"The fundamental polarity of human life between what is and what ought to be, between lack and fulfillment, between determination and freedom, is not abnormal; it is the norm. Every person is exposed to it because of the inescapable structure of human formation." (Adrian van Kaam, The Transcendent Self, Dimension Books, 1979, 172.)

Michael Whelan SM

Marist Presence 6: Taste for God

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

Fr Colin was reflecting one day on just how he would approach the formation of young men who were being formed in the Marist way. He said he would speak with them individually twice a week. Interestingly enough, he said:

.... for the first two or three months I would not take the initiative in making any observations to them. The Rule says that in the beginning they must be treated consideratius et attentius (‘with great care and attention’). I would just let them speak, replying to what they said, and indicating the way they might correct the faults they have noticed in themselves and pointed out to me. (A Founder Speaks, 63:2)

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Marist Presence 5: Unknown and hidden

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

“(Marists) desire to breathe (Mary’s) spirit .... They seek inspiration in the traditional phrase, ‘hidden and unknown in the world’. For Jean-Claude Colin it best captured, in the light of his spiritual and pastoral experience, Mary’s presence in the Church. They learn from him and like him from Mary, how to approach the work of evangelization so that Gospel may be received in all its power and charity. .... While Marists are willing to undertake any ministry that will help build up the Church for the sake of the world, they work in such a fashion that no one, as it were, notices their presence.” (Constitutions (1988), #9, #22, #23 & #25).

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Marist Presence 4: One heart and one soul

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

Fr Colin said when he was Superior General:

My dear confreres, may the closest bonds of charity unite us always, may we truly be but one heart and one soul. The Society of Mary must make present once again the first times of the Church. (September 21, 1846, in A Founder Speaks, 115,5.)

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Marist Presence 3: Nazareth

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

In December 1967 – about a year before Thomas Merton was accidentally electrocuted by a faulty fan while attending a conference in Bangkok – he gave a retreat to a group of contemplative nuns at the Cistercian Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. What he said in that conference nearly fifty years ago is as fresh and relevant now as it was then:

Presence is what counts. It’s important to realise that the Church itself is presence and so is the contemplative life. Community is presence, not an institution.

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Marist Presence 2: The Church-being-born

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

A good place to start is with the statement that lit the fire in Fr Colin’s heart. Fr Jean Claude Courveille shared with Colin and some other seminarians words he said he had ‘heard’ on 15 August 1812 in the cathedral of Le Puy: ‘Marie dans l’église naissante et à la fin des temps’. He attributed those words to Mary. The French is generally translated as “Mary in the newborn Church/the Church at its birth and at the end of time.” There are various versions. We should note, however, that ‘lÉglise naissante’ literally means ‘the Church in the process of being born’.

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Marist Presence 1: Background

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMarists

At the heart of presence is spirituality. The word “spirituality” is used here in a very specific sense: living relationships. All human beings live in four sets of relationships:

· with the “Absolute” – however we name that
· with oneself
· with other human beings and
· with events and things

To speak of Marist presence and therefore spirituality, is to speak of a specific way of relating with God, self, other people and the world.

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Sexual Abuse and the Catholic System - Clericalism

The Third of Four Reflections by Michael Whelan SM PhD

JMichaelWhelan"To the pastors alone has been given the full power of teaching, judging, directing; on the faithful has been imposed the duty of following these teachings, of submitting with docility to these judgments." (Cited in The Catholic Weekly, September 19, 1993, quoting The Freeman's Journal, September 12, 1885.)

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Sexuasl Abuse in the Catholic System - Docetism

The First of Four Reflections by Michael Whelan SM PhD

JMichaelWhelanOne of the indispensable tasks of any .... formulation [of Christology] will surely have to be a convincing vindication of the thoroughgoing humanness of Jesus, a humanness which the classical Christology formally and officially defended, but practically and effectively undermined. [Donald P. Gray, "The Incarnation: God's Giving and Man's Receiving," Horizons, 1 (1974), 1]

 

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Sexual Abuse in the Catholic System - Moralism

The Second of Four Reflections by Michael Whelan SM PhD

JMichaelWhelan"Chuang Tzu's concern with the problem that the very goodness of the good and the nobility of the great may contain the hidden seed of ruin is analogous to the concern that Sophocles or Aeschylus felt a little earlier, in
the west. ... the hero of virtue and duty ultimately lands himself in the same ambiguities as the hedonist and the utilitarian.

