Dear Sayed: 1st Sunday of Advent (2016)

The Church has now moved into the Season of Advent. It is a time to prepare for the coming of Jesus, often a time in which we prepare our homes for the receiving of guests, as a tradition of Christmas hospitality. Spiritually, we prepare ourselves to welcome Jesus into our hearts.

It was a great privilege to begin this advent season in the way we did today. My daughter and I attended a card-making workshop, hosted by our dear friend, Fiona, whose contacts will send them on to various places, including the MITA in Parkville, Vic. It was a treasured time of creativity, friendship and for me, personal prayer. Here is the day, in my daughter’s words:

Today Mum, Fiona and I made Christmas cards for people in detention centres. We made about 20 handmade cards with all sorts of Christmassy decorations. There were cards with Christmas trees, candles, stars, buttons and many other things. There were many people we wrote to, but I wrote to Sayed, a young 6-year-old and Azizullah, a 13-year-old. It’s quite upsetting to hear that many people, especially young children, are put into detention centres. Around Christmas time, in the detention centres, they don’t even get a mention about Christmas. In the cards we put our names, what city we live in, and that we are thinking about them. I hope that you too can take the time this Advent and Christmas, to pray for the people who are in detention centres around Christmas. –Pia, 11 years


With our handmade cards for our asylum seeker friends in detention.

Children never cease to amaze me. I am so grateful that I get to witness this daily. On the car ride home, Pia and I were talking about what we did in the afternoon. The conversation went on to the plight of these people who are locked up and given no presents, no decoration and no joy. It was then that she exclaimed, “How can a 6-year-old cope!”, fighting back tears, her voice breaking with emotion. A little while later, she said to me in a voice still shaken, “This music explains the situation.” The song that was playing was “Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?” from the soundtrack to Disney’s Frozen (a highly recommended film, if you haven’t seen it!), sung by the optimistic and bubbly Anna, wherein she tries to connect with her estranged sister Elsa, who has a tendency to isolate herself. The song starts out incredibly playful and carefree, but the point at which my daughter commented, is an instrumental interlude to mark the tragic death of the characters’ parents, at sea.

I listened some more, to my daughter, and to the music. Then I heard these lyrics:

Please, I know you’re in there,
People are asking where you’ve been
They say “have courage”, and I’m trying to
I’m right out here for you, just let me in
We only have each other
It’s just you and me
What are we gonna do?

Dear Sayed, dear little one. Dear Azizullah. Dear Adam, dear Leila, dear Ali, and to all of you whose names we do not know. Please, I know you’re in there. People are asking where you’ve been. They say “have courage”, and I’m trying to, I’m right out here for you… we are right out here for you. And praying with and for you. We send you love and open hearts, especially in this advent time.

This Advent, how will you open your hearts? How will you prepare a home and make space for Jesus and his family? May this time be a mindful journey of contemplation and compassion. It will be busy, but here we are at the beginning of it: how will you stop for a moment, to listen to the Spirit of God?


Video: Myriam’s Song

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At ten years of age, Myriam finds herself living in a refugee camp. However despite her circumstances, her faith and wisdom beyond, and nothing short of a manifestation of God’s grace.

We can learn so much from Myriam: about love, friendship, forgiveness and being faithful in a very human and at-times, very broken world.

Insight: The Slow, Patient Love (Omid Safi)


Too often, at least from personal experience, busyness gets in the way of forming and sustaining bonds. Yes, we are busy, however we are robbed in the process, of something fundamental to life: intimacy.  Omid Safi shares his thoughts on this, in this article.

What kind of love do we show? Can we be more present? More attentive? More sincere?

Keeping Company Creates Community

I was delighted to receive something in the mail, and especially happy because it was Pope Francis’ new book, The Church of Mercy: A Vision for the Church (Loyola Press, 2014). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love my job!


Thank you, Loyola Press!

We all know what a fan I am of dear Francis and I am eager to get to know more about him from his thoughts and writing. But what’s touched me most is the thoughtfulness I have been shown in the simple gesture of a personalised greeting. It is my firm belief that sincere and honest sharing or dialogue between two parties is the work of the Spirit, and I also believe that through the other’s keeping company with me (and vice versa), a spirit of community is formed.

