20 May 2018
Most Rev Timothy Costelloe SDB Archbishop of Perth
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Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost today let us pray for each other that our hearts will be open to the renewing and strengthening power of the Holy Spirit and that the Lord's Church, of which we are all a vital part, will continue through these turbulent times to grow in fidelity to all that the gospel demands of us.
Many of you will have heard that the Catholic Bishops of Australia have decided to convene a Plenary Council for 2020. Some of you may already be well acquainted with the purpose of such a gathering, some of you may be aware in a vaguer way of what it is all about, and many of you may be hearing about it for the first time in this Pastoral Letter. My purpose in writing to you now is to share with you my own hopes for this important event and invite you to be a part of it in the ways that best work for you.
In essence a Plenary Council is a formal gathering of the bishops of the Church in a specified location, in our case the whole of Australia, in order to chart a course for the Church into the future. Such gatherings are rare - the last one held in Australia was in 1937 - and they are one of the highest and most solemn gatherings in the Church's life of the bishops and the many other delegates who will join them.
What has prompted the bishops to convene such a gathering at this time in our history? The answer, in a sense, is quite simple. Over a long period of years the bishops have been growing in the conviction that the challenges and possibilities facing the Church in Australia today are of such significance that only a solemn and formal gathering of the bishops, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, can provide us with the wisdom we need to discern what God is asking of us at this time.
There will be two formal sittings of the Plenary Council: one in October of 2020 and one in May of 2021. However, precisely because of the situation in which the Church finds itself at this time, the bishops know that the whole Church in Australia, in all its diversity, must be a part of this process. For that reason, the journey, not towards the Plenary Council but of the Plenary Council, starts today, Pentecost Sunday. The website goes live today (www.plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au) and the opportunity to enter into the process of listening, to the Holy Spirit and to each other, of discerning what we are being called to, and of sharing our convictions with the whole Church, begins.
Next weekend, at the Vigil Mass in the Cathedral on Saturday night, we will formally launch the journey for our archdiocese. Every parish and every agency will be invited to send a representative to this Mass to be commissioned on behalf of their community and to receive a special "Plenary Council Candle" and prayer to take back to their community. Because on that weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, when we remember that at the heart of our faith there lies the conviction that God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - is a communion of life and love, it is very appropriate that the communion of all our Catholic communities with each other and with the bishop, is highlighted in this way. On the following Sunday, as part of the celebrations for the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), every parish will be invited to have their own local launch, while agencies and other communities will be asked to do so with their staff and associates around the same time, depending on their own circumstances.
I do hope you will all become involved in this important moment for the Church. Of the three stages of the journey of the Plenary Council - preparation, celebration and implementation - the first, which begins today, is vital. The question we are all being asked to consider and discuss is this: What do you think God is asking of us at this time? At first glance it seems a simple enough question. Indeed it might appear to be too simple for such an important initiative . However, a little reflection might lead us to see how profound this question is. It is not inviting us simply to offer what we would like to see continue, or change, in the Church. Rather it is inviting us to ask whether or not what we might want is in harmony with what God is actually asking of us. We must certainly attend carefully to what we believe the Church needs to do and be. God speaks to us in our own experience and in our own hearts. At the same time we must also attend to what others believe, whether they agree with us or not, for God speaks to others as surely as God speaks to us. We will all need courage and humility and trusting faith that it is God who is guiding the Church and that the Plenary Council has, as its most fundamental task, the responsibility of calling the Church to a greater fidelity to its God-given identity and mission.
The practical details regarding the ways in which individuals and communities can engage with the Plenary Council process can be found on the website launched today. To transform what we read there into concrete action, I am hoping that every parish will have at least one person designated who, together with the parish priest, will animate the involvement of the parish community at the local level, and that every other Catholic community in the archdiocese will also appoint a coordinator. I have appointed Mr Tony Giglia as the Plenary Council Coordinator for the archdiocese. He will work closely with Dr Debra Sayce, the Acting Executive Director of Catholic Education Western Australia, who has generously agreed to be our representative on the National Executive Committee, which is developing and implementing the process of dialogue and discernment in which we are all about to become engaged. This Executive has a Facilitation Team led by Ms Lana Turvey-Collins, from Sydney, and this team, in its turn, is guided by and reports to the Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council, of which I am the Chairman. And, as some of you know, I have also been nominated by the Bishops Conference as the President of the Plenary Council and this nomination has been confirmed by Pope Francis.
We are all entering together into an exciting and momentous project which is also a journey. The future of the Church is not in our hands: it is in God's hands. However God works in and through his people, and for us this means that God works in and through all of us who together make up the Church, the Body of Christ. We all need to hear each other's voices as we try to discern what God is asking of us. No one voice or group of voices is more important than any other for, as Saint Paul reminds us, in the Church "there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28).
