From fire to tempest, I have returned from a lovely couple of weeks in Australia. The fires in my native Sydney did take some of the shine of my visit, but the first few days of my visit were spent in Perth, a city unfamiliar to me. My nephew, Christopher, is a seminarian for the diocese of Broome (yes, he is from Sydney but came down with an incurable dose of missionary spirit). So I was fortunate enough to stay with him at his seminary, St Charles’, on the banks of the Swan River. The Rector, Monsignor Kevin Long, was a friendly and gracious host. On my second night the Archbishop of Perth, +Timothy Costello SDB, celebrated Mass, preached well and conferred minor orders on several of the seminarians.
Afterwards, there was a festal supper at which I was seated with the fascinating Dr Noel Vose, a friend of the seminary and a most ecumenical Baptist indeed. He was one time the World President of the Baptist Alliance, and has a Baptist seminary named after him. He very kindly gave me a copy of his latest book, Mena: Daughter of Obedience, a biography of Mena Weld, wife of the nineteenth-century Catholic Governor of Western Australia, Sir Frederick Weld, and who spent her last years as a Benedictine nun at the now-defunct monastery of Holme Eden. Now in his 90s, Dr Vose was an engaging conversationalist (so much so I fear I neglected my nephew at the meal!) and appeared very relaxed in the midst of so many papists.
St Charles’ Seminary was quite the eye-opener. It seems an excellent seminary indeed. Everything seems flavoured with Benedictine moderation. The seminarians are a diverse crew of fine men who impressed me immensely. They celebrated the liturgy most worthily, with care of formality but without exceeding the scale of their lovely smallish chapel. They sing the Office too – I felt very much at home. The seminarians live in purpose-built houses, six to a house, each having an ensuite-room, with communal laundry, kitchenette and lounge area. The houses are high-ceilinged and remarkably quiet. The property runs down to the Swan River, which flows through central Perth, and while there is space enough for peace and calm there is something almost of a village-atmosphere about the place. I look forward to a second visit.
Christopher, by the by, is to be ordained a deacon at St Charles’ on 3 November, his own bishop, +Christopher Saunders, coming down from Broome (a long way!) to Lay on Hands. Please pray every grace for him on his ordination.
To bigger issues. Some have lauded Pope Francis as a communicator, largely on the basis of his simple, direct style and his accessibility for interviews. However, the number of times there has had to be damage control after some of his more unguarded impromptus - on such issues as abortion, atheism, homosexuality, evangelization and even prayer – suggest that communication is not his forte. It has been suggested that his style reflects his Argentine context, which may not transfer too well to the world stage.
Certainly he is causing some confusion among our separated brethren. Lutheran Satire is an American Youtube channel which, as its name suggests, gives the Lutheran take on things by means of satire. They have recently posted a video on Pope Francis which is not too flattering to our Supreme Pontiff. This might be expected from Lutherans, but their satire comes from an unexpected direction. There is a link to it below. Whatever happens, do pray for the Holy Father that he might be given the grace to accommodate to the international stage when teaching the Faith, so that the world might hear the teachings of Christ with clarity, authority and authenticity. It is a mighty post to fill; popes ever need our prayers.