A funny thing happened on the way to…

I was watching the Australian Story episode tonight on Peter Kennedy, Terry Fitzpatrick and the St Mary’s In Exile crew. I don’t want to comment much on it – except to note that for a pair who are supposedly opposed to patriarchy, the trope of ‘fatherhood’ and ‘fathers’ was at the heart of its rhetoric. And that in a way, it was a weird sort of coming out story. [Not implying that Peter and Terry are anything but heterosexual – if anything, perhaps they’re too much. Paul Collins, whose commentary was by his book, did hit on something when he referred to ‘alpha males’…]

It must also be said that the show approached the genre of hagiography, and was full of half-truths at best. Unfortunately, Australian Story generally appears to be an outlet for PR spin, under the guise of human interest, and almost every episode, really, is quite an indictment of what the ABC should be about… But, for my thoughts on the continuing life of St Mary’s Catholic Parish, South Brisbane, see here. Anyway, the show, through a sort of association of themes coalescing into a memory and a spirit, did conjure up a remarkable spirit for me tonight.

A memory – or rather, a set of memories – I hadn’t recalled for years was summoned up. Perhaps because I was thinking – pace Peter’s discourse – about what being a ‘radical Catholic priest’ actually means. [To be fair to Peter, I think that interpolation was made editorially by the programme, and not a label he applied to himself, though I wouldn’t swear to it.]

One of the things I have a problem with in the Exilist discourse is the implication that Peter and Terry are somehow the only Catholic priests – living or dead – in the Brisbane Archdiocese who are living social justice. Whatever one thinks about their good works, that is simply a falsehood. And somewhat of a pernicious one, if I may say.

In my previous post, I referred to the Discernment of Spirits.

I thought of Father Ferdy Parer OFM tonight, a most remarkable priest. I first met him when I was a teenager, attending mass at the Little Flower Church at Kedron, which was was (and is) under the care of the Franciscan Fathers (perhaps better known through its attachment to Padua College).

Fr Ferdy had a remarkable life, which is documented in a book by Mary Mennis. I used to own a copy. It appears to have disappeared. It may come back one day, or if not, I’m sure it’s doing what books do, when like cats, they just wander off to do their thing in the world. I must buy a new copy!

Ferdy helped me when I was very troubled, around 1981, when I was 13. He resurfaced in my life about ten years later. I was at Labour Day, after the annual march. Back then, the Labour Day speeches, market day and general merriment used to take place in Albert Park. Albert Park itself has many stories to tell. But, in any case, I was wandering around, looking for some friends, or someone to hang out with and have a beer with, I guess. It was another confusing time in my life. Read the rest of this entry »

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My friend and flatmate Michael Carden has written another blog post on the St Mary’s in Exile community, reflecting on a recent homily by Terry Fitzpatrick at the TLC building.

Michael discusses Terry’s equation of himself with those on the margins, and questions how that equation can be effectively articulated without a reflection on Terry’s own privilege.

Michael zeroes in on the rather odd ‘Buddhist’ references in the homily. I think it’s absolutely right to query how Terry has gone about composing the margins of his own discourse. I have no objection to, and rich praise for, those who find points of articulation with Buddhist traditions and their own cultural background exploring those – and many do so from a place of absolute respect. Sociologically, we live in a post-traditionalist society where one can’t simply say that because of ethnicity or heritage that ‘we’ are Christian.

While we – in this place and at this time – no doubt remain within a broader culture that’s been formed by Christianity – there are many for whom their own life and formation is not in any real sense Christian, and some for whom ‘other’ faiths and mysteries provide a point of articulation in their own spiritual practice. I, myself, am becoming increasingly interested in (or perhaps reinteresting myself in) some connections that can be made between Taoist motifs and a certain sense of time and the articulation of events to each other that could be named Jewish. It’s a work of thought, and a practice, that I think is bearing immense fruit for me.

But we do need to question our own place in regard to margins, and whether, why, where and how we inscribe them.

Read the rest of this entry »