Please make this journey of the Plenary Council a focus of your prayers. Please share your own experience of the Church in your lives, and your hopes and dreams for the Church, with all of us through the opportunities provided in the dialogue and listening process. Let us all open ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit who alone can renew the face of the Church and who seeks to do so through us. Let us "listen to what the Spirit is saying".
Yours sincerely in Christ
+ Archbishop Tim Costelloe SDB DD
Archbishop of Perth
The word Trinity is not found in the Bible, nor is homoousios which is the key concept used to define this doctrine/belief (1st ecumenical council at Nicaea in 325). Homoousios affirms that God the Father, the Son and the Spirit are of the same substance i.e., that God is made of God stuff! Great, that really explains it.
Bottom line, we can’t explain the mystery of The Trinity. We wouldn’t even know that the One God is three divine Persons if God hadn’t revealed it to us. For example, we heard in the Gospel Jesus commanding his Church to baptise in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
I think it’s quite ironic that the Trinity is the most proclaimed reality of our faith, yet the most difficult to explain. We begin and end prayer in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. When we bless people and objects and events, we do so in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. When you came into church today, you blessed yourselves with water blessed in the name of the Trinity and made the sign of the cross in the name of the Trinity etc etc.
What we can’t do is explain the mystery, but what we can do is twofold. First, we can describe very well the manifestations of God as three distinct Persons. Our faith was revealed by God the Father Creator; by the Word of Truth who redeemed us through the shedding of his Blood; and by the Spirit of Truth who remains with us to sanctify us.
But even more importantly, we can make the Trinity an exemplar from which to model our lives. The Trinity is a perfect society. Each divine Person gives completely to the other, so we learn that we should give without reserve to each other. Also, there is complete equality in God. Each Person bows down to each other, to serve the Other. We learn that humility and service is meant to be the foundation of all relationships.
So let us ask ourselves, how do we cope with the demands of others? Do we think we are better than others? Are we willing to serve all people? Today we learn that God provides model answers to all three of these questions.
Even though we can’t explain the Trinity, on Trinity Sunday we can give thanks
– to our Father Creator
– to the Word made flesh who redeemed us, and
– to Spirit of Truth who indwells and sanctifies us.
And we can make three resolutions
– to give as best we can to all who place demands on us
– to welcome humiliation, and
– to be prepared to serve with all of our heart.
May this be to the glory of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Image: Rublev Icon
My friends, we have come together on Trinity Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist during which the Sacrament of Confirmation will be conferred. Through Confirmation, our candidates will be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to give witness to their faith as disciples of Christ.
…And so, brothers and sisters, let us acknowledge our sins, and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.
We have learned that on the day of Pentecost the Apostles received the Holy Spirit as the Lord had promised. They also received the power of giving the Holy Spirit to others, and so completing the work of baptism. And this power to Confirm the baptised has been handed down throughout the ages by the Church.
This means that today our candidates will be sealed with the same gift as at Pentecost! It is more than being baptised in the name of the Father; of the Son; and of the Spirit. Each sacrament of initiation is particular to a Person of the Trinity. Through baptism we cry out Abba, Father! The Eucharist is particular to Jesus whose Body and Blood we consume. Through Confirmation we enter into a personal relationship with the Person of Love.
That is why the coming of the Holy Spirit in confirmation fills our hearts with the love of God, brings us together in one faith but in different vocations, and works within us to make the Church one and holy.
The gift of the Holy Spirit which you are to receive will be a spiritual sign and seal to make you more like Jesus and more perfect members of his Church. At his baptism by John, Christ himself was anointed by the Spirit and sent out on his public ministry to set the world on fire.
You have already been baptised and now you will receive the power of the Holy Spirit and the sign of the cross on your forehead. You must be witnesses before all the world to Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection; your way of life should at all times reflect the goodness of Christ. Jesus gives various gifts to his Church, and the Spirit distributes them to build up the holy people of God in unity and love.
Be active members of the Church, alive in Jesus Christ. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit give your lives completely in the service of all, as did Christ, who came not to be served but to serve. So now, before you receive the Spirit, I ask you to renew the profession of faith you made in baptism or your parents and godparents made in union with the whole Church.
Pope Francis has given his approval for the Catholic Church in Australia to hold the first Plenary Council in Australia since 1937.
A Plenary Council is the most significant national gathering that can be held and in approving the 2020 Plenary Council, Pope Francis also endorsed the Bishops’ nomination of Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB as the President of the Plenary Council.
