Archives for the month of: July, 2012

Today Aurora is in the news – the terrible, terrible shootings in the cinema that killed 12 people and injured 58 others. What a tragedy that somehow led this young man to commit such an atrocity. Even worse, what a tragedy that he could so easily get access to such a weapon and formulate the movie-like plan of action. This event did not happen in a vacuum, but a particular social milieu. We who have witnessed this have to ask how it could have occurred and how we can reduce the circumstances that could enable it to happen again.

James Martin SJ has written a brilliant article about the religious dimension of this issue. The issue of gun control is a right-to-life issue on the spectrum of life from beginning to end. We believe that humans are made in the image of God, that their bodies are the temples of God, and therefore sacred. I and many others would now extend the value of life to all of creation – after all, God created then said it was good.

Australia has its own example that I hope the US can learn from. In 1996, a man in Tasmania started shooting in the Port Arthur prison colony tourist site. He killed 35 people and injured 23, still one of the deadliest shootings by a single person. The government reacted by severely restricting the availability of guns, despite the significant pressure from lobby groups. About 643,000 firearms were handed in and “bought back” by the government. Today it is hard to obtain a weapon or licence and Port Arthur has not been repeated.

Two weeks ago I got a car and, regrettably, called it ‘Aurora’, as the number plate has the letters ‘AAW’. I’m 27 years old and this is my first one. Always preferring to get around by bike or public transport, I have thought that there are too many cars spewing carbon monoxide into the atmosphere. For my work, though, I need to be able to get to places a few hours drive away and inaccessible to public transport. So now I am to be reminded of 2 things while driving: air pollution and pointless gun deaths. May the Aurora tragedy never happen again.

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Vignettes…that word sounds like it should mean ‘small glasses of wine’, but it actually means a decorative design or literary sketch. Anyway, it has been a long time since I have blogged properly and there have been many little events of note in the last couple of weeks. We Catholics are celebrating The Year of Grace at present, so some of these may be called ‘grace moments’. Others would be more appropriately ‘compassion moments’ as they elicit pain at the suffering of the world. Vignette can also apparently be a verb, so let’s get vignette-ing!

Short hair on the plane

I was flying between Sydney and Melbourne and sat next to a man who was a trainer for prospective miners. He was a family man, married to a Catholic, and as soon as he discovered I was a Sister, started telling me their troubles. His sister had died in the Melbourne bushfires; his father had died recently too. One of his sons was really challenged by these deaths and together they were questioning the meaning of suffering. To top it off, not long ago a friend his own age had been diagnosed with cancer and given 12 months to live. But somehow he was also able to see an event of grace that this news had evoked. He and his friends had rallied around the one with cancer and had decided to shave off all their hair, as he would have to, for the duration of his life. My flight companion pointed to his shortly-shaved head: It’s something we can do for him, and us.

Slaves in 2012

On Sunday we had a speaker come to Port Augusta to talk to a (small) audience about human trafficking. It is an enormous and little-recognised issue around the world, being the 2nd or 3rd largest illicit industry (after guns). Men, women and children are transported to another country with the promise of a job and a better life, but instead they find they are kept in slave-like conditions with no freedom, choice or way to get out of a debt bondage. Their family members are held to ransom if they escape or go to the police. You may have heard about this happening in brothels, in the sex industry, but it also happens in construction, agriculture, manufacturing and many other industries. The speaker from the Australian Catholic Religious Against the Trafficking of Humans (www.acrath.org.au) told us plenty of stories of this happening in Australia in 2012, so don’t be fooled – slavery is still amongst us.

The Stories of the World

Speaking of stories, I watched part of a children’s movie that I had borrowed for some young friends of mine. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I can’t say it that it was the best movie and the library copy I had was so extremely patchy that I gave up after awhile. However, there was one scene that really inspired me. It showed a secret place full of monks who were constantly telling ‘the story of the world’. The bad guy came in and threatened to stop them speaking, which would theoretically stop the world’s stories happening (that is, end life completely). He taunted the good guy, saying that perhaps they only thought they were so important anyway, that maybe their eons of this recital did not change a thing. And when he eventually stopped the monks speaking…nothing changed. He laughed at the good guy, but his response was something like, “This doesn’t prove that our telling the stories is not effectual, it means that somewhere else in the world, others are telling the stories and keeping them going.” This scene made me appreciate the importance of telling, and hearing, stories. Jesus knew it, he listened to the stories of peoples lives and he proclaimed the Kingdom of God in parables. We know it when we really listen to others, share and dream together. Long live the story!

The Value of Life

I have also just read a great poem from Bruce Dawe that creates a story of the value of life. All life is valuable, from the womb to the grave, in every race, gender, ability, in humanity and the rest of God’s creation. Here I’ll share it:

The Wholly Innocent

I never walked abroad in air,
I never saw the sky,
Nor knew the sovereign touch of care,
Nor looked into an eye.

I never chose, nor gave assent,
Nor voted on my fate –
Unseen I came, unseen I went,
Too early and too late.

This was my only life-line: trust,
As absolute as blood,
Now down into the bucket thrust,
Anonymous as mud.

Oh you within whose god-like power
It lies to so decide,
Remember me when, some late hour,
Talk turns to ‘genocide’,

For I was part of that doomed race
Whose death-cell was the womb
– But who can clear a bloody space
And call it ‘living room’?

I never had a name, or cried
That central cry, ‘I am!’
But in a world-wide shambles died,
Defenceless as a lamb.

And many called it self-defence,
And many ZPG,
And all was done at my expense,
At the total cost of me.

Remember me the next time you
Rejoice at sun or star –
I would have loved to see them, too.
I never got that far.