This Jubilee Year of Mercy, which is about to end tomorrow, I have been attentive to all those who have been committing acts of mercy. Like last year with my Moments of Love, every single day I have recorded something I have observed, in this case great and small mercies. I have found that the scope of mercy is broad and that it is not just found in the pardoning of offenses, but in the reaching out to other people and creation without a cause. Here are just some of the hundreds of gems that I have discovered:

  • Some local citizens lifting away a trapped car.
  • Two little Aboriginal girls buying their friend a drink when she had no money.
  • A man in prison praying good wishes for other prisoners who had been abusing him.
  • A 7-year-old writing a get-well card to her principal.
  • A wealthy man giving money away without letting anyone know it was from him.
  • A woman offering her umbrella to an old lady in the rain.
  • A lesbian woman accompanying her partner through a painful operation.
  • A young boy holding open a gate for us.
  • An army veteran forgiving the Japanese who had treated him badly in a POW camp.
  • People from an organisation rallying round a dying member.
  • A teacher picking up bags of children’s rubbish every day.
  • A family involved in a lethal car accident forgiving the perpetrator.
  • A little girl giving me a flower.
  • A teacher starting a school recycling program.
  • A Sister looking after a heavily drinking woman for years who had been in prison.
  • A priest and a young man sitting down with a man with a severe disability.
  • A Sister exhausted at the end of the day making time for a person in need.
  • The Sisters forgiving me for cheating at cards!
  • A woman giving a sweet to a refugee boy who then gave it to his mother.
  • A Sister helping a family who crashed into her car.
  • A circus friend offering his house for visiting performers.
  • A man in a nursing home helping us to get out the door.
  • A man in prison telling the others that they are made in God’s image.
  • An ant carrying a dead ant.
  • A man giving his son $150 when he asked for $50.
  • A man returning $20 to me after I left it in a shop.
  • A lady hugging a homeless man.
  • A neighbour fixing our wrecked gate.
  • A priest staying up all night with an unwell pilgrim.
  • A cleaner shutting the door so she wouldn’t disturb us.
  • A father not punishing his daughter over destroying a tree.
  • A refugee letting me wear shoes in his shoe-less house.
  • A student’s concern for a boy with Aspergers.
  • A man living on Nauru feeling compelled to write about the injustice there.
  • A Sister taking in a homeless man to stay at her house.
  • Someone saying she liked my cooking when I don’t think she did!
  • A priest taking a homeless man camping.
  • A man at the check-out purposefully making my bags of equal weight.
  • A prison officer getting us to wait in the warm sun.
  • Sisters having a good cry with a bereaved man.
  • A soccer goalie going to embrace the opposition’s goal scorer.
  • An old woman going to the nursing home to sing and read poetry.

And these are just a few of them! If anyone was doubting, the world is chock full of mercy, God’s mercy expressed through beautiful human (and other-than human) action. May the Jubilee Year of Mercy continue to inspire you every day of every year.

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Today is Holy Thursday. A reflection of mine from 2009:

The Thursday Moss

These rocks that I nurture
ramble indolently
from the bent-over One
to the bent-under three
and if messages could
pass along my dull green,
oh! It would change
this weak human scene.
On my eastmost rock
see, I bear elbows
that are shaking, trembling
like minor death-throes.
My leaves are absorbing
muttered words of prayer.
They cry soundlessly
to show that I care.
My stalks are channelling
these heavy tears,
absorbing the shivering
release of his fears.
And all of this drama
is making me frown,
for what a contrast
from my west, further down,
for here I’m a pillow
for sleepyheads, three,
who haven’t discerned
the One’s urgency.
He told them to wait
and I’m waiting too,
but doing much better;
they nodded on cue
and now they’re dead to it
and I’m left awake,
a witness, He’ll die
for theirs, and my, sake.
Also, for some more good Easter poetry, see http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=46121#.VvMUkRyli1E.

heart

At the end of last year I was feeling particularly unloving. I felt stuck in a selfish world of about-me-ness, unable to break out. I knew in my head that God loved me unconditionally, but I couldn’t seem to translate  that practically into “love one another as I have loved you”. So I decided that maybe I would start a search for love in the world and, hopefully, end up becoming more loving myself.

