O, beauty in all things! O, joy in my heart! O, gratefulness spreading! O, cries of compassion resounding! May we go forward in community May we live full lives of service and love.
Listen, the musician sings See, the people enjoy Feel, your nerve-endings exposed This is truth and self meeting This is hope and life embracing Now, your spirit rises Here, your hands reach out Wait upon the enfolding light Wait for your moment to act In decision, peace In confirmation, thanks In your days, consolation.
At midday on a school day, I stopped for a moment by the harbour.
Light and hope have met
Sun and sky have embraced
My heart moves with joy
My spirit flies like an eagle
Soaring above the situation
With perspective and insight.
Returning to ground, my feet placed firmly,
I look out at Sydney's storied harbour,
See the swaying ferry, moored unusually
I notice the city skyline with its reaching tips
Seeking after greatness, extending into cloud
And for a single moment of stillness
I am satisfied, grateful, lifted up
And the to-do list can wait.
I am here for the wind on my cheeks
I am here for the music in my ears
I am here for a break from noise and needless
interruptions by task and pressure.
Waiting on the lunchtime bell
I discover, I enjoy, I pause.
To take in the soaring canopies of trees and to enjoy my experience of that spaciousness. To notice the crunching of shoes on soil and rocks, and to advise young ones about placing each step strategically and with purpose. To allow the thick grey ocean of fresh air to awaken my spirit. To hear the gentle patterns of rain on my backpack and jacket and let quiet joy bubble to the surface.
2. How teamwork creates belonging.
The teaching staff accompanying students on camp were a close-knit team. We enjoyed responding to each day. We knew the thrill of working together to ensure our students had a good and uplifting learning experience. We laughed with good humour over food and supported each other in our foibles. All told it was a belonging to a collaborative, close-knit team.
3. How disconnecting from tech allows us to reconnect with life
Enjoying the natural environment meant being disconnected from tech and its tasks. This fact alone allowed me to reconnect to people and place and self. I allowed the experience to bring renewal to my spirit. Now, on returning to the world of tech and tasks, I am more intentional.
A long absent student enters class, sits with quiet determination, tries not to be noticed, you call her by name. Survival is a story ancient as the stars: light out of darkness; a distant child returned. After one hundred days of exile may she know the promise of hope and walk peaceably from joy to joy to joy from blessing to blessing to fresh immeasurable blessing.
The Christian Life Community World Executive Council annual meeting was held in Rome for Easter week of April 2022. On the plane home to Australia, somewhere between India and Indonesia, I penned these words in a prayer of thanks for the experience.
I reverence you, Lord, for bringing me to meet these people, spread across the distant reaches of the earth, united together in Rome, that ancient and eternal city. You blessed me through each one, you called me to trust that you would move among us. In our meeting in these days I felt your light embrace us as at your Transfiguration. I wanted to build three tents and stay at the Monte Cucco retreat house, thinking “it is good for us to be here”.
By now your grace is more clear than ever, a comfort in time of darkness and at all times an encouragement to keep going along the path of witness. We want to “go forth”, Lord, so show us the way*. Fan into flame our kindling twigs, be for us our heart’s desire. Help us discern the hope of your way, your truth, your life.
Send us forth, giving glory to your name. Give us courage to walk this path united with each other in prayer and service. Lead us and love us as we tread each step along the road. Make yourself known at the breaking of the bread!
Your Spirit moved for us each day at Monte Cucco. Your words of eternal life accompanied us when we did not know where to go. You brought forth laughter and heartfelt joy over meals. This community, this world community of friends, finds its life in you, in your presence and action, in your peace.
So send us out now to the ends of the earth for our lives at home, work and play await us. Send us out, Lord, to seek and find you in the ordinary moments of life in the city. May the light we saw at Monte Cucco send us out rejoicing, embracing your mission of renewal in a wounded world.
The next CLC World Assembly will be held in Amiens, France, in August 2023
*This line reflects the grace we will pray for at the World Assembly in Amiens, France in August 2023. The Convocation Letter outlines the following:
The grace we shall ask for: Lord, help us to go forth; show us the way. The text from Scripture: “You will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) The theme of the 2023 Assembly: Discerning paths for hope
I had several joyful encounters with Australian journalism icon Caroline Jones between 2013 and 2015. The dynamic, generous, gracious, warm Australian Story host died this week. The ABC have published a beautiful tribute. She was 84.
Our encounter began with conversation via tweets and direct messages. I had been a Jesuit novice from 2011-2013 and one day after moving home, I told her of my decision. She replied “Thankyou for letting me know James. God bless you on your way and keep Tweeting.” Later that year, Caroline reached out to me to see how I was going.
“Within the bounds of possibility”
As the new year 2014 began, Caroline wrote to me “Dear James, I hope that 2014 is to be a good year for you. Yes, the image of lighting one small candle is a very appealing one, and seems within the bounds of possibility, doesn’t it ?”
Later that January she invited me to attend a Mass celebrated by Jesuit Fr Paul Coleman one Sunday and to go to a cafe for “morning tea” afterwards.
We met for morning tea again six months later and spoke about faith and life, dancing and reading, her life and my hopes. We followed up our conversations with warm emails and sharing of links to On Being interviews and books.
In July 2015, after sending Caroline an update on my plans, Caroline wrote “Very envious of your planned studies for this semester ! And a teaching Dip Ed next year sounds like a great idea !!!” Caroline Jones was always a great encourager.
