Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?

We had a beautiful Mass here on the weekend for Passion Sunday. Palms were blessed, hosannas were sung and we all stood to listen to the Passion. I don't know about you, but no matter how many times I hear the story of Jesus' death it still leaves me with a host of emotions. 

What I can never get my head around is that two of the Gospel writers, Matthew and Mark, tell us that Jesus' last words were, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Why were these his last words? Surely he knew that his Father was with him? And if his faith faltered, what hope do the rest of us have when we face difficult times?

It's probably my least favourite line in all of the Bible, because I just don't get it. A pentecostal friend explained that it was because at that exact moment, Jesus took on all of the sins of the world and so God turned away. I don't know about that… surely that's when God would be most present?

What's your take on it? Why were Jesus' last words about God deserting him?

The Sunday Scrum – Canonisation Edition!

Vatican City, 31 March 2014 (VIS) – This morning a press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office to present the initiatives forming part of the preparations for the canonisations of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II, to be celebrated on 27 April. The speakers were Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar of His Holiness for the diocese of Rome, along with Msgr. Giulio Dellavite, secretary general for the Curia of Bergamo, Msgr. Walter Insero, head of the Office for Social Communications for the Vicariate of Rome, and Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office.

The initiatives will include a digital platform, the aim of which is to enable the faithful and pilgrims to have access to news and information regarding the ceremonies as well as a series of spiritual reflections on the life and teachings of both popes. Indeed, the official site www.2papisanti.org is an almost-completed portal which offers contacts, sections for press offices, information, videos and images as well as biographical documentation on John XXIII and John Paul II. It will be available in five languages: Italian, English, French, Spanish and Polish.

The application entitled “Santo Subito”, which may be downloaded free in both Android and IOS formats (in Italian, English, Spanish and Polish) and whose title draws on the famed saintliness of both Popes even during their lifetimes, will offer logistical information, as well as access to the main news on the canonisations, and will allow material relating to the various liturgical events to be downloaded.

Existing media include:

Official page of the Postulation with content in five languages:


Official Twitter page with content in five languages:


YouTube channel for the Postulation:


Portal: www.karol-wojtyla.org

This latter, developed in 2011 for the beatification of Karol Wojtyla, gives a detailed illustration of the stages in the canonical process leading to the recognition of the saintliness of John Paul II and is available in several languages: Italian, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and Romanian.

The parallel project #2popesaints, realised in collaboration with the students of communication sciences from the Roman university LUMSA involves a series of networks enabling young people to get to know the lives, teachings and testimony of faith of the two new saints. There will be a Facebook page entitled 2popesaints; on Twitter, the account @2popesaints; on Instagram, #2popesaints; and on YouTube, 2popesaints. Every day each one of the above will propose a theme relating to both popes in the media, starting from 16 April until the canonisation, and each event will be transmitted live on each network.

On Google+ there will be the possibility of following in a “hangout” the daily briefings during the week leading up to the canonisation. A QR code will also be created to allow rapid access to the site 2popesaints.org. The initiative “Rome connecting to the World”, a form of “twinning” between the faithful arriving in Rome and the young people of the city, will make it possible to get to know the most important locations in Rome along with the history of John XXIII and John Paul II, providing information on the Facebook page.

In the diocese of Rome, on 22 April in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Cardinal Agostino Vallini will preside at a meeting addressing young people, with the postulators for the causes of both saints: Msgr. Slavomir Oder (John Paul II) and Fr. Giovangiuseppe Califano (John XXIII). On 26 April, starting at 9 p.m., there will be a “White night of prayer” and the churches throughout the centre of Rome will remain open for prayer and confession in various languages.

Similarly, the diocese of Bergamo will pay homage to XIII with the initiative “Le Opere Segno”, a series of activities dedicated to charity, human development and solidarity which affect daily lives. They include an aid project for Haiti to guarantee three years' education in the John XXIII school; an invitation to priests to contribute a month's salary and all the alms collected by the parish communities on 27 April to a fund set up in aid of families afflicted by the economic crisis; and the commemoration, on 12 April, of the publication of the encyclical “Pacem in Terris”, to be attended by ambassadors representing the countries where Angelo Roncalli carried out his diplomatic mission as an apostolic nuncio (Bulgaria, Turkey, Greek and France), and which will be presented by Jacques Delors, former president of the European Commission

Left Behind Again??

I had to read the news item twice to make sure I wasn't going mad, but it's true: Nicolas Cage is starring in a new adaptation of the Left Behind books. There's already been one version made which was pretty forgettable, and quite why Mr Cage feels that he wants to remake it is unclear. To the best of my knowledge he isn't Christian, so I think it is safe to say he doesn't have an evangelistic motive behind it. 

This news reminded me of the books, and I am sure I wasn't the only BF'er back in the nineties reading them. The first few books start off as speculative fiction set as the Rapture occurs, and looks at the lives of those who have been, as the title makes clear, Left Behind. I really enjoyed the first book for what it was – pulp fiction – and slogged through a few more before finding them just getting too whacky to perservere with. The depiction of the Pope in the story is not positive and there is some thought that the books are anti-Catholic. I have to admit, that characterisation did jar for me, I felt it was unneccessary. There were some other characters in particular that I really liked, and genuninely engaged with their journeys. And of course I was interested to see how the story would end!!

