Friday 8 March 2019

Lent and Forgiveness

The arrival of Ash Wednesday during the week signalled the formal beginning of Lent and with it, the liturgical season that precedes Easter. It is a time to go inward: to dwell more deeply on those matters that lie at the heartland of the Christian story and those that open up the deep questions surrounding faith, family, friendships and futures. In Christian theology it provides the opportunity to forego luxuries in recognition of the other, particularly those who do not have the fortune or favour that is part of the daily reality of life in cities such as Sydney and schools such as Saint Ignatius’. It is a time to recognise and respond to the dispossessed – the lost the lonely and the unloved, and make a genuine effort to embrace that bedrock of Gospel teaching outlined in Matthew 25: “whatever you do to the least of my brothers you do unto me”. It is the taproot of Christian teaching and the consummation of a Gospel message that transcends time and place. And, it was clearly conveyed at the whole-school liturgy in the Ramsay Hall on Wednesday, with the perennial distribution of the ashes to remind all of the frailty and fragility of human life: the miraculous dust that we are in human form, yet, the ephemerism and the mortality to which we are all ultimately subjected.

Over recent times, the institutional Church itself has shown that it is in need of repentance and forgiveness – a timely message during the Lenten period. The criminal conviction of Cardinal George Pell for child abuse offences has wracked the nation, eliciting every response from staunch defence to outright rage and condemnation. At this stage, it is hardly the prerogative of the public who are removed from the intricacies of the facts and the evidence that was presented to the jury in the court to truly judge, for that is pertinent to the judicial system and it has spoken. Beyond reasonable doubt, is the quotient of test that is required to be satisfied in the criminal court, and that has been established. An appeal is pending. Cardinal Pell aside, the Church has cause to lament and much to atone for. That includes the hundreds of victims who made representations at the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse, those who have been adversely affected by a clericalism that has not been subjected to scrutiny and, at times, has strayed from its own teaching and caused irreparable damage. Indeed, there is much to confront and much by way of redemption to pursue and to pray for. Put so prosaically by Bishop Long at services over the weekend, “we are entering into… a time of crisis… of opportunity, [which is] a catalyst for renewal and transformation”. May we do so earnestly and openly as we face a new tomorrow in a Church and a world where transparency reigns, and where the message of the Gospel becomes our collective and only imperative.

As part of the annual cycle of community building, the boys in Year 7 headed off to Narrabeen for their camp during the week. Despite some adverse weather, activity abounded between some blustery water-based activities and the challenging physical demands associated with rock climbing, the high ropes and abseiling. The purpose of the camp was very clear: namely, to build and consolidate the community that these young men will be to each other over the years ahead. Just a little over a month ago, this group of boys came together for the first time as they entered the institution of secondary school. Into the future they will move through the ranks, navigating the middle and senior secondary to ultimately form the graduating class of 2024. In the metaphor of tomorrow, they will be School Leaders and Sporting Captains, the purveyors of the Riverview story and the seniors who will set the tone for others to follow; all in due proportion to the modelling they will receive in the intervening years. If the camp is any indication, they are off to a fine start. Special thanks are extended to the staff who accompanied the boys on their days of community building and growth.

The co-curricular program moves ahead across a variety of sporting codes and activities. I was fortunate to join the Senior Rowing Teams for training on Wednesday morning as the sun came over the horizon to give birth to a magnificent autumn day. It was wonderful to be on the water with our young men who have given so much to their sport over the summer months. The boys are preparing for the high point of competition over the coming fortnight with the Gold Cup being held tomorrow on the Lane Cove River. It will be accompanied by the pageantry of the regatta and its deep community significance which dates back to 1883, when the best of the rowing confraternity in the colony first came together to celebrate this historical event. In a fortnight the finest crews from the GPS schools will meet at the Head of the River out at Penrith, amid the fanfare and the spirited support of the many who will line the banks to support their teams. Myriad teams across a range of sports and activities face their final weeks of competition before preparing for the onset of the winter season. Sincere thanks to all who have contributed to the spirit of competition over the early part of the year.

Dr Paul Hine