Tuesday, July 31, 2007

One for the Jesuits!

Today is the feast day of St Ignatius of Loyola, one of the founders of the Jesuit order.

The Jesuit boys in my Theology of the Human Person class brought cake to tonight's class, so we all shared in the celebration of the Feast day with a bit of a feast ourselves.

And just so we know who and what we are celebrating, the following information, for our mutual edification, comes from here.

Ignatius of Loyola

[Saint Ignatius statue]

Also known as Inigo Lopez de Loyola

Memorial 31 July

Spanish nobility. Youngest of twelve children. Page in the Spanish court of Ferdinand and Isabella. Military education. Soldier, entering the army in 1517, and serving in several campaigns. Wounded in the leg by a cannonball at the siege of Pampeluna on 20 May 1521, an injury that left him partially crippled for life. During his recuperation the only books he had access to were The Golden Legend, a collection of lives of the saints, and the Life of Christ by Ludolph the Carthusian. These books, and the time spent in contemplation, changed him.

On his recovery he took a vow of chastity, hung his sword before the altar of the Virgin of Montserrat, and donned a pilgrim's robes. Lived in a cave from 1522 to 1523, contemplating the way to live a Christian life. Pilgrim to Rome and the Holy Land in 1523, where he worked to convert Muslims. In 1528 he began studying theology in Barcelona, Alcala, and Paris, receiving his degree on 14 March 1534. His meditations, prayers, visions and insights led to forming the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus on 15 August 1534; it received papal approval in 1541. Friend of James Lainez, Alonso Salmerón, Nicholas Bobadilla, Simón Rodriguez, Blessed Peter Faber, and Saint Francis Xavier, the group that formed the core of the new Society. He never used the term Jesuit, which was coined as an insult by his opponents; the Society today uses the term with pride. He travelled Europe and the Holy Lands, then settled in Rome to direct the Jesuits. His health suffered in later years, and he was nearly blind at death.

The Jesuits today have over 500 universities and colleges, 30,000 members, and teach over 200,000 students each year.

Born 1491 at Loyola, Guipuzcoa, Spain as Inigo Lopez de Loyola

Died of fever on 31 July 1556 at Rome, Italy

Beatified 27 July 1609 by Pope Paul V

Canonized 12 March 1622 by Pope Gregory XV

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Reflections on New Norcia: 1- First Impressions

As promised, I will share some reflections on my week at the Benedictine Monastery in New Norcia, WA. Because the week was so full and rich, I will do this over a few entries, under different categories.

I went to New Norcia as part of a mid-year intensive unit, called Prayer and Hospitality: Benedictine Spirituality and Australia with the United Faculty of Theology (UFT) as part of my B.Theol. degree.

Our group consisted of 15 people, including Katharine and John, our two lecturers, and the 'students' among us included people like myself, who were taking the unit as credit towards a degree, as well as others who were 'auditing' the unit (ie participating in the unit for enjoyment/personal interest, and not required to do the assessment tasks).
View of the frontage of the monastery and guest house

We all met at Perth airport on the Friday afternoon, and travelled the 130km to New Norcia by bus, arriving around 4pm. We were accommodated in the Monastery guest house, and because of the size of our group, we completely booked out the guest house for the week, and had most of the visitors' facilities there to ourselves. The guest house was quite comfortable, and I was one of the lucky ones who was accommodated alone in a twin room with private en suite bathroom. Some of our group were in the lower guest house which had single rooms and shared bathroom facilities (and the fact that these shared facilities were unisex, caused surprise -and mild consternation- for some members of our group, and great amusement to the rest of us).

After we arrived and settled into our rooms, we had time to wander around the vicinity of the Monastery before our first scheduled activity, which was Vespers in the Oratory. As the sun began to set, I was struck by the sense of quiet that wrapped the place like a blanket. As I stood with one of the guys in our group outside the front gate of the Monastery, gazing at the line of bare trees along the road, and then across at the Abbey church and the buildings beyond in the rest of the town, we just stood, with mouths open ... and he commented: "wow," which summed it all up, really.

