Lenten Pilgrimage to the Holy Door at St Brigid’s Fitzroy North

Yes, it’s on again, but this time with a shorter route and a different destination.

On Saturday 27 February 2016, I will be leading a Lenten Pilgrimage to the Holy Door from St Philip’s Catholic Church, 60 Junction Rd, Blackburn North (leaving at 10:00am after the 9:00am Extraordinary Form Mass) and walking to St Brigid’s Catholic Church, 378 Nicholson St, Fitzroy North (arriving at 5:30pm in time for the Vigil Mass at 6:00pm)

St Brigid

There is the usual Plenary Indulgence for the Holy Door Pilgrimage (under prescribed conditions) and we will also be praying the rosary and the divine mercy chaplet and other prayers and hymns along the way. The pace will be quite leisurely – I have allowed an hour for every 3km. The full distance is 22km, but there are several stops along the way where you can join us if you want to.

Map of St Brigid Pilgrimage

You can download a flyer here for full details and map

Itinerary and Detailed Maps:

10:00am St Philips Church, Junction Road, Blackburn North via Koonung Creek Trail to Shanklin Street, Box Hill North (4.5 km / 1 hour 30 mins)

Leg 07

11:30am Shanklin Street, Box Hill North via Koonung Creek Trail to Musca Street Reserve (7.0 km / 2 hours 15 mins)

Leg 08

1:45pm Musca Street Reserve via Freeway tunnel on Koonung Creek Trail and Main Yarra Trail to Yarra Boulevard (5.0 km / 1 hour 45 mins)

Leg 09


3:30pm CnrYarra Boulevard & Chandler Highway, Kew via Main Yarra Trail to Hoddle Street/Darling Gardens Clifton Hill (3.7 km / 1 hour 15 mins)

Darling Gardens

4:45pm Hoddle Street/Darling Gardens via Queens Pde to St Brigid’s Nicholson Street (2.0km / 45 mins)

St Brigid


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When can Protestant Christians receive Catholic Eucharist?

Since the Pope gave his own answer to this question on Sunday, there has been a lot of discussion about the exact situations under which it is possible for protestant Christians to request communion from a Catholic minister. I thought I would bring together in one place the major magisterial sources in answer to this question.

First, Pope Saint John Paul II in Eucharistia in Ecclesia 45:

“45. While it is never legitimate to concelebrate in the absence of full communion, the same is not true with respect to the administration of the Eucharist under special circumstances, to individual persons belonging to Churches or Ecclesial Communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church. In this case, in fact, the intention is to meet a grave spiritual need for the eternal salvation of an individual believer, not to bring about an intercommunion which remains impossible until the visible bonds of ecclesial communion are fully re-established.”

Second, John Paul II again from Ut Unum Sint 45-46:

“45… These are signs of convergence which regard various aspects of the sacramental life. Certainly, due to disagreements in matters of faith, it is not yet possible to celebrate together the same Eucharistic Liturgy. And yet we do have a burning desire to join in celebrating the one Eucharist of the Lord, and this desire itself is already a common prayer of praise, a single supplication. Together we speak to the Father and increasingly we do so “with one heart”. At times it seems that we are closer to being able finally to seal this “real although not yet full” communion. A century ago who could even have imagined such a thing?

“46. In this context, it is a source of joy to note that Catholic ministers are able, in certain particular cases, to administer the Sacraments of the Eucharist, Penance and Anointing of the Sick to Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church but who greatly desire to receive these sacraments, freely request them and manifest the faith which the Catholic Church professes with regard to these sacraments. Conversely, in specific cases and in particular circumstances, Catholics too can request these same sacraments from ministers of Churches in which these sacraments are valid. The conditions for such reciprocal reception have been laid down in specific norms; for the sake of furthering ecumenism these norms must be respected.”

That final paragraph is footnoted to, among other sources, Canon Law 844.4. which says:

“If the danger of death is present or if, in the judgement of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it, Catholic ministers administer these same sacraments licitly also to other Christians not having full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.”

