Archive for July, 2012

Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, La Crosse, Wisconsin

This morning I head to the airport to journey to Wisconsin for a canon law conference at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La CrosseRaymond Leo Cardinal Burke [Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura], Bishop Salvatore Cordileone [newly appointed Archbishop of San Francisco], Dr. Kurt Martens, and Mr. William Daniel will speak on such timely topics as: Religious Liberty, Nullity of Marriage Process, Suppression/Mergers of Parishes, and much more.  It’ll also be great to see some of my confreres again after our “summer” break.

Inside the Church at Mepkin Abbey, South Carolina

On  Friday morning I continue the journey to South Carolina.  For the rest of the month I will be staying with the Cistercians at Mepkin Abbey.  I’m very much looking forward to a monastic month, and by the end of it, I should be able to tell you a whole lot more about growing mushrooms (part of the income-producing work of the Mepkin community).  I was, once-upon-a-time, a Cistercian postulant and novice, and I have a great love of the Benedictine Rule and the way of life based on it.  I find that it’s always a great blessing to be able to spend time in a monastery, and am eagerly awaiting arriving there on Friday.  If you could say a prayer that it’s a good retreat I’d be most appreciative, and I’ll be praying for you too.

I am unlikely to have much (or any) internet access until I return to Ottawa in the first week of September for the resumption of classes – my final semester here in Ottawa.

On August 5th this blog, A secular priest, will turn one!  I must admit that it feels like it’s been going longer.  I knew the birthday was approaching because I started the blog around the time of preparing to go to last year’s canon law conference in La Crosse, Wisconsin.  I head to this year’s conference tomorrow.   The first post on A secular priest appeared on 5 August 2011, and as I mentioned in one of the early posts “Why a blog?” the actual act of creating the blog was in fact a mistake.  After making the mistake (i.e. clicking the wrong button whilst trying to do something else), I figured that I might as well see where things went, and here we are today!

Since beginning a year ago I’ve made 447 posts, and there have 26,184 page views.   Readers come predominantly from Australia, the United States, and Canada.  Since 25 February 2012 the page views from each of those countries was 6254, 2848, and 2373 respectively.  For that same period there were 517 page views from the United Kingdom.  Curiously, the posts that always generate the most traffic are ones announcing the appointment of new bishops!  So thank you to Bishops Tomlinson, Kennedy, McGuckin, and Archbishops Costelloe and Coleridge for bring visitors this way!

One of my main motivations for pursuing the blog was to be able to communicate in some way with those back home whilst I was in Canada.   It would be simple if everyone was just on Facebook, but that’s never going to happen (not to mention any names, but you know who you are)!  And so, if you are going to try to be available and accessible via modern social communications media, it seems to be necessary to use several different modes at the same time.  I recently ventured into Twitter after curiosity got the better of me.  Someone asked me recently if I started the blog so that I could still “have a say” back home, and there’s probably some truth in that too!  It is interesting, and still surprises me, when someone brings up the blog in conversation.  I’ve received enough feedback over the year to lead me to conclude that it’s something worthwhile to do.  How it will evolve into the future, especially once I return to Brisbane in December, I’m not sure, but we’ll see what happens.

After nearly a year of blogging, I am even more impressed by the truly “serious” bloggers.  At the 2010 joint conference of the Confraternities of Catholic Clergy of both Australia and the United States – together with clergy from the United Kingdom before their Confraternity was established – I heard many positive comments about Fr Tim Finigan’s blog The Hermeneutic of Continuity (Fr Finigan spoke at the conference).  At the time I wasn’t really sure what a blog was, and certainly wasn’t in the habit of looking at them!  His blog is still one of my favourites because his posts are succinct, based in pastoral ministry, and he covers a variety of topics that I find interesting.  Fr John Zuhlsdorf’s What Does the Prayer Really Say? is always full of interesting news, and good for a laugh too!  I have enjoyed his cooking photos.

I’ve said it before, but I really admire how someone like Archbishop Terrence Prendergast SJ of Ottawa is able to maintain his blog, The Journey of a Bishop.  Archbishop Prendergast’s schedule of activities is impressive to start with, and yet he still makes time to offer posts on his blog.  What a wonderful way of reaching out to the people of the Archdiocese and beyond.  I really do hope that my own (new) Archbishop, Mark Coleridge, in Brisbane, will take up blogging.  I’m sure if he did his offerings would be informative and engaging and would allow the people of the Archdiocese to really tune in to their spiritual leader.  It would also be a very concrete example and expression of his desire that we as a Church need to reach out in a new way, and not just “circle the wagons.”  [No pressure Your Grace!]

Anyway, whatever it is that brings you to A secular priest, thank you for coming by, and I hope your visit here provides something helpful, useful, or interesting.   I see the blog as one aspect of my priestly ministry, and a way of connecting with and encouraging fellow travellers as we strive to live God’s will in our lives.

I saw the following Litany of Blog Humility the other day on The hermeneutic of continuity (quoting from here).   Whilst I clearly fail on most points, it’s good to be reminded of the need for humility when one sets one’s words before the gaze of the world.