So on November the 30th, 2014, I began my quest for God’s love expressed through the loving actions of God’s creation, which turned out to be both human and non-human! Very little moments surprised and delighted me and I have faithfully written down at least one for every day until now. Sometimes I struggled to remember or wrote a few days in bulk, but I was sure that even in the most ordinary of days, if I searched my memory hard enough, a love moment would surface. God did not disappoint and I thought that as my year is closing that you might like to share some of the moments with me:

  • My brother getting engaged (this was the first ‘moment’!)
  • An unexpected hug from someone wanting to thank me
  • A young father looking after his pregnant wife
  • A Sister leaving her half-finished meal to help someone in need
  • My tears at the death of my loved Aunty
  • A mother giving her child a ‘spotty party’ during her chicken pox
  • A man rescuing an unknown sheep stuck in a fence
  • An older brother escorting his siblings across the road
  • A young girl explaining why a friend with a disability was as she was
  • A Sister caring for her father for 7 years without a holiday
  • A woman forgiving the family of the boy who killed her son
  • A young man looking out for a friend overdosing on drugs
  • A friend’s pride in her great-grandchildren
  • A man with a homosexual orientation offering exceptional customer service
  • A mother sitting on a hard floor for hours with her children
  • An elderly couple expressing their ongoing love for each other
  • Parents of an IVF baby treating it with utmost, profound love
  • An angry parent protecting a child from putting a plastic bag over his head
  • A woman having a change of heart over asylum seekers
  • A prisoner publicly forgiving another who had hurt him
  • Friends picking up and caring for a hitchhiker
  • A crow helping a koala to cross the road
  • A friend crying about the estrangement of a loved sister
  • Two toddlers giggling at each other
  • A Sister feeling sorry for thirsty birds and turning on the sprinklers

These are just some of the moments, some tiny, some enormous. They have all reminded me of just how much love there is in the world, if we would only look. The universe is created and immersed in love. What can I do but return some of this love, to keep the cycle going?

It has been such a LOVEly year that I think I will keep the tradition going. In the Catholic Church we have now entered a Jubilee Year of Mercy and I think that I might record ‘acts of mercy’ every day instead. I have a feeling that there will be much more mercy around than anyone could have expected. Though I imagine Jesus will be giggling: “I told you so!”

 

The Advent Time

Grass crackling dry like tinsel
and mozzies singing their carol-like tunes.
This is the season we have been waiting for,
counting off the suns and moons.
Expectation hangs like pregnant air
and plans go flying, calendars fill.
Even the atheist shopper knows
that the world is holding its breath until
the clanging of a baby’s cry matches the bells
and it’s time to be loving, giving and true,
as from splashes of red and green emerge
the purple hope of a life that’s new.
And we’ve only to notice the promise of joy
if we doubt that God could visit the earth.
As we blur in the rush and parch in the heat,
for one heartbeat away from Advent, His birth.

YCW retreat

On my (metaphorical) knees

Apart from piled-up platitudes, space is peppered;
more than words, it is the stance I take on a precipice.
Wrapped around ruminations, rough and rude errs to real;
when life breaks in, I sigh, but is it gone?
Are attitudes passable? Acts are always framed
in my relationship with the one to whom they are directed.
Years of yielding petty frayed not yets, to cry in humility,
yet a lifetime on my knees leaves me vulnerable.
Tests are early endings, shame, bleeding and death,
though every moment it waits to break into life.
Returning to interruptions, reaped from boredom and repetition;
I crave it, forget it, it pierces me through.

The war shot the patriot from my heart
as if the curse of blood
were not enough.

At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
I thank my God for evenings and mornings
that rest quietly in the graves of the fallen,
the absence of war
and, yet, the presence of war
in the still-wet killing fields.

I thank my God for the peace
that punches our hearts
and never gives up its search
for a welcome,
who homes even into the midst of slaughter,
who pursues and teases the returned,
who shrinks from the decision-makers,
who feels left out of the rallies
– even those in its name –
but haunts those who have passed beyond the depths.

We will remember them
and we will cry tears of blood
at the sight of our sins,
at the lies that led us to hate,
at the creation of the ‘other’
and the mother’s children dropping from our country’s eyes.

May God build a shrine in my soul
large enough for every unmarked trauma,
with a white flag
and the charred remains of borders.

May God shower us with sorrow
for all fever to exploit,
to colonise,
to name superior,
and to ever be loyal
except to God’s truth.

