Friday 6 August 2021

The Importance of Friendship and Openness

Saints Francis Xavier, Ignatius Loyola and Peter Faber

Last Friday, it was a source of joy for us and an enjoyable break from online teaching and learning to be able to celebrate the Feast of Saint Ignatius. The students on the Senior Campus in Years 7 to 12 gathered virtually in the 16 Houses along with their Heads of House, Assistant Heads of House, mentors and other staff associated with their Houses, while our students in Years 5 and 6 gathered online in their Homerooms with the teachers and staff from the Regis Campus. I want to thank those who assisted me in preparing this service – Ms van Domburg, the College’s Retreats and Liturgy Co-ordinator, Mr Riemer, one of our Chaplains, Ms Moriarty, the College Organist, and Mr Skeed, who filmed and edited the prayer service.

I also acknowledge our Heads of House and Regis Homerooms teachers for their facilitation of this important spiritual moment in the life of the College. One of the other moving aspects of the day was the efforts of our Regis students who wrote letters, created music clips playing their instruments and created artwork to send to local nursing homes as part of their service initiative to reach out to those in our community who are in need at this time. Thanks to Ms Remeeus, the Head of Regis Campus, and all our Regis teachers for this. I also want to acknowledge and thank you for the ongoing support of the work of Jesuit Refugee Service and Redfern Jarjum College with the donations you are making for the breakfast packs (pictured above). Congratulations to the 130 students from Years 7-10 who participated in the Winter Backyard Sleepout Challenge last weekend to support St Canice’s Kitchen. Thank you to Mrs. Dalton, our Faith in Service Co-ordinator, for all she is doing to creatively engage the students in various forms of Ignatian Service at this time.

One of the key moments of this Ignatian Year will take place on 12 March 2022 when we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the canonisation of Saint Ignatius and St Francis Xavier. We all know that Ignatius and Xavier first met at the University of Paris in the 1530s, living and studying as roommates at the College of Saint Barbara; however, there was a third roommate who is not as well known called Peter Faber. Peter was born in 1506 in the Savoy Region of France and his family were shepherd farmers. He went to Paris in 1525 to study for the priesthood and shared a room with Francis Xavier. Four years later, a man called Inigo from Loyola in Spain arrived in Paris and became the third roommate. Ignatius and Peter struck up an immediate friendship, conversing initially about secular matters and then in time about spiritual things. Ignatius shared with Peter Faber all that he had learnt about God and spirituality including how to discern the movement of spirits within us. He then led him through the Spiritual Exercises he had developed in the 1520s. It took Ignatius several more years before he had a similar success with Francis Xavier.

Peter Faber was ordained a priest in 1534 and celebrated mass for Ignatius, Xavier and four other companions – James Lainez, Simon Rodriguez, Alfonso Salmeron and Nicholas Bobadilla – at the Chapel of St Denis at the base of Montmarte in Paris. This group, known as the First Companions, vowed poverty and chastity and desired to undertake a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Over the next couple of years, it became apparent that it was not possible to undertake this pilgrimage, so these seven friends continued to discern the will of God in their lives. This discernment led to the founding of a new religious order – the Society of Jesus – one that grew out of deep friendship grounded in their common love of God and desire to be of service to the Church and the world.

Peter Faber learnt much from Ignatius. Faber was a man of gentleness and openness and he had an extraordinary capacity for friendship and engaging others in conversation, especially those who had left the Church as part of the Reformation. Ignatius considered Peter Faber to be the best giver of the Spiritual Exercises and he was a master of discernment, in a large part due to the depth of his interiority. Peter Faber died in Rome on 1 August 1546, the first of the three roommates from Paris to die. In many ways he has lived in the shadow of Ignatius and Xavier, however Pope Francis canonised Peter Faber in 2013. In doing so, he said that he had long admired Faber for his “dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents; his simple piety, a certain naivety, perhaps; his being available straightaway; his careful interior discernment; the fact that he was a man capable of great and strong decisions but also capable of being so gentle and loving.” We celebrate St Peter Faber’s feast day on 2 August, perhaps forever in the shadow of his spiritual master Ignatius.

This Sunday is the feast day of Saint Mary MacKillop, Australia’s first saint and the patron of one of our Houses. The story of Mary is well known to all of us, a person of extraordinary faith and fidelity, a person of extraordinary courage and determination, a person who had a deep and abiding love for the poor and the marginalised, especially those in rural and remote areas of Australia. Mary was treated appallingly by various Church authorities in her early efforts to establish the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. The Bishop of Adelaide unjustly excommunicated her in 1871 and Mary took refuge with the Jesuits in our parish at Norwood in Adelaide at this time. Mary’s brother Donald was a Jesuit priest and the Josephites and the Jesuits worked together in establishing many parishes and schools in the northern part of South Australia in what is now the Diocese of Port Pirie. Mary lays in rest in the Josephite Chapel in North Sydney. This is a most important place of spiritual pilgrimage for us as Australian Catholics. If you have never had the opportunity to spend a few moments praying at the tomb of St Mary of the Cross, I would encourage you to consider undertaking this pilgrimage after our lockdown. In the meantime, you can do so virtually.

As our time in lockdown continues to drag on, both St Peter and St Mary can be sources of inspiration and hope for us. For me, St Peter Faber is a reminder of the importance of friendship and openness to others and he has inspired me this week to reach out to a number of friends I had not spoken to in recent weeks, to give them a call, to see how they are travelling, to offer them the gift of a listening ear rather than bunkering down and focusing on myself. St Mary MacKillop is one of us, she lays in rest not far from our College and I take comfort in knowing that she is praying for our city at this time from her place in the Communion of Saints. Mary endured many hardships in her life, yet she remained focused on responding to the needs in front of her, grounded in her deep faith in God. The words “Trust in God” are inscribed on the base of her tomb and one of Mary’s famous quotes is “Whatever troubles may be before you, accept them bravely, remembering Whom you are trying to follow. Do not be afraid. Love one another, bear with one another, and let charity guide you all your life. God will reward you as only He can.” This time of isolation and disconnection from each other is trying and challenging; some people are living on their own, for most of us we have the blessing of living with family members or other people and we all know that at times that demands of us love, patience, understanding and charity. It is certainly true in the Jesuit Community!

I have added a few more helpful websites to the Spiritual Resources page, including a link to the magazine Australian Catholics published by Jesuit Communications in Melbourne. It has some amazing resources that I am sure a number of you will find helpful.

Wishing you and your families every blessing at this time.

Fr Tom Renshaw