At that stage, I really didn't have much idea of what the week would hold (despite having a relatively detailed schedule for each day, I didn't quite know what to expect). But there was an overwhelming sense of "place" here. Peace and quiet (despite the regular road trains thundering through the middle of town up the highway) and a strong feeling that the whole town is a sacred space.

Later, a few of us had a cuppa in the guest house loungeroom (which would also be our classroom for the week) before having our first Benedictine prayer experience at Vespers. I'll talk more about the prayer, worship and Daily Offices in another post.
The Abbey Church in the morning light
After Vespers comes dinner. Because of the early start to the day (the bell rings to wake the community at 5am most days... but on Sunday we got to 'sleep in'... until 5:45am) the midday meal is the main meal of the day, and the evening meal is known as 'tea' or 'supper' and is lighter. When we entered the dining room, there was a large pot of soup, and a goodly supply of the famous New Norcia bread awaiting us. After being told by Katharine about lunch being the main meal, I was expecting that soup and bread would be the total of the meal... but then noticed other cutlery on the table. When I mentioned this to Katharine, her comment was, "Oh yes, there's main course to come after this". When I then queried about this not being the main meal, she replied: "At lunchtime there are three courses. You may find that your spirit is not all that grows whilst you're here!"

And so it went on... at every meal we had a range of delectable fresh New Norcia Bread, lovely soup and a main course, with a bonus dessert at lunch. There was also wine on the table at every meal, and bowls of fruit available to munch on at any time. I seriously doubt that anyone has ever starved whilst experiencing Benedictine hospitality (or at least not in New Norcia!).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The results are in...

Yes folks, the results for semester 1 classes were in the mail today.

For one of my subjects I had an extension past the end of semester, so won't get a result for that until next semester's results come out, but for the others, I was quite pleased with the results.

I ended up with a Credit for Making, Housing Feeding Christians (only 2% short of a Distinction!)
and Distinctions for my other two subjects, Christology and Ethics.

Those of you, dear readers, who remember my angst-ridden and somewhat
incoherent ranting about Ethics a few weeks ago, will not fail to see the irony in the fact that my overall mark for Ethics was only 4% short of a High Distinction, and therefore the highest mark I have received for any subject to date.

But, alas, the holy grail of the HD still eludes me... perhaps next semester!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Today in Perth, the temperature was 21C, and as I ventured forth from my hotel in search of breakfast (because after waiting for the silly tart serving in the hotel cafe to get off the phone and finally look like serving me, she informed me that breakfast finished at 10am- despite the fact that it was then only 10:05, the breakfast buffet was still all set up, and if she had served me when I first walked in, it would actually have been before 10am... but I digress... needless to say, Maccas got a visit... and now I'm making you ill, gentle readers, aren't I? :-)

Anyway, as I was saying... as I ventured forth from my hotel in the Perth CBD in search of breakfast, the sky was clear and blue, the sun was shining and I was wearing a Tshirt.

(and even a text message from Avril, saying that it was snowing in Romsey didn't dampen (or chill) my generally warm mood :-)

The shuttle bus trip later in the morning was also very pleasant, with the sun sparkling off the river as we meandered around in the general direction of the airport, and things were generally rather lovely.

The plane trip home to Melbourne was cramped (what is it about men on public transport? Is there something programmed into the Y chromosome that gives them a genetic need to spread their legs as widely apart as they possibly can, totally invading the personal space of the person next to them?) but pleasantly uneventful. And the return trip unfortunately lacked the excitement of the wild turbulence we experienced on the way over to Perth.

When we landed in Melbourne, the cabin steward did the usual, "Welcome to Melbourne Airport, where the time is 7:10pm, and the current temperature is 4 degrees." Needless to say, a communal groan arose from all in the plane at this news.

