How do we create space for God in our lives? Reflections from Catholics exploring our relationship with God through prayer.
By Michael McVeigh
I recently received an email from a gentleman asking if I could spare five minutes to answer his question: Are you certain that God exists, and, if so, what is the main proof that convinces you?
'If possible, the shorter and simpler the answer is, the better', the man added.
Never one to shirk a challenge, I decided to try to answer the gentleman's question as best I could (although it took me a little more than five minutes):
I'm not a priest, nor have I had any particular theological training other than what I've picked up along the journey. However the question you ask is one that I've wrestled with, like most people of faith. I'm not sure there's a succinct answer, but I'll attempt something brief.
By Fr Brian McCoy
This article was first published in Province Express and is used with permission
Some years ago when I was visiting a remote Aboriginal community, I was asked if I might put some time aside to spend with a group of women. They wanted some Bible study, so, it being the time after Easter, we looked at the stories that described the experience of the disciples after the Resurrection.
The women found it relatively easy to focus on Good Friday. They knew their community well and the suffering it had endured over years, particularly around violence, alcohol, suicide and the imprisonment of their men. They'd experienced discrimination and loss. They could identify with Jesus, his suffering and passion.
The Resurrection was something else. Moving from the shared 'sorry time' of Good Friday to the joy of Easter Sunday did not come quickly or easily.
By Isabella Brunn
At every Easter I can recall, the Exsultet has always captured my attention. That one line specifically "O, happy fault" would constantly turn in my mind. How could I call my fault blessed, when it sinks me in the deepest darkness of self loathing? How could the shame of pornography, of masturbation, be ever 'happy'? How could the thorn of sexual sin and addiction ever be a blessing? I could think of nothing but hatred and intense fear of my darkness, my hopelessness; and could not understand why Easter, would call me to bless my fault.
By Natalie Gordon
As a teacher in an all boys’ boarding school in tropical far north Queensland.
This lent has been somewhat different to all the other Lenten seasons of my adult spiritual life.
Term one always ensures that we are fresh from our lovely summer and probably a little over zealous in new ideas, new ways and great insights into what we can bring to the classroom and more importantly our students.
Often enough, our time during Term One in the classroom coincides with the Lenten season.
No teacher will argue with you that this first term could be considered a real time of penance.
Certainly no student will argue otherwise.
I am an amateur gardener. We didn’t really grow anything at home while I was growing up (apart from some ill-fated beans – for the record Jack in the Beanstalk was not entirely a work of fiction!).
You could say, however, that the seeds were sown at an early age by my grandmother who showed me how to gently tease out the roots of a potted plant when replanting it in the earth. She showed me the possibilities.
After my move to Canberra, I have been making tentative forays into the gardening world. I started out with two pots on my apartment veranda and over time they multiplied. Last year, I took the next step and with a giant ‘L’ stamped on my back, (figuratively, of course) I joined a community garden. My Eden is 33 square metres.
Recently I have not been very diligent in watering my plot and last night with great trepidation, I went to pay a visit. As expected my plants were struggling a bit and not entirely green. However, two beetroot seedlings were still going strong and I harvested three zucchinis. I was filled with gratitude to God for looking after the life in my garden, lifting it beyond my own shortcomings. Last night I also prayed for rain.
So, it’s getting to that point in Lent where perhaps we are wondering if we will make it to Easter. If you are like me, your Lenten sacrifice disappeared with all of your good intentions in the first week, perhaps not long after the black ashes were wiped from your forehead on Ash Wednesday.
My lack of commitment to my Lenten promise showed me something. Firstly, it’s perhaps not the best idea to give up Facebook while I am writing a book about social media, but secondly, what we give up needs meaning.
My friend from the Redemptorists decided that it was important to be able to share on social media about our Lenten struggles, as a way to show solidarity and support, and so he got the hashtag #Lententruggles trending.