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Sexual Abuse in the Catholic System - Objectivism

The Fourth of Four Reflections by Michael Whelan SM PhD

JMichaelWhelan"Spirituality that assumes that the individual is a center of volitional force that is supposed to exert itself upon or against a world outside and around it can at best only perpetuate the illusory identity which no man in his right man would consent to have: that of a mythical and detached 'subject' existing entirely outside all 'objective' reality, able to understand everything by pure reason and to dominate everything by his own will.

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Conversation: A Thumbnail Sketch

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JMichaelWhelanI use the word "conversation" with a quite specific meaning here. That meaning is derived from the word's etymology, which it shares with two Latin words, conversari, meaning "to dwell," "to keep company with" or "to abide," and convertere, meaning "to change," "to convert," "to alter," "to refresh" or "to turn."

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Thomas Merton - Prophecy or Nostalgia?

Michael Whelan SM PhD

JMichaelWhelanCentenary lecture given at St James Institute in Sydney, January 31 2015

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Josephite Jubilarians (24 January 2015)

Homily by Michael Whelan SM

JMaryMackillopJJulianTennysonWoodsFirst Reading: Deuteronomy 1:29-32 & 2:7. Responsorial Psalm: "On Eagle's Wings". Second Reading: 1 John 4:7-16. Gospel: John 15:1-8.

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Homily for Golden Jubilee Sisters of St Joseph

JMaryMackillopThirty Sisters of St Joseph from different parts of Australia and New Zealand celebrated fifty years of profession at Mount Street, North Sydney on January 6, 2015. Michael Whelan SM presided at the Mass and gave the homily.

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Letter to the Catholic Weekly (21 September 2014)

Letter by Michael Whelan SM

JMichaelWhelanOn September 21 2014 the Catholic Weekly published a letter to the editor from Michael Whelan. Here is the text of that letter.

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The Ground of Hope

Michael Whelan SM PhD

JMichaelWhelan[The substance of this essay was originally given as The Dr Laurie Brooks Memorial Lecture at St Dominic's High School, Penrith, NSW, May 4 2005. It was later published in The Australasian Catholic Record.]

In the First Letter of Peter we are urged to have a response to those who ask us about our hope.[1]  It is as well for us, especially in the climate of the times, also to be able to speak coherently of hope as a fundamental human experience.  That is my intention in this essay,

Consider our use of the word in common speech:  “I hope the weather is fine tomorrow” or “I hope this letter finds you well” or “I hope the pathology report is favourable” or “I have great hope for our young people,” and so on.  It seems to me that we are, for the most part, describing something like a positive state of thinking and feeling about the future in this sort of usage.  Hope is seen here as a psychological condition based on expectations of a favourable outcome in the circumstances of our lives.

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The Grace of the Present Moment

Michael Whelan SM

JMichaelWhelan"I will be with you!" [Exodus 3:12]

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Response to the Vatican Questionnaire

Michael Whelan SM

JMichaelWhelanIn November 2013 the Vatican sent out the "Preparatory Document" for the Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and the Family. That document contained a questionnaire. The response to that questionnaire by Michael Whelan can be donwloaded here.

pdfMichael Whelan's response122 KB

Keeping the Sabbath Holy in a Topophobic Culture: Reflections Arising From Dies Domini

Michael Whelan SM PhD

JMichaelWhelanOriginally published in Compass: A Review of Topical Theology, 33:2 (Winter 1999), 21-25.

"Don Quixote has not arrived at the age of taedium vitae, which is commonly manifested among not a few modern spirits in the form of topophobia: these people spend their lives running at top speed from one place to another, not from any love of the place to which they are going, but from odium of the place they are leaving behind, thus fleeing all places, which is one of the forms of despair."[1]

Pope John Paul II has given us a very rich, dense and timely document in his Apostolic Letter entitled Dies Domini (On Keeping the Lord's Day Holy)[2]. The Letter evokes a number of serious questions. It would be unfortunate if we did not take the opportunity to reflect at depth on those questions. This response to the Letter is not so much an analysis, as an attempt to unearth some of the questions it raises.

The unearthing begins with a brief comment on the world in which we find ourselves at this time in Australia. Against that backdrop I will look at the text of DD itself and consider some of the questions it evokes.

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Conversation: Notes in Aid of Understanding the Gift

Michael Whelan SM PhD

JMichaelWhelan[Written in 2011]

In 1994 I was part of a group that met in Balmain, NSW, to explore possibilities for involving the laity more effectively in the life and renewal of the Catholic Church. At the end of 1994 that group formulated the following mission statement:

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