O God, purge the hatred from amongst us,
let us retaliate by blessing.

Beat the drum against all evil,
most especially in my heart.

Lest we forget
the pain of every wound,
the glory lost to conquerors,
the sweat of every peace-maker:
Lest we forget.

One day the sun rose in the West.
Nobody blinked.
Well, one or two marvelled at the phenomenon.
A couple, just like you or I,
checked their memory-banks for where the sun should rise
and, having confirmed the East,
permitted themselves to be startled,
at least.
But the rest,
perhaps unable to pinpoint the strange sensation
of the rising sun in the West,
went about their daily business:
checking the camels,
baking the bread,
mending the nets,
tending the pets,
spinning the wool,
spinning tales of the sun
rising on every horizon,
but never in the West.
And we, too, go about our daily business:
checking the cheques,
buying the bread,
spending the bets,
fending off debts,
telling the tills,
telling the tales two thousand years later.
One day the Son rose in the West.
Well, West of here, but perhaps for you
North or South or East
at least
as one or two professed.
That Son who’d died
came up where least expected:
His light had resurrected.

03062013155a

I don’t pretend to know your thoughts
as you rocked on the edge of the precipice,
arms flung out,
waiting to fall
and not knowing how to fly.
I heard that your words were lost
in acres of vast silence
and you cried,
but your tears
turned to salt just like the rest of us.
I suppose the guilt laid on you needed an outlet,
a fall to match our fall
and in the pain
of forgiveness
you promised to keep gathering our trash.Go
I wish I had the innocence to be shocked
that you not only fell but you flew
and we have life
and could fly
if we too could fling our arms out for love.

smHogan

Today marks the start of Lent – Ash Wednesday. I had a few comments at my circus class this afternoon, “Is that a mark on your forehead?” “You’ve got something there!” “I rubbed mine off as soon as I got it.” The mark of ashes is a reminder about what this season is shaping up to be: a public call, a public brand. This is our life – and Lent is a time of spiritual preparation for Easter. I wrote this poem for Lent two years ago.

Lent is In

2324092769_6538aa8e4e

Down the trendy Op Shop
and the chants of children
in classes:
“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”
There are piles of other ‘re’ words
and they all apply.
The green season
– but violet is the new green –
when it is cool to be eco-friendly.
In the latest top tips for health and wellbeing –
refresh, rejuvenate,
rejoin the reason for being here at all.
Relight the flame that has gone out.
Rejoice and return
to find Him exactly where we last left Him,
struggling to the cross-
roads of busy city streets
where all have blank looks
and “BUY!” written in their electric-powered eyes.
Remember, reground us in the earth.
Let us join the tree-huggers
and deadline-less surfies
and medicine-free remedies.
I won’t even mention retreat, that goes without saying.
Renew, redeem the silence
from the noise
and the luxury
from what you cannot buy.
Receive the vegetarian Fridays.
Repose, relax, replace our worries
with prayers.
And, most of all,
repent
for the way this trashed-up planet looks,
for the scars left on every soul,
for our refuse not yet released.
Lent is In.

Here I share my speech in front of the Mount Barker Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday. We were to stand trial for trespass, but the charges were dropped. Nevertheless, the five of us who participated in the Love Makes A Way action, and supporters, gathered to speak, pray and deliver gifts to Jamie Briggs MP and the police.

Magistrates courtJamie Briggs

Friends, I would like to share why I felt compelled to participate in this peaceful prayerful action, which was nevertheless, a convictable one. On the 10th of December last year, with these here present, I sat on Minister Jamie Briggs office floor for less than two hours, asking for when the children might be released from immigration detention and for none to be re-incarcerated. We were arrested for trespass, but our charges were then dismissed.

I have great respect for the law. I had never before been charged or convicted for any offence and none of my family have had convictions for as far back as we know. However, I chose freely to commit the minor act of trespass in order to highlight the larger crime of child abuse committed by this country’s government. I acted because of my conscience; because I felt a moral imperative and I was prepared to accept the consequences, no matter what.

