19 Apr 2013 Leave a Comment
In the middle of all the Pádraig stuff, I am running this seminar with my best friend and godmother to my children!
click here to download the brochure: The Spirituality of Children May 2013
click here to book via The Carmelite Centre website: childrens-sprituality-seminar
18 Apr 2013 Leave a Comment
the book of common poems
An evening exploring the power, problem and prayer of poetry: Pádraig will host an exploration of prayer through the lens of poetry, reflection on the power of words, meditative silence and sharing in a beautiful, sacred space.
7:30pm. $22. Champagne refreshments served upon arrival.
TWO DATES – TWO VENUES
Friday 10th May
430 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
purchase tickets at eventbrite here
Friday 17th May
105 Koetong Parade, Mt Eliza
purchase tickets on line at eventbrite here
for more information email email@example.com or phone 0408511397.
click here to download or print a book of common poems flyer
17 Apr 2013 Leave a Comment
stories about stories
The Universe is made of stories, not atoms, Rukeyser said. But it also true that there is not one single story – there are many stories. Stories that overlap each other, stories that contradict each other, stories in harmony and stories in disharmony. This afternoon and evening will explore the power of storytelling for the heart, for faith, for protest and for living. We will tell true stories with each other, as well as reflect on the primal need to story ourselves and to story our identities in order to make sense of our disordered word.
Pádraig Ó Tuama works as a poet, theologian and community peace worker in the north of Ireland. In particular, he uses poetry and storytelling to help groups of people with different experiences of politics, religion and identity to create a space of understanding, sharing and creative diversity.
Wednesday 15th May
2pm workshop ($30)
5:30pm shared meal ($10)
6:45 pm performance ($20)
* the workshop, meal and performance might all be attended separately or at a discount rate of $48 for the whole program from 2 till 9pm
* registration for the workshop and the meal are essential
16 Apr 2013 Leave a Comment
Apologies to my international readers, but I’m about to post a series of really wonderful events to come along to in Melbourne.
Pádraig Ó Tuama is a delightful Irish poet in Melbourne for three months doing a stint as poet-in-residence for the Uniting Church. I am involved in promoting a couple of public events which promise to be very special. Pádraig is a poet, justice activist and theologian from Belfast. He has a beautiful way of seeing the world, and an even more beautiful way of speaking about it.
I’ve set up a wordpress site as a conduit for a number of his public events that are being organised by various groups around Melbourne, which he is squeezing into an already full program working with various Uniting Church staff and volunteers. Go check it out and get along to whatever you can!
11 Jan 2013 3 Comments
sermon for st johns camberwell, 30 dec 2012
Christmas is one of those times when I am very glad to be a Christian. It’s not because of the beautiful music at church or the quaint nativity pageants (Lord, no!); it’s because that if it wasn’t for the grounded reality of a virgin teenager giving birth in an animal enclosure, I would become thoroughly depressed by our contemporary culture’s fantasy of the perfect family Christmas. A perfect day with perfect weather, perfectly behaved children and adults, uncomplicated relationships and enough money to pretend Santa loves your kids and provide an extravagant feast for a loving network of family and friends.
Some of us would have had a lovely day on the 25th, complete with all the trimmings, but most of us would have had at least a moment or more of the grim reality of family life: anger, grief, anxiety, sadness. Perhaps there are people whom you love who were missing from your table. Perhaps there are people whom you love who belong to someone else’s table. Perhaps there are people whom you love who were making life difficult at your table!
The Christian story of incarnation does not permit such fantasy. Instead, it gives us the resources to live in reality and a vision of living which is far more powerful to transform the everyday relationships in our lives. The key to the story today, is in the epistle reading, Colossians 3:
‘As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.’