The Litany of Blog Humility
From the desire of my blog being read
Deliver me dear Jesus
From the desire of my blog being praised
Deliver me dear Jesus
From the fear of my blog being despised
Deliver me dear Jesus
From the fear of my blog being forgotten
Deliver me dear Jesus
From the fear of no page views
Deliver me dear Jesus
That other blogs may be loved more than mine
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it
That Nihil Obstat may find all my grammatical and spelling errors
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it
That Google may never list my blog
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it
That comments always be negative and abusive
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it
That my commenting system always say “commenting temporarily unavailable”
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it
That Mark Shea may notice every blog but mine
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it
That others may be pithier than I, provided that I may become as pithy as I should
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it

I arrived safely back in my quasi-domicile of Ottawa late last night.  Thanks be to God, I made all my connections: Brisbane – Sydney – Los Angeles – Montreal – Ottawa.  That was the most connections I’ve had on the journey between Ottawa and Brisbane: normally it’s just two stops in between Brisbane and Ottawa.

After leaving winter in Brisbane, I returned to summer in Ottawa.  Thankfully I missed the heatwave that they had been having.  Today was just like a typical summer’s day in Brisbane – warm and slightly humid.

I took a stroll this afternoon to go to Mass, and concelebrated with the rector of the Cathedral.  It was nice to see many of the Cathedral “gang” again.

Some photos from today can be seen here (Flickr) or here (Facebook).

I head to the U.S. on Tuesday for the remainder of my summer break.

My time at home is nearly at an end.  Tomorrow I cross the ocean once again to return to Ottawa.  Classes don’t start until September, so next week I’ll cross the border to go to a canon law conference in La Crosse, Wisconsin.  From there I will continue to South Carolina where I’ll be spending a ‘monastic month’ with the Cistercians at Mepkin Abbey.

The past three months have been filled with many things.  I made it back in time for Archbishop Coleridge’s installation: the beginning of a new era for our Archdiocese.  I completed a practicum in the marriage tribunal and chancery.  We’ve had the priestly jubilee celebrations, and more recently the clergy conference.  I was able to be present for Monsignor McGuckin’s consecration as bishop of Toowoomba.  There’ve been several funerals during the past few months of former parishioners, co-workers, and brother priests.  And I had the opportunity to catch up with many different people.  If I didn’t get to see you, I’ll be back at the end of the year!

Since I was without a parish appointment these past few months, I’m most grateful to those priests and communities who have welcomed me at their altars for the celebration of Mass.

This will be my last semester away for studies and, all going to plan, I’ll be home permanently at Christmas.  Next year I’ll be doing tribunal and chancery work, along with parish work in a yet-to-be-determined location!

For those across the ocean: see you soon … and for those here in Brisbane: see you at Christmas!

In the midst of Catholic Education Week (July 22 – 28), and as one of his first major appointments since his installation as Archbishop of Brisbane, Archbishop Coleridge has appointed Ms Pam Betts as the new Executive Director of Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Brisbane.  Ms Betts succeeds Mr David Hutton who has held the post for fourteen years.

The Archbishop has said that Catholic education is one of his priorities, which adds a certain significance to this appointment.

The Archbishop’s announcement can be viewed here: Archbishop’s announcement Exec Dir Cath Ed Brisbane

One of the nice things about this visit home has been having a bit of extra time to spend with people and groups in the diocese that might not normally be possible.

Today I had the chance (a visit which had been in the pipeline since 2007 or earlier, I might add!) to spend the day at the Corinda Graceville Parish Atrium of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

According to the Atrium’s brochure,

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd seeks to provide an opportunity for children aged 3 – 12 years to draw close to God, to meet with Him through the use of sensorially rich materials in a peaceful and meditative environment.

Materials in the Atrium include meditations on the words of the Scriptures and the Prayers of the Liturgy.

It was great to see several different groups of children enter into this unique experience of catechesis, and of coming to know and experience God’s love for them.  The commitment of the catechists at the Atrium, and their love of sharing the faith with the children,  is very impressive.

For more information contact Anne Delsorte at the Atrium on 3379 8635.

Some more photos from my visit today can be found here.

I’ve just come across a nice reflection written by Archbishop Coleridge on the pilgrimage he and thirty others from the Archdiocese of Brisbane made for him to receive the pallium from Pope Benedict XVI.

You can read it here.

This weekend I covered the Masses at Saint Benedict’s, East Brisbane, and Saint Joseph’s, Kangaroo Point (overseas readers might be amused that we even name our suburbs after kangaroos)!  There are no kangaroos visible, however, in inner-city Brisbane anymore.   These days, Kangaroo Point is more noted for its cliffs alongside the Brisbane River which are popular for rock-climbing.  The top of the cliffs, with their great views over to Southbank and the city, are also a popular vantage point for fireworks displays throughout the year.

The text of my homily follows:

(Readings: Amos 7:12-15;  Ps 85;  Eph 1:2-14;  Mk 6:7-13)

One theme that we find in our readings today is the reality of what we call “divine election.”   Whether we know it or not, God chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world.  The beautiful passage from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians reminds us that long before we came into being God had us in mind, to be filled with all his blessings, and so that we might exist for the praise of God’s glory.  The Collect (or Opening Prayer) of Mass today reminded us that to hear God’s voice and follow him is a gift of the Father, who shows the light of his truth to those who go astray, so that they can return to him.  God has eternally predestined us to enjoy happiness with Him.