The danger of death is a condition quite specifically mentioned here, but John Paul II does not explicitly mention it, and neither does Pope Benedict in Sacaramentum Caritatis 56:

“56. The subject of participation in the Eucharist inevitably raises the question of Christians belonging to Churches or Ecclesial Communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church. In this regard, it must be said that the intrinsic link between the Eucharist and the Church’s unity inspires us to long for the day when we will be able to celebrate the Holy Eucharist together with all believers in Christ, and in this way to express visibly the fullness of unity that Christ willed for his disciples (cf. Jn 17:21). On the other hand, the respect we owe to the sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood prevents us from making it a mere “means” to be used indiscriminately in order to attain that unity. (172) The Eucharist in fact not only manifests our personal communion with Jesus Christ, but also implies full communio with the Church. This is the reason why, sadly albeit not without hope, we ask Christians who are not Catholic to understand and respect our conviction, which is grounded in the Bible and Tradition. We hold that eucharistic communion and ecclesial communion are so linked as to make it generally (my emphasis) impossible for non-Catholic Christians to receive the former without enjoying the latter. There would be even less sense in actually concelebrating with ministers of Churches or ecclesial communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church. Yet it remains true that, for the sake of their eternal salvation, individual non-Catholic Christians can be admitted to the Eucharist, the sacrament of Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick. But this is possible only in specific, exceptional situations and requires that certain precisely defined conditions be met (173). These are clearly indicated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (174) and in its Compendium (175). Everyone is obliged to observe these norms faithfully.”

Footnote 173 is to Canon Law 844.3-4. The Catechism reference is to 1398 – 1401.

“1401. When, in the ordinary’s judgement, a grave necessity arises, Catholic ministers may give the sacraments of Eucharist, Penance, and Anointing of the Sick to other Christians not in full communion with the Catholic Church, who ask for them of their own will, provided they give evidence of holding the Catholic faith regarding the sacraments and possess the required dispositions.”

Again the reference is to Canon Law 844.4. The Compendium reference is to 293:

“293. Catholic ministers make give holy communion licitly to members of the Oriental churches which are not in full communion with the Catholic Church whenever they ask for it of their own will and possess the required dispositions. Catholic ministers made licitly give holy communion to members of other ecclesial communities only if, in grave necessity, they ask for it of their own will, possess the required dispositions, and give evidence of holding the Catholic faith regarding the sacrament.”

No footnote is given (that’s not the Compendium’s style), but you notice that “grave necessity” is not defined.

So, there you have it. As far as I know, those are the major places in the Catholic Magisterium where the topic of communion for Christians not in communion with the Holy See are addressed.

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Join me on a Pilgrimage of Mercy!

Holy Door

It’s just one day, but what way better to celebrate the opening of the Year of Mercy in Melbourne than to join me on a 44km pilgrimage from my home Parish of St Joseph’s Boronia, via my worshiping parish of St Philip’s Blackburn North, to St Patrick’s Cathedral where the Archbishop is opening the Holy Door for the Year of Mercy. You can do the whole thing with me, or just join me along the path. Either way, at the other end is the opportunity for a plenary indulgence (plus a good day out!).

(Nb. Note the revised time: the Pilgrimage will now leave Boronia at 6am so that we can arrive at the Cathedral in time for the 4pm Holy Hour of Adoration. This will also provide an opportunity for confession for those seeking the plenary indulgence. Mass is at 6:30pm in the Cathedral.)

See here for full details!

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The Age published my letter

But I’ve learned a lesson. When writing a Letter To The Editor, don’t try to make a reasoned argument over several sentences. Each sentence needs to be an argument in itself, because they edit the letters mercilessly.

My letter was in response to one by Rebecca Harris in The Age yesterday:

Letter 22 Sept 2015 Rebecca Harris

Here is the full text of the letter I submitted:

Does Rebecca Harris (‘Harm will be done’, Letters, 22/9) realise that her own fears are perfectly mirrored on the other side of the same-sex marriage debate? Using her very own words, I envision months of my Christian community being ‘trolled by’ homosexual activists and liberal groups, ‘not concerned with the harm done by their hate talk’. The pro-same-sex marriage lobby have also ‘long been prepared to put a lot of money into spreading their message.’

Authentic human rights are certainly not something decided upon by majority view. However, it is not at all clear that the ability legally to marry someone of one’s own sex is an authentic human right. Laws not based clearly upon established human rights or the obvious welfare of the nation should not be foisted upon the nation without the people exercising their democratic right to affirm such laws.

Here’s how they published it:

Letter 23 Sept 2015

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RIP Stripe (17 November 2013 – 9 September 2015)

I had a bereavement yesterday morning. I did my morning check of the rat nest, feeling inside and counting ears and dividing by two as usual. One of the lumps of fur was colder than usual. I had been expecting it, as Mummy Smudge has a couple of tumors that are catching up with her. But it wasn’t her, it was her sister Dot’s daughter Stripe. Stripe was a couple of months short of two years, one of the babies that were born here in November 2013. She had one lump under the arm, but it hadn’t grown in six months so I wasn’t worried about it.

It is the first time I have had a pet die of natural causes in many many years. There’s something nice about thinking that Stripe died in bed cuddled up with her ratty family.

