Bring Forth Hope Interactive Edition

Hi everyone,

my book of reflections on Pope Francis’s messages to young people is now available as an “interactive” edition on ITunes for IPads and Macs.  The Ebook has all 52 reflections that the hardcopy edition has, but it also has a further 22 video reflections from me about Pope Francis and his conversation with the youth of the world.

I hope this might be a helpful resource for prayer in youth groups and RE classes, as well as for personal reflection.  The words of Pope Francis are well worth reflecting upon.

You can get the interactive edition by clicking the link below:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/bring-forth-hope/id807576865?ls=1&mt=11

You can get the hardcopy from St Pauls, Garratt Publishing or St Mary’s Press.interactive screenshot

Talk: “The Catholic Thing” @ the Australian Catholic Youth Festival

PrintHi everyone, it’s nearly two weeks since the inaugural Australian Catholic Youth Festival.  It was a great success!  Xt3 recorded workshop talks and here’s the link to one of my talks.  It’s called the Catholic Thing… but the byline is a little misleading.  The talk is really about belonging, vulnerability, shame, courage and other universal experiences, and how the Catholic “thing” speaks to those experiences.

You can check out other great talks from the festival here.

Hope you enjoy it.

New Book: Pope Francis Speaks to the Youth of the World

You might be interested in my new book, ‘Bring Forth Hope: Pope Francis Speaks to the Youth of the World’.The book consists of 52 quotes from Pope Francis’s words to young people, a short reflection, a prayer and a suggestion for practical action based on the pope’s words.

Its been published by Saint Mary’s Press in the USA, while in Australia it will be available at the Australian Catholic Youth Festival, and then online through St Pauls and Garratt Publishing, or from Catholic bookshops.

You can have a look inside the book here

The Role of Parishes in the New Evangelisation

VitalFaithCommunitiesLast month I spoke at the Colloquium “The Power of the Message: The Kerygma for the New Evangelisation” conducted by the Catholic Renewal and Evangelisation Office (Credo)  of the Archdiocese of Sydney.  My talk was entitled “Vital Faith Communities: The Optimal Context for the Kerygma”.

In the talk I argue that vital faith communities are essential to the new evangelisation.  New believers need a living faith community if their faith is to be nurtured.  Vital faith communities are also needed, however, to provide the witness to Christ that leads people to an encounter with Christ.

This talk is for people who are interested in the renewal of the Church and the role of parishes in evangelisation.

You can listen to the talk here: Vital Faith Communities.

The talk is supplied by Cradio – Australia’s Catholic radio station.

What is Jesus asking you to do?

This is my talk at the Australian Gathering at World Youth Day in Rio. It’s about vocation: how Jesus is calling each of us to make disciples.

Good Friday Homily

Here’s my homily for Good Friday this year. I was preaching at Light to the Nations, which is a biennial pilgrimage held by the Disciples of Jesus Community. The homily was recorded and you can listen to it on the CRADIO website here.

I haven’t been posting too much lately – I’m working on my PhD which, along with my responsibilities with the MGL formation program, doesn’t leave too much time for blogging.  Seeing Swans will be back though!  And I’ll keep posting the occasional talk here too.  In the meantime, I’m using Twitter to send out the occasional message into the social media realm.  So follow me there for updates on youth ministry, MGL stuff  and my occasional thoughts about God, the world and the love in between.

Happy Easter!

The Legacy of Benedict XVI

pbxviThere’s been all sorts of comments about Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy in the media and the social networks since he announced his decision to resign from the papacy.  Unsurprisingly, the secular media has focused upon the events that have grabbed global attention like the clerical abuse scandal, Vatileaks and the Regensburg address.  And equally unsurprisingly, the assessments of how well Benedict XVI dealt with these and similar issues have varied greatly.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to weigh Benedict’s handling of  these and other difficult matters that arose on his watch, but I also think that it is very easy to transpose a political view of leadership onto the papacy, and thus obscure the true nature of Benedict’s legacy.  For while we need the pope to be an effective leader of the global institution that is the Church, the pope’s primary role is to be a spiritual leader.  The pope is supposed to lead us  to God.

The origins of this mission lie in the very words of Jesus himself, who tells Peter that when he has turned (literally ‘converted’) he is to strengthen his fellow disciples (Luke 22:32).  This means that to understand Benedict’s legacy we need to look as much to his encyclicals and letters, to his homilies and weekly addresses, and to his apostolic visits to different countries as to his organizational management of the Church. And by that measure, BXVI seriously stacks up.

Again and again and again Benedict simply and eloquently pointed us to the heart of the Christian faith: to the encounter with Jesus Christ.  From his first encyclical:

Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.  (Deus Caritas Est #1)

And this encounter with Christ is at the one and the same time an encounter with the God who is love.  From one of Benedict’s Q and A sessions with  a group of priests:

 Christianity is not a highly complicated collection of so many dogmas that it is impossible for anyone to know them all; it is not something exclusively for academicians who can study these things, but it is something simple: God exists and God is close in Jesus Christ.

And again,

Christianity is not a new philosophy or new morality. We are Christians only if we encounter Christ… Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we really become Christians… Therefore, let us pray to the Lord to enlighten us, so that, in our world, he will grant us the encounter with his presence, and thus give us a lively faith, an open heart, and great charity for all, capable of renewing the world.

And finally,

Many people perceive Christianity as something institutional — rather than as an encounter with Christ — which explains why they don’t see it as a source of joy.