Archbishop Costelloe said he holds great hope that the Council will bring about a period of authentic renewal.
“This is a significant moment for the Catholic Church in Australia and I look forward to walking with the people of God as we look towards the future,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
“I encourage all Catholics, whether devout or disillusioned, fervent or frustrated, to seize this opportunity to speak what is on their minds and in their hearts,” he said.
Plenary Council facilitator, Lana Turvey-Collins, said she is inspired by the many faith-filled people across the country who have shared their hopes for the Church with her during a series of planning meetings.
“People are both curious and passionate about how all people – particularly people who are marginalised, vulnerable or distant from the Church – can be part of preparing for the Plenary Council,” she said.
“The process of listening and dialogue, beginning at Pentecost 2018, will help form the agenda for the Plenary Council. It’s a chance for us all to learn to become a truly listening Church. All people are invited to share their story of faith, of life and of their experience of the Church.”
A new website for the Plenary Council was also launched this week, with the aim helping people better understand how they can participate in the process.
“Signing up to the e-newsletter and the Plenary Council social media channels is the best way to stay up-to-date with local and national activity for Plenary Council,” Mrs Turvey-Collins said.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council Chair, said Australian Bishops are deeply grateful to Pope Francis for affirming the decision.
“We ask all people to join in prayer as we embark on this journey together as God’s people in Australia,” he said.
The Council will be a unique opportunity for people to come together and listen to God in all the ways God speaks to us, and in particular by listening to one another as together we discern what God is asking of us at this time – a time when the Church in Australia is facing significant challenges.
We sincerely hope the preparation and celebration of the Plenary Council is a time when all parts of the Church listen to and dialogue with one another as we explore together how we might answer the question: ‘What do you think God is asking of us in Australia?’.”
Click Here to watch Plenary Council President Archbisop Tim Costelloe SDB speaking about Pope Francis's approval of the Council
Visit the Plenary Council website at www.plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au
The Australian Catholic Bishops have appointed an Executive Council to oversee the operation of the Plenary Council at the national level. Dr Debra Sayce, Acting Executive Director of Catholic Education in Western Australia has been appointed to the Council.
Tony Giglia has been appointed by Archbishop Costelloe to coordinate the participation of the Archdiocese of Perth in the Plenary Council 2020. Tony can be contacted at:
Catholic Archdiocese of Perth Administration Centre
249 Adelaide Terrace, Perth WA 6000
Tel: (08) 6104 3644
THE DARK NIGHT by St John of the Cross
Ch 21. [An explanation of the term "disguised" and a description of the colours of the disguise the soul wears in this night.]
1. Now then, after having explained why the soul calls this contemplation a secret ladder, we have still to comment on the third word of this verse, "disguised," and tell why it also says that it departed by this "secret ladder, disguised."
2. It should be known for the sake of understanding this verse that people disguise themselves by simply dissembling their identity under a garb and appearance different from their own. And they do this either to show exteriorly by means of that garment their will and aspiration toward gaining the favour and good pleasure of their beloved, or also to hide from rivals and better execute their plan. They then choose the garments and livery that most represent and signify their heart's affections and with which they can better dissemble themselves from their enemies.
3. The soul, then, touched with love for Christ, her Spouse, and aspiring to win his favour and friendship, departs in the disguise that more vividly represents the affections of her spirit.1 Her advance in this disguise makes her more secure against her adversaries: the devil, the world, and the flesh. The livery she thus wears is of three principal colours: white, green, and red. These three colours stand for the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity, by which she not only gains the favour and good will of her Beloved but also advances very safely, fortified against her three enemies.
4. Faith is an inner tunic of such pure whiteness that it blinds the sight of every intellect. When the soul is clothed in faith the devil is ignorant of how to hinder her, neither is he successful in his efforts, for faith gives her strong protection - more than do all the other virtues - against the devil, who is the mightiest and most astute enemy. As a result, St. Peter found no greater safeguard than faith in freeing himself from the devil, when he advised: Cui resistive fortes in fide [1 Pt. 5:9].2 To obtain the favour of the Beloved and union with him, the soul can have no better inner tunic than this white garment of faith, the foundation and beginning of the other garments or virtues. Without faith, as the Apostle says, it is impossible to please God [Heb. 11:6]; and with faith it is impossible not to please him, since he himself declares through the prophet Hosea, Desponsabo te mihi in fide [Hos. 2:20], which is similar to saying: If you desire, soul, union and espousal with me, you must come interiorly clothed in faith.
