Archives for the month of: August, 2012

I have just watched some of the funeral of a Vietnamese priest who was the pioneer of the Vietnamese Catholic community in Adelaide. A Vietnamese bishop from Melbourne made some remarks about him naming the church ‘Our Lady of the Boat People’. He said it was a sign of the priest’s ability to connect faith with the real lives of his community. I think it says a lot more. ‘Our Lady of the Boat People’ at first hearing is confronting, shocking even. The negative views some people have of boat people, especially in this politically charged time, make it as provocative as ‘Our Lady of the Mafia’. It faces head-on the way that this community arrived in Australia and places Mary (and Jesus) squarely on the side of the poor and disenfranchised. We would do well to repeat it today: God is with all those who arrive here by boat, desperately seeking peace and human rights. ‘Our Lady of the Boat People’ as a symbol is as challenging as our original symbol as Christians: the cross. Everyone who saw it in Jesus’ day saw the cruelty, the inhumanity of those treated as outcasts. Certainly not something to glorify. But now we hold up this symbol of suffering as a sign of God’s triumph in the end, even over death. I hope one day ‘Our Lady of the Boat People’ will be such a symbol of a tragic past, from which brave people have emerged to create lives of dignity and purpose.

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I was at a school and talking with a parent who seemed tired and disillusioned with life. She had two children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder and one of them was very good at art. She was encouraging her daughter to pursue her dreams, not to do a dead-end job, but to find happiness in life. She was also trying to do something for herself in an isolated life by indulging her love of photography. She didn’t quite equate it with art, but looked up to her daughter’s passion. She told me, “A photo is the memory of a place, but an artwork is the memory of a person.”

On the drive home I saw a beautiful sunset, a reminder of God’s creative touch on the horizon. I wanted to stop to take a picture, but was afraid of having to overtake two vans again. So I just took this one with my mobile while driving along. It doesn’t exactly capture a place – the colour is not how I saw it. Some moments of beauty we can’t capture with technology, sometimes art is the only answer. Like prose and poetry. Yesterday I read a poem written in prison: “There is someone out there who loves you.” Without mentioning whom, it was a profound profession of faith in God. Maybe images snuggle close to realities too painful to touch?