By James O'Brien
The season of Lent remembers Jesus’ time in the desert and invites us into our own desert journeys. When we travel through the desert we need all the help we can get, be it accompaniment from friends or assistance from camels. We need food, water and spiritual sustenance to keep the mind and heart going in the terrain we are traversing. Thankfully we have the Eucharist and God’s Word to draw upon along our pilgrim way. These give our Lenten acts of prayer, generosity and fasting their true meaning as preparations for Easter.
We know that God goes before us along our path, meeting us at each step of the way, accompany-ing us with steadfast love. Yet Lent still gathers a reputation like the sun of the desert - harsh and uninviting. We need enough sun for light and energy, but not so much that it leaves us burnt and dehydrated.
By Michael McVeigh
The opening Gospel reading for Lent always makes me chuckle a little bit:
'Beware of practicing your piety before others, And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting.' (Matthew 6:1 - 8)
Of course, immediately after that Gospel reading, people are marked with ash on their foreheads, then sent out into the world, with marks of their piety on their faces.
By Ramesh Richards SJ
I must be mad because I love the Church. But if Nietzsche is right, while there is always some madness in love, there is always some reason in madness. I was put in touch with this madness two years ago when I went for a blood test. The nurse asked what I did, and I said I was a student.
‘Studying what?’ she asked. What she heard me say was ‘geology and philosophy’, and she said, ‘That’s an interesting combination.’
I clarified that it was ‘theology and philosophy’ and, seeing that she was still puzzled, I added that I was studying for the priesthood. Thank God, she had already drawn my blood because she looked up at me in shock! She said, ‘You must be brave.’
As a musician, I like music in the Catholic liturgy. I prefer weekend mass to have music rather than not. Music moves me in sometimes profound ways.
It's good to be a little eclectic too, because as Catholics, there is a wide variety which is accepted and played in parishes around the world. World Youth Days tend to be a showcase of this diversity, with a wider range of styles played, even within the one liturgy or mass.
Australia as a country is no exception to this wide variety of music in parishes.
Those of us who attend parishes frequently have probably experienced the plethora of options ranging from the 85-year old playing the organ with traditional repertoire; the majestic Cathedral choir; or folky choirs complete with guitars, cymbals, triangles and tambourines.
By Chantelle Ogilvie-Ellis
As in Manila, Rome or Kolkata, crossing the road in Kunming, China requires a little courage. Pedestrian crossings are aspirational more than anything else; cars and buses assert themselves regardless of any theoretical road rules. A particular local hazard is electric the motorcycle (e-bike). They zip everywhere and are virtually silent, so you have to look for them to avoid a collision.
By Peta Edmonds
Walking into St Ignatius Church today, I feel God. I breathe in and smell the polished wood. It makes me think of an ark that has never sailed. Where the light comes in, a rainbow forms. My elbows are bent in prayer, and a prayer forms in my heart like a girl’s piggy bank, filling slowly, little by little with change. Some candles flicker.
By Andy Hamilton SJ
The house in Gerroa, on the South Coast of New South Wales, where I was staying in January, is on the edge of paradise. It looks down over the river mouth along the Seven Mile Beach to the Shoalhaven Heads. It is a family beach. Each day young families come down together to the beach. Mums and dads gently introduce toddlers to the water, jumping the waves together. They put the older ones on little boards, slap sunscreen and push hats on them, and stand by the edge of the water, watching to make sure all is well. They make sand castles and see the beach afresh through the eyes of their children.
By Helen Jacobs
I don’t know about you, but every time I hear a Mary MacKillop Mantra, I’m immediately ensconced in her thoughts and how they can ripple through our lives today. Take one of her ponderings to her mother, Flora, for instance: “remember we are but travellers here…” (1866). At first, I’m caught up in our physical journeys to visit people and places and things; new friendships, lost luggage, “oohs” of astonishment and “ewes” of unusual tastes; and how enriching these experiences – and many more - can be for ourselves and those we share them with – in person or vicariously through Facebook.
By Christina Rocha
New Year’s Day is one of my least favourite days. I suppose it’s partly because, as I grow older, I have more and more dreams that have not yet eventuated or that have been well and truly crushed. I am also confronted by my own inability to fundamentally change of my own will and accord.