"I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: 'Give them something to eat' (Mk 6:37)." (Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (November 2013), #49)

 

Michael Whelan SM

Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 2 – Breathing as a way into Contemplation

Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JColo River Sally June 2015 Square

In the Book of Genesis we read: “then the LORD God formed man (adam) from the dust of the ground (adamah), and breathed into his nostrils the breath (nâshamah) of life; and the man (adam) became a living being (nephesh)”. (2:7) (In Hebrew thought, there is no “body” distinct from “soul”. Nephesh means literally “a being animated by the breath of life”.)

The “breath of God” is also referred to by the Hebrew word ruah and is generally translated as “spirit” – see for example Genesis 6:3, Psalm 104:30 and Job 33:4. Ruah – meaning either wind or breath – is generally used in both Hebrew and Christian Scriptures when speaking of the Spirit of God. In Greek the word becomes pneuma and in Latin spiritus.

In the Gospel of John we read: “(Jesus) breathed on (the disciples) and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’”. (20:22) This is the new creation!

We breathe because of God’s breathing.

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Ordinary Pain

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JPain

1. Pain can have its genesis and manifestation in any or all of three dimensions:

Physical – eg back pain, headache, toothache, arthritic pain etc
Psychological – loneliness, grief, feeling abandoned, depression, anxiety, fear etc
Spiritual – longing, despair, guilt, dark night etc

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Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 1 – Listening to what is going on

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JColo River Sally June 2015 Square

We can speak of emotion (feeling, affect) as a reaction that tends to move us in a certain way. It is reaction not response, a matter of reflex not choice – initially at least. The English word emotion comes from the Latin word movere meaning to move.

The movement involves the whole person, though it may be more focused in the body – eg as physical pain or satisfaction – or in the psyche – eg as anxiety or anger – or in the spirit – eg compunction or ecstasy. It is important to discern the source of the emotion. For example, “feeling depressed” might have its roots in the body, the psyche or the spirit.

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Euthanasia: Some Questions & Issues Arising

Michael Whelan SM

JEuthanasia

Euthanasia is well and truly on the agenda in Australia and it is becoming increasingly difficult to sort out the fact from the fiction. Claims and counter-claims are made. Yet, the subject demands reasoned conversation and finely nuanced thinking.
To begin with I will indicate four factors that make the reasoned conversation and nuanced thinking difficult in our culture:
1. Because the issues and questions concerning euthanasia arise in the context of suffering and death, it is not surprising that the discussion of euthanasia sometimes raises strong emotions. This can make it difficult to maintain a focus on what is really at stake here. Read more

Marist Presence 8: Mary as inspiration

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

The work to be done is Mary’s work. Fr Colin used that phrase frequently – “Mary’s work”. Marist presence is therefore motivated and shaped by Mary’s presence. Fr Colin did not focus on Marian devotions or pieties. Jean Coste SM writes:

Here we touch on what I am prepared to call the Marist paradox which must be grasped if there is to be understanding of the way that the role of Mary is lived in the Congregation (ie the Society of Mary) at the present time.

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Marist Presence 7: Instruments of mercy

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

Michael Fitzgerald SM writes:

Mary’s presence in the Church is not seen as a remote, nebulous, contemplative one, but rather Mary is in the Church with a particular mission: she is the gentle and merciful face of the Church, the open and welcoming door of the sheep-fold .... She extends the welcome of a merciful God, of a merciful, welcoming community of disciples. ....

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Marist Presence 6: Taste for God

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

Fr Colin was reflecting one day on just how he would approach the formation of young men who were being formed in the Marist way. He said he would speak with them individually twice a week. Interestingly enough, he said:

.... for the first two or three months I would not take the initiative in making any observations to them. The Rule says that in the beginning they must be treated consideratius et attentius (‘with great care and attention’). I would just let them speak, replying to what they said, and indicating the way they might correct the faults they have noticed in themselves and pointed out to me. (A Founder Speaks, 63:2)

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Marist Presence 5: Unknown and hidden

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

“(Marists) desire to breathe (Mary’s) spirit .... They seek inspiration in the traditional phrase, ‘hidden and unknown in the world’. For Jean-Claude Colin it best captured, in the light of his spiritual and pastoral experience, Mary’s presence in the Church. They learn from him and like him from Mary, how to approach the work of evangelization so that Gospel may be received in all its power and charity. .... While Marists are willing to undertake any ministry that will help build up the Church for the sake of the world, they work in such a fashion that no one, as it were, notices their presence.” (Constitutions (1988), #9, #22, #23 & #25).

