The Final Word

The Final Word

June 2016

One of the joys of my ministry as Archbishop is visiting our parishes. It is always so consoling to be reminded of how central parishes are to the flourishing of faith, community and mission for our lives. 

Of course, we older Catholics who been around for a while very much understand our debt to the parish in our lives. We have been deeply formed by the nurturing experiences of our early years—when in the parish we were initiated into the Sacraments and the family of God.

In a place as big as Melbourne, of course, parishes vary in all sorts of ways. But we are certainly not Congregationalists! It is true for us Catholics there is no ‘one’ model. However, the life of a Catholic parish should be a blend of what is foundational and universal in the Church, with what is custom and the particular expression of a particular people in a particular place at a particular time.

Given the mobility of our age and the dominant belief in individual choice, we need to be especially aware of the temptation of parishes to simply gather people of ‘like-mind’. We Catholics are a diverse lot and this has been true since the birth of the Church at Pentecost. I rejoice when I see the great diversity of our multicultural parishes and the wonderful gifts so many groups bring when they come together in unity at the celebration of the Sunday Mass.

Can I again encourage our Melbourne Archdiocesan parish communities, whether in the west, north, south or east, to especially foster a deep sense of prayer in the celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass?

And let’s not forget the value of prayer and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament which can only build up and strengthen our wonderful parishes. It gives us ‘sinners’ the energy to go out and serve the poor and all those in need of the mercy of God in our local areas.

The late Cardinal Hume OSB was so right when he wrote shortly before his death that: ‘We need in the Church today to recapture our devotion to the Blessed Sacrament in our parishes. It is a wonderful practice just to sit or kneel in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, and in a marvellous way a kind of “presence” begins to reveal itself to us—just being in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, mind open, heart open, trying to experience something which is unique and which lies beyond our capacity to explain or understand. It requires us to admit our own deficiencies and limitations, to be able to say in the presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament: “I do believe. Help thou my unbelief.” It does work.’

Parish the thought. Where would we be without them in the life of the Church? Yes, thank God for the parishes of our Archdiocese of Melbourne!

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