5. The soul wore her white tunic of faith when she departed on this dark night and walked, as we said, in the midst of interior darknesses and straits, without the comfort of any intellectual light - neither from above, because heaven seemed closed and God hidden, nor from below, because she derived no satisfaction from her spiritual teachers, and suffered with constancy and perseverance, passing through these trials without growing discouraged or failing the Beloved. The Beloved so proves the faith of his bride in tribulations that she can afterward truthfully declare what David says: Because of the words of your lips I have kept hard ways [Ps. 17:4].
6. Over this white tunic of faith the soul puts on a second coloured garment, a green coat of mail. Green, as we said, signifies the virtue of hope, by which one in the first place is defended and freed from the second enemy, the world. This greenness of living hope in God imparts such courage and valour and so elevates the soul to the things of eternal life that in comparison with these heavenly hopes all earthly things seem, as they truly are, dry, withered, dead, and worthless. The soul is thus divested of all worldly garments and does not set her heart on anything there is, or will be, in the world; she lives clothed only in the hope of eternal life. Having her heart so lifted up above the things of the world, she is not only unable to touch or take hold of worldly things, but she cannot even see them.
7. By this green livery and disguise, the soul is therefore protected against its second enemy, the world. St. Paul calls hope the helmet of salvation [1 Thes. 5:8]. A helmet is a piece of armour that protects the entire head and covers it so there is no opening except for a visor through which to see. Hope has this characteristic: It covers all the senses of a person's head so they do not become absorbed in any worldly thing, nor is there any way some arrow from the world might wound them. Hope allows the soul only a visor that it may look toward heavenly things, and no more. This is the ordinary task of hope in the soul; it raises the eyes to look only at God, as David asserts it did with him: Oculi mei semper ad Dominum3 [Ps. 25:15]. David hoped for nothing from anyone else, as he says in another psalm: Just as the eyes of the handmaid are fixed on the hands of her mistress, so are our eyes on the Lord our God until he has mercy on us who hope in him [Ps. 123:2].
8. As a result, this green livery, by which one always gazes on God, looks at nothing else, and is not content save with him alone, so pleases the Beloved that it is true to say the soul obtains from God all that she hopes for from him. The Bridegroom of the Canticle consequently says of his bride that she wounded his heart by merely the look of her eyes [Sg. 4:9]. Without this green livery of hope in God alone, it would not behove anyone to go out toward this goal of love; a person would obtain nothing, since what moves and conquers is unrelenting hope.
9. The soul advances through this dark and secret night in the disguise of the green livery of hope, for she walks along so empty of all possessions and support that neither her eyes nor her care are taken up with anything but God. She places her mouth in the dust that there might be hope [Lam. 3:29], as we previously quoted from Jeremiah.4
10. Over the white and green, as the finishing touch and perfection of this disguise, the soul puts on a third colour, a precious red toga. This colour denotes charity, the third virtue, which not only adds elegance to the other two colours but so elevates the soul as to place her near God. Charity makes her so beautiful and pleasing to God that she dares to say: Although I am black, O daughters of Jerusalem, I am beautiful, and for this reason the king has loved me and brought me into his chamber [Sg. 1:5].5
With this livery of charity, a livery that by manifesting love increases love in the Beloved, the soul receives protection and concealment from the flesh, her third enemy. For where there is true love of God, love of self and of one's own things finds no entry. Not only does charity protect her, but it even makes the other virtues genuine, strengthens and invigorates them in order to fortify the soul, and bestows on them loveliness and charm so as to please the Beloved thereby. For without charity no virtue is pleasing to God. This is the seat draped in purple on which God rests, as is said in the Song of Songs [Sg. 3:10].
The soul is clothed in this red livery when, as explained in the first stanza, she departs in the dark night from herself and from all creatures, fired with love's urgent longings, and advances by the secret ladder of contemplation to perfect union with God, who is her Beloved salvation.
11. This, then, is the disguise the soul says she wore on this secret ladder in the night of faith, and these are its colours. These colours are a most suitable preparation for union of the three faculties (intellect, memory, and will) with God.
Faith darkens and empties the intellect of all its natural understanding and thereby prepares it for union with the divine wisdom.
Hope empties and withdraws the memory from all creature possessions, for as St. Paul says, hope is for that which is not possessed [Rom. 8:24]. It withdraws the memory from what can be possessed and fixes it on what it hopes for. Hence only hope in God prepares the memory perfectly for union with him.
Charity also empties and annihilates the affections and appetites of the will of whatever is not God and centers them on him alone. Thus charity prepares the will and unites it with God through love.
Because these virtues have the function of withdrawing the soul from all that is less than God, they consequently have the mission of joining it with God.
12. Without walking sincerely in the garb of these three virtues, it is impossible to reach perfect union with God through love.