions
    (pp. 29-30)

    Recently I was leading a reflection day for some eminent Catholic educators. We were focusing on those three questions which the writer Joan Chittister OSB says must be addressed by all who wish to be spiritual leaders today: Where am I? Where am I going? What dangerous questions must I ask in order to get there?

    Not surprisingly, the third session on questioning the unquestionable was very interesting and prompted some splendid responses. One of the group expressed his dangerous question like this: ‘I often wonder, after thirty years in Catholic education, whether I have backed the wrong horse. When...

  11. 8. Fire
    (pp. 31-33)

    Visitors to the headquarters of the Society of Jesus in Rome were often amused to see that the statue of St Ignatius Loyola in the front portico—which bore the words of Luke 12:49, ‘I have come to bring fire on the earth’—was positioned right next to a commodious fire extinguisher. Surely this was great faith in the power of St Ignatius to produce the goods?

    Ignatius, whose name has undertones of fire ‘born of fire’, was certainly a fiery and passionate man. In his early days he was passionate about serving his King, Ferdinand of Spain, and furthering...

  12. 9. Just Passing Through
    (pp. 35-36)

    The season of Advent is our wake-up call. ‘Stay awake’ we hear in the gospel. A few years ago I can remember hearing a BBC interview with three school principals regarding their philosophy of education. The first two said the sorts of things we expect to read in those glossy school prospectuses and brochures. But when it came to the headmaster of Ampleforth, a Benedictine monk, he made the show-stopping comment: ‘In our school we prepare boys for death.’

    The season of Advent is a wonderful time for seeing our life in proper perspective. In the last century a tourist...

  13. 10. Lent’s about Balance
    (pp. 37-40)

    When I was a student of theology in the 1970s, there was a marvelous character living in the community. One of his favourite pastimes was juggling, and often after lunch in the afternoon, he would go out into the back garden and juggle three or four and sometimes more oranges for us students as his encouraging audience. He rarely dropped an orange—even in his late seventies. He told me his secret was to concentrate on all the oranges in the air. As soon as you focused on just one and forgot the others, the whole lot would come down....

  14. 11. Love the Driver
    (pp. 41-42)

    It has been a week of unaccustomed revelry in the presbytery this week. On Monday night, the vigil of the feast of St Ignatius, we resurrected an age-old custom of inviting to our table the priests from our deanery and some with whom we work closely in other fields of endeavour. We were delighted also that our archbishop and the local bishop were able to accept our invitation to be with us and enjoy a beautiful roast dinner cooked by a parishioner. The community’s elite culinary expert, and the community ‘director’ of Big Events were both duly impressed.

    On Tuesday...

  15. 12. Making Music
    (pp. 43-46)

    One of my favourite authors is the Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth, Jonathan Sacks. In one of his articles he relates the story of the great violinist, Itzhak Perlman, who suffered from polio as a child and lived most of his life in a wheelchair. On one occasion he was performing a violin concerto when, with an audible ping, one of the strings broke in the first movement. Everyone waited to see what he would do. With astonishing skill, he continued as if nothing had happened, playing through to the finale using only the remaining three strings. The applause, as...

  16. 13. Meeting Inigo
    (pp. 47-48)

    Over the years I have heard some Jesuits say that, when they die, they will be happy to meet Jesus and face their judgment but they are much more anxious about confronting Ignatius. Would Inigo be that strict? Would not someone as worldly and as sinful as Ignatius was before his conversion understand thoroughly our waywardness? Would not the compiler of theSpiritual Exercises, someone who has thereby convinced countless people of God’s unconditional personal love for them, completely embrace them with great affection? Absolutely.

    During the week I received a wonderful letter from one of my former staff members...

  17. 14. More
    (pp. 49-50)

    In recent weeks I have found myself traveling a good deal and working frequently in various airport lounges around the country. Whether I like it or not, I am often exposed to mobile phone conversations between people who seem unconcerned about sharing intimate details of their personal and professional lives with total strangers. One of the more endearing exchanges, however, was between a father and his young daughter which he generously shared with all of us on the air bridge boarding a plane. As it took place right next to my right ear, I could not miss the detail.