Even if we “chose” baptism as an adult, that choice of ours is really only a response to God who chose us first – and in fact who had chosen us from all eternity.  For all of us, our Christian vocation – whether we consider the common call to holiness or the specific call that each of us has – that call is God’s initiative, to which we respond.

This is illustrated in our First Reading.  Amos the prophet is facing opposition and rejection.  Amos’ response is straightforward in which he says, effectively, “Look, I’m only doing this because the Lord took me from what I was doing, and told me to go prophesy to the people of Israel.”

It is interesting to consider that the idea that God had us in mind before the world was formed is even written into creation itself.   Some scientists and philosophers of science suggest that from the very time of the ‘big bang’ that it almost appears to be designed so that human life could be possible.  It appears that as little as half a degree difference in the initial temperature at creation would have made our world impossible.

As Christians we believe that God did design for the universe for man, and that everything was created in, through and for Christ.  Everything in creation has passed through the loving hands of the Son of God.  All creation is marked by the grace of God.  For the person of faith, they come to realise that the purpose of everything is to lead us to God and to share the happiness of his life.  This is what we were created for;  this is what God had in mind from all eternity.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that we who have come to this realisation of God’s call to us, and his purpose for all creation, are charged with the responsibility of being missionaries of this vision to and for others.  For not everyone is aware of God’s love.  Not everyone is aware that their happiness corresponds to the extent that they live in tune with God’s will for them.  Not everyone realizes that their ultimate purpose is union with God, to praise his glory for all eternity.

In this world in which we see a lot of pain, strife, and brokenness, how much do we need the message that the Lord loves us with an eternal love.  More even than those who have loved us the most, the love of Christ is greater, and it never fails.  The love of Christ is the only love that can be guaranteed to be with us every step of the way, even through death.  This is the message that we are meant to take “to the world.”

In the sending of the Twelve, Jesus urges a simplicity in the mission of evangelization.  The Twelve didn’t have to take lots of things with them – in fact, they were really just to take themselves.  We could contemporize this and say that to be Christ’s missionaries in the world today, we don’t need to write the best books, or have the best websites, or even be the best preachers.  It’s meant to be the witness of our lives that speaks, the way that we live:  how we trust in God’s love in our lives;  how we share the Lord’s compassion with others;  how we try to give up those un-Christlike aspects of our personalities that we sometimes wrongly cling to;  how we try to allow God’s grace to make us more Christ-like.

Just as Amos faced rejection, Jesus acknowledges that those he sends out will sometimes meet people who aren’t interested in their message.  This is what Jesus himself experienced, so why would it be any different for his followers?  Our Lord himself couldn’t convince everyone of his message, so who are we to think that we’ll be more successful than he himself?

Jesus urges the same simplicity in the face of rejection: to shake the dust off our feet.  We can imagine that in Jesus day, with the footwear they wore then, their feet would have got very dusty.  Just as dust clings to feet, so too can our reactions to rejection cling to us: we can feel hurt, angry, bitter.  But we’re to shake off our reactions to rejection just as we shake dust off our feet.  The simplicity of Jesus’ way is simply to move on.  We leave those who don’t want to listen to us, trusting that others may be able to share Christ’s message with them better than us, and perhaps at another time, when the time is right.

As we reflect on the Word of God today, let’s be grateful that we are part of God’s eternal plan.  God has loved us and called us from all eternity to enjoy the happiness of his life.  Let’s be aware too that Jesus calls us and sends us to share this message with others, so that they too can enjoy the divine life.  May this Eucharist strengthen us to be the Lord’s missionaries of His love in our own time and place.


Acknowledgement to

I have arrived this afternoon in a very foggy Toowoomba.   Tomorrow morning is the consecration of Monsignor Robert McGuckin as the sixth bishop of Toowoomba.

The first time I visited Toowoomba was in my first week in the seminary, in February 1993.   On that occasion we journeyed up the Range for the episcopal consecration of Bishop William Morris.

Please say a prayer for Monsignor McGuckin, and also the priests, religious and laity of Toowoomba.  A new bishop is always a new beginning, of sorts, for a dicoese.

[I do have some photos, but have been having trouble uploading them, so will try later].

The following message has come through regarding the visit of the Dominican scholar, Fr Aidan Nichols, to Australia:

Leading English theologian and author (45 books!) Fr Aidan Nichols, O.P. who is visiting Australia as keynote speaker at the ACSA Conference this weekend in Melbourne, will make a lightning visit to Brisbane and speak publicly once only at St Ignatius Hall, Kensington Tce, TOOWONG, on Tuesday July 10, 2012, at 7.30 PM on the topic:


This is a rare opportunity for Brisbanites to hear a  really significant figure in contemporary Catholic thought.  His lecture is intended to be not a specialised academic address, but more general and accessible to a wider audience, and he will launch his two most recent books.