“Make a little space free for God”

Sounds like advice from the latest book in the spirituality section at the Central Catholic Bookshop, but in fact, it comes from the “Proslogion” of St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury at the turn of the 11th/12th Centuries, and featured in this morning’s Office of Readings for Friday in the 1st Week of Advent. I was listening to it on the Divine Office App this morning. Here it is in English:

Little man, rise up! Flee your preoccupations for a little while. Hide yourself for a time from your turbulent thoughts. Cast aside, now, your heavy responsibilities and put off your burdensome business. Make a little space free for God; and rest for a little time in him.

Enter the inner chamber of your mind; shut out all thoughts. Keep only thought of God, and thoughts that can aid you in seeking him. Close your door and seek him. Speak now, my whole heart! Speak now to God, saying, I seek your face; your face, Lord, will I seek.

In Latin, it is even more beautiful:

Eia nunc, homúncio, fuge páululum occupatiónes tuas, abscónde te módicum a tumultuósis cogitatiónibus tuis. Abice nunc onerósas curas, et postpóne laboriósas distensiónes tuas. Vaca aliquántulum Deo, et requiésce aliquántulum in eo.

Intra in cubículum mentis tuæ; exclúde ómnia præter Deum et quæ te iuvent ad quæréndum eum, et, clauso óstio, quære eum. Dic nunc, totum cor meum, dic nunc Deo: Quæro vultum tuum; vultum tuum, Dómine, requíro.

I wasn’t shut inside my room, but out on my daily 6km walk with Tom Tom the Moodle at the Retarding Basin at The Basin by the foot of the Dandenongs. The hills were shrouded in mist this morning, everything very still and quiet.


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Archbishop Fisher Dreams a Dream of a Catholic Future for Sydney

There will be some will count this his “I have a dream” speech. There will be others who will want to “tell him he’s dreaming”. 

Either way, Anthony Fisher’s first talk to the young people of Sydney at “Theology on Tap” since becoming an their Archbishop sets the bar high.

He starts with where he ended his Installation homily:

What will this Archdiocese look like when, God willing, I retire in 2035? My hope is for a Church in which the Gospel is preached with joy, the wisdom of our tradition mined with fidelity, the sacraments celebrated with dignity and welcome, and the seminaries, convents and youth groups teeming with new life; a Church in which our parishes, chaplaincies and educational institutions are true centres of the new evangelisation, our laity theologically literate and spiritually well-formed, our outreach to the needy effective and growing, and God glorified above all.

Listen to find out where he goes from there

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Full bore revisionism: The Tudors and the Borgias

The Tudors The Borgias










I love revisionist history, almost as much as I am addicted to new ways of exegising biblical texts. Don’t tell me what I already know, I plead; tell me something I don’t know.

Completely satisfying my appetite, I have just finished listening (thanks to the marvels of a modern local library system that offers free borrowable and downloadable audiobooks to my iphone) to two works by journalist-cum-author G. J. Meyer: “The Tudors: the complete story of England’s most notorius dynastery” and “The Borgias: the hidden history”. Both histories are firmly in the ‘revisionist’ camp, and a good thing too. The Tudors needed taking down a peg – or twenty; and if what he reveals about the Borgias is historically true, then an apology is owed to the Catholic Church (if not to the Borgias themselves) for years of defamation on the basis of no evidence at all.

What he reveals is that 15th Century Italy and 16th Century England would both have been horrible places to live for the likes of such as you and me. But the Borgias (Popes Calixtus and Alexander, and perhaps even their relative Ceasare) appear to have done what they could not only to survive, but to make the Italy of their time a more secure place in which to live, while the Tudors, in order to survive, made England a hell hole for anyone of sincere faith, Catholic or Protestant.

