This week as Melbourne began easing its way out of lockdown, the agapanthus lining one side of our driveway began their yearly budding. Long-legged stems are appearing, each one holding high a promise of summer in their little almond-shaped, green embrace. When they were planted a few years ago, neighbours warned us that agapanthus are frowned upon as an environmental weed. Apart from gum trees, most of the plants that sprinkle seasonal colour across the thin, rocky dirt in our valley are classified as weeds. What to do? My dream of a summer of deep blue flowers pre-programmed to keep on flowering despite heat and intermittent watering won the day. I’ve had months of shutdown time to think about the personal and spiritual implications of weeds, facing  unrealistic expectations that life should be consistently graced with good things and instead living in  the unwanted, weedy stranglehold of Covid -19. These Christmassy flowers are a sign of hope in a struggling world. Perhaps that’s why they are also known as Star of Bethlehem.

Have you ever felt like this – that you are standing in two different places? That’s how I feel as I watch the evening news, read the weekend papers and some evenings dip in and out of The Drum. They help me keep abreast of what’s happening in this Covid world. That’s one place. The other place is my God space, faith, religion, spirituality – whatever you call it. Right now it seems quite empty. Once I would have looked for it in a church building, but they’re closed, in lockdown, and any way it’s not the building I miss, but something more subtle. I don’t want, or even need a Sunday church,  but a capital C Church, one that feels more at home in shopping mall, a drop-in centre, a community house where it doesn’t feel uncomfortable to talk about the God stuff in our lives. I want a Church that is integrated with the everyday spaces of our lives as they unfold.


November begins with Halloween. It’s trick-or-treat time for the children, but something more sombre for we adults who have had months of watching the pandemic death toll rise and rise. To those who loved them they were not just a statistic, but a  mother or father, sister or brother, aunt, uncle, grandparent, cousin, friend, co-worker, neighbour, nurse, supermarket employee and so on – a multitude of men and women across the world. Ordinary people, each one unique, doing their best to be the person God created them to be. We think we know people, but all we really know is what they let us see about themselves. Most tuck their spirituality, their God-relationship, away from our eyes. Their life story didn’t just begin at conception and end at death, but began before they were born and now goes on into eternity. None of these people will have a church named after them, or be named in the Litany of the Saints, but we can celebrate each and every one of them on the feast of All Saints.


“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

(The Summer Day by Mary Oliver)

Judith (

. . . on the margins

One of my spring joys is sitting in the sun – doing nothing, not even thinking about anything in particular. Just appreciating the warmth, idly noting the lush growth of weeds and admiring the plum tree which has exchanged its scraggy winter look for a flattering shade of green. Once garden shops and nurseries reopen there will be plants to buy, pots to refresh and petunias to plant. That’s then. Right now I sit in the here-ness of a warm spring day and let summer possibilities begin to take root in me. Is this prayer? Or do I pass it over as wasted time or day-dreaming? Are precious times like this an opportunity to sit awhile with God– no words, nothing to do, just be.

Every so often the Pope writes an encyclical, a document that is a cross between an exceedingly long letter and a book. Centuries ago wrote occasional circular letters to keep the far-flung bishops of the world in touch with church teachings and doctrine. Francis has been Pope since 2013 and in that time he has written 3 encyclicals- the first about religious faith, followed by one addressing environmental issues and now, a third, titled Fratelli Tutti, which sounds  like a new flavour of gelato, but is actually the first two words of a reflections on the needs of our times. John Allen, who writes extensively on Church matters, describes it as “an extended meditation on political and economic life in the early 21st century, including the impact of the coronavirus crisis.” Before you ask, no, I haven’t read it yet. It’s approximately 40,000 words long and written in what I call church-speak. I hope that as religious writers delve into what has been described as a baggy elephant of a document, they will make it easier for people like me to read and absorb the wisdom of Pope Francis.

It’s ten years since St Mary MacKillop was canonised. She was a girl from my hometown Melbourne, who followed an inner prompting that led her into the lives of the poor and disadvantaged across the country. In slums and struggling country towns Sister Mary and those who came to join her lived out the Gospel as they saw it unfolding before their eyes. She was a humble woman with a healthy ego. To use an Australian expression, she was a woman who “stuck her neck out” and in the process got things done. When challenged by the ecclesiastical authorities about her innovative practices, she was able to respond respectfully, confidently and humbly because she knew that she was simply a channel of the ongoing action of God’s Spirit. She was a great woman, a powerful woman, but she never claimed it as her own. She was never full of herself, only full of God.I am proud of Mary MacKillop, proud too that she is recognised as an Australian who did something about the rights of all to education and a decent standard of living.

Accept surprises that upset your plans, shatter your dreams, give a completely different turn to your day, and, who knows, your life. Leave the Father free, to weave the pattern of your days.  (Dom Helder Camara 1909 – 1999)