Homily for Mass celebrating 130 years of St Joseph's College, Gregory Terrace
Statement Released: Tuesday, July 19, 2005
The theology of Paul the Apostle is fascinating. Challenged by an encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus Paul abandoned his violent persecution of the Church, and became converted to Christ whom he identified with the Christian community, the Body of the Risen Christ. For Paul Christ was as real as the person beside him, and the Body of Christ then became the foundational theology of all his teaching. Recently preaching this theology of Paul in the Church at Kilcoy I said that married couples after death in meeting Christ face to face could easily say “this face is familiar, I have seen it many times across the breakfast table”. One woman, made a smiling remark to her daughter sitting beside her, and said to me after Mass, “Archbishop I wish you wouldn’t say that married people can see the face of Christ in their husband or wife, because my husband already thinks he is God”. Sadly we are all occasionally subject to that temptation. It is even a temptation for bishops, perhaps especially for bishops. When I was Bishop of Cairns a parishioner told me how one day she found her four year old son, who addressed me as “God”, walking around the house scissors in hand dragging a large piece of red cloth behind him trying, as he explained, “to make a red hat the same as God wears”. I am mentioning the matter of God today because religion is basically an exploration into God. There is no more serious challenge to us, and sadly because the question is so complex, and religion has at times promoted an unhelpful understanding, some people have either abandoned belief or what is even worse assumed the role themselves. No believer has any doubt that God is all powerful, but the power of God is altogether different from power as the world understands it, and sometimes sadly, as the Church explains it. In so many subtle and not so subtle ways God is trying to reveal his nature to us. We are often unable or unwilling to hear. On the 22nd of this month I am calling the people of the Archdiocese together in this Cathedral to ask, as Pope John Paul II did in Poland, in 1979 that the Holy Spirit might come down upon our Archdiocese and bring this sleeping giant to life. The result in Poland, as history proves, was quite dramatic – Communism collapsed. Communism is not our problem but please God our prayer may have a similar impact on the overall faith of the Archdiocese.
Why I mention all of this on the 130th anniversary of the establishment of Gregory Terrace is simply because it carries a lesson we all need to learn, a lesson of hope. Perhaps we need to be brought to our knees, before we can recognize the wisdom that Bishop Quinn, the people of the Archdiocese, Brother Barrett with the founding Brothers, the original students and their families, possessed when they gathered in the nearby St Stephen’s Chapel in 1875 to begin an educational enterprise that now shines like a light on Gregory Terrace. What those founding people possessed was a belief not in themselves alone, but in God in whom they believed and trusted, a God who could help them achieve the impossible, not a God who was powerful as the world understands power, but a God who could inspire ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Our God is such a God who encourages us through faith and hope to reach out to the future, and helps us to believe that the hope manifest in something as fragile as the 130 year old journey of an educational dream from nothing to something, could also inspire us to change the world from a world of war, hatred, tension, terrorism, poverty, and inequality to a world of justice, peace and freedom for all. Left to ourselves such an extravagant dream is unthinkable, but with God’s help, entirely achieveable.
The God in whom we believe as Christians is from the world’s point of view, a God of littleness, a God of gentleness, a God who was crucified - a God who is symbolized by the crucifix hanging above our heads in this Cathedral today, that communicates death and life, failure and triumph, defeat and victory, the presence of God, and the absence of God. This God of contradiction is a mysterious God defined by love, which love brought us into existence, keeps us in existence beyond the boundary of death, and sustains us in existence forever. Such belief in our post-modern world seems impossible and yet such belief brought a few struggling brothers and students together in an old Church here in Brisbane, to form the foundation of the magnificent College that today is St Joseph’s College Gregory Terrace. However the measure of the College’s greatness now and in the future will be judged not so much by its appearance or its achievements as by its willingness to remember where it came from, how it got there, and what faith and hope drove the men and women of the past to respond to God’s power and inspiration over 130 marvellous years of endeavour.
The Scripture today uses different images and words to reveal God. The Book of Kings likens God to a gentle breeze. In an altogether different image the author of Ephesians likens Christ to the foundation of a building made of love upon which we too must be built if we desire to experience the utter fullness of God. Finally the Gospel of Luke describes a God who so passionately sought the little ones of the world that he communicated his vision in the words of a lowly carpenter 2000 years ago, not in a magnificent palace but in the far flung Synagogue of a little known village called, Nazareth. There is surely a parallel between the humble beginnings of Christ’s mission in Galilee as a paradigm of all reality, and the humble beginning of St Joseph’s College here in an old Church in Brisbane.
Today I would first of all to praise and thank God for God’s constant goodness to all who seek God’s help in the work of the Kingdom. I would like to remember with an enormous sense of gratitude and nostalgia those remarkable Christian Brothers Barrett, Nunan and Nugent and their handful of students who taught and learned in the nearby Church, shortly after Blessed Mary MacKillop and her sisters who had worshipped there earlier, departed. I would also like to remember with prayerful gratitude all those Brothers and staff who kept the vision of quality education for the sake of the Kingdom, alive in that old Church and then continued it for 130 years on Gregory Terrace. Finally I would like to congratulate and thank Br Luke Quinn, the Provincial Leader of the Christian Brothers, and the Brothers of the Province, Mr Peter Chapman, the Principal of St Joseph’s College, his staff and students, parents and friends, who received and carried on the vision passed to them and who continue to jealously pursue it into the future. Education can never be for ourselves alone. It exists also for the world as we pursue God’s dream. Like Jesus Christ we must give ourselves with all our talents as fully and effectively as possible to bring God’s dream of the Kingdom alive in our world. That was the vision of the original founders and that is still the vision of those who now follow in their footsteps. So as we now put on Christ once again in this Eucharist let us remember that in the Body of Christ we put on all those people past and present associated with St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace as we ask that God may bless and reward them all for what they have done. And as we move into the future inspired by the past, let us be as determined as they were 130 years ago to create with God’s help a better world, where the love of God will drive the lives of all. May Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and St Joseph her husband be models of quiet loving service towards our brothers and sisters in the one Body of Christ, and may their prayers of intercession from the midst of the Communion of Saints bring down upon our Archdiocese the life giving presence of the Holy Spirit for which we all yearn.
Released by the Catholic Communications Office