Chaplain's News

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit and Palaeontologist who lived from 1881 to 1955, found God not simply in the celebration of the Mass, and in the other more obvious duties of a priest, the hatching, matching and despatching, which I have been doing over 30 years, but his work as a scientist and a naturalist, he encountered God in many avenues including the contemplation of nature. "There is a communion with God and a communion with earth and a communion with God through earth". When I first read this, it helped me to better understand the natural world I live in, by seeing and observing how God constantly reveals the beauty and order in the universe and is forever creating and renewing the physical world.

We can learn about God through the experiences of such holy men and women, as well as through the men and women themselves. Through our mothers especially we can glimpse the transcendent. Not that they are divine, rather they are like a clean window through which the light of God can shine.

Women sensitive to the ways of God appeared regularly in Ignatius Loyola's life after his conversion. Particularly prominent are the women of Manresa. Testimonies for Ignatius's canonization process actually reveal more about the ladies of Manresa than his Autobiography. Known for their laudable lives of prayer and service to the poor even before they met Ignatius, they welcomed him as he shared with them the fruit of his own spiritual experience. The chroniclers describe them as "very honourable women, good Christians, virtuous, and good reputation". One of the most influential was Inez Pascual who with her friend Jeronima Calver, initially met a limping Ignatius on the way from Montserrat to Manresa. They first directed him to the hospice Jeronima ran and continued to provide him with food and shelter as needed. Later, Ignatius stayed at the homes of these and other women.

St Francis of Assisi once said, "Preach the Gospel at all times and, when necessary, use words." It is very succinct but very clever reminder that not all communications is done with word; sometimes the most profound messages are transmitted through example or even silence.

This thought is at the heart of Pope Benedict XVI's annual message for World Communications Day, celebrated around the world on May 20. For the Pope, silence is much neglected form of communication to the detriment of our spiritual lives.

"If we are to recognize and focus upon the truly important questions, then silence is a precious commodity that enables us to exercise proper discernment in, the face of global superficiality, a surcharge of stimuli and data that we receive" he writes in his message.

Today we think of silence as the absence of communication. In fact, silence frightens many of us who strive to eliminate it from our lives by wrapping ourselves with sound and repetitive action. We would rather be engulfed in noise. To all, who silently try their best to get us the best things in life find silence is dangerous, thus gives us the opportunity to question the absurdity and even the irrelevance of so much of what passes as important.

More to the point of Benedict's message, God is to be found in silence. It was in 'a sound of sheer silence' that Elijah heard God's call, not in the earthquake or the windstorm.

Today, the success of Catholic education lies in the diversity of its charism and its ability to address the deep desire that young people have for mystery, says Professor Greg Craven, Vice-Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University and a past Riverview parent. Professor Craven was addressing a recent breakfast gathering of the Old Boys' Union of St Ignatius College Riverview said this,

'This desire for mystery', he said, is 'central to nourishing peoples' souls and not just doing things related to the Mass'.

Professor Craven also talked about the challenges that face Catholic schools today, discussing his experiences at the Australian Catholic University, now the fifth largest Catholic university in the world. Foremost among these challenges is the issue of government funding, which is influenced by a climate that is 'more secular and anti-Catholic than ever.'

However, Professor Craven said that the significant challenge around religious education is to ensure that Catholics do not become deeply exclusive.

'No Catholic should look down on others', he said. 'Central to the mission of our schools is to inoculate future leaders with the Catholic faith. It is our privilege to serve and our preferred option is for the poor'.

I would pray in the words of Peter Steele, SJ, our former Provincial Superior of the Australian Jesuits, who wrote in "Bread for the Journey", 'today is Mother's Day, a day on which we celebrate, fittingly, not only our mother's tenderness and indispensable sweetness but also their feeding into us all those resources which we needed, and need, to go on embracing life. So thanking that same God for our mothers, and our fathers and the countless generations which have brought us to be, let us ask also for a fortified belief, an intensified and resolute and unflinching belief, in the God who wishes us well, and wishes us to grow and wishes for all of us courage, generosity, and tenderness. Those are good things to ask for. And the God from whose womb each of us came is a good one from whom to ask it. Amen.

Fr Gaetan Pereira
College Chaplain