Winter 2020

Shall I set my lands in order?

In T.S Eliot’s wasteland; the Fisher King sits by the shore, with the arid plains behind him. In the wake of World War 1 and the additional devastation of the Spanish flu, London Bridge had fallen down. European culture had become sick unto death – powerless to save a dying continent, he wonders, “shall I at least set my lands in order?”

Saying goodbye from afar

Never in a million years did I think I would not be by my mother’s side as she passed from this life. I had sat at my mother’s bedside for years as she struggled with different aliments and I was sure I would be there with her at the end.

Mending a broken relationship

Some of the advice was confronting. To call it politically correct would be misleading. If I hadn’t wanted to rekindle some of the spark we once had for each other, I would have written the content off as misogynistic and moved on. Still, with an open mind, I’ll share what I discovered from the plethora of advice out there.

Isolating, but at what cost …

There is no denying, we are in a time of darkness. To ignore the global suffering would be to ignore reality. To deny the emotions created by this suffering would be called ‘toxic positivity,’ what the Macquarie Dictionary blog listed as a word to watch in April and is to force oneself “into a happy mood regardless of the situation, to the point of denying your real emotions.”

The instinct to survive

Since antiquity, epidemics have spread along trade routes and even more swiftly and dramatically in an age of globalisation. Despite the devastation, humanity has learned to overcome. When the Black Death struck in 1349 it wiped out nearly half of Sienna’s population in Italy, leaving the walls of its new cathedral standing. Today, still unfinished, the walls have been absorbed as part of the cathedral’s history.

‘Bleaching’ the gospel

We need to be realistic about the place of Catholic social services in the broader theatre of Australia’s welfare and community services sector. Where once it was the foundation of the evolving safety net, it now occupies a somewhat niche contribution within a wider and more comprehensive government and other non-government services network.

At home with the masses

I’m a church-every-Sunday kind of person. When I travel, I look up local Mass times. I know where to go if I need Mass at an awkward time; like really early (7:30am St Francis Xavier’s) or really late (8pm St Augustine’s). My family might not be the best-dressed or the most well-behaved, but we turn up, and, being two adults and six children, we help make the numbers. If I do miss Mass for some reason, I feel out-of-sorts all week.

An Infectious Smile

I was in total isolation for 14 days, alone in the unit adjacent to our community at Kogarah in Sydney. I had returned from a 10-day visit to the Philippines. Many images remain with me of my recent trip. There was the stop-over in Singapore and a visit to the magnificent new Novena Church. The church was in lock down and it was my first understanding of COVID-19. With plenty of distance between us, Fr Eugene Lee showed me the breathtaking interior of this national shrine.

A place for everything

One aspect of the isolation necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic that has satisfied me greatly has been the opportunity to restore order to cupboards, drawers and shelves that had, over time, gone awry. I know I’m not the only one. A friend and I have exchanged photos of newly restored linen cupboards. Don’t tell anyone!