Our national anthem says, “for those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share.” According to Legal Answers, “The first easily identifiable group of refugees [to arrive in Australia] were Lutherans who began settling in South Australia from 1839 to escape restrictions on their right to worship within the state of Prussia.” Those refugees were my forebears. My brother was named John William, after Johann Wilhelm, the first settler. Although we are not original inhabitants of this country, and cannot trace our history back thousands of generations, as Aboriginal people can, I believe that we have contributed well to this land and appreciated the gifts that it offers. Then from the benefits of our Australian education and perspective, members of my family have been able to impact not only this country, but the world, for the better.

People seeking asylum here have all this potential and more. In Australia, we have ample evidence, as we see now as our Governor Hieu Van Le, who came to Australia seeking asylum on a boat likewise. The Vietnamese Catholic church in Pooraka is dedicated to ‘Our Lady of the Boat People’, in honour of the faith and divine protection of their boat-borne forebears. I am a member of the Sisters of Mercy, who have for decades been working on the front line with refugees and asylum seekers. In fact, the Sisters were working in a Malaysian camp when a young refugee girl from Vietnam received their compassion and was struck by their work. Years later, after coming to Australia by herself and working to bring out all of her family members, she again met up with one of those Australian Sisters. In 2013, she was Professed herself as a Mercy, a social worker who I am proud to call my Sister.

I have volunteered and worked with people seeking asylum and refugees since 2007 and, thanks to the Sisters of Mercy, some of this has been full time. I have witnessed first hand the affects of detention, or, as it is more truly, incarceration. One seven-year-old that I knew well in detention wrote this, which was translated into English: “In here, our lives are very sad, depressing and hopeless. As each day passes, we feel heavy-hearted and lack any sense of hope. We have no way of knowing what our future holds for us…Our lives in this place are extremely depressing, we are suffering and lack any sense of a future. We don’t know who will help us.”

Fortunately, that young person is now living freely in the Australian community, going to school and building a life. Unfortunately, there still 211 children in Australian detention centres. And there are also 119 children still in detention on Nauru with no hope of repatriation in Australia. A doctor working on Nauru said holding children in detention constituted child abuse. She said, “The mandatory detention of children, particularly in offshore processing centres like Nauru, is child abuse. It is completely and utterly inappropriate and also unnecessary, in terms of it not being effective and being exorbitantly expensive.”A six-year-old there wrote this, “I am 6. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. I don’t speak. I have nightmares. I live in a tent behind a big fence in Nauru. Please help my mum and dad. Free them from Nauru.” Yet Scott Morrison, when he was Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, said: “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a child, it doesn’t matter whether you’re pregnant…it doesn’t matter whether you’re an unaccompanied minor…If you’re fit enough to get on a boat, then you can expect you’re fit enough to end up in offshore processing.”

Friends, as of November 30 2014, 78% of those processed on Nauru were found to be genuine refugees, according to UNHCR standards and before appeals. Who is now ensuring their safety, wellbeing and ability to live in peace? Who in Australia cares?

Finally, I come to my faith. I am first of all a religious person, a Christian, a Catholic and a Sister of Mercy. Every aspect of my faith calls me to act in compassion for the anawim of the world – those who have no money, safety, education or voice. My conscience is pricked when I hear the words of St Ambrose: “If you know that anybody is hungry or sick, and you have any means at all and do not help, then you will have the responsibility for each one who dies, and for each little child who might be harmed and crippled for life.” As Reverend Tim Costello said, “As a disciple, I cannot accept that the best we can do to stop people drowning is to lock up children and send people mad.” We, voting Australians, are responsible for this elected government and they are responsible for the abuse and cruelty towards those seeking asylum. Through prayer in the last 2 years, I have felt called to an act of justice for my friends who seek asylum that goes beyond a ministry of presence and material assistance. In this action for the Love Makes a Way movement, I heard God’s quiet voice that this is God’s cause, and therefore mine.

Since my participation in the action, I have not had any negative comments from friends, family or over 750 Facebook contacts. Instead, I have received overwhelming support for being prepared to say and do what others can and may not. The most moving for me was after sharing during Mass my reasons for what I had done with my parish community. An 11-year-old girl came up and asked if she could say something. She told me that even if I was found guilty and that if the convictors thought they were in the right, don’t worry, she said, because you have taken the righteous path. I commend the upholders of the law, both the kind police and the magistrates. Thank you. But I will not promise to stop these actions on behalf of my friends. I finish with the words of St Peter and St John, while in court in Jerusalem: “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.”