If we go back to the ancient story of Samuel’s family, we begin to see what this means. When Hannah couldn’t bear children, what did she do? She trusted the LORD and he answered her prayer! When it came time for Hannah to act on her commitment to God in that prayer, what did she do? She trusted in the LORD and released her longed-for first-born into the service of the LORD at the temple. She trusted the LORD and the LORD blessed her again with more children. I can imagine that if I was Hannah I really, really would have struggled to keep my promise to give up my child when it came to rub of releasing him from my arms. Think about what the actual experience would have been: miraculously becoming pregnant after decades of painful barrenness, nine long months of carrying the child, the labour of birth and the outpouring of love in nursing a baby. The promise to God might have seemed a distant memory, easily eradicated from consciousness in the thrill of realising her dream. I can think of a million excuses for Hannah not giving up her child! It is a heroic act of faith from Hannah; a determined choice to trust God with every blessing in her life. A child was not just a romantic form of self-fulfilment in the middle east of Hannah’s day. A child was about survival: you needed workers in the extended family economic unit and you also needed children for social status and respect. The moment Hannah hands over Samuel to serve in the Lord’s house, she doesn’t choose survival, she doesn’t choose fear, she chooses to trust God despite the heartache and regardless of the cost.
In the apostle Paul’s advice in the letter to the Colossians, we are urged to ‘forgive as you have been forgiven’. But we can also state this in the positive, which exactly sums up Hannah’s actions: as you have been given, so you also should give.
No one is immune from family struggles, so it is only when we give up the fantasy of the perfect family that we can begin to deal with what actually is. The principles from Colossians are key to how the people of God are to live in the messiness of everyday life, for their own sake as well as for the betterment of the world. Whatever happens, whatever your particular family disfunction or disappointment, in life, in love, in brokenness… live as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another, not because that is ‘right’ or ‘good’ or ‘reciprocal’ but because that is how God has treated you!
I feel that I can speak from experience here, because in the face of terrible betrayal four years ago I committed myself to this course of action. I enlisted the help of my friends and set myself the goal of maintaining my own principles for relating to others out of the love that God has poured into my heart by the holy spirit (Romans 5), rather than the hurt inflicted upon me by the choices of another. Thoreau said there is no remedy for love but to love more. When your heart is broken, anger doesn’t fix it. Bitterness is a poison not a healing balm. Only love heals broken love, and no matter what life asks you to endure, God loves you.
I’m sure you are familiar with the cycle of anger which can disable families: Fred upsets Hilary, Hilary is furious so she lashes out at Fred, which makes Fred even more angry so he deliberately hurts Hilary and on and on it goes, until one person decides to opt out of the cycle. As people loved by God, God is inviting us to be the people of peace, following in the footsteps of the King of Peace, standing against the flow of anger, because we are people who have the inner resources to contain the hurt and make better choices. The invitation is to treat others not as others have treated you, but as God has treated you. Do unto others as God has done unto you. God drawn near to us through the love of a virgin mother and her faithful husband: but again, let’s take care to be real about the holy family, this is no perfect fantasy.
Even the Holy Family were not immune to painful misunderstandings at times of major celebrations it would seem. In the gospel reading we have the story of Jesus asserting his independence as a 12 year old, remaining behind in Jerusalem whilst his parents assumed he was part of the larger family group making their way home after the festival. Was Mary right to admonish her son for causing his parents grief? Was Jesus right to rebuke his parents for their lack of understanding? Actually, I think like in most family disputes, who was right and who was wrong is a distraction, what is more important is the choices that come after the event.
There is not a lot of detail in the text about how this family dispute resolved itself. There is no indication of apologies being made and family group hugs but they all headed back to Nazareth together so clearly they moved on somehow. And Mary ‘pondered all these things in her heart.’ She was on her way to understanding her son, but clearly her perception of what God was doing was incomplete at this stage. However, Mary doesn’t need to understand any more than she does at this moment, in order to be able to respond according to the Colossians principle. When push comes to shove, we don’t need particular painful situation to be resolved and we don’t even need reconciliation to be realised before we choose to start to act as God has acted towards us.
Be careful to see the middle step however: the step between heartache and choosing to love – the key to it all – is the turning to God. We can’t do it without turning to God. Forgiveness, bearing with one another, it’s emotional and soulful hard work: the hard work of prayer which is an inner dialogue between our deepest selves and God. Of letting God fill you with God’s love until you can act out of fulness of heart again, rather than the hurt of brokenness. Love only comes from love; we are always able to love because God loves us. So when the love from your family isn’t forthcoming, you can still fulfil the Colossians principles, because when Paul says ‘clothe yourselves in love’, he means God’s love. God’s love for you.
