From the rector & principal of saint ignatius’ college riverview
From the rector & principal of saint ignatius’ college riverview
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Friday 31 August 2018 | Dr Paul Hine
The Superficiality of Politics: Numbers v Vision
As a nation, we were stunned in one sense, and yet not in another, by the events in the national parliament last week. The numbers had changed, Turnbull was out, and in the form of Scott Morrison, the 30th Prime Minister in Australian history and the 6th in the last 10 years was elected to lead a new government. It was theatrical stuff involving the skulduggery of party politics, the partitioning of numbers, the consummation of alliances forged through shadowed conversations and brittle allegiances, producing a media frenzy that eclipsed so many other issues of grave importance in the country.
What a week! From the incredible excitement of the game against Saint Joseph’s College to the craftsmanship of the works on display in the TAS show to the investiture of the new proctors at Mass on Sunday to the generosity displayed by our community for those being tested by the drought to the Year 12s beginning their trials, there is so much going on, it’s hard to keep up. But even in the diversity and busy-ness of all this activity, there’s a theme that keeps shining through to me: Generosity.
This week has been pretty bittersweet. Gathering with members of our Ignatian family out in Moree was a great experience, but the parching drought that is making life in the country so hard on our farming families is hard to imagine; it has to be seen. (We are mobilising some of our community to try to support those out on the land who are struggling in these tough times. Stay tuned for more details soon.) The return of Father Tom Renshaw, SJ (OR1990) to preach and preside at our patronal feast of Saint Ignatius’ Loyola, followed by a day of service in various locations by our community members is always a joy. But I had the unwanted task of presiding at the funeral of a young man I taught at Saint Aloysius’ College immediately following our own celebration.
Lent, like Term I, is about a journey we take together and this part of the journey is coming to a close this weekend at Easter. Easter wasn’t what Jesus’ closest followers were expecting either. They were thinking about a powerful king who, through the use of military force, would liberate their occupied homeland and start something big. They were only right about the last part.
This week I was in Melbourne for a meeting of Directors of Advancement from the Jesuit schools. We talked about the spiritual dimension of fundraising and how central giving was to Saint Ignatius, our patron and the founder of the Jesuits. For a large part of his life, Ignatius was radically dependent on God to provide everything he needed: money for studies, books, a place to live, food, clothing; you name it, Ignatius had to beg for it.
As we approach Lent, it might be a time to reflect on the things that truly matter. This week, someone pointed out a reference in the press to the College that was less than flattering. I nodded, and agreed that it didn’t seem to be a fair assessment and went on my way.
It was hard to tell who was the wetter last Saturday at the Head of The River – the crews on the water or the Blue and White band of supporters drenched on the land. But the rain did little to inhibit either the rowing or the cheering. It seems to me that rowing can be something of a metaphor for life – preparation and planning, head and heart, art and science, the individual and the team, successes and failures, solitude and fanfare, the human spirit and nature, the grit and the grace.
Last week I was invited to speak to our keenest Year 9 Science classes on the topic of ‘Evolution, the Big Bang and Catholicism’. And they were not backward in popping the penetrating questions! It always interests me that the boys at first can think it strange that someone could have a background in science, yet still be a priest.
We recently celebrated the Jesuit feast day of Our Lady of the Way at the Nostalgia Mass for graduates of the College of more than half a century and their partners.
The image of Santa Maria della Strada, Our Lady of the Way, in the small parish church by that name, in the heart of Rome and at a crossroads along the ceremonial route of the popes, is first documented in the 16th century. Ignatius probably first encountered it in 1540, when he preached day after day on an adjacent street corner. Within a year, the pope had approved his small band of priests as a religious order and given them Santa Maria della Strada as their pastoral home base, effectively making Ignatius caretaker of the painting within. History tells us that the former parish priest of that unpresupposing church joined the Jesuits, becoming the first Italian to do so.
Yesterday, we received a letter which certainly warmed my heart. It was a letter that spoke to the heart of who we are when at our best, about core values. A letter which described some of our young men who were, as we say, large-hearted. It came from Joey’s, from the Director of AFL at St Joseph’s. There, they are very much beginners in AFL. Their Open team were inexperienced and unsure. To compete against ‘View, with so many years and successes behind us, was to be quite daunting. We could have easily steam-rollered them. But we didn’t. Our coach and players discerned the real spirit of the game. What would we have gained from so easy a victory? What would the opposing team have learned? So the heart ruled. We shared players. And we shared our best players. We even shared our captain, Ed Swan. We switched jumpers. In the last quarter, we even shared our entire mid-field. Generous hearts, indeed. In Australia, we call it giving someone a fair go. It is having a heart for the battler.
In watching an episode of the BBC series, The Story of China, on SBS earlier in the week I was following the rise of the Ming Dynasty. As part of that story the presenter, Michael Wood, began to explore the impact of Italian Jesuit missionary and humanist, Fr Matteo Ricci, in that period of Chinese history. On arriving in Portuguese Macao, Ricci first spent fifteen years learning the language until he spoke it like a native. He devised what he called a “memory palace”, a sophisticated word-association technique in the mind to remember the thousands of Chinese characters.