Today Tom McMahon's commentary is more about sharing some of his impressions of Australia, and the people he met — all synthesised, of course, through the spiritual lens that largely underpinned his pilgrimage to the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit. Talk about not being able to take the spirit out of a priest — this is one man who didn't give up his vocation when his priestly faculties were removed.
The Irish Storyteller meets fine people as he travels Australia…
Irish mythology predates the Greek's Olympian god's, ancient legend having it that the gods first inhabited the Emerald Isle and then came people. The people won the war and the gods remained, going underground, hiding as the wee-people, the gremlins and goblins and those toads and fairies … and perhaps an Irish person? Who knows? When I arrived in Perth one of the descendants of those wee-people met me and insisted, at age 19 and dainty of frame, in locating and carrying my luggage; Patricia, an Australian chamber of commerce along with her 24 year old sister Emma offered me a joyful and genuine welcome. Half way around the world the Spirit of Jesus was incarnate and I felt right at home. I could sense wholesomeness.
In the McMahon tribe because of the gifts of modern medicine and science I am gifted with good health in advancing age; in life there is always the challenge to be a genuine Jesus person (wearing his mask/way) and as Page Smith says "old age is a different country", a time of life where aches and pains and disappointments can discombobulate the human brain waves. As waves of new generations flood the earth I see myself and all other followers of the man who hung on Calvary's hill as being used as positive beacon lights for humankind's future. I see the excited innocence of 4 year old grandson Sebastian as he encounters newness, clutching the stuffed kangaroo given me to take to him by the Downes family of Bunbury … and I pondered his future as the storms of human development confront him as he ages. I have a hunch that when they are teens they will remember the kindly old grandpa that allowed them to play with his precious model railway. In adult conversation with my son Tommy I realize that being young in today's society is no bed of roses. News today — "the grandchild coming in October is a girl" — the 1500's Church of Trent will not be beacons for this modern technological generation.
Sebastian will not know the Roman theory of salvation; he will not know in his formative years that not being baptized, some say, he missed out on becoming a child of God. The roman world of grace and seven sacraments will be unknown. 91 year old George, born on the Nullarbor Plain is a Baptist and in my book one of the best of the followers of Jesus. This is my latest on George from Bunbury:
Dad is almost 91. Born at Pt Augusta but grew up on the Nullabor. He also calls himself a "bush Baptist" but was "christened" Church of England. The term "bush Baptist" meant that the people went to whatever service was being held in these remote areas, be it C of E, Baptist or Catholic or "calathumpians" (any thing goes). Ecumenism wasn't a "word" for them; it was a way of life.
George learned his spirituality from his Mom and Dad, one might say The Golden Rule. His two granddaughters, Emma so much the image of her mother Sue and father Charlie as well as Patricia (with tiny ear rings in nose as I recall) are carriers of a tradition of a Jesus' kindness that has pervaded this family. It was over a year ago that a private e-mail arrived from Bunbury offering me hospitality if and when I came down under. Like Caesar "I came, I saw, and I was conquered". I so enjoyed wholesomeness.
Friendliness, hopefulness and human understanding...
No generality will stand unquestioned; I did experience in Australia a wide-spread friendliness, hopefulness, and human understanding. What an inheritance from those days of 150 years ago as the nation of Australia was built on the penal colonies and those with wealth who kept the spirit of goodness and the willingness to share. A forgiving spirit was responsible for the future financial success of the McMahon relative who was sent to Botany Bay in 1831. I made keen comparison to a mean spirit that pervades America; I need make exception now that President Obama is offering a newness of hope, especially in his latest world addresses. The man offers a new hope and a fresh start. I suspected that these exist strongly in Australia.
Yesterday (5/2/09) I visited my seminary; I was aware of 60 acres of profound silence, grounds around which I walked for six years in preparation for ministry in the world. St. Patrick's Papal Library (big donors deserve papal attention) always offers me from its treasure house something new on reform and religion. I copied from Worship magazine THE CHALLENGE OF THE NEW SCIENCE TO LITURGY by Catherine Vincie. I quote here from the first paragraph:
"A New Science … Our generation is experiencing a new scientific revolution. We are living in a post-Newtonian, post-Einsteinian world that is radically recasting our understanding of the whole universe. Whether exploring the vastness of the cosmos or the micro-level of subatomic particles, scientists are overturning centuries of commonly held beliefs. From a static view of the universe, we are moving, they tell us, to one that is essentially dynamic; from theories that stress the differences between things we are beginning to stress our kinship with all beings, animate and inanimate."
Sounds to me like Fr. Thomas Berry (r.i.p. 31/5/09), Teilhard de Chardin, Brian Swimme, and Australia's own Michael Morwood, etc. In my conversations with young Australians, those in their 20's, I found discussion of spirituality well versed in new science and the contradictions of old world-Middle Ages theology and science. What an amazing experience to stand with one foot in Trent, 1542, and the other at the cross roads of the new world watching science and religion ride together with a Star Wars understanding. A conversation with 21-year-old Anthony in Bunbury made me well aware that the new generation has much to offer. Professor and priest Richard McBrien of Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana encourages us older folk to respect and listen to the young questioning generation. McBrien has overflow crowds wanting to take his optional religion course.
Much is being made today of the "way" or pathway of Jesus. We have used it in our writings about Luke's Emmaus Road, the journey path of those who first meet the resurrected Christ. When I sat in Holy Spirit rectory in 1968 watching astronaut Aldrich make a path on the moon I sensed that the use of ancient roads would no longer lead to, or through, Rome — or be adequate in discussing Christianity; no longer would the Roman Via Appia or the pilgrim journey path to Spanish Compostela offer images fit for the dissemination of the modern spirituality of Jesus.
The young of today would zero in on the high-space road of the internet and if we want their attention we had better be good and relevant at what we say. In the airports of Brisbane, Ayers Rock (I never did get this pronounced right, Australian speak), Perth, and Sydney I engaged fellow travelers in conversation, esp. the young. I told Rachel 24, formerly employed in computers and Clair 26, a school teacher, both from England I was writing a book; they graciously shared their ideas of a Deity, the after-life and the abandoned institutional religious practices of teen years. They intend to settle down in New Zealand. I had the privilege of similarly conversing with a half dozen others, close to 60 years my junior. One man in Brisbane questioned me if I believed in an after-life. The world is on the move, many already into the space era. I wondered if old geezers like me could be left behind, spiritually and institutionally.
There is a marriage between the Catholic School system in Australia and the Government, in which great sums of money are shared. Also a World of Sport is intertwined with the fabric of Australian life, a present day sex scandal enveloping and choking like a deadly cobra. The TV was filled with political reports on the present financial crisis. What role will or can the Australian Catholic Church play in Australian life? The upstart American visitor had an eye on the Roman Church and the Australian people. I was bored at a Saturday evening mass. I did see a separation that seems to be widening.
(I have stopped here, questioning myself and challenging if I might offer what I see, this foreigner who is bold enough to share some feedback. I surely don't want to involve in the pot calling the kettle black. I'll think about it for #4)
Tom McMahon in San Jose, Ca., whose night dreams recently have a distinctive Australian tint. (11/06/09)
What are your thoughts on this commentary?