This kind of prayer requires time, stillness, silence. If you think about how long it takes to sob uncontrollably, yell and scream into the pillow, fall asleep exhausted and then have a calming cup of tea, that’s the kind of time we need to spend with God in prayer when we are hurting. Often there are no words which suffice and our tears and grief speak for us in God’s presence, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit who prays with us. There are fellow travellers in this kind of praying, but there are also long times of solitude, for our pain is our own and must be felt in our own unique way. Our brothers and sisters in Christ support us with their own prayers, but more importantly but gently directing our attention back to the love that is still present even in the darkest hours.
The grounded reality of God incarnate doesn’t deny the messiness and disappointment of life. God doesn’t expect you to have the perfect family – in fact the exact opposite is true! Because God knows we humans can’t get through the life of family without stuffing it up and hurting the people we love. God comes as one of us, to be disappointed by love along with us and to reveal to us God’s greater story, that God’s love never fails.
So, if there is fallout from your Christmas this year, be encouraged: just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you have the capacity to forgive those who have hurt you. Just as the Lord has given to you, so also you can give to those who have betrayed you. Just as the Lord has loved you, so also can you give up retaliation, give up bitterness, let go of the hurt, and clothe yourself with love.
21 Oct 2012 Leave a Comment
I’m on retreat for three days of silent contemplation this week, with reflections aimed at Rediscovering St Paul the Mystic.
I felt inspired to offer a little something for you to contemplate while I’m away…
Is it time you re-read Paul’s letters in the New Testament?
Or do you need to literally breathe in some fresh air?
Or do you need to join me,
sitting cross legged on my red japanese floor cushion
and enjoy the special inner space that silence brings?
Blessings to you, for your own moments of connection this week, whatever and wherever they may be. XX.
12 Aug 2012 Leave a Comment
(extract from chapter 9, ‘Love and Fruit’ in Adrianne von Speyer, The World of Prayer (Ignatius Press; San Francisco, 1985))
Right now I am in the midst of reading nothing but Hans Urs von Balthasar for my doctoral work. It’s funny how reddresstheology has got out of step with my other reading, but there is so much I’ve read that I still need to share, and so much to digest before I can write sensibly about von Balthasar! For now, I’m still on the love theme for the blog, but it is by no means unrelated to Hans.
The following is an extract from a book written in 1951, by a woman mystic named Adrianne von Speyr, in which she describes the relationship between love and prayer. Adrianne was close friends with von Balthasar and he insisted on more than one occasion that his systematic theology should be read alongside Adrianne’s mystical writings. Her particular mystical gifts included numerous stigmata, healings and other miracles. Together she and Hans started a ‘lay’ order to encourage the total integration of faith, knowledge and a life lived for God. Their spiritual partnership is a crucial entry into understanding von Balthasar as a theologian – systematic theology cannot be divorced from spiritual experience, mission and ministry.
I’ve shared a large slab of Adrianne because it’s beautiful in and of itself and I found it such an inspiring piece of spiritual writing – a fabulous description of how we encounter love in prayer. This encounter is the gift of love as absolute value and essence (think Plato) through the reintegration of our whole selves with the ground of our Being – God. If you’re like me, you will bristle at the gendered language, but just take it as a reminder of the original context of the writing: post-war Switzerland in the Roman Catholic tradition. May Adrianne be a blessing to you today.
When God speaks out of love, his word is a word of love, and the person praying will try to receive and return it as such. It is remarkable that he often tries to speak a word of love to God, but rarely realizes in his heart that he is also hearing and receiving a word of love. In prayer he fulfills a kind of duty forgetting that that deepest meaning of this duty is love. Many people had the joy, as children, of praying with their mothers. Later on, life knocked them about, and they have forgotten how to pray. In some time of need they recall the warmth and security of their childhood prayers; perhaps they use their mother’s love as a bridge to get back to the love of God. But somewhere they get stuck in human emotion; they scarcely touch God’s sphere because they have forgotten to listen for God’s word of love.
