Monday, 14 October 2019

A Sunday retreat

I wrote this post a week ago.  I put it on hold because I wanted to word myself a little carefully: in these troubled days one should do no less.

Last Sunday I went to a retreat being held by the Catholic Lawyers’ Association.  I'd been looking forward to it.  I’d even turned in at a respectable hour the night before. Unfortunately, it was the night Daylight Saving kicked in, and inevitably I slept late by an hour.  As a result I arrived at Corpus Christi College just as Mass was starting.

Chapel, Corpus Christi College, Melbourne, Australia

The chapel used by the seminarians is simple but beautiful.  There were 14 of us present.  Mass was said by Fr Forbes and followed by morning tea.  This gave us a chance to get to know each other, since not everyone comes to the monthly Mass and breakfast.  It’s tempting to namedrop, but I won’t because it might tend to draw the enmity of certain people:

Suffice it to say I had a couple of “you're one of us?!?” moments.

Morning tea was followed by some lectio divina in the college library (I opted for a sermon by Guerric of Igny).  After this, fully ten of us said the Rosary at the Marian grotto, which felt remarkably empowering.  Communal prayer seems to allow people to be vulnerable.

The most enlightening bit of the day was an hour of adoration of the blessed sacrament.  People sat or knelt as they (and their knees) preferred.  I’ve often heard of how people get so much peace and joy from adoration, but I hadn’t really understood it till now.  Faced with Him and His blessed mother I felt like I’d never want to be anywhere else, for any reason.  If I got nothing else from the retreat, that would have been enough.
So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life [John 6:67-68]
The last formal part of the day was a further address from Fr Forbes on the forms of prayer.
Lunch was provided and it gave us a chance to talk a bit further.  Again: no names, no pack-drill.  Many of those present sensed that being openly Catholic was likely to be career-limiting.  There was a broad feeling that it will get harder and harder to reconcile faith and career.  For my own part (this is of course a personal view only), I think we may run into trouble well before that point.  That is, I think many lawyers from a range of faiths may find that their will to uphold and serve the law will corrode in the face of enmity.  This sort of thing has had me questioning my commitment to the SES.  That is, I've been painfully aware of the venom associated with the laws on the Confessional.  I've also listened with pain to rhetoric from Premier Andrews echoing the old trope of Catholics as primarily the agents of the Vatican, and not of their own country -
"I've made it very clear that the law of our state is written by the Parliament of Victoria, it's not made in Rome and there are very significant penalties for anybody and everybody who breaks the Victorian law," the Premier said.
In the SES context, this has been making it less easy for me to make myself pull on my uniform and serve my State and my community when there are calls for help.  Principally, now, what keeps me going is loyalty to my crewmates and a belief that, with this service, I can honour the image of God written on other people.  It's not always easy though.

Not unlike Star Trek's Arturis, I do think that with a measure of prudence frank conflicts of duty can be avoided ("The Borg Collective is like a force of nature. You don't feel anger toward a storm on the horizon. You just avoid it").  But that isn't wholly the point.  I have an abiding concern that, eventually, more than a few may look at the polity we serve and say: I didn't want to have to choose.

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