TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: We must never forget and we must be forever changed

I trust by the time you are reading this message you have visited the website www.linasproject.com.au and viewed the audio-visual presentation that was part of the proceedings on Friday night, 15 September, The Atonement: Lina’s Project. You are also invited to provide feedback and to share ideas.

About 500 people gathered in the Newcastle City Hall on Friday night in this survivor and victim-led event, where profound silence marked the degree of feeling in the room. This event is only one step in an ongoing effort to support survivors, their families and friends and the wider community towards healing. In 2018, the diocese will be consulting with survivors and the community to plan a permanent memorial and this memorial will be in a prominent place in the grounds of Sacred Heart Cathedral. In addition, the diocese will also be working with schools within the region on how acknowledgement might be made in their settings, and from 2018, 15 September will be a perpetual day of remembrance in the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

We must never forget and we must be forever changed.

I note that 15 September is the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows (Dolours). The Gospel reading for this day is the one in which Mary stands at the foot of the cross accompanied by Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. They stood with John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. This connects with my message last week in which I shared with you the image of standing at the cross or at the tomb. It was at the Cross that Jesus spoke the following words:

“Woman, this is your son” and to the disciple, “This is your mother.” With these words, they went on to care for each other. On Friday, I have no doubt that we showed our care for each other.

On 15 September, it is appropriate to recite the following Sequence, the Stabat Mater:

At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.

Through her heart, his sorrow sharing,
All his bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had passed.

Oh, how sad and sore distressed
Was that Mother highly blessed
Of the sole begotten One!

Christ above in torment hangs,
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying, glorious Son.

Is there one who would not weep,
'Whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ's dear Mother to behold?

Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that mother's pain untold?

Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender Child,
All with bloody scourges rent.

For the sins of his own nation
Saw him hang in desolation
Till his spirit forth he sent.

O sweet Mother! font of love,
Touch my spirit from above,
Make my heart with yours accord.

Make me feel as you have felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ, my Lord.

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

Let me share with you his pain,
Who for all our sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with you,
Mourning him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.

By the cross with you to stay,
There with you to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of you to give.

Virgin of all virgins blest!
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share your grief divine.

Let me to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of yours.

Wounded with his every wound,
Steep my soul till it has swooned
In his very Blood away.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In his awful judgment day.

Christ, when you shall call me hence,
Be your Mother my defence,
Be your cross my victory.

While my body here decays,
May my soul your goodness praise,
Safe in heaven eternally.

Amen. (Alleluia)

While this may feel long for this message, I think it portrays so much of our own grief, bewilderment and pain.

I am also conscious that during this week, on Thursday 21 September, we mark International Day of Peace. This year’s Peace Day theme is Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.  Over several months, I have been reading John Dear’s book, Thomas Merton, Peacemaker – Meditations on Merton, Peacemaking and Spiritual Life. (Orbis Books, 2015).  Once again as part of the Daily Meditations of Richard Rohr, I came across this suggested practice around Contemplative, Active, and Prophetic Nonviolence. Those of you who are regular readers of my message will realise that the theme of nonviolence and peace appears frequently. The reference for these passages comes from John Dear, “The Three Steps of Nonviolence,” July 7, 2017, http://www.paceebene.org/2017/07/07/the-three-steps-of-nonviolence/.

Prophets are nonpartisan and thus their work never ends. Throughout history, they have spoken truth to power, regardless of the ruler’s political persuasion. They are able to lovingly criticize their own group, recognizing their own complicity in a violent system.

We still need courageous, humble people to speak up for justice and peace. For Christians, John Dear says, the great question is: “How do we follow the nonviolent Jesus more faithfully in this culture of violence and war?” He offers three basic steps: contemplative, active, and prophetic nonviolence.

More than ever . . . we have to dig deeper spiritual roots and that means practising contemplative nonviolence. We have to take time for quiet meditation with the God of peace every day. . . . It’s hard to change the world; we can barely change ourselves. But God can change us and the world if we allow the God of peace to touch us, disarm us, heal us, and send us out as instruments of God’s peace. . . .

Second, we need to be public activists of nonviolence. It does not serve anyone to sit around and complain . . . about the Republicans or the Democrats. We need to take action, and not just private action but public action for justice, disarmament, and peace.

[Now] is a good time to reflect on our public lives as active peacemakers, to investigate the quality of our loving kindness and peaceableness behind our activism, as well as the boldness and derring-do of our work...

Third, we need to be prophets of nonviolence, that is, we need to speak out publicly . . . and lend our voice to the grassroots movement calling for an end to war, racism, nuclear weapons, poverty, corporate greed and environmental destruction, and for a new culture of peace and nonviolence.

In effect, like the nonviolent Jesus, we are announcing the coming of God’s reign of peace and nonviolence, here and now, right in our midst, despite what we hear on TV or Twitter. . . .

Don’t be afraid to be bold! Let’s not give in to fear, but practise fearlessness and herald a bold vision of a new culture of peace and nonviolence.

This is what it means for me to follow the nonviolent [and prophetic] Jesus these days. We may get pushed back, dismissed, ostracized, or harassed for our stand, but he endured far worse and remained meticulously nonviolent, loving and faithful. He set the example, and we want to follow him.

Here is our challenge, to think, act and be the change. I am sure that is what The Atonement; Lina’s Project is inviting us to be. We must commit to peace, build pathways to peace, build a culture of peace so that all humans, created beings and the environment live together in peace and harmony.

Jesus suffered a violent end to a life of peace with his mother and disciples – men and women − as witnesses. And yet this did not stop them from spreading the good news and imagining a world made new. 

May we live lives of peace and justice.

Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is the Vice Chancellor Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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