If the man who prays knows that the essence of prayer is love, his attitude in prayer will be one of openness to love. He will try to be accessible to love: not by straining to catch special and extraordinary signs of love, but in a simple attention, not letting slip any proof of love which God gives, refusing nothing, misunderstanding nothing, whitewashing nothing, reinterpreting nothing. If he is a beginning in prayer he should be so inspired by the thought of love that he is never is a hurry, but takes his time. He may pause a while after each prayer, picking some thought, some idea, some word out of the world of love: However small and insignificant it is, he takes it into his daily life in order to fill that life with the love of God. In many ways modern man lives his life automatically. He at least ought to learnt not to pray automatically: He needs to rediscover a sense of wonder at the love of God, going on to impart a sense of eternity to his world once again…
God’s love is offered to men like an overflowing vessel from which they may draw. But there are different ways of encountering the love of God in prayer: Some are more central and others are more peripheral. Believers know that God is love and that the closer we get to him the closer we get to love. They know that, since he is love, this love is found at his very core, in the innermost being of his godhead, because in him this love is the very heart of truth. They also know that they too can be taken up into this central core. But as well as this – and perhaps in a more experiential way, through feeling – they know that they ought not only to become acquainted with the innermost center of love (indeed, they are probably not strong enough to resist this rushing torrent, this intense heat) but should also get to know all the scattered drops and rays which this love emits.
Every genuine life of prayer manifests two experiences: that of the central fullness and that of deprivation or aridity which, regarded as experience, seems peripheral. At some point the man who prays will be touched by some knowledge or experience of love which causes him to desire to come nearer the fountainhead and awakens in him the longing to be cast into the center. But it terms of tangible experience the center is the exception, an exception that becomes the rule that one can return to and live from the memory of what one once received. Such was Paul’s Damascus road, Ignatius’ conversion, Pascal’s “night” – and, on another plane, John’s Apocalypse, which is perhaps one of the deepest explorations of God’s center and which John himself found inexhaustible. All that he saw, heard and experienced here, all that he merely indicated as a background, was the center of the love of God, a center into which he was cast by his prayer. So the Apocalypse remains the experience of prayer kat exochen for all succeeding Christians, not because of it’s mystical quality, but in spite of it: Where the center is concerned, transposition into the mystical is only one possibility; by the Apocalypse belongs by right to everyone who prays, to such an extent that everyone can find nourishment for his prayer, and direct experience of the love of God, in the Apostle’s mystical experience.
Every praying person who loves and strives toward the love of God has his share in it. The love of God becomes everything to him, to such an extent that from it he can form his life decisions. Because God loves him he can take the risk of some particular surrender; because God loves him he can follow this or that path; because God loves him he can put up with a life which would be otherwise intolerable; because God loves him he can renounce the world and lead an apostolic life; because God loves him he can die as a Christian; because God loves him he can daily love his neighbour as himself. Everyone who prays is given such a share in love that it becomes his center, and his whole existence manifests traces of this central experience.
17 Jun 2012 Leave a Comment
In Sebastian Moore and Kevin Maguire, The Experience of Prayer(London: Darton, Longman & Todd; 1969)
The blog has suffered of late as I’ve been busy with other stuff: at the start of June I presented my PhD proposal to the postgraduate seminar at St Marks Canberra. I informally introduced my proposal with a couple of personal stories of love and the first two stanzas of this poem from Sebastian Moore. It’s a gem.
We have lived too long without wisdom
on which alone the soul feeds:
wisdom is the structure of loving:
without it the heart is wild.
So a community without wisdom
is a collection of private wildernesses
growing more slowly with age
waiting for the full stop.
The heart, when young, is wild:
absolutely requiring the lover’s hand
it may not deny this requirement
in any of its details
and every detail is pain,
and the heart’s pain will either create hell around
or it will be denied
unless there comes the ordering
from within the heart
which is the heart becoming beautiful:
and a community whose commitment
precludes (I suppose) the lover’s hand
and ‘the sweet disorder of her dress’
is desperately in need of wisdom.
A community that has no word
for one tortured on the detail of loving,
a community without the detailed word of wisdom ,
is coarse and unschooled
whatever its spiritual pretensions,
its God an old colour-sergeant
for all the spiritual reading.
Wisdom is born in love
making the heart a city,
every movement of heart anguish
becoming a straight way.
Wisdom is born of God,
makes the heart the City of God.
Those who inhabit the city
have discovered love’s secret
which love by itself can hardly impart,
and indeed wisdom is of God
for whence on earth can a man learn
that a man’s love is himself,
that the difference between two loves
is precisely the difference between two people
whose love is to be to each other
whose love is to be, together,
whose love is to be the polis:
whence on earth is learned
this courtesy without polish
consenting to the humble?