TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Encountering a holy person to become a holy person

As you know, I usually sit at my desk on Sunday evening to prepare this message in order to share with you, life in our diocese as well as some of what I have been reading. However, this week it has spilled over into Monday as Allen and I flew up to the Gold Coast for the weekend to catch up with our family. We had a good weekend, which was filled with everyone sharing food and conversations and lots of play time with all of our grandchildren.

Four of our grandchildren accompanied us to Mass on Sunday, with one of the four-year-olds focusing on Jesus hanging on the cross, which is suspended above the altar. He has looked at this intently, on previous occasions, but this time his questions were most challenging, as he asked how did he die and why did he get killed by the ‘baddies’ if he was so good. He then exclaimed that ‘he was a good boy and would that happen to him’. His nine-year-old cousin took it upon herself to offer to read to him the Easter story when we got home from church. Such an enquiring mind and questioning face at so young an age.

As I sat with them and listened to the readings I was really struck by the First Reading from Jeremiah (31:31 – 34)

………But this is the covenant that I will make
with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD.
I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts;
I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives
how to know the LORD.
All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD,
for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

As I have shared with you previously, the little ones have no problem with having the ‘law of the Lord written upon their hearts’.

Last week I wrote about the goodness of young people in our schools and of course I was surrounded by our own flesh and blood goodness over the weekend. One of our granddaughters came up to me and recited a beautiful prayer that they finish their day with at school. She was proud to be able to say this to me, knowing it would please me, but I also sensed her deep conviction while praying it for me, and with me.

Each day I read Jonathan Doyle’s Going Deeper Daily Motivations and last week this was one of them:

We must press on and go toward young people with a greater and more expansive vision of what it means to be human. We must help to raise their eyes above the trivial, transient and temporal to the transcendent, timeless and true. We must give them Jesus…..or nothing!

I found this to be most profound and even more profound as we encountered the death of Professor Stephen Hawking during the week. His was a life fully lived in his contribution to science and the limitlessness of our universe. I have no doubt that he lived his life with passion and bravery. His questioning mind never seemed to rest or be satisfied and I am sure he will be missed by the many professionals whom he challenged.

I follow this thinking with these accompanying words from Jonathan Doyle on 12 March:

From Netflix binge-watching to YouTube marathons, many good people have become increasingly disconnected from the greater realities of existence.

The great questions of what it means to be human, what will bring joy in this life and our destiny after death, are buried beneath a landslide of inanity, banal amusements and fleeting distractions.

Yesterday I was blessed to visit the London Oratory Church founded in 1843 by Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman. A place of stunning Catholic beauty, tradition, art and stillness. In these places you are forced into moments of deep silence and awareness. This is what we are losing at a rapid pace. The simple ability to sit, to be still and to connect with what is truly significant.

I am not advocating a return to the caves. There is so much blessing in modern technological advancement but it has also come at a great cost. We are like surly teenagers in a sense. Off seeking our own pleasures and self-assertion, often rejecting the truth of where we come from, of home and of true belonging.

Catholic Education is now faced with a great question across the developed world. It is mostly giving in to pressure from secular governments and becoming an output factory for the college/economic system. Yet some centres of evangelisation remain. A few small, counter-cultural centres of hope and truth remain.

Your task in Catholic education is to fight to become or to strengthen this missionary thrust. We must press on and go toward young people with a greater and more expansive vision of what it means to be human. We must help to raise their eyes above the trivial, transient and temporal to the transcendent, timeless and true.

Thanks for all you do. Hang in there. Don't you dare quit.


I am conscious that we are in the second last week of Lent and next Sunday, Palm Sunday, begins Holy Week. Once again students from some of our schools will join with Bishop Bill at the Annual Ecumenical Way of the Cross at Kilaben Bay. The Diocesan Council for Ministry with Young People is inviting other young people over the age of 18 to join them for a sleep-out at Kilaben Bay on the night before Palm Sunday. Each year on Palm Sunday World Youth Day is celebrated, and in this Year of Youth there is hope that some young people will take the opportunity to just spend time around the campfire sharing stories, prayers, songs, food, fellowship and eventually sleep.

I am looking forward to seeing people from across our diocese at the Way of the Cross on Sunday.

As part of this message I would like to share with you some words from Pope Francis’ 2018 Lenten Message:

How many of God’s children are mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness! How many men and women live entranced by the dream of wealth, which only makes them slaves to profit and petty interests! How many go through life believing that they are sufficient unto themselves, and end up entrapped by loneliness! ……How many young people are taken in by the panacea of drugs, of disposable relationships, of easy but dishonest gains! How many more are ensnared in a thoroughly “virtual” existence, in which relationships appear quick and straightforward, only to prove meaningless! These swindlers, in peddling things that have no real value, rob people of all that is most precious: dignity, freedom and the ability to love. They appeal to our vanity, our trust in appearances, but in the end they only make fools of us.

Lent is a time to peer into our hearts…..We must learn to look closely, beneath the surface, and to recognize what leaves a good and lasting mark on our hearts, because it comes from God and is truly for our benefit……..

Perhaps we see, deep within ourselves and all about us, the signs I have just described. But the Church, our Mother and Teacher, along with the often bitter medicine of the truth, offers us in the Lenten season the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

I have no doubt that when our grandchildren look at us and into us they are encountering something of the mystery in which Allen and I immerse ourselves. I hope it is a life-transforming encounter with a holy person.

I hope your faith journey over the next two weeks allows you to encounter a holy person or that you become the holy person that someone else encounters.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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