I had long forgotten about the series, until I realised that our local public library remarkably had the whole series sitting on their shelves – all 16 books. I set myself the target of reading through them three or four years ago over a summer break, however I got as far as book 9 and just gave up – I couldn't stick with it. Just couldn't get interested enough or muster the enthusiasm to push through those last few books. 

This new movie for me has the appeal of a trainwreck about it – I just can't look away – and despite my better judgement I will be watching it. Definitely not shelling out $20 to go to the movies on opening night, but it will be ending up in my DVD player at some point.  

Anyone else here willing to admit their interest? Or am I well and truly alone on this one?




Holy Week eve

I don't know about you, but Holy Week is my favourite time in the Church's year. I love it! And right now I have that "night-before-Christmas" feeling as I think about it approaching next week.

The delights of Holy Week are endless…the glories of palm Sunday with the processions and the singing, coming home to plant a palm behind a holy picture, the beautiful Chrism Mass on Tuesday night that brings together all of the priests in the Diocese – their singing and fervour is something to behold, Mass on Holy Thursday night with the beautiful ceremony where the priest washes parishioners' feet, the solemnity and reverence of the Good Friday service and then all the drama of the Easter vigil… I can't wait!

My favourite part of Holy Week has to be Holy Thursday Mass. I love the Eucharist and attend faithfully on Sundays of course, but also on any other weekday when work permits. I feel like in remembering the Last Supper we are commemorating the foundation of the Eucharist and all it means for us. I love seeing parish priests humble themselves as Jesus did by washing the feet of others. I feel as though Holy Thursday sums up much of what we espouse as members of our great Church.

Holy Week is also the final culmination of all of our Lenten sacrifices. It's where we can give (or give up) a little extra because the Resurrection is near.

So… who's looking forward to Holy Week? And what's your favourite part?

The Sunday Scrum

We can't have full knowledge all at once. We must start by believing; then afterwards we may be led on to master the evidence for ourselves. 

St. Thomas Aquinas

I Trust I Can Rely On Your Vote

…electioneering season again. 

I don't know about you, but I get sick of the phoniness, the point scoring ,and the general pettiness that emerges during election seasons. I think we all look for authenticity in our leaders, and no more so do we look for it than during these times when they are putting themselves forward for re-election.

Look at Obama's inaugural campaign – he was fresh, little known, seemed to represent a compelling future full of hope…he was someone whose genuine character seemed to be the main reason that he was elected as the first African-American US president. 

On the local scene, who do you see that is genuine, charismatic or even just plain honest?

We are now under six months away from the next general election, and I genuinely cannot see any one party's politics or personalities compelling me to offer them my vote. Labour? Not sure what they actually stand for at the moment, and I'm not sure they know either. National? Hmmm…not getting too many educator's votes these days. Greens? No thanks. NZ First? Does anyone under 65 vote for them? Mana/Dotcom? No way. ACT? Dead and buried. Conservative Party? Again its that authenticity thing that I just don't feel from them. 

I know there is still a fair chunk of time to go before the election, but from a Catholic perspective I don't see anyone mirroring my values, beliefs and wishes for this country. It's unlikely that any party will, so any vote will be a trade off in some way.

What do you think?  Who's getting your vote?

I don’t have to like it!

I had an interesting converstaion with my parents on the weekend. We were discussing our Diocese's new pastoral plan, 'Who is My Neighbour?' and the impact it will have on parishes in the Hamilton area. For those of you who haven't seen or heard about the plan, it outlines how we will move from 23 parishes to 9 pastoral areas. Each pastoral area will be made up of a number of Catholic communities who will share three priests, one parish council, one parish office etc.

I guess, this plan had to happen. The reality is that we are running out of priests. The report publishes the ages of the priests in our diocese and, believe me, the numbers are not encouraging. The Bishop has talked about how he has tried recruiting priests from overseas with some success but there needs to be a shift in our expectations to deal realistically with the problem at hand, a problem that is only going to worsen as our priests age and retire.

The problem is, I don't want to be realistic. When I was sick in hospital a few years back I had visits from the hospital chaplain which was nice, but what was really special was when the priest came and annointed me. I've attended liturgies of the word before when our priest was away, but what I really crave is holy Mass. I know a deacon can perform a funeral, but when my family members die, I want a requiem Mass. When I need advice and guidance in spritual matters, sure I could go to a lay spiritual director, but I trust the guidance of my priest. Priests, by their very consecration are holy men, close to God… am I wrong to feel that the ministries of lay people are a kind of "second-best"?

At Hearts Aflame two years ago I was lucky to attend Fr Gerard Boyce's lectures and one phrase of his in particular stayed with me: "The Church has seven Sacraments – spend your life collecting them and then living your life in the reality they make you." When we have less priests, will it become harder to "collect" the Sacraments?

I know in coming years we will all have to step-up in our parishes, but I don't have to like it. Maybe I'll just continue to bury my head in the sand… it seems a lot easier than facing what's coming.