  18. 15. New Glasses
    (pp. 53-54)

    I can remember the former General of the Jesuits, the very charismatic Spaniard Pedro Arrupe, once apologising for his unavailability to attend a conference of European Jesuit students. In responding he wrote, in part, that he hoped they could learn to see the world through the eyes of Christ. What a challenge this was for them! What a challenge it is for all of us! Indeed, it is the challenge extended to us in Matthew’s Gospel today.

    If we were to read this gospel story wearing our industrial relations glasses, we would be appalled that those latecomers to the vineyard...

  19. 16. No Short Change
    (pp. 55-58)

    When I was a little boy my parish every year would prepare us for celebrating Christmas by building a huge crib on the sanctuary. Every Sunday I can remember kneeling at the altar rails with my parents and looking wondrously at the life-size figures of shepherds and animals gathered around Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. After Christmas the shepherds had moved on and those curious figures, the three Wise Men from the exotic East had replaced them bearing precious gifts. It was a time to fire the imagination, full of wonder and mystery, a story to which I was...

  20. 17. Not for Anything
    (pp. 59-60)

    Last Saturday I celebrated a wedding and read a piece entitled ‘Two Of Us’ from a national paper. The last paragraph caught my attention and moved me. Speaking about her marriage of fifty-three years with an eminent medical scientist, the writer had this to say: ‘I have always wanted to be with Dick. Of course, marriage is such a constant change every day; sometimes it’s boring, sometimes it’s exciting, sometimes it’s joyful, sometimes it’s awful. Who knows? I’ve never ever taken my wedding ring off, not for anything, not even for repairs.’

    When I read these words, I was reminded...

  21. 18. One to One
    (pp. 61-64)

    A wonderfully intimate gospel interaction this week, between Jesus and the deaf man, recalls for me the Ignatian tradition ofcura personalis, ‘care for the individual person’. It is an important hallmark of Ignatian spirituality leading us to Jesus as the incomparable Pastor with the personal touch.

    While the Jesuits were founded in 1540 as a missionary body, and only fell into the ministry of education to meet the demands of local influential community leaders, their exponential growth in school work soon earned them the title of ‘the schoolmasters of Europe’. Give such a rapid increase in their commitment to...

  22. 19. Passion
    (pp. 65-66)

    During the week I had the privilege of attending a board meeting of Catholic educators at a Christian Brothers school. Our Morning Prayer on the first day was led by the student leaders and some of their Year 12 colleagues. After the prayer had ended I was chatting to Les, one of the 52 Indigenous students in the school, and he told me that he had come to the school half way through Year 9. I asked him what he liked about the school, and the word that struck me in his response was ‘passion’. He loved his school with...

  23. 20. Playing with Fire
    (pp. 67-70)

    This week the local Jesuit community led by its fearless superior undertook the first of its bi-annual bonding exercises at a nearby beachside town. On several occasions now, some very generous benefactors of the parish have entrusted their beautiful beach home to us for two nights and nearly two days. Proceedings began unpromisingly with the magnificent seven arriving in four cars, from four different directions, having taken four separate routes in four vastly different time spans.

    Undeterred by this apparent lack of cohesion, our superior was all fired up to bounce the ball for the opening discussion on the splendid...

  24. 21. Teaming with Talent
    (pp. 71-72)

    It was Michael Jordan, the great basketball player, who said:

    There are plenty of teams in every sport that have great players and never win titles. Most of the time, those players aren’t willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the team. The funny thing is, in the end, their unwillingness to sacrifice only makes individual goals more difficult to achieve . . . I’d rather have five guys with less talent who are willing to come together as a team than five guys who consider themselves stars and aren’t willing to sacrifice. Talent wins games, but teamwork and...

  25. 22. The Friend Within
    (pp. 73-76)

    Last weekend I had the privilege of directing a retreat for an Ignatian spirituality team. The retreat was held at ‘Anglecrest’, a Jesuits getaway, strategically but not surprisingly situated on the highest hill at Anglesea, in 90 minutes drive south west of Melbourne, offering commanding views of the ocean and surrounding district. It even has a fine golf course which is home to hundreds of kangaroos that, over the years, have felt the full force of the writer’s and parish priest’s errant playmaking. Never discomforted, they have showed us only disregard and disdain.

