Along the Track

19 October - Joseph 3

So what might Joseph have to say to us today?

The passion, the purpose of Jesus on earth, was to make the good news of God’s redeeming love present, to enable people to understand it, to embrace it and to live it. That was his vision, his dream. He called it the dream, the vision, the reign of God.

5 October - Joseph 2: With a Father's Heart

From the brief details we hear in the two gospels we know that Joseph cared for his wife and son and in their care Jesus grew in age, grace and wisdom (Lk 2:51-52). It wasn’t always easy.

14 September - Joseph I

Pope Francis has invited us to remember St Joseph throughout 2021, focusing on the theme of “With a Father’s Heart” So what has Joseph got to say to us today?

7 September - Open and Listening

I read a thought provoking article recently written by a person who described himself as an Irish Catholic by baptism, culture, and upbringing but one who is “lapsed but listening,” though still a “sceptic”. Others in that same article describe themselves as “believing without belonging”. There is another category “longing without belonging” mostly used about those who are searchers but who are not touched by present Church language. Some time ago, I listened to a group who described themselves as ‘Catholics in remission’. Others though are still practising, still believing, still finding a place in their church and still finding it to be a sign of hope.

24 August - In Disguise

Sr Ursula Hayes was an elderly Brigidine sister when I met her in Ararat many years ago. She had been there for a long time, teaching music at the end of her career. A wing of Marian College is named after her. She told me the story that, as a young woman from a wealthy Irish family, she was sent to finishing school in Ypres but war broke out and she was summoned home. During the journey the train stopped in the north of France and a troop train stopped next to it. The young soldiers gave those in her carriage hastily written notes to loved ones at home and begged them to post them.

10 August - Affirming Difference

In her book, Late Migrations Margaret Renkl recounts that in 2007, the fossil remains of a severely disabled prehistoric man was uncovered in what is now Vietnam.

27 July - I am Afraid

In Irish sign language for the deaf (perhaps in others too), the sign for fear is holding five or even ten fingers against your chest, close to your heart in a kind of rapid touching motion. The sign for courage includes that same fluttering of hands and then moving your hand into a fist. So, in sign language, courage literally emerges from fear.

13 July - A Better Idea

According to surveys, 62% of Australians are becoming less interested in news. Many have stopped watching or reading it. Around 44% of Australians think our news is too negative, even more so than readers and viewers in other countries.

15 June - Why am I so Angry

Along the Track is in its eighteenth year, believe it or not! Over those years I have received a variety of emails in response to particular editions but I always know I will receive many, many emails if I write about either forgiveness or anger, especially the latter. It seems to bring out very deeply held and strongly felt emotions. Whatever I write or suggest is always wrong! So why not avoid it? I could say that anger is all the rage, but I won’t. But there is a lot of anger around.

1 June - Mind How You Go

‘Take care of yourself and mind how you go’ is used often as a farewell in parts of Ireland. I heard it many times and took heart from it. It seemed a much better greeting than ‘see you later’ or ‘see you around’. So how do you take care of yourself, how do you ‘mind how you go?’

18 May - Babel

Ancient stories, often very familiar to us, can teach us very up to date and relevant lessons. The story of the building of the tower Babel in Genesis starts this way: "Now the whole world spoke the same language, using the same words." The people propose to build a mighty tower right up into the sky, a building that would make them famous and fill future generations with wonder and amazement.

4 May - Never-ending Journey

Nick Cave, Australian musician, singer-songwriter, author, screenwriter and composer wrote to some of his fans who questioned his belief in God:

Does God exist? I don’t have any evidence either way, but I am not sure that is the right question. For me, the question is what it means to believe. The thing is, against all my better judgment, I find it impossible not to believe, or at the very least not to be engaged in the inquiry of such a thing, which in a way is the same thing. My life is dominated by the notion of God, whether it is His presence or His absence. I am a believer – in both God’s presence and His absence. I am a believer in the inquiry itself, more so than the result of that inquiry.

20 April - Towel People

We are the towel people
Soothers, cleansers, healers
Of feet tired and sore and cut from the journey.

Christ’s sent people,
Wiping away the dirt and blood and spittle
Of the world’s hatred spewed onto the faces of the weak.

On our knees before others –
And in homage to them,
for Christ is there. (Anonymous)

30 March - Palm Sunday

The significance of Palm Sunday is often forgotten. It is all about fear. Jesus of Nazareth, this itinerant preacher from nowhere arrived at the gates of Jerusalem in a parody of imperial pomp. Instead of a stallion, he rode up on a borrowed donkey. In place of an army, he had a bunch of people throwing down their cloaks and palm branches as if he was someone important. And he was.

16 March - The Spring of Hope

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way……..

2 March - Like Children Part 2

In 1945 TS Eliot wrote: ‘the trouble of the modern age is not merely the inability to believe certain things about God which our forefathers believed, but the inability to feel towards God as they did.”

16 February - Like Children

It is a wonderful experience to live with small children. It is easy to see why Jesus said: " I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mtt18:3). Not become children but like them again. They are easily amazed, they see the forgotten, the overlooked as well as the spectacular in the very ordinary. They love a story, and their imagination is a well-honed skill.

2 February 2021 - Cathedral Thinking

The idea of Cathedral Thinking is not new. It goes back to medieval times, when architects, stonemasons and artisans laid plans and began constructing the huge places of worship, the massive community gathering spaces that many of us have visited. Architects and builders would start work on a cathedral knowing that they would not live to see the project’s completion.