Both books firmly squash the ‘Whig’ histories of both dynasties, intended as they were (and at which they were quite successful) to bolster the Protestant myth of a corrupt church that needed to be purified by the strong hand of the Reformation. At one point in “The Tudors”, Meyer makes positive and admiring reference to Eamon Duffy’s work “Stripping of the Altars” which covers much the same period. While not in quite the same league of historical scholarship, one gets the impression that Meyer is fully on Duffy’s side of history. For Catholic apologists, it might be worth knowing this side of history, next time your detractor mentions the Borgias or Bloody Mary along with the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades as infamous black marks against the Catholic Church. A friend at work recently lamented that one of her friends had named their daughter “Lucrezia” – fear not, as it turns out she was a virtuous and dutiful (if not necessarily loving – but with the husbands they chose for her, how could she have been?) wife.

As for reviews, here is one on “The Borgias” with which I solidly agree, and here is one that I came across about “The Tudors” which demonstrates exactly why this particular (verging on) popular history has been long required. If you have an intelligent, even if (like me) amateur, interest in these periods of history, you will get much out of these two books.

Now, for his history of World War I – although I don’t think they have done an audio version of that yet.

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“Stop, you vandals! You home wreckers! You halfcrazed Visigoths!”

We’ve lived in our humble abode, the Casa Schutz-Beaton, for some 14 years. It is a small but pleasant three-bedroom home at the bottom of a long drive. Quiet and private, thanks especially to large shadey trees that overhang our driveway from the neighbour’s yard. 

But it isn’t our home. We belong to the middle-age renter class, thems what missed out on buying their own home before the hike in real estate prices 15 years ago. So, we are at the mercy of our landlords. 

Today a team of “homewreckers, vandals and visigoths” turned up in their hoodies with chain saws on behalf of the owners of our home and the neighbour’s home, and started hacking away. Here is the evidence.





More After

We wept.

I sympathise, Dogmatix



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New Auxiliary Bishops for Melbourne

(and about time too!)

I was thinking on Tuesday as I rode home from the Christian Motorcyclists Association National Run through Gippsland, that my one-time travelling colleague Fr Peter Slater is still the current Apostolic Administrator of the Sale Diocese – and has been since Bishop Prowse was appointed to Canberra-Goulburn more than a year ago. That led me to think that Melbourne has been short a couple of Auxiliary Bishops for quite some time also, and appointments were quite overdue.

But it seems that the Australian file is open on the desk of the Holy Father again, and Melbourne is gearing up for another double Episcopal Ordination on Wednesday 17th December.

Edwards and Curtin

Here is the Archbishop’s announcement from tonight:

With joy I advise you that Pope Francis, with his care for us, has appointed two Auxiliary Bishops for Melbourne.

  • Monsignor Terry Curtin, STD, EV, PP, – Greythorn (Titular Bishop of Cabarsussi)
  • Father Mark Edwards, OMI, PhD, – Rector, Iona College, Brisbane (Titular Bishop of Garba [in Numidia])

Monsignor Curtin is well known to us as an educator and pastor and for his great work as
Episcopal Vicar in the Eastern Region. With his abilities he will begin work in the Northern Region from Moonee Ponds from 14th January 2015.

Father Edwards grew up here in Glen Waverley parish and attended Mazenod College, where he later taught. With the Oblates, he has been teacher and formator. His abilities with people and families will be most welcome in Melbourne. He will work in the Eastern Region where he will reside.


The Episcopal Ordination will be in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on Wednesday, 17th December at 7.30 p.m. All, priest and people, are most welcome.

You are asked to announce the appointment in your parish, to invite all your people to pray for these two great priests, and to welcome them as bishops.

Yours sincerely in Christ.

+ Denis J. Hart


I am very glad of Mons. Curtin’s appointment. I am somewhat embarrassed that as I discussed the upcoming appointments at work today, I did not include him on my list of “suspects”. This is especially because I recently saw Mons. Curtin in action in his role as Episcopal Vicar for the Eastern Region at a parish confirmation, and actually thought to myself that they should just make this bloke an auxiliary bishop. Two things I really like about Bishop-Elect Curtin: He is a very good theologian and he is sincerely concerned for the pastoral care of priests.