I considered calling a member of the Rat Fanciers Society who had expressed interest in doing an autopsy when any of my rats died (they are ‘blues’, which are susceptible to various internal problems), but in the end, I couldn’t bear the thought and held an immediate burial before going to work.

I’m down to three of my blue girls now, the original pair, Aunty Dot and Mummy Smudge (they have just turned two), and Smudge’s baby Persephone (affectionately known as Pudge). Poor old Dot. She has outlived both her babies now.


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“How Jesus the Faithful Jew became the Christ of the Christian Faith”

Well, here we are: a new post on the SCE blog. Hell may indeed be freezing over in this chilliest of Melbourne winters, but the time has come for me to put something up.

On the weekend I had the great pleasure of attending a Council of Christians and Jews (Victoria) meeting at which Prof. Paul Forgasz of Monash University presented on the topic “How Jesus the Faithful Jew became the Christ of the Christian Faith”. It was a very well attended event – I would estimate about 100 people, an even number of both Christians and Jews, at the Toorak Uniting Church hall for the event.

Paul’s presentation was a short prolegomena to his his full eight week course that he gave at the Jewish Museum of Australia last year. I enrolled in that course, and was very surprised to see about forty members of the Jewish community (and a couple of Christians) had also enrolled. I believe a similar number had turned up for his repeat sessions in the evening. Paul did a very good job of summarising the Christian origins and historical Jesus studies of recent times, including an excursus on Paul. Especially he showed both in their Jewish context, which I think was very helpful for the Jewish students of the course (many of whom had understandably had little connection with the texts of the New Testament) to enable them to approach both characters with rather more sympathy than they might previously have felt.

In any case, Paul was kind enough before the event to grant me a ‘right of reply’ at the end of the event yesterday, and I prepared a little paper giving a Christian perspective on ‘how Jesus the faithful Jew became the Christ of Christian faith’. If you click here, you can read what I had to say. You can also click here for an email question that came from a secular Jewish friend who attended the event, and my response to him.

On August 2nd, a local Christian scholar, Dr Sean Winter, will give his own presentation on the historical Jesus and Paul. Sean did his doctorate under N.T. Wright, so you should know what to expect if you are, like me, a Wright fan! Here are the details:

Council of Christians and Jews ( Victoria)

‘To the Jew First’?: New Perspectives on Paul and Judaism

Revd. Associate Professor Sean Winter

Sean Winter teaches New Testament Studies at Pilgrim Theological College (Uniting Church), where he is also Academic Dean. His teaching and research focus on the letters and theology of the apostle Paul with a focus on 2 Corinthians and Philippians. He has studied at the Universities of Bristol and Oxford, and completed his DPhil under the supervision of N. T. Wright. Before coming to Melbourne, Sean taught at the Northern Baptist College in Manchester in the UK.

The period from the 1970s-2000 saw a fundamental shift take place in the discipline of Pauline Studies. The ‘New Perspective on Paul’ has succeeded, in many ways, in placing Paul back firmly into a plausible Jewish context and articulating the ways in which his theology constitutes a reworking of basic Jewish convictions. Since 2000, however, new emphases in Pauline studies challenge the view that Paul’s theology was intended ‘for the Jew first’ in ways suggested by the New Perspective. In this presentation I will give an overview of three such developments: Paul and apocalyptic; Paul and empire; Paul and contemporary philosophy, and argue that in each case Paul’s theology remains firmly Jewish, even as it extends the covenant promises made to Israel to the whole of humanity.

Sunday August 2nd  3.00pm

Shira Hadasha Synagogue 222 Balaclava Rd Caulfield North 3161

$10.00 members $12.00 non-members

If possible please advise attendance by ringing the CCJ office  326 Church Street Richmond 3121 Tel 9429 5212 Email ccjvic@bigpond.net.au

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Homiletical Directory?

You might be aware that the Church has a thing called a “General Directory of Catechesis”. It was issued by the Congregation for the Clergy (interesting) back in 1997, and is a significant document for understanding the place of catechesis in the Church’s ministry of evangelisation. Significantly, it has been used most widely in the area of Catholic education, and many teachers who have been specifically trained in Catholic eduction are familiar with it. In my teaching on Pope Francis’ post-synodal apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I have had reason to highlight his references to “the kergyma” and “the first proclamation” (cf. para. 164 of EG). When I ask my class if anyone has ever heard these phrases (let alone knows they mean), it is always the teachers who put their hands up, and it is always the General Directory of Catechesis where they first encountered this language.

