Holy Thursday 2017: Service and Love



Image: “The Washing of the Feet” by Ghislaine Howard (2004)

Service and love – two key themes for reflection on the feast of the Lord’s Supper, that we celebrate today, this Holy Thursday.

To love without service is not really love, because love calls us out of ourselves and into the other. To serve without love might work for a little while, but it inevitably brings difficulties, because the mere doing of tasks that do not come from a place of love eventually bears nothing.

It is my personal prayer for each one of you, and in holding the memory of Marie Madeleine whose feast was 5th April, that love and service be part of your daily activity. My own heart is filled with love and gratitude at being able to serve in my own way, through these blog posts. With blessings for you, this Triduum, and toward Easter.



FCJ Mission and Identity Promoter

Day 31 of #31DaysWithIgnatius


A friend sent me this picture a few years ago on the feast of St Ignatius, with the note: ‘When too much St Ignatius Loyola is not enough!’ 😁

Today, dear people, is the feast of St Ignatius Loyola, founder of the #Jesuits and father of #IgnatianSpirituality. He is a gift to the Church and to humanity, over the ages. To the #FcjSisters he is a patron and fellow #companion. To me, he is a guide whom I can follow, and a friend whose counsel I can seek. I believe in the community of #Saints and so celebrate them.

Who is St Ignatius for you? What have you learnt about the love of #God for you, through his intercession or example?
#31dayswithIgnatius #godinallthings #fgiat #LoyolaPress #gratitude #foundiggy#catholic #saints

In celebration of Ignatian Spirituality, and to mark the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola (31 July), I have taken on the challenge of posting a picture a day that speaks to me of the lessons learned from all things ‘Ignatian’; including ‘finding God in all things.’ Here it is, as posted on Instagram (@fcjAustralia).

Day 22 of #31DayswithIgnatius


#Day22of31WithIggy: The #Feast of St #MaryMagdalene. Today’s image started off as a prayer for #life; that we may see through the day with all things that bring life. (#Consolation, in Ignatian terms) It proceeded onto a meditation on Mary Magdalene and while at the tomb after Jesus’ death, she approached a man who she thought was a gardener. On hearing that Jesua was no longer there, she began to cry (#desolation); until this man to whom she went revealed himself to her by calling her by name.

I’m so thankful that @franciscus #PopeFrancis has elevated this day to a feast of the same level as the other apostles. Pray for us, Mary Magdalene. Apostle to the Apostles and exemplary woman of the Church.

#IgnatianSpirituality #31dayswithIgnatius #saints #discernment #art #christian #Jesus #fcj #patronsaint #women #woman #church #leadership #womenleaders #girlpower

In celebration of Ignatian Spirituality, and to mark the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola (31 July), I have taken on the challenge of posting a picture a day that speaks to me of the lessons learned from all things ‘Ignatian’; including ‘finding God in all things.’ Here it is, as posted on Instagram (@fcjAustralia).

22 July 2014: Feast of St Mary Magdalene

Today’s feast day reflection on St Mary Magdalene is from a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke:

The Risen One

Until his final hour he had never
refused her anything or turned away,
lest she should turn their love to public praise.
Now she sank down beside the cross, disguised,
heavy with the largest stones of love
like jewels in the cover of her pain.
But later, when she came back to his grave
with tearful face, intending to anoint,
she found him resurrected for her sake,
saying with greater blessedness, “Do not –”
She understood it in her hollow first:
how with finality he now forbade
her, strengthened by his death, the oils’ relief
or any intimation of a touch:
because he wished to make of her the lover
who needs no more to lean on her beloved,
as, swept away by joy in such enormous
storms, she mounts even beyond his voice.


Photo: G. Anderson, 2014.

For Reflection:
When has the need to let go in your grief led to “joy in such enormous storms”?

Have you experienced this? Are you being called to do just this? What might the joys on the ‘other side’ look like?