    It is not difficult to find God...

  26. 23. The Gap
    (pp. 77-78)

    I don’t know about you, but I am suffering exhaustion from this relentless attack by Jesus on the Pharisees, or at least on the mentality displayed by some Pharisees. After all, the gospel is always addressed to me and you personally. We can’t get off the hook just because Jesus seems to be confronting the religious leaders of his time. There will always be an uncomfortable gap between what we practise and what we preach, and all of us are preachers. It was St Francis of Assisi who said: ‘Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.’...

  27. 24. The Privilege of Friendship
    (pp. 79-82)

    In his book,Forgotten Among the Lilies, Ronald Rolheiser OMI reflects on the sadness of men and women coming to him with the confession: ‘It is so much easier to find a lover than a friend.’¹ Irish singer, Mary O’Hara, makes the same point inCelebration of Love: ‘Friendship or the capacity for it is a gift. I often think that relationships break up, not for lack of love, but for lack of friendship. In a society that is obsessed with theinstant. . . friendships and personal loyalties which need time to mature . . . quickly become...

  28. 25. The Two Wolves
    (pp. 83-84)

    St Mark is clearly a man of few words, usually very gritty words, so it is no surprise that his gospel account of Jesus’ time in the desert is the most sparing of the synoptic writers. Nonetheless, it is clear that he places Jesus in the midst of a struggle between good and evil represented by the wild beasts. It is a struggle for which there is no result, as Jesus prepares to take on the challenge against the subtle and not-so-subtle force of evil time and again in his ministry.

    In the car recently I have been listening to...

  29. 26. ‘Too Easy’
    (pp. 85-88)

    A few weeks ago the local Jesuit community went away to Stradbroke Island for a couple of days of serious bonding. On the Thursday, our munificent community superior, took us all on a delightful picnic lunch.

    While we were waiting on the wharf and sizing up our fellow pilgrims, one of the ferry attendants came to collect our tickets. Jesuits, of course, are fired by the pure desire to know, so our merry ticket collector was the recipient of many questions. ‘How long will it take?’ ‘Is it rough out there?’ ‘Do we come back on the same ferry?’ ‘Can...

  30. 27. Unmentionables
    (pp. 89-90)

    I am a great believer in St Ignatius’ key spiritual maxim of finding God, even being found by God, in all things. On Wednesday morning this week I was returning to my car outside the local swimming pool when I noticed a sparkling blue four wheel drive parked alongside my humble grey car. It was emblazoned with the words: ‘Change the colour of your undies—Change your life today.’ What a wonderfully novel way to talk about conversion, I thought to myself! A good deal of our church language needs rehabilitation, and this was certainly a new approach!

    The word...

  31. 28. Upside Down
    (pp. 91-94)

    This year I have travelled to many parts of Australia—Albany Creek, Upper Coomera, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Emerald, Longreach, Barcaldine, Mackay, Biloela, Gympie, Hervey Bay, Merrimac, Adelaide, Launceston, Perth, Cairns, Bateman’s Bay, Toowong, Manly, Ormiston—very often speaking about the spirituality of Jesus as depicted in Albert Nolan’s latest book,Jesus Today. The author is a Dominican priest based in South Africa and his years in that troubled country have given his writings a challenging edge.Jesus Todayhas that same provocative clip as his earlier work,Jesus before Christianity, and is well worth the read.¹

    Albert Nolan is...

  32. 29. What a Week!
    (pp. 95-96)

    On Sunday morning we celebrated the arrival in our parish of 80 Ignatian pilgrims from India, Taiwan, the Philippines, America, Germany, and Hungary—just a small section of the 1200 Ignatian pilgrims coming to Sydney for World Youth Day 2008. For nearly three years now, our Magis office in Sydney has been planning activities and formation programs for these young Ignatian men and women around the world. Here in Toowong our Magis Team has organised a wonderful week of reflective experiences for these pilgrims in preparation for their World Youth Day program in Sydney next week.

    It has been a...