As for Fr Edwards, I am afraid I have nothing to say at all. I don’t know him from Adam. But I am informed that he was recruited for Catholic Theological College by Fr Austin Cooper, which is something of a recommendation in itself! He too appears to be a theologian (locally trained), but also concerned for the pastoral formation of seminarians. We should note the pattern, however: here is yet another appointment to the Australian Episcopate from a religious order. This seems to be something of an emerging pattern. I can congratulate myself at least for saying to my colleagues this afternoon that it would be likely that a religious would be among the appointments – but that that would mean quite a wide open field. Nevertheless, one young priest I spoke to actually named Fr Edwards as a distinct possibility, so his fame must be substantial.

So, thank you, Pope Francis. I hope that both these men will live up to what you expect from bishops in the 21st Century Church: Faithful teachers, wise pastors, and committed evangelists.

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A Courageous Colleague called to Rest from his Labours

A message from Bishop Peter Elliott:

Dear friends

The news of the entry into eternal life today of Professor Nicholas Tonti Filippini has not come as a surprise.  With faith and fortitude, supported by his devoted wife Dr Mary Walsh and his loving family, he has battled with a series of grave illnesses over many years, giving all of his friends and colleagues an example of courage and determination to serve to the end of his mortal existence on earth.

As the Director of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, Melbourne, I recognise with deep gratitude his brilliant contributions to the fields of bioethics, his faithful service of the Church nationally and internationally, his ecumenical witness and, through tireless work in many government bodies, a great service to the Australian community.

Nicholas was a fearless advocate in public discourse for his believed that the Christian voice should be heard in public debate.

In recognition of his service to the Church, Pope Benedict XVI made him a Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory the Great in 2009.  He was a faithful member of the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta.

Nicholas has ensured that his legacy of teaching in our Institute will continue through the students he has taught and mentored as well as by publishing in these last years of his life a series of volumes on current issues in bioethics.

We mourn his passing, a loss to us all.  We celebrate his life on earth and we entrust him to the merciful love of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

In Dno.

+ Peter J Elliott

Most Rev. Peter  J. Elliott, MA Oxon, MA Melb, STD

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Jerome Murphy-O’Connor meets St Paul?

I sometime fantasize about writing a series of fiction novels with a theological slant. One idea I toy with now and then is to do a series of detective mystery novels, each with a different saint of the Catholic Church as the main investigator, written with their life and particular charism in mind. “St Augustine Investigates”, “St Therese of Liseux Investigates”, “St Padre Pio Investigates” etc. Could be fun.

Another idea I toy with now and then is the old idea that Peter Kreeft uses so well in such books as “Socrates meets Kant”: pitting together great minds from different ages. In that vein, I would really like to do a “Professor Jerome Murphy-O’Connor meets St Paul”. I would love to see the sparks fly!!

I will candidly admit that I have not read much JM-O’C. I know he is a great expert on the Pauline epistles, and especially on the Corinthian correspondence. I am doing an Anima Education course on 1 Corinthians at the moment (continuing for a second 6-week period this Monday night), and so I am reading his little work in the “The People’s Bible Commentary” series on 1 Corinthians. I chose this rather than his major commentary because I was looking for a text to recommend my class as an accessible popular work informed by deep scholarship. At first I thought I might be on the right track, but now I am having my doubts.

JM-O’C gives a whole new meaning to “critical” exegesis! Here is just one example I have just read:

A Potty Principle: In each instance Paul’s answer was essentially “Yes, but”, because circumstances alter cases. Now he formulates a general principle to cover all such situations: “each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him, and to which God has called him” (7:16, cf. 7:20). At this point one begins to have a certain sympathy with the Corinthians because, when taken literally, this is nonsense. …Obviously Paul has put his foot in it once again. (p.78)

There are instances where JM-O’C takes it upon himself to be critical of the apostle. Has anyone with greater familiarity with his work noticed this?

