Tom McMahon has been away in the High Sierra Mountains for a few days reading back over some of the recent Catholica commentaries. Taking a break from his series on the Documents of Vatican II he offers us a critique on Catholica and some of the commentaries he's been pondering. Editor of Catholica, Brian Coyne, offers a separate response which you will find linked at the end of this page.
A big catch-up time on reading Catholica...
For weeks on end I have stored in my computer numbers of commentaries that have flown electronically over the oceans from Linden, NSW, hoping and promising that I will read them some day when I have time. Tuesday last I took off with my sister Midge and close friend Dorothy, along with her dog Ginger, to Soda Springs, 225 miles distant from the big cities, remote like Catholica's forest base an hour's train ride from Sydney. At 7000 ft. we rested, slept late, talked, ate well at leisure, toured around Lake Tahoe … and I read a huge stack of the above mentioned commentaries, while looking out a virtual glass wall into a lush and verdant God's green earth.
Catholica readers we are most fortunate to be provided with such up to today wisdom. My hat is off to this Brian Coyne fellow and to all those who supply information to this Australian enterprise. I came home last night, tired after the long drive but wonderfully refreshed in mind.
Religion, church, people, and priesthood have been my life; I sat yesterday morning as the sun was rising, looking out into the forest and reading, and I was so peacefully in awe of a bountiful Creator, nature, and the wealth of information at my disposal from the land down under. Thank you Brian for making this possible and thanks to the contributors who has provided both talent and information. Brian, you are the skilled ringmaster of an intellectual healthy circus of ideas. I am personally grateful that I am one of the acts.
While I am tipping my hat I want to single out how this American got into this Catholica Aussie system. For many years I have been involved with an internet group opened by Len Swidler, retired professor at Temple University, exchanging posts on various subjects, mainly church-related. I was interested in what was posted from Linden NSW, this Brian fellow and wife Milly. Then Brian took leave of America's Katholica and lo when he returned there was this call to consider writing commentaries for his new found enterprise. I had long believed that education today will be successful on the internet and my computer was jammed with LETTERS TO MY CHILDREN, my explanation of my life to our two sons Steve and Tommy. I was 50 years old when they were 3 and 2 and I never thought I would see them through kindergarten. Today Tommy is 31 and father of infant Audrey, and Steve is 33 and father of Sebastian 5, Dominic 3, and Allison 8 months. Life after clericalism has been sweet and I am no longer addicted to blind obedience to Rome. Brian asked how much we would charge for our commentaries and I immediately replied that if offered this wonderful opportunity to share the story of Jesus with others I would seek nothing. (Members of our home-based Community of Jesus Our Brother offer a bit to keep Catholica going). What a gift for this old church banished man from San Jose, Ca. to have such a pulpit where friends exchange in the spirit of love and understanding the mystery of the man from Nazareth.
As I write to Catholica I feel a strong bond of community and friendship. Some of you know that a McMahon was arrested in Ireland in the 1800's, my finding evidence of his deportment to Botany Bay at the Sydney Historical Archives. My year ago trip down under cemented our human kinship. I feel at home on Catholica. Now allow me some words about others who share their contributions in this space each day. I offer my observations in praise and gratitude, recognizing diversity; if I seem to cross swords I make no demands to accept my insight and want to respect the integrity of the other. Catholica is a place where diversity is comfortably maintained. The original meaning of the word mystery was an invitation to investigate. Each contributor is taken at random with no rank or preferred position.
John Chuchman challenges me with his poetic style while intriguing me with his wisdom. My fifth year in minor seminary was called THE POET YEAR and I still have poor remembrances in the emotionally sterile seminary system. I spent my leisure time on a baseball field. Yet, John, you capture the essence of the MYSTERY so clearly and evasively. John, you are a mystic and you offer me enough not to stray far from my humanness as I contemplate matters of the divine Mystery. Yes, John, THE CHURCH: IT MUST DIE TO BE TRANSFORMED!
Ian Elmer, I scribble on the side of your printed copy "is TMc on the same page?" My 81-year-old mind struggles with retention and connection with your many historical facts and your drawn conclusions. I admire and appreciate your reconstruction of a Roman era and then ask how can I pass this on meaningfully to a 21st century technician? We need much work on the ancient past, especially now that even the existence of Moses is questioned.
Brian, you write about and question: WHAT IS THE CENTRAL OBJECTIVE OF CHRISTIAN RELIGIOUS PRACTICE? and I discover much as I read a mixture of theologies all of which need deep and lengthy discussion. I noted in the margin next to your saying "to make liturgies more sacred. What is sacred? By whom? Etc." and the world hurries on to deal with the massive input of information. I have often wondered if the ringmaster takes on too much for us poor humans to digest. Working with the Catholica Forum is a full time job.
Fr. Daniel Donovan offers interesting insight to this American as he tells of MARY MacKILLOP … and I love it. I know little Australian history, while being aware that education down under is heavily vested in the Roman teaching orders and their valiant pioneers. I can envision unclearly the struggle today as the new juggles with the past and that which is truly sacred to many. This foreigner is ready for more. This goes the same for such an interchange as that of Archbishop Barry Hickey and Prime Minster Julia Gillard … Wow, I would enjoy such an exchange here in America yet I shudder to think we may not be able to find a pair like these two in the whole of the USA. Father Dan's series on THE VATICAN IN A WORLD ORDER THAT IS CHANGING RAPIDLY is deep yet timely and essential. I penciled in the corner: "how does Tom get time to work with this? " RETHINKING CATHOLIC ATTITUDES TO WOMEN needs female input.
Dr. Andrew Kania offers IN HOC SIGNO VINCES and I shuddered as I read the introduction: A SIGN OF BENG CHRISTIAN. So much floods my mind as I see the contrast between God as LOVE and the Roman emphasis on suffering and death. It is LIFE that is the heart of the resurrection of Jesus, NEW LIFE and vigor that will accompany the embracing of the path of the Master. In a recent community gathering Mel Gibson's ideas of God being satisfied by the suffering of Jesus on the cross was discussed … simple people in their 70's were appalled and pleased that this use of the cross which first found its prominence in the days of the Crusades became known to them. Andrew, I have difficulty with the sign of the cross as the heart of Christianity.
I have put aside Vynette Holliday for future reading and review. I sense I have a different God but am not ready to make my mind up. We shall return on Vynette.
I picked up an uneasy sense of my early days in ministry FROM THE PEWSIDE when I read about performance indicators, the number of baptisms and masses said as if grace is automatic just because a sacrament is performed. I am confused with TALKING IS NOT TEACHING; BEING SPOKEN TO ABOUT GOD DOES NOT FOSTER A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. WORDS FROM THE PULPIT DO NOT SUBSITTUTE FOR PRAYER FROM THE PEWS. WHICH COMES FIRST — THE WORDS OR THE RELATIONSHIP? Tom needs more to appreciate Pewter.
On papers concerning THE PAPACY I have a hard time relating to today's problems and Christian values. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE and Vince Exley … impossible? The very essence of Catholica and all the commentaries. We, the People of God, are into the process of making possible the impossible, guided by the Holy Spirit who dwells in each person.
I have run out of room and time. Haven't you noticed I have not yet mentioned Tom Lee. I'll be back with Tom, my favorite commentator. It is late at night and Brian is about to awaken in New South Wales and Tom in San Jose to bed as I have senior sessions tomorrow. I am about to enter my body as a study on Alzheimer's.
Tom McMahon in San Jose. Ca. sending out a message that I love life and you. 10/08/2010
READ EDITOR, BRIAN COYNE'S RESPONSE HERE!
What are your thoughts on this commentary?