Benedict XVI is one of the great theologians of the twentieth century, a truly great intellect capable of critically engaging with both sacred and secular currents of thought.  Without denying or dismissing his theological contribution for a moment, I think that Benedict XVI’s greatest legacy is that he has been a pastor and a missionary, a spiritual father.  And there is something about the simplicity with which this formidable theologian went about this that reminded us again and again that Christianity is Christ: that everything else that makes up the Catholic faith flows from our encounter with the Risen Lord.  And Benedict did not simply speak about these things, but truly embodied them. He was and is a wonderful witness to the joy that this encounter with Christ brings.

Thank  you Holy Father.

Pub Talk: “When Beauty Hides no Longer: Exploring Grace, the Cross and the Glory of it all”

This is the podcast of a pub  talk I gave at “Truth on Tap”, in the Broken Bay Diocese earlier in the year.  You can listen to it at the XT3 website here:   You can also download the podcast from the XT3 site.

The basic thrust of the talk is this: that faith is the result of an encounter with Christ the Beautiful One. Christians are fundamentally lovers of Beauty. It examines the difference between a theoretical or purely conceptual encounter with Christ, and the actual encounter with Christ. Christ is beautiful, even and especially as the Crucified. These topics are explored through the story of one young man’s encounter with Christ.

The talk draws upon the theological project of  Hans Urs von Balthasar.

Who is the Amazing Spider-man? On Identity, Weakness and Power

SPOILER ALERT.  I went to see the latest Spider-man film during the week.  The Amazing Spider-man is the Spider-man story ‘re-booted’: a new version of the original Spider-man rather than a fourth instalment of the Spider-man series which starred Tobey Maguire.

It seems to me that identity is always a central theme of the entire superhero genre, because the story hinges on the alter ego of the main character: who is Peter Parker? Spider-man or a geeky kid?  Who is Superman?  A titan from another planet or mild-mannered Clark Kent?  And so on.  Out of all the superhero cartoons and their movie spin-offs, the identity theme has been most strongly explored in the Spider-man series because Peter Parker is a teenager, and so his discovery of his super-powers coincides with his adolescent search to discover who he is.

Critics would probably dispute about whether the latest installment plays down the identity theme or actually treats it more subtly than in the earlier trilogy of Spider-man films.  I am inclined to think the latter.  While it underlies the whole of the film, it is only in the last scene that this theme becomes absolutely explicit when one of Peter’s teachers says that some people argue that there are ten plots in all of fiction.  She then says that there is really only one plot line: Who am I?

Peter’s quest to find out what happened to his parents is a crucial part of his search to discover who he really is.  And the scenes of Peter trying out his newly acquired spidey abilities like climbing up walls, testing his super-fast reflexes or utilising his superior strength serve as a sort of parable for the journey of adolescent self-discovery of one’s gifts and talents that all teenagers must negotiate.  When Peter fails to remember his familial responsibilities to his aunt and uncle as he pursues his own ambitions and plans we get a glimpse into the frequently bumpy process of individuation that a young person undertakes in order to discover who they are beyond their family dynamics and patterns of behaviour.  Yet another part of the theme of identity is explored as Peter painfully discovers that his moral failures can have catastrophic effects when he fails to stop a burglary.

All of the strands outlined above can also be found in the earlier films.  The novel contribution of The Amazing Spider-man to the theme of identity is found in the character of Dr Curt Connors, Spider-man’s nemesis in the new film.  We are told several times that the goal of Connors’s scientific research is to ‘eliminate weakness’, a goal born of his desire to re-grow his amputated arm.  Connors makes it clear that he wants to transcend humanity’s limits… with tragic consequences.

Peter’s relationship to his weaknesses is different.   His deepest wound – the loss of his parents – can and does cripple him relationally at times, such as when he storms out of the house after an altercation with his uncle Ben about his father.  And his grief at Ben’s death sends him on a vigilante-style quest to avenge him.  Significantly, it is his encounter with a child that brings about a moment of ‘conversion’ for Peter: as he plucks the child from a burning car he realises that Spider-man’s mission cannot be simply about revenge.  After this encounter it seems to me that Peter’s weaknesses no longer cripple him, but are now the wellspring of creative, life-giving energy that now motivates him.   His purpose is now to do good and not to simply find his uncle’s killer.  Paradoxically, while his superpowers make him in some sense more than human, Peter’s true humanity is found in his desire to use his gifts in the service of others.  And Peter’s true power lies not in the elimination of his weakness, but in the desire to allow those wounds to be life-giving rather than destructive.  Contrast this with Dr Connors whose mission to eliminate weakness results in him becoming far more profoundly crippled than his amputation ever did.

This motif of power in weakness is deeply biblical of course.  In 2 Corinthians Paul tells us that his thorn in the flesh is the locus for the Lord’s power to be made manifest, in his life, and for the sake of others (2 Cor 12:9).  We don’t know what Paul’s ‘thorn’ was, but it became the place of grace for him, the place where the creative power of God was made visible in his life.  We all have wounds, weaknesses, and Paul’s point is that they can cripple or create us.  For Paul, the answer to the question, ‘who am I?’ is most profoundly answered by the God who is strangely more profoundly present in our wounds rather than in our triumphs.  I think The Amazing Spider-man makes more or less the same point… with spandex, spider-webs and spectacular stunts of course.

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