A March to remember

March in Melbourne is my favourite time of the year. It’s sunny, but not too hot, I can safely take my ‘bushfire bag’ out of the car boot for another year and the cooler nights promise a better sleep. They’re small things, personal to me and where and how I live, even though right now they are backgrounded by empty shelves in my go-to supermarket and ripples of anxiety.

In an effort to keep this pesky coronavirus at bay I shopped around for hand sanitiser, only to find there was none.

I’m usually happy to stay at home, but not for days and weeks at a time. I like to meet a friend for coffee now and then.

I look up at my notice board at a wedding invitation showing the happy couple encircled by a heart shape. I was looking forward to that wedding– now cancelle

Reluctantly I watch the evening news and swing between fear, compassion for those affected by closures, impatience with political dithering and an underlying resentment that my nice life has been interrupted.

along the road #7

It’s unnerving to discover, or accept, that something is happening that is beyond my control. Of all the things I have learnt – and taught- over the years, I can think of nothing that should be more helpful to me right now, than being able to live calmly and prayerfully in that now.

Not many of us live wholeheartedly in the present, We move constantly between what is past and what is to come. Right now our future is shadowed with uncertainty. We’re being asked to stay put, borders are being shut, self-isolating is recommended, and in some cases imposed.

The concrete reality of our now is always a mix of good and bad, light and dark, life and death. Raking in the garden a couple of days ago I saw a glint of red among the left-over debris of the hail storm we had in February. It was just a small piece of rock, but I liked the colour, picked it up and idly turned it over in my fingers. The flip side was a worn dull brown. Something in me said, ‘keep it’. So I have. It’s sitting alongside my laptop, red side up, telling me something about this time, about darkness and light, joy and frustration. I recall that the only time Jesus talked about the future was when he told his listeners not to worry about it. That’s easier said than done, but I try.

American spiritual writer Cynthia Bourgeault picks up Jesus’ words when she says that we need to fully occupy the NOW in which we find themselves – listening to the present with our heart, letting it speak with compassion, listening with a mind that is open to change, listening with our whole body as it recognises that’s it’s OK to grieve the losses we experience and rejoice in the moments that give us hope. Knowing that God is right there.

Judith Scully (judith@judithscully.com.au)

Pinch of guilt

My grade 4 teacher told us never to use the words ‘nice’ and ’got’ in our weekly compositions, and reinforced this ruling with a lot of replace-this-word exercises. I still feel a pinch of guilt every time I write either word. And I get the same feeling when Lent or some other liturgical season comes around.

After the fires

For many years, actually decades, I was faithful to the seasons, feasts and devotional practices that punctuate the catholic calendar, but every year as Lent, Easter, Advent and special feast days came around, I felt that the liturgy that was on offer, accompanied by the usual rev-up letters from the Bishop’s office, were taking me back to a time in my faith journey when I probably needed to be reminded of what it meant to be a catholic and how to go about it.

Now, along with many women and men of my generation and younger, I’ve taken advantage of opportunities to learn more about scripture, to broaden my knowledge of theology. I’ve learnt about prayer and the value of silence and appreciated retreat experiences – all things that in my parent’s generation were restricted to clerics and vowed men and women religious.

Pope Francis has said that he is ‘convinced of the urgency of offering spaces for women in the Church’. Sometimes our Bishops say it too. Just in the last few weeks Clara Geoghegan has joined the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference as an executive secretary and Susan Pascoe has been named chair of the Catholic Emergency Relief Australia Advisory Council, which will coordinate the Church’s ongoing response to the current bushfire crisis and future national emergencies.

These appointments, and others like them, are slowly pushing the boundaries of Catholicism. Women like these have not only found their voice but have been offered a platform where they can be heard, to listen and speak from their womanly experience. Well, that’s what I hope.

But what about the rest of us? We’ve got a voice too, but the Church leadership either doesn’t hear it or shuts the window to keep the noise out.

We’re not asking for positions of responsibility. An inclusive liturgy would be welcome, liturgies that actually recognise that we have lives outside the church door and we long to integrate them with the God-call inside, if only we had a bit more help; maybe intercessory prayers that come from the heart and recent personal experiences, not from a book and couched in terms that better suit a theologian. There a many, many women who could speak about the Sunday Gospel without making it a holily or a sermon, but more like a reflection, something to talk about for five minutes with those in the seat behind you or across the aisle.

Simple changes like that will probably be a long time coming. I’m reminded of TV shows I’ve seen where millimetre by millimetre an archaeologist scrapes away layers of soil before reaching a bone fragment or piece of long-buried pottery. It’s comparatively easy to invite women to be part of some ecclesiastical think-tank or committee, quite another to begin to scrape away accumulated practices that over centuries have so effectively obscured how Jesus, in his dealings with women, made it clear he considered them to be equal to men.

As for that pinch of guilt! Well, when I sit out on the edge looking back to what was, sometimes I wonder, what right do I have to question my childhood faith? Just sometimes!

Judith Scully  (judith@judithscully.com.au)