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R.I.P. Stumpy Rat (b. 17th Oct 2013; d. 29th Sept 2014)

Stumpy Rats have very short lives, even if they live a “long life” for a rat. The years of their life are two or, by reason of strength, three. Alas, our little Stumpy drew the short straw. She was always the runt of the 13-pup litter, and (to continue the “short straw” analogy) she lost half her tail to one of her siblings when she was only a couple of weeks old (hence her cognomen). Compared to her sister Stripe, and even more to her cousin Persephone (daughter of Smudge and affectionately known as “Pudge” due to her ever expanding girth) she was tiny. When it came to taking all of her sisters and brothers back to the pet shop in December last year, we decided to keep her as well as Stripe. Her chances of finding a good home were small due to her rear-end defect, and we didn’t want her ending up as snakefood. But she was never very affectionate, was forever hiding from the world, and, whenever we reached into the cage to pull out a rat, she would always be the one at the back of the rat pile. So I actually have very few pictures of her.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that she had developed a lump (first a stump, then a lump…). I took her to our family vet, and after a test he confirmed that it was fatty tissue, probably benign. But there are always risks with putting such little animals under anesthetic, so he suggested leaving it to see if it got any bigger. Well, it did, and so I took her back today to ask for it to be removed. I was talking to a fellow member of the Australian Rat Fanciers’ Society on Saturday at a fundraising sausage sizzle at Bunnings (yes, there were questions when people saw our sign as they were buying their sausages, but we made $700 to help with our Rat Rescue program). Apparently, even if benign, if left untreated, the lumps can grow very large and cause all sorts of problems for the little critters.  So I decided today to act, and took Stumpy down to our vet this morning on the way to work.

Stumpy's lump

Just before mass this afternoon (Feast of the St Michael etc – cantoring in the Cathedral), I received a text from the vet to say that all went well, and that Stumpy was just coming out of her anesthetic. He added that he had in fact found a second lump growing in her groin, and had taken that out too. Apparently neither tumor was a benign as he first thought, and were more difficult to remove than he expected. I offered prayers of thanksgiving, and at lunch afterwards told my colleagues that my little friend had pulled through.

Then the vet called me about an hour later to say that Stump had relapsed into unconsciousness and died…

One part of me is actually glad. I was concerned that if another tumor was already growing in such a short period, others might yet grow, and before she had recovered from this operation she would need another. I was also (rather shamefully) glad that it was Stumpy – the unfriendly one – and not Persephone, or Stripe, or Mummy Smudge or Aunty Dot.

I left work a little early to get back to the vet’s to pick up Stumpy’s body. They had nicely wrapped her up in a cotton cloth, and kindly waived any charge at all for the surgery. I brought her home and buried her in the garden, just a couple of metres from where she was born.

All in all, I guess she had a decent life for a rat. And although five pet rats have, at times, seemed like quite a lot, and although she was usually hiding in some corner or other, the cage is just that little bit emptier tonight, and the rat pile just that little bit smaller.

Rest in peace, Stumpy.

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Congratulations, Archbishop Anthony Fisher

This was one boot that was a long time in dropping, but the news has finally broken that Sydney has a new Archbishop. 

My family, Cathy, Mad and Mia, join me in wishing Archbishop-elect Anthony Fisher OP every blessing and grace from God for his new appointment. 

There will be many rejoicing in Sydney and around Australia tonight at this news, but I feel deeply for the people of the Parramatta Diocese who will lose a very much beloved bishop. Bishop Fisher has been so close to his people there, and has embraced the diversity and vibrant youth of that diocese. Especially, in communion with the people of the diocese, he has introduced the new pastoral plan that will see the Parramatta Diocese take up the call of Christ and the mission of the Gospel into the future. There were still many irons in the fire and plans for the future to work out, but now they will be for someone else to take up. As St Paul wrote, “I sowed, Apollos watered, but God gives the growth”.

And now to Sydney. As he is just 54, his care of the diocese of Sydney is likely to cover the next two decades. Sydney is a smaller diocese and (although Parramatta and Sydney are equally Australia’s European oldest settlements) technically the oldest diocese in Australia, which gives it a certain seniority among the Australian dioceses. It has also traditionally been a cardinalatial see – although given Pope Francis’ new paradigms, there is no reason to expect that Arcbishop Fisher will receive a red hat very soon. 

