"'If you want to become my followers, you must deny yourselves and take up your cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit you if you gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit your very self?'" (Luke 9:23-25)

Michael Whelan SM

Becoming Saints

By Michael Whelan SM
JSaints

Three months before he died on 7 March 1274, St Thomas Aquinas had an extraordinary “experience” while celebrating Mass. As a result of this “experience”, St Thomas refused to do any further work on the Summa Theologica – his major life project. The English Dominican Thomistic scholar, Brian Davies, tells us that Aquinas’ secretary, Reginald of Piperno, begged him to return to the writing. St Thomas replied: "Reginald, I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me" (Brian Davies, The Thought of Thomas Aquinas, Oxford University Press, 1993, 9).

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The self-emptying of Divine Presence

Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JKenosis

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:

‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’

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Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 11 - A Primary Conversation

 Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JTranquility

 “I will be with you!” [Exodus 3:12] This is not only a promise, it is an expression of the very nature of God. To be God is to be with! Jesus enfleshes this same promise and the Divine Nature: “And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time” (Matthew 28:20).

We are made in the image and likeness of the One whose nature it is to be with. It is also our nature to be with. We are at our best when that “being with” is embraced generously and allowed to shape our lives. We thrive in constructive and life-giving relationships, we wither in the absence of such relationships. “Relationship is written into the very nature of human beings. As the Bible sees human beings, you cannot think about them, without recognizing that they are, as it were, made for relationship” (Aelred Squire, Asking the Fathers, SPCK, 1972, 20).

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Conscience and our journey towards adult Christianity

Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JChristian Journey

“The world's Creator has stamped our inmost beings with an order
revealed to us by our conscience;
and our conscience insists on preserving that order.
Human beings ‘show the work of the law written in their hearts.
Their conscience bears witness to them’ (Romans 2:15).
And how could it be otherwise?
All created being reflects the infinite wisdom of God.
It reflects it all the more clearly, the higher it stands in the scale of perfection.”

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Do we dare to dream? Catalyst for Renewal QandA

The crypt, Sunday 22 September 2019. Notes by Michael Whelan SM
renewalreform

Introduction

Spirituality and religion are of a piece. A good working definition of spirituality is living relationships – with God (however we name God), with ourselves, with other people and with the world at large. We are all constituted in and through our relationships. A good working definition of religion is spirituality incarnated – the actual institutional structures, organizational processes, rituals, symbols etc that enable our relationships to flourish.

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Problem-solving has Little to Offer in the Face of Evil

A Book Review
Michael Whelan SM

Jabuse and cover up-bookcover

Gerald A Arbuckle SM, Abuse and Cover-Up: Refounding the Catholic Church in Trauma, Orbis Books, 2019, footnotes, index, 226 pages, pb.

Two preliminary comments

The first comment arises from my own experience of appearing as a witness, together with Fr David Ranson, at the Royal Commission on the afternoon of Monday 6 February 2017. Read full Review

 

Silence Speaks Truthfully

Notes to a presentation by Michael Whelan SM PhD
JSilence

For full presentation text click:
SILENCE_SPEAKS_TRUTHFULLY

Advent!!!

JAdvent3 2

Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 10 - Eucharist: Bread of Life

Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JColo River Sally June 2015 Square

 

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2002) goes to the heart of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist:

The sacrificial nature of the Mass, solemnly asserted by the Council of Trent in accordance with the Church’s universal tradition, [Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session 22, Doctrina de ss. Missae sacrificio, 17 September 1562 : Enchiridion Symbolorum, H. Denzinger and A. Schönmetzer, editors (editio XXXIII, Freiburg: Herder, 1965; hereafter, Denz-Schön), 1738-1759.] was reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council, which offered these significant words about the Mass: ‘At the Last Supper our Savior instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his Body and Blood, by which he would perpetuate the Sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until he should come again, thus entrusting to the Church, his beloved Bride, the memorial of his death and resurrection.

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Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 9 - I Sought and I Found

Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JColo River Sally June 2015 Square

A few years before he died, the monk, Carlo Carretto (1910-1988), returned to Italy from the Sahara Desert, after many years living among the Bedouin. He wrote a document entitled, “I Sought and I Found”. There he tells of his inner journey and his struggles with God. He concludes the document with a letter to the church. The letter begins:

“How much I must criticise you, my church and yet how much I love you! You have made me suffer more than anyone and yet I owe you more than I owe anyone. I should like to see you destroyed and yet I need your presence. You have given me much scandal and yet you alone have made me understand holiness.

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Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 8. Conscience and Vocation

Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JColo River Sally June 2015 Square

Our existence – our very being – is what it is. In that, it demands our “Yes!” It awaits our agreement and affirmation, as it were. Life is a journey in which we gradually join our “Yes!” with the “Yes!’ of our beings. This is always a shifting centre of gravity, from self-centredness towards self-transcendence.

Thomas Merton sums it up nicely:

If we take a more living and more Christian perspective we find in ourselves a simple affirmation which is not of ourselves. It simply is. (Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Image Books, 1968/1989, 266.)

