Thoughts November 2004

Thoughts for the Month

The Jesus I know is no cold, hard Iron-Christ; nor does Jesus deserve to be reduced to smug, glib and uncompassionate irrelevancies when the real meaning of His love is what people need so desperately.

“Who is Worthy?” Ted Kennedy

In November we are invited to remember all “the good people” (saints) who, through their lives, have been an example and an inspiration to us. We are also invited to remember all those who have died. This month we especially remember the 353 people, mostly women and children, who drowned with the sinking of the SIEVX. We also remember all those who have died through war especially the innocent bystanders. Always present with us here at Redfern are the deaths of so many of our indigenous people particularly those who have died because of the deplorable health conditions for indigenous people in Australia.

In Memory of Con

Con Power, a Columban priest, was a lecturer at Turramurra when I attended P.M.I. in 1984. He was a very special person. He seemed to intuit those who needed a little extra support which he gave so generously with his warm smile, mischievous humour and deep compassion.

He lectured in Philosophy and was always questioning life and what it meant. He knew what it was to struggle with mental illness and was always there to offer support to others. He loved life and entered into it as fully as he could.

Con Power North Head, 1985

After leaving the Columbans, Maria and Con were married in 1989 and together they worked tirelessly for justice for Aboriginal people. They did this by living in an Indigenous community and later in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. Through their presence they hoped to come closer to the Aboriginal Spirituality and an understanding of their deep relationship to the land.

Con shared his reflections on life through his poetry and these have been published in a book called “Dark Diamond Dancing” under the name James Cornell. (See

At Redfern Con and Maria were known to many, especially Clare and Frank.

Our prayers and thoughts are with Maria at this sad time. We send her love and strength as she continues the dream they both had. We remember Con with love and gratitude for who he was in so many people’s lives.

Following is a note Con put under my door when he couldn’t keep an appointment.

Hi friend,

In heaven there is more time

and less to do.



Sheila Quonoey

Reflection, by Tom Hammerton

Tom has lived and been close to the Aboriginal People of Redfern for many years. His words always cut to the quick. They pull us back to the real message of Christ reminding us of Christ’s preferential eye for the poor.

Acknowledgement of Land

It is an honour and a privilege for me to be asked by the Refern Community, of which I have been a part for the past 30 years, to offer you a reflection today.

Firstly, I want to acknowledge the original owners of this land, upon which this church has been built – land which was stolen through violence and force, and which has never been returned yet.

Before I enter into the Liberation Theology of the breaking of Christ’s Body and the sharing of the spilling of His blood, I also acknowledge the breaking of the bodies and the spilling of the blood of the Aboriginal people. Minds and bodies are still being broken and blood is still being spilt. It is hard for me to confess to an unconfessing church, but I ask the Aboriginal people for their pardon for the part I have played in their crucifiction. I am sorry for the suffering I have caused you and I want to make amends, because I am sorry. I know I continue to cause you suffering in my ignorance ….

Teach me. I also apologise for the failure of my institutional church, to recognise their need to be sorry also. For me this makes the Sacrament of the Eucharist more complete – the symbol of brokenness. The breaking of bread with broken people.


St Francis the Poverello, canonized by the Catholic Church and acknowledged by so many faiths, reminds us as Christians to be another Christ. St Francis had a change of life when he stopped and kissed the leper. Christ calls us to enter into relationship with him in the poor. I believe, without this relationship with the poor, we will not know the real Christ.

Ted Kennedy one night, was called by an Aboriginal man to go to a squat where his mate was sick and dying. Ted went, stepping on broken floorboards, stepping over excreta and vomit, to the man. Ted was asked to tell this dying man, “that there is a God”. This was a turning point in his life! Ted realised he has to show Christ, not just talk about Him (a video, a tape or a book can do this). It is only living as Christ lived, can we show the living Christ. I see the Church presenting two Christs – One a crucified, rejected, radical Christ, the other, a cosmetised, clean, neat, Persil-white, bleached Christ. Christ was called a drunkard and a sinner because he associated with rejected people, and so he was also rejected, by the “comfortable who wanted to remain comfortable”, as Mum Shirl would say. Ted challenged us not to be only for the poor but with the poor! He said “There are too many priests and religious, but not enough visionaries.” Visionaries who will discern the needs of the time, and respond in ways that live the Gospel authentically for our time.

I wonder who St Francis would have been for us today, if he had moved the leper on, and not stayed and kissed him. Christ, as Arupe a Jesuit provincial once said, “had a preferential eye for the poor”. We too need the inner eyes to see the inner person, when we see the outer person with our outer eyes. Do we look through Christ’s eyes?

Christ was born in a stable – It was not renovated for Him! Later, He didn’t choose to live in a palace with r oyalty. Where can we find, in the Catholic Church of Australia, the stable, where Christ is being born today? Kings have their thrones, sitting higher than the common people, their palace floors are covered with red carpet, and their tables adorned with silver and gold. Yet the Son of God had no where to lay his head. Francis’ greatest suffering was seeing his monks accumulating material wealth, becoming self-indulgent, leaving simplicity, replacing their sandals with slippers. This brought about a division in the community. One group wanted to maintain comfort, elitism and clerical hierarchical structures. I see parallels in the Refern Church today. The Aboriginal people are burdened and excluded by this elite hierarchy, as are the community who sit with them.

