Allen and I have had one of our children and her family staying with us for the week. Consequently, we took three of her four boys on several excursions over the weekend. Today, Sunday, we took them to Speers Point Park, to the miniature railway at Edgeworth and then to Mass. Yesterday, they joined me at the Unity in Diversity Festival.
While these were all good things for us to do together, what I mostly am left with, at the end of the weekend, are the conversations that occurred in the car as we travelled to and from events. It was during these conversations that the children tried to make sense of life. I am in awe of how much four and five-year-olds know about our world, and the depth of questions they are wishing to explore.
The big conversation that emerged after the Unity in Diversity Festival was about people coming to Australia, because they are no longer able to live in their country of birth. We talked about Australia being a safe place and they asked why we do not have wars in Australia like other countries do. The depth of their questioning and understanding astounded us. The five-year-old then spoke spontaneously about the Anzacs and how they had died in a war. The conversations then moved to wars, good people, and bad people. I said something about the quality of leaders, with the next question to be raised about what was meant by the term leaders, which they appeared to grasp.
Coming from the Gold Coast, a community with less diversity than they experienced at the Festival, their encounters seemed to open a new space for them – music, food, dance, dress, customs, costumes, language. This space created within them new ideas and questions. It is as if they spent the day observing, and then tried to put words to it, while Allen and I listened and responded as best we could, to help them try to make sense of the complexity of life in our contemporary age.
Children are exposed to so much, and our gift as grandparents must be to give them time. I am sure we all recall how busy the days of parenting are. I find taking them to Mass is just another way of giving them time, as they recognise the importance it plays in Allen’s and my lives. Once again, questions are asked, and they watch and observe our rituals and prayers. I noted that the eight-year-old, knew to look up when the bell was rung at the Consecration. He commented on the ‘stage’, and I informed him that it was a sanctuary. His next phrase was “like Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary”. I was then able to indicate that it was a sacred place for us as the wildlife sanctuary was a sacred place for animals, and he understood.
Another wonderful element to the weekend, was the large number of families who were out with family groups, celebrating key events or just enjoying the great outdoors on such glorious winter’s days. I note this during the World Meeting of Families presently taking place in Rome, with its theme, Family love: vocation and way to holiness. One of the areas which the Pastoral Ministries Team are attempting to support is the life of families across our diocesan community. Our diocese supports families through our Parishes, CatholicCare, our Catholic Schools and St Nicholas Early Education and Out of School Hours (OOSH) Care. Families are central to how we live out our vocation as Christian people. In his message to families over the weekend, Pope Francis invited us to continue our journey by listening to the Father, who calls us to become missionaries in the ways of the world. He went on to say, “Be the seed of a more fraternal world! Be families with big hearts! Be the welcoming face of the Church! And please pray, always pray!”
And while the World Meeting of Families mostly focuses on our natural understanding of families, I was struck by our diocesan family, as we gathered for the TWEC (Tenison Woods Education Centre) dinner on Friday night. It was so good to see the many familiar faces of our faith family, after a two-year hiatus, due to COVID. At this dinner we celebrated and paid tribute to the work of the Lochinvar Sisters of St Joseph, particularly in adult education and formation, which has been part of our diocesan life for over twenty-five years. We have been gifted with these Sisters for almost 140 years, and I believe that eleven of these Josephite Sisters joined us on Friday night.
This takes me to the readings for this weekend. In Luke’s Gospel (9:51-62), Jesus calls people to follow him, by not turning back, once the invitation has been given. And in the letter to the Galatians (5:1, 13-18) Paul writes:
Serve one another, rather, in works of love, since the whole of the Law is summarised in a single command: Love your neighbour as yourself. If you go snapping at each other and tearing each other to pieces, you had better watch or you will destroy the whole community.
Please continue to pray, as we move towards the second session of the Plenary Council in Australia. May the members remember to not go on snapping at each other and tearing each other to pieces. May the Holy Spirit be their guide, their strength, their wisdom, their voice and their hearts.
And so, to finish this week’s message with the first verse of the hymn, The Summons by John L Bell:
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?