  33. 30. Who are You?
    (pp. 97-100)

    When George Bush Senior was President of the United States, he was doing his rounds of public relations in a nursing home one day. He came upon a wizened old man hobbling down the corridor. President Bush took the man by the hand and said, ‘Sir, do you know who I am?’ The old man replied, ‘No, but if you ask one of the nurses over there, she will tell you’.

    A classic story is told of a young mother out walking her baby when a friendly stranger stopped her, peered into the pram and exclaimed, ‘What a beautiful child!’...

  34. 31. A Window
    (pp. 101-102)

    Thank God for windows, those that are human and those we build. Glass windows provide a channel for savouring the beauty of God’s world surrounding us—a means by which we can look out and others can look in. Some windows even have very useful ledges, on which people can lean to obtain a better view of life, where birds can rest their weary legs and sing a song for us. Outside my office window at Banyo I have daily and enduring visits from a little butcher bird, which beholds me working at my computer and sings merrily to me...

  35. 32. Almost Friday
    (pp. 103-106)

    Last week I was waiting in the lunch queue to pay for my chicken caesar wrap and fruit drink. One can learn a good deal when waiting and hearing the conversations around you. How you wait is who you are. While the person in front of me was struggling to find the right money in her purse and bemoaning life’s many burdens, the girl at the cash register offered her some words of comfort and reassurance: ‘Don’t worry’ she said, ‘it’s almost Friday.’

    I have been thinking about those words ‘almost Friday’ and remarking how different they are from ‘Thank...

  36. 33. Alright
    (pp. 107-108)

    While driving home during the week, the babble of afternoon drive time radio was mercifully interrupted by the playing of Troy Cassar-Daley’s award-winning song: ‘Everything’s going to be Alright’. Now I am not generally a great fan of country and western singing, but these beautiful lyrics reminded me of those famous words of fourteenth century mystic, Julian of Norwich: ‘All will be well and all manner of things will be well.’

    Spending several hours of my time in the car these days exposes me to a good deal of prattle on the radio. Recently I heard someone—I think seriously...

  37. 34. Clinging
    (pp. 109-112)

    Last weekend I led a ‘Faith Formation Gathering’ in a nearby diocese. The coordinator of the meeting met me at the airport and drove me to a beautiful place, about half an hour’s drive into the mountains. While I gave various presentations on spirituality to the parents, a fine team from the Catholic Education Office conducted a concurrent program for the children. At the end of each session the families came together again to share their experiences of what had touched them in the process. It is an excellent program and the Diocese deserves to be congratulated on this faith...

  38. 35. God of All
    (pp. 113-114)

    We celebrate this week the Feast of the Epiphany which acknowledges that God’s love is universal and His hospitality is extended to all people. In thinking about the hospitality of God, I am reminded of the story of a young couple, recently married, who were setting off on their honeymoon and driving on a remote country road when they were hit by a violent electrical storm. They could not go any further along the road, and so decided to get out and wallow through the mud and slosh to an old farmhouse. They saw a light in the window, and...

  39. 36. Heaven Right Here
    (pp. 115-118)

    Can those of you old enough to remember the death of President John F Kennedy recall where you were and what you were doing when you first heard the news of his assassination? It was about November and it rocked the world. I recall very well that I was in my second year as a Jesuit novice, and as the Latin class beadle, I was going to meet our Jesuit teacher and bring him to class. I knocked on his door and, instead of the normally robust ‘come in, Brother Gleeson’, I heard a very soft and muffled invitation: ‘Come...

  40. 37. Panic Stations
    (pp. 119-120)

    I am not one to panic easily, but for a couple of hours a few years back, I was slowly reduced to a blithering mess. Another Australian Jesuit and I had been traveling on sabbatical leave around the spiritual sites in Ireland and the United Kingdom, a kind of spiritual ‘pub crawl’ if you like, and we had hired a car for this purpose. We were meeting up with friends in London at the end of the trip and I decided to drive the car into the City of London before dropping it off at Heathrow Airport.

    First mistake. Unable...