Holy Thursday 2014: Welcoming the Outsider, Restoring Relationship

Holy Thursday has a special place in the hearts of all who know and love the charism of the Faithful Companions of Jesus. For the sisters, it is also the feast or foundation day, as Patricia Grogan fcJ describes:

As [Marie Madeleine] dwelt on the great love of her Lord on the mysteries of his paschal meal, passion and death, she gave him her heart, her soul and her entire being, consecrating herself at the foot of the cross to the work for which God had been so long preparing her. In this hidden way, in the silence of her heart, the Society of the Faithful Companions of Jesus was born.| P. Grogan fcJ, God’s Faithful Instrument, p.75

With this in mind, I offer the following for your reflection.

I wrote recently about this year’s Palm Sunday being a Palm Sunday like no other. The same is also true for Holy Week.

Earlier in the week, I was speaking to a friend who visits refugees at a detention centre. He mentioned in passing that he had taken in food for them, so I asked why, thinking, “Don’t they have enough to eat?”


Image: Upper Room, acrylic on canvas. Copyright Gail Meyer.

We celebrate the Eucharistic meal at every Mass. It is familiar to us who practise our faith, but it can also mean that we forget its significance and meaning in its origins. The Gospel reading for Holy Thursday says that it was during supper (John 13:2) that Jesus got up and began to wash the feet of his disciples. It is during this meal that Jesus says:

If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do. (John 13:14-15)

The Washing of the Feet, as many have rightly interpreted, is about humility and selfless service, aspects found in the Eucharistic meal. But it is also about justice, about restoring right relationship among people. Ron Rolheiser offers the following:

The Eucharist, among other things, calls us to justice, to dissolve the distinction between rich and poor, noble and peasant, aristocrat and servant, both around the Eucharist table itself and afterwards, outside of the church. The Eucharist fulfills what Mary prophesied when she was pregnant with Jesus – namely that, in Jesus, the mighty would be brought down and the lowly would be raised up.

…The Eucharistic table is a table of social non-distinction, a place to which the rich and the poor are called to be together beyond all class and status. | Ronald Rolheiser, Our One Great Act of Fidelity (2011), p.73-74)

In response to my question, my friend explained to me that it originated with the bringing of fruit – fruits like rambutan or durian, reminders of home’s comforts; or grapes, a luxury item for them, though inexpensive for Australians. He then recounted an incident where he brought in steamed dim sims (dumplings) and the group enjoyed them with their own mix of fish sauce, garlic and chili.

As I listened to the stories my friend told me, I found myself extremely moved. It’s one thing to read the stories and reports of refugees and those detained inhumanely on Nauru and Manus Island, but it’s another thing to hear from someone who has been in contact with them.

He told me that he had met with a group of asylum seekers, who on their arrival to Australia would eventually become the last group to do so, since the day on which they arrived was the same in which the Abbott government brought in the ‘boat turn-back’ policy. My friend also told me how a husband, wife and their baby who was 8-months’ old on arrival recently “had their one-year anniversary”, and also how detainees face negative consequences for conversing with Australians at the compound’s fence.

I began to weep, my heart heavy with grief for these people and for the state in which we find ourselves as Australians. I do not write this to burden you but to show you the realities of what is going on around us. Whether or not you feel passionately about the issues concerning asylum seekers, it cannot be denied that such is a “contemporary cross.” And in line with the Chapter Decree of the Faithful Companions of Jesus, we are to be “channels of hope, love and mercy in our villages, towns and cities” by standing at the foot of these contemporary crosses.

The symbol of a cross was not always the hope of the resurrection Christians recognise today. It was a mark of shame, persecution and death. Jesus Christ changed all that. With this in mind, where do you see in your world, contemporary crosses? What can you do to change things from destruction into life? What hope can you bring to the world? In what ways, great or small, do you restore right relationship in your care for the poor, the marginalised and those on the outside?

As we journey into the holy mystery of the Easter Triduum, may we remember each other, not as this person or that, but as an equal member of the Body of Christ, as one part to a unified whole.

Keeping Company

Conversing with the refugees | Image source: DASSAN

Reflection: 17 March, Feast of St Patrick – Gratitude, Humility and Prayer

KEEPING-COMPANY.COM | FCJ Spirituality, Mission and Identity

Stained glass image of St Patrick, Bishop.