Merton then goes on to draw our attention to the complexities of this in our living out the journey towards a complete “Yes!”:

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Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 7. Eucharist: Bread of Life

Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JColo River Sally June 2015 Square

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2002) goes to the heart of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist:

The sacrificial nature of the Mass, solemnly asserted by the Council of Trent in accordance with the Church’s universal tradition, [Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session 22, Doctrina de ss. Missae sacrificio, 17 September 1562 : Enchiridion Symbolorum, H. Denzinger and A. Schönmetzer, editors (editio XXXIII, Freiburg: Herder, 1965; hereafter, Denz-Schön), 1738-1759.] was reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council, which offered these significant words about the Mass: ‘At the Last Supper our Savior instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his Body and Blood, by which he would perpetuate the Sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until he should come again, thus entrusting to the Church, his beloved Bride, the memorial of his death and resurrection.’

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Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 6 – Eucharist and Forgiveness

Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JColo River Sally June 2015 Square

“That by the Eucharist are remitted and pardoned lighter sins, commonly called venial, should not be matter for doubt. For whatever the soul has lost through the ardour of passion, by falling into some slight offence, all this the Eucharist, cancelling those same lesser faults, repairs, in the same manner .... Justly therefore has it been said of this heavenly sacrament by St. Ambrose, ‘That daily bread is taken as a remedy for daily infirmity’.” (Part II, Chapter IV, Question L The Eucharist remits Venial Sins. T A Buckley, The Catechism of the Council of Trent, London: George Routledge and Co., 1852, 239.)

“The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

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Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 5 – The Grace of the Present Moment

Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JColo River Sally June 2015 Square

“I will be with you!” [Exodus 3:12]

“What does it profit if you gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit your very self?” [Luke 9:25]

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not worry about your life’” [Luke 12:22]

The French Jesuit, Jean-Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751), writes: “God speaks to every individual through what happens to them moment by moment.... The events of each moment are stamped with the will of God... we find all that is necessary in the present moment. If we have abandoned ourselves to God, there is only one rule for us: the duty of the present moment.” [Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence, Image, 1975, 10.]

This is a particular – and very practical – example of the Catholic understanding of sacramentality: in and through time we encounter eternity, in and through the material we encounter the spiritual, in and through the human we encounter the divine.

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Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 4 – Four Practices

Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JColo River Sally June 2015 Square

The primary question – and ultimately the only question – God asks of us is, “Will you let me love you into freedom?” Jesus is the embodiment of that question. There is a graciousness about people who have heard that question in their depths. Their lives are liberated and liberating.

The Dominican priest, Meister Eckhart (1260-1327), writes:

“This above all else is needful: you must lay claim to nothing! Let go of yourself and let God act with you and in you as He will. This work is His, this Word is His, this birth is His, in fact every single thing that you are.”

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Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 3 – The Jesus Prayer

Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JColo River Sally June 2015 Square

In Psalm 6:2 we hear the psalmist cry out: “Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak.” In Luke’s Gospel we hear the blind man cry out: “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (see Luke 18:36-43); in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians we read: “God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name ... at the name of Jesus every knee should bend” (see 2:5-11); St Paul urges us to pray without ceasing (see 1Thessalonians 5:16-19).

These words from Sacred Scripture prompted the early Christian communities to develop a brief and practical approach to prayer. Perhaps the best known of these prayer forms is the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”.

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Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 2 – Breathing as a way into Contemplation

Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JColo River Sally June 2015 Square

In the Book of Genesis we read: “then the LORD God formed man (adam) from the dust of the ground (adamah), and breathed into his nostrils the breath (nâshamah) of life; and the man (adam) became a living being (nephesh)”. (2:7) (In Hebrew thought, there is no “body” distinct from “soul”. Nephesh means literally “a being animated by the breath of life”.)

The “breath of God” is also referred to by the Hebrew word ruah and is generally translated as “spirit” – see for example Genesis 6:3, Psalm 104:30 and Job 33:4. Ruah – meaning either wind or breath – is generally used in both Hebrew and Christian Scriptures when speaking of the Spirit of God. In Greek the word becomes pneuma and in Latin spiritus.

In the Gospel of John we read: “(Jesus) breathed on (the disciples) and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’”. (20:22) This is the new creation!

We breathe because of God’s breathing.

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Ordinary Pain

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JPain

1. Pain can have its genesis and manifestation in any or all of three dimensions:

Physical – eg back pain, headache, toothache, arthritic pain etc
Psychological – loneliness, grief, feeling abandoned, depression, anxiety, fear etc
Spiritual – longing, despair, guilt, dark night etc

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Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 1 – Listening to what is going on

Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JColo River Sally June 2015 Square

We can speak of emotion (feeling, affect) as a reaction that tends to move us in a certain way. It is reaction not response, a matter of reflex not choice – initially at least. The English word emotion comes from the Latin word movere meaning to move.

The movement involves the whole person, though it may be more focused in the body – eg as physical pain or satisfaction – or in the psyche – eg as anxiety or anger – or in the spirit – eg compunction or ecstasy. It is important to discern the source of the emotion. For example, “feeling depressed” might have its roots in the body, the psyche or the spirit.

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Euthanasia: Some Questions & Issues Arising

Michael Whelan SM

JEuthanasia

Euthanasia is well and truly on the agenda in Australia and it is becoming increasingly difficult to sort out the fact from the fiction. Claims and counter-claims are made. Yet, the subject demands reasoned conversation and finely nuanced thinking.
To begin with I will indicate four factors that make the reasoned conversation and nuanced thinking difficult in our culture:
1. Because the issues and questions concerning euthanasia arise in the context of suffering and death, it is not surprising that the discussion of euthanasia sometimes raises strong emotions. This can make it difficult to maintain a focus on what is really at stake here. Read more