Once I was talking to a man outside the Wayside Chapel, Kings Cross. I asked, “Why don’t you go inside and pray?” He said, “It is too clean for me, and I am too dirty.” How do you think Christ would have reacted? If I were to see this may today, could I say to him, “Come to Redfern! You will be comfortable in our acceptance of you, just as you are.”

When I am called to give account of my stewardship, what will Christ ask? What will be His priority? He has already told me “What you do for the least of my little ones, You do to Me.” I believe he will not ask what I achieved or built, or what station in life I had. Maybe it will be the reverse of this ± not what I am, but who I am! So forgive me Father and my brothers and sisters, not so much for what I have done, but for what I haven’t done. For what I have said but for what I haven’t said.

May the peace of Chirst continue to disturb me.

Jesus invites us to take a risk with him, to jump in, get our hands dirty, sit with and become friends with all people especially those who are pushed to the edge of society.
Zacchaeus came down out of the tree and his life was radically changed. If we are prepared to respond to the invitation of Jesus we may find our lives radically changed.

The Lord said, ‘Go’
And I said, ‘Who me?’
And He said, ‘Yes you’
And I said, ‘But I’m not ready yet
And there are friends coming;
You know there’s no one to take my place’
And He said, ‘You’re stalling’

Again the Lord said, ‘Go’
And I said, ‘But I don’t want to’
And I said, ‘Listen I’m not that kind of person
I just don’t get involved
And what will the neighbours think?’
And He said. ‘I’m waiting.’

‘Yet a third time the Lord said ‘Go’
And I said, ‘Do I have to?’
And He said, ‘Do you love me?’
And I said, ‘I’m scared – People are going to talk about me
And cut me up into little pieces’
And He said, ‘Where do you think I’ll be?’
And the Lord said, ‘Go’
And I sighed, ‘Here I am, send me.’

Arundhati Roy presented the Sydney Peace Prize Lecture on Wednesday 3rd November

Here are some reflections on what the Peace Prize is about, by Stuart Rees, Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation.

The following excerpts are from “Peace is about justice, not just violence.” Stuart Rees SMH 28/10/2004

The distinction between peace – an end to violence – and peace with justice is important. An easy way to illustrate the distinction is to refer to the 1919 Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I. The guns stopped firing. The victors were rewarded. The vanquished were punished. The peace with justice agenda – people’s needs for jobs and income, for housing and education, for dignity and civil liberties – was ignored. Another world war was almost inevitable.

The citation of the Sydney Peace Prize to Roy reads: “In recognition of her courage in campaigning for human rights and for advocacy of non-violence as in her demands for justice for the poor, for the victims of communal violence (in India), for the millions displaced by the Narmada dam projects and for her opposition to nuclear weapons.”

Roy is controversial. To advocate peace with justice you have to be partisan on social and political issues. This week, Gerard Henderson suggested on this page that her support for the Iraqi resistance should disqualify her from being awarded the prize. What this fails to recognise, however, is that resistance is seldom violent.

In a world dominated by the cultural and military paraphernalia of a war on terrorism Roy inspires many who would otherwise feel disempowered. As part of this war we are being asked to suspend our abilities to analyse and criticise. We are being invited to collude with that oversimplified view of being for or against Western (US) government ways of behaving. We are being asked to tolerate the erosion of civil liberties. Someone who unmasks the sources, the uses and the abuses of power – as in her recent books War Talk, The Cost of Living, The Algebra of Infinite Justice, The Chequebook and the Cruise Missile – is painting a vision of justice and showing how it might be achieved.

The initiators of the Sydney Peace Prize aimed to influence public interest in peace with justice, an ideal which is often perceived as controversial. The choice of a non-controversial candidate for a peace prize would be a safe option but unlikely to prompt debate or to increase understanding.

Consensus usually encourages compliance, often anaesthetises and seldom informs…

Clare has recommended this book on resolving conflicts peacefully.

“Non-Violent Communication – a Language of Life” by M. B. Rosenberg, published by Puddle Dancer, 2003.
ISBN 1-892005-03-04

We are constantly being astonished these days at the amazing discoveries in the field of violence. But I maintain that far more undreamt-of and seemingly impossible discoveries will be made in the field of non-violence.

Non-violence is a universal principle and its operation is not limited by a hostile environment. Indeed its efficacy can be tested only when it acts in the midst of any in spite of opposition. Our non-violence would be a hollow thing, and nothing worth, if it depended for its success on the goodwill of the authorities.

Mahatma Ghandi


Excerpt from a talk by Cyril Halley at the Returning Catholic Semininar

More of the article will be included next month.

On 11 October 1962 John XXIII opening Vatican II Council addressed the bishops, “We feel we must disagree with those prophets of gloom who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand. In the present order of things, Divine Providence is leading us to a new order of human relations which by people’s own efforts, and even beyond their very expectations, ar directed toward the fulfillment of God’s superior and inscrutable designs.”

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