Email, instant messaging and “likes” are how we seem to communicate with one another these days,  so it feels extra special to receive something handwritten. It says, “I think of you in the choice of paper or card on which to write.” If it is a greeting card,  it says, “I take you into consideration as I choose the design or message within.” If not, then at the very least, written correspondence says, “I think of you as I form the words in my mind and place them on to the page.” Typing/swyping has its advantages in the ability to delete what you’ve written before you hit ‘send.’

Before I sink into this generous gift-of-a-book, let me leave you with the following to consider:
• When was the last time I received a personal letter or gift in the mail?
• When was the last time I sent something; either to surprise someone or for no reason at all, other than to keep in touch?
• Is there a card, message or letter for me to send, that has been put off?
• Are there people in my life who I can write to,  just to say, “hello”?

There’s a high chance you’ll feel good sending something, and more probable still, someone’s day will brighten. Who knows: you may receive something back in return! Try it out within the next few days.

Wise Words: Honestly and Gently


Wise Words: Honestly and Gently @

The juxtaposition of words in this quote caught my attention:

fundamental aggression toward ourselves
fundamental harm is done to ourselves
when we choose to remain ignorant (unaware, asleep)
to see ourselves honestly and gently which takes courage and respect

What does this quote say to you? Examine yourself gently, honestly and lovingly.

Finding God in the Rain


Photo: Geralyn Anderson, Nov 2013

It’s unseasonably wet for this time of year in Melbourne. This week, the weather is mistakeable for winter, despite being in the middle of November.

I stayed overnight at the FCJs’ last week and walked down to Mass at the Redemptorist monastery. As I proceeded to leave, I saw a friend of mine who was surprised to see me. He greeted me with a smile, and after exchanging a few words, he noticed the rain and so went to get me an umbrella.

I didn’t really need it but I accepted his gift and head off.

The beautiful thing is the grace of kindness, compassion and now, memory. His one simple and seemingly unnecessary act of wholehearted warmth toward me, has given me a blessing that far outlasts the incident.

So to him, I thank you.

Perhaps you can reflect on the simple, unassuming ways of giving, of blessing and of generosity in your day today. Have I received or will I give?

The Shared Work of Friendship

It was Aristotle who observed that authentic friendship had to begin with shared work toward the good. | Tim Muldoon

What might this mean? Friendship, authentic friendship, indeed love, has to be founded on the basis of shared work toward the good. The emphasis on the nature of things shared is an important qualification, since sharing requires among other virtues, that of humility. In sharing, we say to the other, “I entrust to you, a part of what I have,” because to hold on and to keep for oneself is just that – for oneself only. How often we observe in children this dynamic at work when we encourage them to share! Some give happily, letting what they have go to another, trusting that the toy or object will return to them. Others more reluctantly cling on to the object, afraid that if they give up what they have, it’ll be lost from them forever. Learning to share is a lifelong task of refinement that also requires patience.


To share is to give a part of oneself to another. Image source: Mom 2 BB Reviews

How might shared work contribute to friendship? To have an aim, a cause, a goal, a desire, a dream or a vision for one’s life or worldview is worthwhile, but to let someone else in on that is to entrust another with a certain care and responsibility for a part of that which is near to you, and a part of you. This, I believe, is what Ignatius wrote, taught and practiced: that love ought to be shown more in deeds than in words. [Spiritual Exercises #230] To let another walk with you in this life, to share in the journey together is indeed an act of friendship and love, as much as is accompanying another. True love works mutually in the exchange of giving and receiving. It is breaking bread with one another.


Loving God, help me to see the good to which I’m called to work. Help me to share in this work, that with the grace of humility I may let go. Give me the courage to say ‘yes’ to you in accompanying another, and the humility to let them accompany me. Help me to enter ever more deeply into your invitation of friendship and love. Amen.

Editor’s note: The rest of Timothy Muldoon’s insight may be found here.

Write the Soul Online Retreat

We can be so busy doing the work of God that we forget to just be with God. That’s why “spiritual checking-in”, as I like to call it, is so important. Without grounding in where you are with God (and self, included), there is often the potential to lose balance. All work and no pray makes Jack, Jill and John potentially harmful by this distraction away from God. In Ignatian spirituality, we call this temptation as working or following “the angel of light”, essentially a bad spirit appearing as the good.