  41. 38. Plus
    (pp. 121-124)

    One of the few pluses about spending so much time in the clouds is that I can enjoy a good deal of reading. Recently I found in my office a book which was a gift from one of my St Ignatius College graduates from which I blew away the dust and opened its alluring cover. The author is Desmond Tutu, former Archbishop of Cape Town, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and one of the many great people in South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement. The book’s title isNo Future Without Forgivenessand is a graphic account of the Archbishop’s time as...

  42. 39. Springtime Workers
    (pp. 125-126)

    A well known biblical scholar once pointed out to a conference of educators that the word ‘authority’ comes from the Latin verbaugeremeaning to add, to grow, to nurture. Teachers, and we all belong to that category whether we are in the classroom or not, are those people who grow life in others.

    A few years back our esteemed parish priest invited an Irish Jesuit educator, as a key presenter in our Jesuit schools. One of the images he used to describe teachers was that of the springtime worker. Teachers are planters and growers. We need to ask ourselves:...

  43. 40. Not Seeing but Believing
    (pp. 127-130)

    Last Monday the parish priest and his regular golfing partner found time to play a rare game of golf at a local golf course. On a beautiful day the PP was in sparkling form, massaging the ball around the course with consummate ease. It was another of those demonstrations that pure silk will always overcome raw power. While his golfing partner was enduring his weekly lesson in humility, an important spiritual maxim was being carved on the carefully manicured grass of the golf course. ‘The process is more important than the score card.’ A Thai silk swing will ensure that...

  44. 41. The Light will Prevail
    (pp. 131-132)

    This week I received an email message from one of the Indian Jesuit Priests who accompanied the Ignatian pilgrims to World Youth Day in July. He stayed with us in the parish. In part he wrote:

    Dear friends across India and the world, The brutal Mumbai terrorist attacks sought to divide us . . . We’re all feeling the shock of the awful attacks in Mumbai. All our hearts go out to the victims and their families. I’m writing this because I feel we need to honor their memory.

    The attacks were aimed at our people, our prosperity and our...

  45. 42. The Pebble in the Shoe
    (pp. 133-136)

    There is an old Arab saying: ‘If you want to tell the truth, have one foot in the stirrup.’ Whenever we are challenged to think seriously about social justice issues in our society, and more importantly to do something constructive about them in response, I feel a tad awkward. While I am very aware of the many injustices in our world, I am conscious of my inability, sometimes my disinclination, to do anything about them. That’s the rub of social justice, the pebble in the shoe. That awkwardness, that sense of guilt and shame which we experience from time to...

  46. 43. Welcome the Teacher
    (pp. 137-138)

    In chapter 14 of John’s Gospel Jesus farewells his disciples and promises that ‘the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you’ (14:26). Beginning with our parents, teachers are the people who really shape and provide connection in our lives and none does this better than the Holy Spirit. We have to be attuned to his promptings, however. ‘The readiness is all’, to quote William Shakespeare.

    Last weekend during my travels I had time to read the magazine of a national newspaper....

  47. 44. Who Stole the Fun?
    (pp. 139-142)

    Last Sunday I had the pleasure of sharing lunch with a family. Indeed, they had just come from a Baptism celebrated by none other than the resident liturgical guru so they were full of the joy of the Spirit. One of the guests was a former student of mine, and it was a delight to catch up with him and hear his news since he left school. Amongst his many creative exploits working in a thriving consultancy is that he is currently writing a book entitledWho Stole the Fun?

    What a catchy title! After all, fun matters. Fun that...

  48. 45. Event
    (pp. 143-144)

    As I sped up the Bruce Highway on Monday morning this week to rendezvous with friends, I whisked past a long, sleek semi-trailer emblazoned with the words: ‘EVENT TOILET HIRE’. My imagination went into overdrive. What sort of event would require such a large number of porta-loos? Would Kenny, the ‘Dalai Lama of waste management’, as his Director described him in the film, be in attendance? Those who saw the film would recall that Kenny was the master of the one-liner, ‘eternally optimistic and always ready to put others before himself’, to quote his Director again. Armed with his plunger...