One of the groovy things about Virgin Blue is that even at big airports like Melbourne and Sydney, they still have the facility to disembark from the rear door, which means if you are lucky enough to be seated in the back half of the plane, you get to walk across the tarmac for a bit, and then walk up an external staircase, to join the front half of the passengers halfway along the tunnel-thingy (air bridge?) before entering the arrival lounge. Tonight, it was so cold outside that my hands just about stuck to the stainless steel hand railings as I walked up the external stairs (and my breath was visible as I huffed and puffed up the stairs).

Welcome home indeed!
(can I go back to Perth now, please? :-)

Monday, July 16, 2007

East meets west

I've been a bit quiet in the past week or two, as I am currently in the Wild West - Perth! I spent last week with a group from the UFT at the Benedictine Monastery at New Norcia- what an amazing experience! But I will write more about it later (when I am home and not using a laptop with slow dialup connection).

Tonight, myself and Susan (another candidate from the Vic-Tas synod) had dinner with a group of ministry candidates from the WA Synod. It was great to meet up with Ivan, Cathy, Elaine and Toby, and to share some stories about what life is like for ministerial candidates in our respective synods. We compared notes about various aspects of our training courses, and various experiences of theological college, field ed placements and general life. (and now you can see the evidence of the visit, in the pic above- including Maggie, the four-legged fiend :-)

In recent times I have been a bit inspired to find a way to create networks among candidates in all states, and I think this was a good first step. Hopefully we will be able to have similar get-togethers (both in body, and virtually, via email) with candidates in other places as time progresses.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Greetings from Sunny Perth!

I arrived here in Perth on Tuesday afternoon, with mixed feelings- it was great to be here again after 20 years, and lovely to see my old Fusion friend Rose, and her daughters, but a problem with my eye meant that I wasn't exactly up to my usual bubbly standard, and wasn't really able to fully enjoy being here because of that.

Fortunately, the eye issue is now pretty much resolved, after seeing three different eye specialists (2 in Melb and one here in Perth), but in the course of the 6 days between when I first noticed the problem (fri), as it got progressively worse, and then finally resolved (wed night) it was a pretty emotionally draining time for me, partly due to the pain (felt like I had ground glass in my eye) and also fear that it would get worse and might have some long-term effect on my sight, and also the appallingly bad timing for this to happen just before I was due to leave for my trip to WA. (although I am very grateful that it happened after all my assignments etc were completed for first semester!).

I am sure that there is a lesson from God in this all somewhere.

I am very grateful to the small group of friends who upheld me in prayer during this time, and especially grateful to God for leading me to the right doctors here in Perth (a very conscientious and lovely GP who referred me to an equally competent and lovely specialist), so that my eye is now pretty much back to normal in time for my trip to New Norcia.

So, this afternoon, I meet up with others from my UFT course, and we will all head to New Norcia, where we will spend a week living in the Benedictine monastery, fitting into the daily rhythm of the monastic community, as well as doing some historical research as part of our church history unit, making use of the extensive archives at New Norcia.

I don't expect to have any internet access during my week there, and my mobile phone will be out of range, so it will be a truly delightful 'retreat' from the rest of the world, to experience the solitude, quiet and prayerful atmosphere of the monastery.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Life is like a pack of jelly beans...

Another fun blog quiz thing, thanks to BB (who seems to be avoiding something at the moment, because he has been doing lots of these blog quiz things today)

But if truth be told about the jelly bean thing... cherry is only my second option, as my favourite flavour is in fact pink grapefruit, but that wasn't an option in the quiz.

You Are a Cherry Jelly Bean

Sweet yet strong, you have a distinct personality without being a weirdo. You're the most normal of all flavors - but you're never boring.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Blog rating

Another interesting blog thing courtesy of Louise, although her blog rating was much less child-friendly than mine.... interesting :-)

Online Dating

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

  • steal (1x)
What? You mean to say I haven't even said CRAP or BLOODY on my blog? Oh my, that is just not good enough!