Since the 1980s Brother Doug Walsh has regularly been one of the driving forces sustaining the provision of hot soup and sandwiches to Melbourne’s homeless, as the book commemorating 40 years of such faithful service proclaims: “Every evening without fail”.
Earlier this year I had the good fortune of travelling to Timor Leste and visiting our four Brothers who are working in the Diocese of Baucau, some 3 hours’ drive east from the capital of Dili. In the midst of the Timorese people, three Aussies and one Brazilian are working alongside Australian Loreto Sisters, Lay people and local Religious, gently yet purposefully assisting with the rebuilding of the nation’s dignity and wellbeing, after centuries of foreign occupation and oppression.....
In 1997, Pope John Paul II instituted a day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life. This celebration is normally attached to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2nd. This Feast is also known as Candlemas Day; the day on which candles are blessed symbolising Christ who is the light of the world. So too, those in consecrated life are called to reflect light of Jesus Christ to all peoples.
The first time I visited the Sistine Chapel, I spent so much time straining my neck, gawking upwards at Michelangelo’s epic biblical masterpieces, that I completely missed the frescoes which adorned the side walls. So I resolved to return and I’m glad I did!
The story of the Marist Brothers is a story of passion and compassion. Marcellin Champagnat perceived us in the eyes of Jean-Baptiste Montagne, a dying youth who was leaving this world without knowing how much God loved him. From this was born the Marist Brothers.
What an array of images we encounter in the scriptures of these final days of Lent: a last meal together for Jesus and his disciples; the end of Jesus public ministry through much of which he has ‘scandalised’ his listeners with confronting stories of the ‘reign of God’; the taking of elements of bread and wine, staples for the ancient world - to become a remembrance of what He has done for us – making the ordinary, extraordinary; and ultimately, washing feet, the action of a slave!
As I write this Palm Sunday reflection I am visiting friends in Bagong Barrio (barrio: municipality) in Metro Manila, Philippines. I have been coming here for 28 years, since the Marist Brothers and other Australians set up an education fund to try and break the cycle of poverty in what many would regard as a very poor village. There are wonderful people everywhere around us, waiting to serve us and make a few pesos to assist with their family budget. Riding a tricycle in the Barrio is great way to get around the crowded streets amongst a sea of happy, smiling children. It is terrific to see how much has been accomplished in providing children and their families with an education and future.
I always relate the lines “unbind him let him go free” to the reconciliation prayer service in our Marist Year 12 retreat. There are many things that can keep us “bound” in our faith lives – fear, apathy, self-doubt, laziness. These are like “little deaths”.
Each week during Lent you are invited to join one of the Brothers as they reflect on God's word in Scripture. For the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Br Tony Leon offers a reflection on the Gospel story of Jesus and the Blind Man.
"And what can I get you to drink?" It was no empty question. The man asking the question of me was standing in front of a fully stocked bar, ready to create and pour whatever was my fancy. Moreover, I was a guest at a function, so the question was being asked with the expectation I'd respond freely, enjoying what was offered without cost (to me, anyway). And I did enjoy!
Religious life is a funny buisness. You never quite know what’s going to be thrown at you next! For the past five years, I have lived in Lismore and worked at Trinity Catholic College in Religious Education and Faith Formation. As the 2013 year began, I had a feeling that my time there was up. My observation of other’s experiences told me that after five years in one place, the chance of a ‘shift’ was highly likely. And sure enough, that was the case for me. Whilst I was settled and very happy in Lismore, the time felt right to move on. Before any discussions of where I may move took place, I guess I had some pre-conceived ideas. Essentially, I thought that I’d end up in another Marist school within Australia working in Faith Formation. This time, however, that was not the case!
This weekend we come to the first Sunday of Lent. The liturgy of the day picks up stories from the Old and New Testaments. We read part of the second creation story in the Book of Genesis and then Matthew’s account of the temptations of Jesus in the Gospel. Paul, in the second reading seems to tie these two themes together, distinguishing between the ‘transgression’ of Adam and Eve in responding to their temptations and the ‘righteous’ way Jesus handles the temptations he experiences. Jesus remains true to his call as Son of God.
On arriving at Eastwood, Sydney at the start of this year, I was greeted by the site of an unkempt and out-of-control hedge at the front of our new Marist House of Discernment. It was clear that the hedge had been neglected for several years, both in height and width. There was nothing attractive about its shape. So jumbled and every-which-way was its growth that it blocked the entire view of the house from the street. The property behind this messy wall of green could easily have belonged to some recluse who didn’t want to be disturbed. Not exactly the image of a place of welcome or of Marist hospitality! I realised that without some serious cutting and pruning, the hedge would have little aesthetical purpose to the property and would have to go.
One of the enjoyable experiences of the recent summer holidays was taking a road trip with five Brothers around the south-west region of Western Australia. Over the two weeks we discovered some amazing natural treasures, located in just one part of this incredibly vast and ancient country of ours.
A life-size image of St Marcellin Champagnat proved a major draw card for Marist fans who visited the Vocations and Youth Ministry stall at the recent Australian Catholic Youth Festival in Melbourne. Marist students, teachers and other pilgrims flocked to the stall to get a “selfie” with Marcellin who appeared alongside other notables such as Pope Francis and St Mary MacKillop.
A terrific night for the Vocations Team meeting with the next generation of Canberra Young Marists last night. The Champagnat Spirit is alive and well in Canberra! Thanks to Nathan Ahearne and his wonderful team.
In one of the first major events for the newly created Marist Brothers’ Province of Australia, Lismore-based Brother Justin Golding, fms, made his perpetual profession in the Chapel of his Alma Mater, St Gregory’s College at Campbelltown on 2nd March, 2013.