Who are you? Caroline Jones interview
In awe of this amazing person, about that time I listened to and transcribed part of a 2013 interview Caroline had with ABC Perth journalist Geoff Hutchison. “Who are you? Caroline Jones” is an extraordinary conversation still available to download. I was especially moved about her insights into listening, the nourishment of spirituality, and the affirming nature of her community of faith:
“I think we find nourishment for the spirit in many ways. For me, through my belonging to a community of faith. I don’t see religion particularly as a private thing. I love to belong to community. For me, my faith has introduced me to a sort of family of spirituality which is very enjoyable. We also find spiritual nourishment – or I do – in music, in dancing, in friendship – in so many ways.”
Here is my transcript of part of the interview. The opening response speaks of her program “The Search for Meaning”:
May Caroline Jones rest in peace. I experienced your great goodness. Farewell and thank you!
On the morning of 15 January I read of my appointment to the World ExCo. Soon after, I wrote this reflection:
What is a community if not a home for love between and among people, seeking the good of each other and growing together?
What is CLC if not a community formed in God’s presence which seeks to extend goodness and hospitality to help people feel at home in the world?
What is church if not a community where the People of God discover themselves as beloved before all else, encourage each other to live in the light of this deep truth, and help build a longer table for all to enjoy life’s feast?
Who am I if not a space for the divine presence to live and move and be known, a person in whom life is growing slowly but surely as a Eucalyptus sapling, a home for goodness and mercy to meet and justice and peace to embrace?
As public health experts have been naming for some time, the COVID19 virus is able to cause much more serious disease than an initial onset of respiratory symptoms:
Some people may well be able to discard masks, cope with catching the virus, and withstand the impacts of vascular disease, re-infection or long-covid. A good number of earnest people, however, have reason for caution. We do not want to catch the virus, encounter serious disease, nor experience longer-term harm to our bodies.
As the World Health Organization mask advice states, “Masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives … If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, stay safe by taking some simple precautions, such as physical distancing, wearing a mask, keeping rooms well ventilated, avoiding crowds, cleaning your hands, and coughing into a bent elbow or tissue … Do it all! Make wearing a mask a normal part of being around other people.”
The public health experiment of feeling blasé about large numbers of people catching the plague/COVID19 virus should be a cause for public discomfort. Alongside measures like vaccines and ventilation, wearing a mask aims to protect the vulnerable members of our community. That vulnerable person may in fact be you.
I teach RE at a Catholic high school for girls. On Friday 11 March 2022, during period 1, my Year 8 students were to create a storyboard of key events from Holy Week and Easter. To centre the students in prayer before beginning their work, I introduced the Taizé chant “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom”. We sang the chant twice in a ‘call and response’ fashion. I wrote this poem during quiet reflection that evening.
Through the communal mingling of voices, the great Spirit moves among twenty-one young women, kindling to fire their hopes for a new world. In the quickening of call and slowing of response, these singers become carriers of joy, heralds of freedom. This is the truth being met, here are the people of God. Look at them call out in unison see them glance at each other hear their enjoined words and how can you not be moved? In awe, open your eyes, lift up your ears. These are the witnesses to faith, these are the first responders to suffering, these are the students whose lives are to rebuild all things.
There is a deep sadness in me on hearing of cricketer Shane Warne’s death in Thailand of a suspected heart attack aged 52. Watching S. K. Warne as a boy alongside my brothers and cousins was one of the great joys of my childhood. Over hours of backyard cricket, the awe I felt in following his bowling example helped me grow in love for life.
I remember those glorious test match summers with the TV on throughout the day for Warnie’s long spin-bowling sessions. Here was the best at work, and my open eyes were steady as they looked at the screen. Here was a bowler crafting, shaping, bouncing precisely on the spot he wanted it to land on, spinning the way from outside leg to off with confidence, verve and concealment. The “ball of the century” was Rembrandt-in-action, casting a spell over both Gatting and commentators in a video I remember watching again and again in the early days of YouTube.
The magician of leg spin, the exemplar of the wrong’un, the chef behind the flipper, that glorious supercharged and zealous wicket-taker for the ages! With Glenn McGrath on rotation at the other end, here was the height of teamwork. As they sounded off each other, how could you not be amazed? Offering ideas to the captain (Border, Taylor, Waugh, Ponting) on best field placements, you could see his mind buzzing with enthusiasm. With his expert strategic wondering, Shane Warne’s whole self was focused on catching a skilled batsman off guard with a well-concealed variation on the theme.
A letter to Shane Warne in gratitude
Dear Shane, in sharing your gift with cricket you gave us a great blessing. You were an artist with the red ball, a skilled example of passionate striving, a showman who could hide what sort of bowl you’d offer next. You would leave greats like Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar seeking insight into the mystery. You seemed to delight in the thrill of these exchanges. Your duels with the best were magic for me, a dedicated eleven year old super-fan.
In my school cricket from 1998-2005 I used to imitate your spin bowling craft: the exact pace and moving arms of the walk-in, through to the smooth arc of the delivery. My efforts were a study in imitation and love for you, this phenomenon of a sportsman. You taught me how skills in any pursuit require honing one’s craft.
Now you are at rest, with Richie Benaud welcoming you into the dressing rooms. Ready for the big dance on the balcony, stumps high above your head, joyfully proclaiming the wonder of life.
May your commentary from high above the stands offer encouragement and inspiration to cricketers on every wicket. With affection, James