The phenomenon that is the celebration of St Patrick’s Day is marked the world over, with emerald green, merriment and cultural pride. And every year, while confetti, festivities and parades fill the streets, bars and pubs, I find myself evading or avoiding the noise and following instead, the footsteps of ancient Celtic voices.

St Patrick is one of my favourite saints, not because he supposedly rid Ireland of snakes or survived capture by pirates in the rough northern waters. It’s not even because he won an ancient people and culture for Christ. While the legendary Apostle to Ireland and great bishop figure stands strong, in truth, I love St Patrick because of his gratitude, humility and prayer life. Not much is known about his life, except that he was an unlettered sheep-herder as a young lad, with no family or friend nearby except God, in whom he would find his soul friend, his calling and constant companion.  (I know this because I’ve read his letters: the Confession, written at a later stage in his life and the one To the Soldiers of Coroticus.)

In his Confession, he details his journey to Ireland, which was not the welcoming friendly place we associate the Irish with today. And in it, we meet a figure who despite all his trials, both physical and spiritual, remained wonderfully grateful as he “gave thanks unceasingly to God.” (Confession, n.46) Gratitude abounds in his writings.

St Patrick’s accomplishments in connecting with the pagans through peace and dialogue, and in converting among many, a princess of notability, were also retold with an immense humility. All he did, he claimed not for himself or by himself, but always by the grace of God:

“Therefore be amazed, you great and small who fear God, and you men of God, eloquent speakers, listen and contemplate. Who was it summoned me, a fool, from the midst of those who appear wise and learned in the law and powerful in rhetoric and in all things” (Confession, n.13)

I have an image of Patrick, surrounded by great flocks, but sitting as still as a rock in contemplation and prayer. He says himself that he prayed a hundred times a day and through the night as a sheepherder slave near the Slemish mountain in Antrim.

Keeping Company | County Antrim, Ireland

A view of the Slemish mountain and countryside where Patrick was a sheepherder. Co Antrim. Image credit: Douglas Craig, on TrekEarth.com

I like to believe that this foundation of prayer became the cornerstone on which he rested through the rest of his life. I believe that this was what enabled him to do great works, which have led to his appeal to this day.

However you choose to celebrate this feast, let me share with you one of my favourite Patrician resources, in honour of this admirable saint. It hasn’t been easy to track down since I first came across it years ago, but after going through many videos tagged “Confession St Patrick” (which brought up clips like “Drunken confessions on St Patrick’s Day”) here it is, thanks to Catholic Radio Dramas.

I wish all a Happy St Patrick’s Day: to those of Irish/Celtic descent and those who count themselves interiorly Celtic. A special mention goes to our sisters in Ireland and the UK, where the FCJ society has been present and instrumental since the early years. This post is dedicated you. Thank you for your commitment, dedication and service.

May God and Mary bless you. Dias muire dhuit.


Celtic spirituality at its expressive best in a composition by Maire (Moya) Brennan in The Light on the Hill.

On Halloween


My daughter came home from school exclaiming, “Mum, we can’t have the Halloween party because we’re a Catholic school and Halloween is the devil’s birthday!”

She and her brother had been invited to a Halloween party on Sunday, where they would dress up in costume and I presume, run around talking like wart-covered witches or ghosts. Dressing up in costume is as Halloweeny as we get. Many of us Aussies haven’t quite got into the rustic, earthen, orange feel that characterises the holiday. This might be because we’re too busy preparing (I mean, bracing ourselves!) for the topsy-turvy Christmas at the end of the year, complete with bells jingling, and sleighs swishing. And do not forget, that after we’ve filled ourselves with hot roasts and brandy-drenched puddings, we sweat it through a summer that stretches right into the next year.

Halloween in Australia? Not as huge a festival as north of the equator, but admittedly growing commercially as plastic pumpkins sprout in supermarket aisles.

“Halloween is not the devil’s birthday,” I stated. “It’s actually the eve – the evening – the …e’en of All Saints’ Day.”

“Oh,” said my daughter. And off she went, relieved that we could still go to the party guilt-free.

To cut a long story short, here’s a picture I came across on Twitter.