  49. 46. Truth not Spin
    (pp. 145-148)

    A couple of weeks ago the Dean of the Cathedral invited me to give a lunch time talk on Lent. He must have either been short of visiting speakers, or he had great confidence in me, because he asked me to speak the following week too. The riding instructions were brief and clear—begin promptly at 1.00 pm and finish punctually at 1.15 pm. At 12.58 I had a thriving congregation of one solitary gentleman who took his place in a dark corner at the rear of the chapel and went to sleep. Perhaps this was an omen? Then a...

  50. 47. The King of Hearts
    (pp. 149-150)

    About thirty years ago, a young Year 10 boy came home from school very upset, ran upstairs, and slammed his bedroom door. His mother followed him up there and sitting down on the bed beside him asked him what the matter was. He was really upset by now and said that he didn’t make the school basketball squad because he was too small.

    His mother was acutely aware that, whatever she said to the boy then could mean the difference between success and failure for him. After pausing and thinking briefly, she said: ‘Son, you can never be too small....

  51. 48. Owning not Blaming
    (pp. 151-154)

    Doing as much air travel as I do, I am exposed to many mobile phone conversations at airports and on planes—most of which I would prefer not to hear. Many people are quite oblivious to the fact that they are foisting their conversations on others—a sad reflection on the frenzied pace at which we are living and working these days. At an airport the other day I heard one man shout loudly into his phone: ‘ You are entirely to blame, you know.’

    One of the delights of living in Sydney for twelve years was to meet, work...

  52. 49. We Need both
    (pp. 155-156)

    Good stories bear, nay require, retelling. Once upon a time a poor traveler was making his way across eighteenth-century England. Exhausted and famished, he came to a roadside inn which had a sign over the door identifying it as ‘St George and the Dragon’. The traveler knocked on the door, and the innkeeper’s wife stuck her head out of the upper window.

    ‘Could you spare some food for a poor vagabond?’ the traveler asked.

    The hassled wife looked at his shabby and dirty clothes and shouted back: ‘No!’ and slammed the window. The vagabond persisted and knocked again. ‘What now?’...

  53. 50. Thank God It’s Monday!
    (pp. 157-160)

    Most people ‘Thank God for Fridays’, but not the clergy. After a weekend of sacramental overload, Monday is their day of rest, their Sabbath, when, if they are sensible and careful about their health and well-being, they celebrate the ‘sacrament of fun’. The Jews lavished much love on the Sabbath. It was personified as a lovely bride, a charming princess, a gracious queen who was to be received into the home and the synagogue with hymns of welcome. As one Rabbi has put it: ‘Not only did Israel keep the Sabbath; the Sabbath kept Israel.’

    Last Monday I found myself...

  54. 51. Dust
    (pp. 161-162)

    As I was munching on my breakfast cereal last Monday and endeavouring to focus on the course work ahead of me that day, the parish priest was peppering me with some theology. ‘Have you read O’Leary yet? Listen to this. What do you think of that?’ Big questions at breakfast, even for someone with good prayer and swimming time already behind him that morning. When the parish priest begins his day, if you have not noticed, there is no stopping the train.

    A little later, when I had a minute to digest my breakfast and the parish Priest had long...

  55. 52. Fly Spotting
    (pp. 163-166)

    It is the Wednesday of Holy Week and I have been leading a retreat for a group of De La Salle Brothers very close to a famous local beach. I was here at the invitation of a long time friend, who was a colleague school principal with me for many years in another life. Bill Firman will soon begin his last school term as a principal, when he will take another term of sabbatical leave, before heading to the Sudan to begin a completely new assignment.

    When I first heard the news I was incredulous. It seemed as unlikely as...

  56. 53. Try Some Wilderness
    (pp. 167-168)

    ‘What came ye out into the wilderness to see?’ These were the opening words of that great Jesuit polymath, William Kelly, when preaching at the turning of the soil for Xavier College, in Melbourne in 1872. Through the industry and ingenuity of Father Joseph Dalton, the Society had acquired 70 acres of Mornane’s paddock on the Hawthorn Hill for a school, just 4 miles from the GPO. They chose the site deliberately. Not only did it command magnificent views of Melbourne from one of the few vantage points in the region, but more importantly, it would give students the space...

  57. Index
    (pp. 169-172)
  58. Index of Names and Subject
    (pp. 173-174)
  59. Back Matter
    (pp. 175-176)