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Marist Presence 4: One heart and one soul

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

Fr Colin said when he was Superior General:

My dear confreres, may the closest bonds of charity unite us always, may we truly be but one heart and one soul. The Society of Mary must make present once again the first times of the Church. (September 21, 1846, in A Founder Speaks, 115,5.)

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Marist Presence 3: Nazareth

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

In December 1967 – about a year before Thomas Merton was accidentally electrocuted by a faulty fan while attending a conference in Bangkok – he gave a retreat to a group of contemplative nuns at the Cistercian Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. What he said in that conference nearly fifty years ago is as fresh and relevant now as it was then:

Presence is what counts. It’s important to realise that the Church itself is presence and so is the contemplative life. Community is presence, not an institution.

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Marist Presence 2: The Church-being-born

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

A good place to start is with the statement that lit the fire in Fr Colin’s heart. Fr Jean Claude Courveille shared with Colin and some other seminarians words he said he had ‘heard’ on 15 August 1812 in the cathedral of Le Puy: ‘Marie dans l’église naissante et à la fin des temps’. He attributed those words to Mary. The French is generally translated as “Mary in the newborn Church/the Church at its birth and at the end of time.” There are various versions. We should note, however, that ‘lÉglise naissante’ literally means ‘the Church in the process of being born’.

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Marist Presence 1: Background

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

At the heart of presence is spirituality. The word “spirituality” is used here in a very specific sense: living relationships. All human beings live in four sets of relationships:

· with the “Absolute” – however we name that
· with oneself
· with other human beings and
· with events and things

To speak of Marist presence and therefore spirituality, is to speak of a specific way of relating with God, self, other people and the world.

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Sexual Abuse and the Catholic System - Clericalism

The Third of Four Reflections by Michael Whelan SM PhD

JMichaelWhelan"To the pastors alone has been given the full power of teaching, judging, directing; on the faithful has been imposed the duty of following these teachings, of submitting with docility to these judgments." (Cited in The Catholic Weekly, September 19, 1993, quoting The Freeman's Journal, September 12, 1885.)

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Sexuasl Abuse in the Catholic System - Docetism

The First of Four Reflections by Michael Whelan SM PhD

JMichaelWhelanOne of the indispensable tasks of any .... formulation [of Christology] will surely have to be a convincing vindication of the thoroughgoing humanness of Jesus, a humanness which the classical Christology formally and officially defended, but practically and effectively undermined. [Donald P. Gray, "The Incarnation: God's Giving and Man's Receiving," Horizons, 1 (1974), 1]

 

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Sexual Abuse in the Catholic System - Moralism

The Second of Four Reflections by Michael Whelan SM PhD

JMichaelWhelan"Chuang Tzu's concern with the problem that the very goodness of the good and the nobility of the great may contain the hidden seed of ruin is analogous to the concern that Sophocles or Aeschylus felt a little earlier, in
the west. ... the hero of virtue and duty ultimately lands himself in the same ambiguities as the hedonist and the utilitarian.

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Sexual Abuse in the Catholic System - Objectivism

The Fourth of Four Reflections by Michael Whelan SM PhD

JMichaelWhelan"Spirituality that assumes that the individual is a center of volitional force that is supposed to exert itself upon or against a world outside and around it can at best only perpetuate the illusory identity which no man in his right man would consent to have: that of a mythical and detached 'subject' existing entirely outside all 'objective' reality, able to understand everything by pure reason and to dominate everything by his own will.

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Conversation: A Thumbnail Sketch

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMichaelWhelanI use the word "conversation" with a quite specific meaning here. That meaning is derived from the word's etymology, which it shares with two Latin words, conversari, meaning "to dwell," "to keep company with" or "to abide," and convertere, meaning "to change," "to convert," "to alter," "to refresh" or "to turn."

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Thomas Merton - Prophecy or Nostalgia?

Michael Whelan SM PhD

JMichaelWhelanCentenary lecture given at St James Institute in Sydney, January 31 2015

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Josephite Jubilarians (24 January 2015)

Homily by Michael Whelan SM

JMaryMackillopJJulianTennysonWoodsFirst Reading: Deuteronomy 1:29-32 & 2:7. Responsorial Psalm: "On Eagle's Wings". Second Reading: 1 John 4:7-16. Gospel: John 15:1-8.

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Homily for Golden Jubilee Sisters of St Joseph

JMaryMackillopThirty Sisters of St Joseph from different parts of Australia and New Zealand celebrated fifty years of profession at Mount Street, North Sydney on January 6, 2015. Michael Whelan SM presided at the Mass and gave the homily.

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