Last night, I took our Anima Education class out on a “school excursion”. We cancelled the usual lesson at Mary Glowrey House in order to attend the launch of Cardinal George Pell’s new book “Test Everything” at the Celtic Club in Queens Street. My estimate is that there were well over one hundred people present, perhaps 150? I am not a good judge of these things.
“Test Everything” is a bit of an odd book for this day and age. Edited by his biographer, Tess Livingstone, it is a collection of sermons (in the main) and other writings from +George’s episcopal career. I haven’t read it all through yet, but it contains about 80 separate short and individually contained sermons (and such) arranged roughly according to subject rather than date.
Professor Claudio Véliz was on hand to launch the book. He entertained and educated us all – clearly a talented teacher.
He began by describing what he called the “devastating sanity” of Cardinal Pell’s writing and preaching, giving several examples from the book.
Towards the end of the speech, he told us:
I come from one of Chile’s oldest Presbyterian families. I am a member of Scots Church. Apologies to Anthony [Cappello – the publisher] who might have thought that I am a Catholic. This must be the first time that a book by a prince of the Church has been launched by a Chilean Calvinist!
Cardinal Pell spoke simply but also entertainingly of the importance of the Church’s faithfulness to Christ and the Gospel. “I’m not a Catholic atheist or agnostic,” he said:
“I believe what the Catholic Church teaches. As Catholics, we have to keep our base intact. We are one of the important rivers that feeds Australian society, and we have to keep the waters pure.”
He encouraged us as Christians to “keep on talking publically”, stressing that we should do so “courteously”. He went on to show that courtesy himself by saying to Professor Veliz:
“Actually, it was I who suggested Professor Veliz should say a few words, and I was very well aware that he is a Chilean Protestant!”
He did tell a funny story about a visit to a primary school where he was asked to talk to a class of prep students. One young boy stood up and asked him:
“What was Moses’ mother’s name?”
“I’m not sure. It wasn’t Miriam because that was his sister.”
“That’s correct”, the boy replied.
“Well, it’s probably in the Bible somewhere”, the Cardinal continued.
“Yes, it is,” came back the confident affirmation.
“I guess it would be a Hebrew name.”
“Of course,” said the boy.
The Cardinal gave up. “Well, you seem to know the answer; what is it?”
The punchline to this story seems to come at the very end, however, because the Cardinal said he caused “a minor flurry” in the staff room when he asked for a copy of the bible to check the boy’s information! They did manage to find one finally somewhere in the school, and of course, the lad was spot on (check at Exodus 6:20 – and remember this bit of information for when you next have a question and answer opportunity with a Cardinal).
The Cardinal went on to urge us to remain firm with the “basic good news”. The recent meeting of bishops in Sydney was “a tiny bit unusual”, he said:
“We had some very good meetings with my brother bishops. We were all at one on the centrality of preaching Christ. Well, so what, you might say, isn’t that what you should be? Well, you listen to some other people about what you need to do to fac the crisis in the Church and they will list lots of other things than preaching Christ and repentance.”
He also spoke of the new liturgy translation, on which he has been working as the Chairman of Vox Clara. He spoke about the simple change of the translation of “Et cum spiritu tuo” to “And with your spirit.”
“A great advantage will be that we will not be able to dodge the question “What is a spirit?”. Because if all Catholic have become materialists the game would be over.”
I will give a further review of the book after I have had a chance to dip into it a bit more, but herewith some pictures (in no particular order):