26 January 2021 - Australia Day

For all the controversy around the date, there is much to celebrate about Australia. It is an ancient, vast and beautiful country with a history few can match.

15 December 2020 - And so...

In the words of John Lennon:

And so this is Christmas, And what have you done,

another year over, A new one just begun.

Another year over….. and what a year!

8 December 2020 - Which Stories

I read somewhere that our lives expand or contract, depending on the stories we tell ourselves, and we get to choose which world we wish to inhabit by becoming conscious of which stories we want to share, amplify and embody each and every day.

1 December 2020 - A Friend in Me

When they (the Magi) had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him. So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.” Mtt 2 13 -15

17 November 2020 - We Don't Learn Everything in a Classroom

Some time ago I purchased a compilation of short essays* on the recommendation of Fr Ronald Rolheiser who writes a weekly column. The author is a gifted and observant writer with a sharp eye for the smallest detail that often makes the event or the scene come alive in the reader’s imagination and emotions.

3 November 2020 - Following the Footsteps of Others

As the youngest in a large family I was often asked “Are you going to follow in your father’s footsteps?” Or my brothers? I didn’t. My father had me ear marked for life on the farm. That wasn’t my path.

20 October 2020 - The Bucket List

Is there something you would like to finish but for whatever reason, you didn’t quite get it done? Is there someone you would like to catch up with but you haven’t quite managed to do it? Is there something you want to do or say, a place you’d like to visit but it may not be an option? We just run out of time and energy or the opportunity doesn’t arise again.

6 October 2020 - A Lonely Time

“Illness can be a very lonely time,” Michael Leunig wrote in a poignant article describing his diagnosis and treatment for an aggressive form of melanoma. What he wrote revealed much about his own courage and sensitivity, but also the surprises and the disappointments about how others reacted and what that meant to him.

8 September 2020 - Kindness

I have experienced only two bushfires and that was too many. They both came so quickly and without warning but they lingered for days. The second one was worse, perhaps because by then I was old enough to help fight it. The men of the district gathered with all sorts of primitive equipment. There were no fire trucks on hand then. It was terrifying. The smoke and the roar of the flames didn’t quite manage to drown the sounds of the frightened stock that were running all over the place in panic. It was my job to muster them, to gather them together in the middle of this chaos and get them out the gate. It was so difficult to see or breathe at times and they certainly didn’t want to follow the directions of a fourteen year old.

25 August 2020 - Friendship

A mirror reflects a person's face, but what they are really like is shown by the kind of friends they choose. Proverbs 27:19

I lost a close friend in recent times. We first met almost sixty years ago. I admired him greatly, his sense of fun, his endless energy and tireless commitment. He was an extraordinary character, no pretensions, no false airs but his defining characteristic was his love of the underdog.

11 August 2020 - The Prism

My brother lived in a retirement home interstate for four or five years until his death a couple of years ago. He celebrated Mass there every Sunday for the residents and the many neighbours who chose this as their place of worship. On one Sunday when I happened to be visiting, we all listened to the readings and he began his homily with this question:

What did you hear today? What words from these readings have stayed with you?

28 July 2020 - The Music Makers

Long ago the world was a silent place. The Book of Genesis describes it as ‘formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep…’. There was no sound, no noise and there was no music, there were no songs. I wonder who was the first person to sing, the first person to make music. Music was one of our first inventions. Primitive flutes have been found among the relics of very, very ancient civilizations. Did the first singers listen and learn from the songs of the birds around them?

14 July 2020 - Social Distancing

Life is made up of the ordinary. Otherwise there wouldn’t be the extraordinary. The extraordinary, although usually very welcome, is not the stuff of life. Sometimes you read of people continually chasing the next adventure and you are left to wonder whether they miss out on the real joys of life in the meantime.

23 June 2020 - Spiders that Sail

Scientists in Britain have discovered that an ordinary little spider, one we have all seen hundreds of times, is actually a very adept sailor. Some species of spider form diving bells out of silk to enable them to breathe under water.

9 June 2020 - Winter

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater. Isaiah 55:10

26 May 2020 - This Quiet Time

And so we are being ‘let out’. Our weeks of isolation are gradually being eased and we can see that there may be an end to this stage of the dreadful virus. There is a sense of relief and growing optimism. But it has been a time of contrasts.

12 May 2020 - The Call of the Spirit

Our parish priest sometimes finishes Mass with the question: And what will the Spirit call you to do today? What will the Spirit ask of you? How will the Spirit inspire you today?

28 April 2020 - Staying at Home

And so we stay at home, if we are not required to go out. Kathleen O’Meara from Wisconsin described this time:

And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

14 April 2020 - The Challenge

Don’t we love a challenge? We watch them on all sorts of programs on TV and other media platforms. The weekly footy is usually laced with the language of challenge, the survival of the fittest. Reality TV even makes a cooking show a challenge and pretending to survive in a jungle. Video games are designed to challenge the player at many levels. We humans like to think of ourselves as dominant in just about every aspect of life.

24 March 2020 - What is Happening?

The shelves are empty – no tinned food, no cleaning fluids, no toilet paper, then no meat, no bread, just shelves rapidly being stripped bare. And some very angry people, abusing fellow customers and checkout staff. Not a pretty picture. What does that say about us? Just a few short weeks ago we were congratulating ourselves on such a generous, compassionate response to the victims of the bushfires. And now this.

For previous editions of Along the Track, please click here