You may recall that I was to attend the National Pastoral Planning Network (NPPN) Conference in Adelaide. This has meant that I escaped the wild weather of the past week and have been depending on news bulletins for updates and, of course, calls with Allen. We lost a fence, and power for several days, which is a blessing compared to many others. I was pleased that people remained home from work and school so as to be safe.
I won’t share Conference details with you in this message out of respect for the centenary of the landing at Gallipoli and to the many lives that were lost in this battle and the many other battles of World War I, along with subsequent wars of the twentieth century and later. Much else seems to pale into insignificance.
I spent this evening, the eve of Anzac Day, at St. Francis Xavier’s Cathedral in Adelaide praying the Mass for the Fallen and then joined a procession from the Cathedral to the War Memorial in Adelaide, following a piper. Fr. Philip Marshall, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Adelaide spoke in his homily of the madness of love. It is the madness of love that leads us to choose paths that may not otherwise be chosen – the path of going to war, of defending one’s homeland, of relationship, of family, of service, of reaching out to the vulnerable, of being part of the Catholic Church...
As I listened to him I reflected on the week that has been in our diocese. The madness of love of those who have rescued the strangers, of our SES, of our police and of our neighbours who reach out unconditionally. Disasters seem to have a way of bringing communities together with courage, humility and love.
I think of Fr. Ron Pickin who died on Wednesday and his madness of love of being a priest and, especially in my time, to his beloved community at Beresfield. I especially remember Fr. Jim Saunders who passed away on Thursday. When I came to the diocese he was the Vicar General, a position he held with reluctance and yet with great love and care. Both of these priests exercised their madness of love in serving the God who they could not see within a church that was in constant change and upheaval from the time of their ordination. And yet this love provided them with the dedication and commitment to keep on serving even when the going was tough. We will farewell both of these ‘lovers’ of our faith during the week.
I think of my mum whose anniversary of death is on Monday. She and dad were exemplars of the madness of love and the sacrifice that this madness asks of us who trust in the vocation of marriage. I also recall my mum’s brothers who went away to fight in World War II and like many soldiers returned never to speak of the horrors of war while living with the silence of the internal scars of which we are now more cognisant.
I think of the madness of love of the young Aboriginal person, Anzac Lochowiak, who spoke at the Cathedral, of his great-great grandfather and Aboriginal man who enlisted in the First World War and who was killed on the Western Front in 1916. As a tribute to this man, young Anzac is the fifth generation to be called Anzac in his family. What a way to honour the man who saw himself as an Australian and enlisted to honour his homeland.
I think of the madness of love from those of us who work for justice and peace. From Psalm 85 we hear the words: “Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other", or in another translation: “Truth and mercy have met, justice and peace have embraced”.
Or from the readings of the Anzac Day Mass in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 in which Paul explores for his readers the foolishness of the cross and the wisdom of this world: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. ........ For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”
And now at home on Anzac Day, to have one of my daughters, who has now taken up studies to become a teacher, requesting that I look over an essay she is working on. She is a radiographer and a mum, and feels called to teach in our Catholic high schools. She is presently studying some subjects in the area of Religious Education. The present subject is about Social Justice and Catholic Social Teaching. Her essay is on the encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) which was written by Pope John XXIII in 1963 at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, with the possible threat of nuclear war. How fitting to be reading on this topic on this day and so I thought I would share some of her words with you about this profound document. It seems to me that many do not stop to consider the great wisdom of many of the Church’s writings and yet here they are for all to read and consider.
'Pacem in Terris' was considered a ground-breaking encyclical as it was the first of its kind to address not only those who follow the Catholic faith, but also “all Men of Good Will” (John XXIII, 1963). The idea for this paper was formed during the Cuban Missile Crisis where John XXIII offered a message to the ‘superpowers’ that peace was not to be achieved through destruction but instead encouraged dialogue to help develop peace founded on “mutual trust” (Christiansen, 2013). This thought was fundamental in the writing of 'Pacem in Terris'.
The prime concern focussed on in 'Pacem in Terris' is that of the establishment of a ‘Universal Peace’. It was written to address some of the major issues of the time, inequality and violence. Pope John XXIII states that “there is a disunity among individuals and nations which is in striking contrast to the perfect order of the universe” (PT n.4) that was created by God. The concept of peace, according to this encyclical, must be based on the four “pillars of peace – truth, justice, love and freedom” (John Paul II, 2003). 'Pacem in Terris' defines peace as the recognition of the dignity of the whole of the human family (Christiansen, 2001, p3) and the desire for the common good. The dignity of the human person is directly entwined with the concept of human rights. 'Pacem in Terris' states that the rights of all “are universal and inviolable” (PT n.9) and should be upheld through interactions not only with individuals, but also with interactions from public authority and exchanges between nations. The inherent rights that come with being a human person are also linked directly to the duties you need to uphold to ensure that all people are treated equally. As 'Pacem in Terris' states, “one man’s natural right gives rise to a corresponding duty in other men; the duty, that is, of recognising and respecting that right” (PT n.30). This is saying that if we wish for our own human rights to be recognised by others, we must respect the human rights that others also have. For example, “the right to live involves the duty to preserve one’s life” (PT n. 29). Without adhering to our duties peace will never be able to fully be obtained. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, commonly known as "The Golden Rule," is indeed a biblical principle. Luke 6:31 records Jesus saying, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Pope John XXIII (1963), Pacem In Terris: Encyclical of Pope John XXIII on Establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Justice, Charity, and Liberty
Christiansen, Drew (2013), A Vision of Peace: How the Prophetic ‘Pacem In Terris’ Helped Change the World, America Magazine, April 8-15 2013 Edition
And what of God when we read in Genesis, of the earth being a formless void, in emptiness and darkness and then God’s spirit hovered over the waters? God’s madness of love sees the creation of all we know and all we do not know, even to the creation of humanity with all its imperfection born out of our freedom, generously and graciously given to us.
In all of this madness of love, I think that what is left is to sit in silence and be drawn into the mystery beyond words. And this is where I am left at the end of my week in Adelaide. Sometimes we just need to sit in the silence because the madness of love is just too overwhelming, too powerful and beyond the place of words.
We remember, lest we forget, and peace, mercy, compassion and justice must be the banner we hold high.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.