Now, I like to make a distinction between three types of communication of the Gospel (effectively, three modes of evangelisation): 1) Kerygma, 2) Didache (or Catechesis), 3) Dialogue. We will leave the third one to one side for the moment; the other two are completely different, and yet, when it comes to “preaching” (one possible translation of the Greek word “kerygma”), it is surprising how many homilies are almost 100% catechesis/didache, rather than proclamation.

So I have for some time been particularly interested in the plan, first put forward at the Synod of the Word in 2008 and in Pope Benedict’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini (cf. para. 60), that “a Directory on the homily, in which preachers can find useful assistance in preparing to exercise their ministry” should be prepared. In a similar vein, we read this in 9th proposition of the Propositions of the 2012 Synod on Evangelisation: 

The Synod Fathers propose that guidelines of the initial proclamation of the kerygma be written. This compendium would include:
– Systematic teaching on the kerygma in Scripture and Tradition of the Catholic Church;
– Teachings and quotations from the missionary saints and martyrs in our Catholic history that would assist us in our pastoral challenges of today; and
– Qualities and guidelines for the formation of Catholic evangelizers today.

I wondered – I hoped – that the 2008 call for a directory on the homily might morph into something much more extensive, something that would take its rightful place alongside the Directory on Catechesis, namely a “Directory of Kerygma”.

Well, now, at long last, we have the “Homiletical Directory”, this time released by the Congregation for Divine Worship. As the source would have it, the directory is particularly concerned with preaching in the form of the liturgical homily. The word ‘preach’ is used over 100 times, and the word ‘proclaim’ 43 times. ‘Catechesis’ is used 5 times, and ‘dialogue’ twice. But, tellingly, the word ‘kerygma’ never occurs at all.

Which is a huge disappointment as far as I am concerned, because in my own humble opinion the one thing most needed for priests to recapture the vitality of the Gospel in their preaching is an understanding of the mode of communication which IS ‘kerygma’, proclamation, preaching. It is not the same thing as teaching (catechesis/didache). It is not the same thing as dialogue. To proclaim the Good News is the enact through performative speech the breaking in of the Kingdom of God. It is to make possible, through direct 2nd person forms of address, the encounter between the hearer and Christ himself which ‘which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction’ (cf. Pope Benedict in Deus Caritas Est para. 1). The ‘first proclamation’ is, as Pope Francis puts it in Evangelii Gaudium (p. 164), the continually repeated message that

“Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.”

Whatever the Homiletical Directory might be, it doesn’t plumb these depths. It is not the directory on kerygma that the Synod on Evangelisation called for. And, for that, it is the poorer as a potential aid to the improvement of Catholic preaching.

For two contrasting reviews of the new Directory, see

1) Fr William Skudlarek OSB at the PrayTell blog (he doesn’t like it either, because he is comparing it to an earlier USCCB directory on the homily that started with the life situation of the congregation rather than the exegesis of the scriptural passages; hence his reason and my reason for disappointment at the new Directory is actually poles apart);

2) the review in by Fr Shane Crombie in Homiletic and Pastoral Review.

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Farewell to Milli – our old cat

Today our 15 year old cat Milli had to be euthanased.

She had a stroke about 3 weeks ago, and while I was away on Camino, she lost most of her sight and her hearing. I suspected kidney failure, and the vet, who at first wanted to try various treatments and tests, concurred after an examination. With extremely low blood pressure, and dehydration from failure to drink, her organs were shutting down. 

I feel very conflicted doing this to an animal. God knows how anyone can do it to a human being. Yes, it is a “good death” in the sense that it is relatively painless and is done in a controlled context, but it is death: the ending of a life. And whether that is done with a bullet (as was the case when I was a kid on the farm with excess cats), or drowning (which I knew many people did with unwanted kittens), or with sedation as in Milli’s case, it is not a good way to treat an animal with whom one has built a bond of trust and care. Again, as I said, God knows how anyone could advocate this for a human being.

I get the whole “go when you choose”, and “free from pain”, and “with music and chocalates and champagne with my family around me” etc. etc. But the thing you are doing is taking away life. Life that is a gift, a should always be valued as such. The lives of cats, rats, plants, and human beings all have different values (the last of these being an infinite value) and of course we expend resources accordingly, but it is still a hard thing, a profoundly against-the-grain thing, to put an animal to death just because they are dying and we don’t value their life highly enough to spend megabucks on them until they die a natural death.

Milli had been a member of our family for many years. She was a year younger than our eldest and our a year older than our youngest. She found it hard to adjust to our new cat, Meeshi, who live indoors and has the run of the back yard (Milli slept in the garage and had the run of the front yard). She was really put out a few months ago when we hosted a stray cat and her three kittens who also took up residence in the garage until we finally decamped them to the RSPCA for adoption. 