On Halloween

Image credit: xt3.com

Mary on my Phone

I’ve spent some time this morning thinking about Mary. A form of prayer took shape and I found myself drawing a picture of her on my phone. Now I have her with me all throughout the day.

They’re the same picture edited slightly differently, which do you like?



Have you seen traces of Mary in your day?

How do you imagine her to be?

How do you use your imagination in prayer?

There’s Something About Mary (15 August: Feast of the Assumption)

Keeping-Company.comCharles Healey SJ writes:

Since St Ignatius had such a strong commitment to and love of Jesus, it should come as no surprise that he also had a deep and abiding devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus. A favorite prayerful request of his to Mary was: “Place me with your Son.” | Praying with the Jesuits (Paulist Press, 2011)

Time and time again, we seek the intercession of Mary. While venerated, she is not worshipped, but rather points us to her Son and our Lord in whom all things are fulfilled. In John’s gospel at the wedding in Cana where Jesus performs his first sign, it is Mary who issues the imperative, saying, “Do whatever he tells you.”

There is a lot to say about Mary and about the feast of the Assumption, but perhaps for now, let us look at this note, again from Fr Healey:

The feast of the Assumption (August 15) is still one of the traditional days on which Jesuits pronounce their vows…

Since it is only the beginning of the day this morning, pause for a moment and ask yourself prayerfully:

  • What are the vows I have made? How do I live them?
  • Where I fall short, I ask for the grace to stand up again.
  • Where I excel, I ask for the grace of gratitude and humility, always praising God.

Let the day unfold gently, remembering the vows we have made to the Lord. God knows all that is in our hearts, let Mary take them to Him.

22 July: Feast of St Mary Magdalene


Oil painting by Pietro Perugino, c. 1500

Today is 22 July, the feast of St Mary Magdalene. There is a lot that can be said about this person, and about what she contributes to the mission and identity of the Faithful Companions of Jesus. Here are a few images on offer, which may resonate with you in prayer:

1. A summary from the Daily Mass Book (2013):

A faithful disciple of Christ, Mary ministered to his needs after having seven devils cast out from her. Witnessed his crucifixion, was present at his burial, and was the first to see the risen Lord. Commissioned by Christ to proclaim the good news of his resurrection to the apostles (John 20:17-18).

Consider the verbs attached to her: to minister, to witness, to be present, first to see, commissioned, to proclaim. How might we minister to others’ needs? How do we witness to the suffering of another? Are we present? Are we hopeful toward what lies beyond our horizon? How have we been commissioned by Christ? What ‘good news’ do we proclaim?

2. As played by Yvonne Elliman in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar (1973):

Try not to get worried, try not to turn on to
Problems that upset you, oh.
Don’t you know
Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s fine.
And we want you to sleep well tonight.
Let the world turn without you tonight.
If we try, we’ll get by, so forget all about us tonight

(Apostles’ Wives: Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s alright, yes.)

Sleep and I shall soothe you, calm you, and anoint you.
Myrrh for your hot forehead, oh.
Then you’ll feel
Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s fine.
And it’s cool, and the ointment’s sweet
For the fire in your head and feet.
Close your eyes, close your eyes
And relax, think of nothing tonight.

(Apostles’ Wives: Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s alright, yes.)

Consider the role of Mary Magdalene in this story as comforter in the midst of strife. Here, she manages to soothe and be a presence of gentleness while maintaining strength and resilience. What might that say about our own capacity for healing? What about our leadership?

3. As a characteristic of friendship:


Excerpt from The Friendship of Women (2006) by Joan Chittister OSB

Consider then, what kind of companionship we seek to offer. Are we able to follow another and accompany them in the deep?

It is not without significance that the founderess shares the saint’s name, Marie Madeleine. Articulated best are the words:

…My name is Magdalen; I will follow my patron saint who so loved Jesus, her good Master, as to accompany him in his journeys and his labours, ministering to him even to the foot of the Cross with the other holy women who did not…abandon him but proved to be faithful companions. | Marie Madeleine, as recorded in the Memoir of Fr Ferdinand Jeantier SJ (1860)