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?


Day 26 of #31DaysWithIgnatius


I’ve been thinking about the #youth of the world; and of the Church. I love the presence of the #HolySpirit at work in the vivacity and exuberance youthfulness. 💪

But there is also the presence of the bad spirit; of evil and sin. I find myself devastated, but in honesty, horrifyingly not surprised that today’s #headlines were about #abuse of youth, while locked up in a #NT centre. It’s confronting and depressing but deliberately so, juxtaposed with the #hope of #Day25of31withIggy.

Where is the light? Where is #mercy? How can we be lights in the darkness; how can we be agents of mercy in our world?
#31dayswithIgnatius #news #abcnews #australia #beMagis #bemorehuman#compassion #honest

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).

Reflection: On solidarity


In The Church of Mercy, there is a chapter entitled, ‘Listen to the Cry of the Poor’, which takes an extract from Evangelii gaudium (November 2013). Pope Francis encourages each one of us to live the call “to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society.”

Who are the poor among us? Poverty is not always found in terms of material things, but also where anyone is outcast, lacking or in need of support, especially from a community.

How do we stand with each other, in solidarity? Ponder these questions prayerfully. Think of someone who might be in need, and ask God to give you the grace to do something about it.

Ubuntu and the Peaceable Kingdom

Following on from the previous post about Boyd Varty’s TED talk, let us open up a discussion about the ubuntu philosophy and the peaceable kingdom of Isaiah.

In 2008, Anglican archbishop, Desmond Tutu shared some thoughts on ‘ubuntu’:

One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity. Ubuntu

Let’s have another look at Isaiah 11:1-5:

A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

What do these two texts speak of the call and challenge of living righteously? Of living harmoniously? Of being people for others, in striving to restore justice?

Ask for the grace of stillness, so you may listen and recognise the gentle voice of God. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in this.

Advent at Twilight: Justice will reign (2nd Week of Advent)

New Zealand by air. Justice will reign.

2nd Sunday of Advent: Justice will reign

Written by Geralyn Tan for Keeping Company. 2013.

The coming of God’s reign will bring peace. It will bring harmony, and restore a balance where all will be put into right relationship.

Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.

Justice will show itself as deep peace, profound tenderness and overwhelming compassion.

There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD.

Listen to On That Holy Mountain by Joe Mattingly, which expresses so hopefully not only the ideals of peace and justice, but the promises of them too, provided we are faithful.

In the Gospel passage, we hear of John the Baptist, who lived and preached in the wilderness, outside of towns and villages, far from the comforts the people of Jerusalem, as an example, might have known in the city. One can imagine the coarseness of his appearance. He did not choose fine silk for his clothes or fattened calf and extra-virgin olive oil with pita bread for his diet. He was a stand-out sort of character and he did not fit the norm.

Yet people went to him. They went in droves, outside of their comforts to listen to his preaching and to be baptised by him. Why? Perhaps he was charismatic and could tell a good story. Or perhaps he challenged the people to ‘walk the talk’.

We have seen in the beautiful examples of Pope Francis, the work he does in restoring right relationship, in bringing about the kingdom of God. His embrace of the poor, the excluded and the little ones offers and gives to them, a profound sense of love. Vinicio Riva, the disfigured man whom Francis embraced has spoken out saying that he only felt love. In describing the encounter, he said that it felt like eternity.

In our daily encounters then, we are invited to seek out the poor and the needy, so that we may be bearers of Christ’s light to them through mercy, compassion, tenderness and welcome. In producing good fruit as evidence of our repentance, in walking the words of the good news, we help to bring about this peace.

In what ways might we be as an experience of heavenly peace and harmony for others? In what ways have you experienced this deep sense of unity?

Day for Peace – 7 September 2013

Pope Francis has called for a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace in response to the crises in war torn Syria.

In light of that, I could not help but reflect on the uncanny resemblance between this and that of St Francis of Assisi, who wrote after his visit to the Middle East (c.1220), letters to leaders, wishing peace and calling for unity in prayer.

For reference is:
Letter to the Rulers of the Peoples (1220)

Join us and pray, fast or simply pause in petition, for peace in our world and in our hearts.




Media Release Statement to Politicians

The following is a media release statement:

Calling politicians and voters to work together for justice

Today we celebrate the Feast of Mary MacKillop. “Can the politicians who celebrated with us when Mary was named as Australia’s first Saint now see her as a model and mentor”, asks CRA President, Sr Annette Cunliffe rsc.

“Can our politicians rise to being worthy of our vote rather than descending into vote seeking, no matter the moral and ethical cost? Can Australians heed the advice of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to look beyond their own individual needs and vote for the common good?”

Sr Annette Cunliffe speaks of Mary MacKillop as a woman of great humanity and justice. “She lived a life of heroic goodness and responded totally to the needs around her. Her life was motivated by compassion for those most in need. Mary epitomises responding to the Gospel call”.

“The Gospel call challenges us to help create a just society. We all need to identify where the injustices are, really listen to the people affected, and then work together to influence change.”

“Politicians and the people of Australia need to work in harmony to promote and protect human dignity, seeking to identify and assist the poor, the marginalised, the sick and the forgotten in our community.

“Can we all heed Mary’s watchword: Never see a need without doing something about it? Mary’s feast is an opportunity for all of us to engage in reflection and prayer for the wisdom and courage to make our vote count and for our politicians to be accountable.”

“Australians need to cast a vote that is responsible and principled and our politicians need to be responsible and principled,” said Sr Annette.

8 August 2013

Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) is the peak body for leaders of Religious Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life resident in Australia. Our membership comprises more than 180 congregations of over 8,000 Sisters, Brothers and Religious Priests living and working in all states and territories.) The Faithful Companions of Jesus belong to Catholic Religious Australia.


Summertime in Santiago


This video contains footage from the streets of Santiago in the Dominican Republic set to Sarah Vaughan’s rendition of Summertime.

I have prior to this, felt the soulful sorrow of poverty in the song, but to watch it alongside these images is something else altogether, that moves me to compassion.

For Reflection:

What moves you to compassion?

How might you be able to respond to someone or something with compassion today?

As with all things, in good and in bad; in sorrow and in joy, we give thanks to God who loves us so much that he gave his Son to suffer with us, so that we might live.

Walking and the Right to Movement


Part of being a people of faith, justice and compassion is in our awareness of what goes on in the world.

Today I read that Palestinians in Israel have been denied the right to walk or run in a marathon. The article says, “Organizers sought to ‘tell a different story than the one of conflict and hate'”, but this has brought opposition from the other party. Where is the justice in such a situation?

Meanwhile there is also a reflection by Loyola Press editor, Vinita Hampton Wright, on walking as an act of faith.

A few thoughts come to mind, on:
• Our personal freedom
• The treatment and healthy use of our bodies
• An appreciation for our bodies, in all the faculties
• The way in which we all go through life, be it in swift urgency or slow contemplation
• And gratitude for all these, which are gifts from God

The Principle and Foundation [Exx 23]  is especially relevant here. May we remember and together pray and live in such a way that we affirm that we are created to praise, reverence and serve God, through the care of ourselves and all God’s creatures with balance, as is right.

What are your feelings toward today’s news from the Middle East?

What are your responses to Vinita’s video reflection?