Now the garage is empty. The pet cemetary out the back is getting rather full… I cried my way through the Burial Service for a Pet with my youngest daughter. There are fresh flowers on the mound. Thanks be to God for these animal animae. 


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When is persecution not persecution? “Jesus: Rise to Power” Episode 2

Last night I watched the first two episodes of “Jesus: Rise to Power” on SBS on Demand (you can get an app for that on your ipad). Apparently these two episodes are on YouTube too, so you can look them up and watch them for yourselves.

Any historical program about Jesus that has both Elaine Pagels and Karen King as guest commentators already gives its agenda away, but I was prepared to give this one a chance. I was just setting myself up to be disappointed. The episode on Jesus claims that the crucifixion of Jesus was the most important event in the Christian story, which it is, but not without the next part of the story, the part which this documentary skips entirely: the Resurrection. Well, I’ve come to expect that. (For a couple of interesting books on the ‘historical’ Jesus, you might want to consider two that I am currently reading: the first is James Carroll’s “Christ Actually” – a rather idiosyncratic work but worth looking at – and, from a more orthodox perspective, Ben Witherington III’s “What have they done with Jesus?”.)

But what really got up my nose was the whole thrust of the second episode on martyrdom. Now I know that there is some of evidence that some early Christians created a cult out of martyrdom – I don’t mean the veneration of the relics, but rather a cult out of actively seeking martyrdom. This was, as far as I understand, discouraged by the bishops and other church leaders. And I know too that in the popular imagination the persecution of Christians by the Romans is sometimes exaggerated (although it must be said that the persecutions by Diocletian in the decade before the Edict of Milan was so severe that had it continued, Christianity might not have survived). This article is not a bad summary of the topic. 

“Jesus: Rise to Power” Episode 2 makes these points but then goes on to take another tack which I fiind perfectly consistent with modern secular thinking and, to be frank, a bit insulting to sincere religious believers. The thesis is this: The Roman Empire was actually a very tolerant and accepting regime. They were happy to let Christians believe what they like and read their scriptures and do their other funny little things – as long as they were good and reasonable Romans, which included participation in the pagan sacrificial cults (curiously, they don’t actually spell out and specify that it was the cult of Caesar that was at the heart of the problem). So, it was really the fault of the Christians that they got themselves imprisoned and killed in such great numbers. It was the Christians who were the extremists, and who were being intolerant and unaccepting etc. 

The explanation for the Christian opposition to the pagan cults is very poorly explained in “Jesus: Rise to Power”. The suggestion is simply that because Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for all sin, therefore no other sacrifice was necessary. Well, that could have explained why they might not have participated in the Jewish cult (although that only actually ended when the Jewish cult itself ended in 70AD with the destruction of the temple), but Christians didn’t participate in pagan sacrifice for the same reason Jews didn’t – idolatry. On top of that, they refused to acknowledge the Emperor as Lord because Jesus was Lord. Faith was not just something “personal” or “interior” – it affected how you lived in the world.

In the same way, the modern western secular empire doesn’t understand persecution or religious freedom.  Western secularism doesn’t persecute Christians (or any other religious community – this could apply equally well to Jews, Muslims, Sikhs etc). “Christians are quite free to do whatever they like in their churches and believe whatever they like in their heads,” goes the argument, “as long as they accept the laws of the land as they are, including legalised abortion, contraception, same sex marriage, gender ideology, etc. If they get penalised for opposing these laws then that is their problem, we aren’t persecuting them because they are Christians.” 

And so the Church in the United States (not just the Catholic Church, but also evangelicals and Lutherans and others) is being penalised and pilloried for opposition to the requirements of the HHS contraception and abortion mandate. Archbishop Cordileone of San Fransisco is being attacked for not “sharing the values of the community”. And Jews and Muslims are being denied their religious freedom by governments passing laws forbiding ritual slaughter of animals or circumcision and so on. And none of this is supposed to be anti-Christian, or anti-Semitic or Islamaphobic – its their problem, not ours.

So, “Jesus: Rise to Power” is a perfect fit with the Zeitgeist. While Christians are suffering true martyrdom in the middle east at the hands of ISIS, our commentators are continuing to build a narrative which puts the blame on the victims of persecution rather than the persecutors.

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It was the Gerbils what did it, Guv!

The Rats were innocent!


See: http://www.smh.com.au/world/have-we-been-wrongly-blaming-rats-for-the-black-death-for-eight-centuries-maybe-it-was-gerbils-20150224-13nvoe.html

And: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerbil

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