As great as the honour that now befalls this humble Dominican friar is, I pray that he will in fact be given the grace and strength he needs for what is going to be a Herculean task. One would have to be mad to actively seek high office in the Church these days, and I don’t believe Anthony has ever sought it. Right now, he may be recalling an earlier Bishop Fisher from some five centuries back, and indeed asking for his intercession. 

Many years ago, when I first suggested to my dear friend and father in the faith, John Fleming, that I wished to become a Catholic, he recommended to me that I should make contact with a Fr Anthony Fisher at the Dominican Priory in Melbourne. Fr Anthony became my catechist, and 3 years later received me into the Church by confirmation and gave me my first holy Communion. A couple of weeks after confirming me, Fr Anthony was made auxiliary bishop of Sydney. I remain ever thankful to him for his support and friendship over the years.

Thank you, Pope Francis, for this appointment. Holy Spirit, send your fire and strength on Anthony for his new mission. St Dominic, pray for your son. St John Fisher, pray for your fellow bishop.

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Interesting times all over again

On the Twitterverse this morning, I came across this article in the National Catholic Register: No Scandal Here: The 20 Couples Married by Pope Francis Were Legit. Basically, they say exactly what I said in the previous post and com-thread. I was somewhat amused that they used a headline reminiscent of Faz’s “Nothing to see – Move along” line.

In the mean-time, Cardinal Pell has poured cold water on the idea that there could be any change in Catholic teaching or discipline in regard to admitting civilly remarried persons to the sacrament while their legitimate spouse is living. His words come in a new book that is about to be published by Ignatius Press, upping the ante in the quarrel between cardinals over the matter.

And Rorate Coeli reports that a French newspaper reports that a “source close to the Pope” thinks that the Pope “would be” irritated by the publication of such a volume. Those getting in a tither over rumours that Cardinal Burke may have a change of portfolio in the Curia are adding this as extra fuel to their current fire. Fr Z says “Stay calm, keep the faith and keep on praying”.

And over at Crux, John L. Allen is saying the good money is on some improvement of process at the tribunal level in dioceses around the world. (BTW, can I say how much I am enjoying the coverage and journalism on Cruxnow.com? It’s what I would have hoped for had they ever made John L. Allen the editor of National Catholic Reporter…)

Also at Crux is this very honest and to-the-point article by ex-Legionary priest who is now married to the mother of his disabled child conceived while he was still a priest under vows. I like that he makes a distinction between the situation of a priest dispensed from his vows and the case of someone in a second marriage. The priestly vow of celibacy can be dispensed if a priest ceases to exercise his priesthood; it is not his vow of celibacy that constitutes his priesthood. On the other hand marriage vows actually constitute marriage, and cannot be dispensed. The two cases are not analogous. He writes:

Moreover, the central thrust of the synod won’t be how to make it easier to get out of a bad marriage. The Church will want to send a message to young people that she still believes in marriage and that lifetime commitment — with God’s help — is still possible.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Dolan has defended his recent actions in regard to the New York St Patrick’s Day parade. Can’t say I disagree with his defense. As Fr Duffy says, “His post exudes charity”. It is to be noted that Cardinal Dolan is one of the those cardinals who, like Cardinal Pell and the other authors of “The Gospel of the Family”, believes that the Church is not able to change her interpretation of scripture and apostolic tradition on the matter of divorce and remarriage. The word “hardliner” doesn’t really apply.

So many interesting things going on at the moment. One is reminded of the old curse “May you live in interesting times”… One suspects things will only get more interesting over the next month or two as the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops meets and then over the next twelve months before the Ordinary Synod meets in October 2015. Many of us didn’t live in or have experience of the “interesting times” in the 1960’s and 1970’s before things settled down for a bit under Popes Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI, but I expect that we are just getting a taste for how it must have been back under the papacy of (soon to be) Blessed Pope Paul VI. It is by such toing and froing that the Holy Spirit moves the Church onward in history.

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