As such, I wish to share with you, a brilliant initiative by Vinita Hampton Wright, of LoyolaPress on her blog, Days of Deepening Friendship (for Women Growing Wiser). Below are the details:


Please share this around to your friends, family and networks.

In Celebration of Twitter Joy

Keeping Company

There’s celebrity (noun., a well-known or famous person) and then there’s celebrated (verb., originally of the Mass, from the Latin celebrare, meaning ‘to assemble in honour’).

Keeping CompanyWe are celebrating that editor of America magazine, author and prolific Ignatian voice, Fr James Martin SJ (a celebrity-of-sorts in our view) is officially our first ‘follower’ on Twitter. This may sound like childish star-struck glee combined with a certain geekiness for all things Ignatian, but perhaps it is also in fact, a real celebration of life and the makings of connection.

Let me explain.

There is no fanciful media circus here, but a simple acknowledgment and recognition of the other. In our following of @JamesMartinSJ, we expand our network and even horizon by reading what he’s tweeting about. Likewise in his following of Keeping Company fcJ (@walkwithyoufcj), he too will receive tweets and updates about our work and mission. Of course in no way does it mean that we’re now best buds, but a connection has been made, especially so for us, I feel, because he is our ‘first’. (Oh gosh, maybe I am a star-struck geek!)

It always feels good, it is always affirming and it is always good news when people work together. This is what community is about, what Church is about, ekklesia. Too often we hear of one party in opposition of another, or of one group as distinct from another, what about drawing on what we share in common?

Inclusion, community, welcome, mutuality, humility, acceptance, recognition and connection – these are the values of the gospel. We may never meet, Fr Martin and our mob down under, but that doesn’t matter because working for the Kingdom of God is already gift and grace itself. To be called, to be chosen, to be followers of Christ, that is something to celebrate!

So don’t mind my geeky exuberance about this little and seemingly insignificant gesture – I am celebrating that God really is present here. Even on Twitter. Even on the Internet. Please join us on Twitter, and celebrate life with us. Like us on Facebook if you haven’t already. And keep reading, talking and giving us feedback! At the end of the day, it’s not about our cause of “FCJ mission and identity promotion”, but about working together with one another for the coming and already-present Kingdom of God. And don’t you think it’s already a little like heaven?  As Jesus said to his disciples: “I no longer call you servants, but friends…” (John 15:15)

For reflection

  • How have you spread the good news today?
  • How has joy shown itself in your day? Is it something you have shared?
  • Has an encounter made a difference to your day? Or perhaps you’ve made a difference in someone’s life?
  • We are not random and separate entities. Through our baptism and through the Spirit of God, we are united. By our very creation in God, we are all held together in love.


A Conversation With God

God Delights In YouI recently came across an exercise of the imagination, where God speaks and you are invited to respond. I suggest going through each point slowly, savouring each with a deep breath and pause. However many you respond to is of course, yours to decide. But let the gentle and loving, forgiving and understanding voice of God speak to you, from this excerpt from a book called God Delights In You by John T. Catoir:

  • You don’t have to be clever to please Me. Just speak to Me as you would to anyone who cares about you.
  • Are there any people you want to pray for? Tell Me their names and ask for as much as you want. I am generous. Trust Me to do what I know is best.
  • Tell Me about your pride, your touchiness, your self-centeredness, your laziness. I still love you in spite of all your faults. Do not be ashamed in My presence. There were many saints in heaven who had the same faults as you. They prayed, and little by little their faults were corrected.
  • Do not hesitate to ask for blessings for body and mind, for health, memory and success. I can give everything.
  • Tell me about your failures, and I will show you the cause of them. What are your worries? Who has caused you pain? Tell Me about it. Forgive them and I will bless you.
  • Are you afraid of anything? Have you any tormenting, unreasonable fears? Trust yourself to Me. I am here and will not leave you.
  • Have you no joys to share with Me? Tell Me about them. What has happened since yesterday to cheer your spirit and comfort you? Whatever it was, big or small, remember that I prepared it for you. Show Me your gratitude.
  • Are there temptations bearing heavily upon you? Yielding to them always disturbs the peace of your soul. Ask Me, and I will help you overcome them.
  • Well, go along now. Get on with your work or play. Try to be humbler, more submissive, kinder to others. Come back soon and bring Me a more devoted heart. Tomorrow I shall have more blessings for you.