Marjorie Liddy, RIP

Marjorie Liddy, RIP

A beautiful woman of faith died this week. Some call her a mystic. Marjorie Liddy died on Wednesday, en route to the Tiwi Islands, returning home from priestly ordinations in Melbourne.

In his opening remarks at Wednesday’s episcopal ordination Mass in Sydney, Archbishop Fisher brought our attention to the chasubles worn by many of the concelebrating bishops:


These were the chasubles designed for the papal Mass at Sydney’s World Youth Day. On the back of the chasubles is an image commonly called Marjorie’s Bird, although Marjorie herself has a more beautiful title: The Day The Holy Spirit Visited Marjorie And Her People — the latter being all the people of Australia.



You can read about Marjorie and her image, and how it emblazoned Sydney’s World Youth Day, in this article dating back to 2008. But if you can spare half an hour, it’s much better to watch Marjorie tell the story. (If you can’t find the time, I recommend you make the time!)

Here is an interview which first aired on community television in 2006:

I never met Marjorie, but after watching this interview, I wish I had. I have met Denise Kelly — she’s friends with my grandmother — who collaborated with Marjorie in several writing projects. (Denise, not my grandmother.) Both Marjorie and Denise claim to have received extraordinary gifts from the Holy Spirit, and both women are also remarkably humble and faithful daughters of the Church.

Here’s a snapshot into Marjorie’s character from the linked newspaper article:

Liddy will be one of a number of indigenous women who will form a guard of honour for the Pope in Sydney on Thursday, and she has a letter from Cardinal George Pell naming her as a World Youth Day VIP.

“When I first heard that on the island, I just grabbed a handful of dirt, threw it all over myself,” she said. “I felt unworthy.”

There are similar snapshots in Marjorie’s TV interview. Her demonstration of unadorned faith and spiritual childhood is like a breath of fresh air. Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord. May perpetual light shine upon her, and may she rest in peace.

The last word belongs to Marjorie, who in the Spirit of Life interview was asked her advice to anyone who struggles to hear the quiet promptings of the Holy Spirit:

Open your hearts. Let Him in. Let Him in. He will help you to know and understand Mother Mary and Jesus. There’s so much love the Lord has for us. So much love. He wants us all to love Him. To go back — to go to Mass, go to confession, and receive Him. And our love will grow, grow. But let the Holy Spirit start a new life.


“Just remember, you’re only Richard Umbers!”

“Just remember, you’re only Richard Umbers!”

You may have heard of, or perhaps watched yourself, Andrew Denton’s recent contribution to the debate about legalising euthanasia.

For the most part, his address to the Australian Press Council was thoughtful, because Denton is a thoughtful and intelligent man. He did, however, reveal defective thinking (or something worse: pernicious illiberalism) in his call for the religiously minded to disqualify themselves from the national debate.

Peter Kurti presents a good summary and rebuttal in the latest Australian edition of The Spectator.

‘I urge you, step aside,’ Denton said, directing his remarks at those ‘whose beliefs instruct you that only God can decide how a human being should die.’ If you’ve got religion, in other words, sit down, shut up, and don’t be a pest.

This is the new sectarianism where all Christian traditions are equally unacceptable. When it comes to making medical decisions about who can die and when, the new sectarians apparently already know everything there is to know about human suffering. Those who agree with them are welcome to speak up; but any with opposing views must remain silent.

Meanwhile, Fr Richard Umbers has been on retreat at the beautiful Brooklands Retreat Centre in New Zealand. I very much doubt he was even aware of Denton’s proposal when he posted this video on Sunday, but his remarks on faith are very pertinent:

. . that consideration on a retreat of faith, hope and charity: what we have as Christians to offer our society. Faith which is a light: it helps us to see the world in a very different way. It’s a gift God gives us, to see things from His perspective — the meaning of suffering; the meaning of our lives . . .

Since concluding his retreat, Fr Richard has returned to Sydney, where he will be ordained a bishop on Wednesday. Judging from his online activity in recent weeks, Fr Richard will quickly become the most prolific Australian bishop on the Internet:

Keep him, and Msgr Tony Randazzo, in mind on Wednesday evening. Maybe we can pray Fr Richard never forgets his mum’s sage advice:

“Just remember: you’re only Richard Umbers.”


Judgement Day: the narrow door

Judgement Day: the narrow door

During World Youth Day, I was interested (but not surprised) to learn that pilgrims wanted to know more about heaven and hell.

As chaplain, I’d spend each day with a different group — exploring Krakow, attending events, finding food, waiting in queue. (There were a lot of queues!) In conversation, I kept to ‘secular subjects.’ I’d start conversations about school, or politics, or the footy, or travel, or whatever.

Conversation turned to the supernatural or spiritual only when a pilgrim raised those subjects. And then the audience would grow. Suddenly there were three people in the conversation, or four, or six, or more. It became informal catechesis — pilgrims would ask questions, and I’d do my best to give the Catholic answers. And then the discussion always — always — moved to heaven and hell.

So I can imagine that the question Jesus fields in today’s Gospel — “Sir, will there be only a few saved?” — was probably asked of him many times.

Our Lord replies in typical fashion. He doesn’t give a direct answer. He doesn’t say, “Only a few will be saved,” as the Pharisees taught. He doesn’t say, “Most or all will be saved,” as the modern world teaches.

Instead, he moves the focus away from general statistics and towards the individual. He looks his interlocutor in the eye: “Try your best to enter by the narrow door.”

I wish I’d thought of this gospel in Poland, when I fielded similar questions. I did, at least, apply its principles. What Jesus wants is clear:

  • he wants us to be responsible for our choices;
  • he wants to lead us to heaven;
  • but he needs us to follow his lead.

We have to do our part. It’s not enough to have a superficial knowledge of Christ. We have to have a living, lasting, growing friendship with him. Friendship always involves effort and self-sacrifice, time and energy.

We don’t earn our way into heaven. Even the greatest saints are in heaven because of God’s mercy, not because of justice. But imagine what it must be like at the moment of judgement, standing before Jesus. There we are: our sins exposed by the light of truth; our lukewarm love ice cold in comparison to the burning fire of divine love.

It must take a lot of humility to stand there and seek the Lord’s mercy. It must require profound intimacy with Jesus; a sincere confidence that his love is greater than our sin. Standing there before him must demand a self-forgetful love — I think I could stand it only for his sake, not my own.

It would be easier, less painful, more self-satisfying, to turn away, to demand his departure. To condemn ourselves to hell. This is why Jesus insists we strive in this life to enter through the narrow door.

So let’s ask ourselves: what more can I do to know Jesus? To love him? To serve him?

How is my prayer life? Daily prayer and frequent confession are essential aspects of the Christian life.

How do I relate to my neighbours? We love God only as much as we love the person we like least.

How do I mould my character? Habitual acts of self-denial foster self-discipline and freedom of the heart.

But of course, our Lord doesn’t ask us to navigate the narrow door all by ourselves. He constantly helps and strengthens us, especially through holy communion and the other sacraments.

He loves us so much. Let’s try our best to enter the narrow door.

Signs in heaven

Signs in heaven

The First Reading in today’s Mass of Our Lady’s Assumption shows John’s Apocalypse at its most vivid. Here’s an extract:

Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown. She was pregnant, and in labour, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth . . .

And on it goes. Veritable libraries have been written interpreting these “signs in heaven.” It’s very interesting, I think, that next year the stars happen to align and interact in such a way that at least some of these signs are retold.

Patrick Archbold, the brains behind Creative Minority Reportpublished an article on this last year, in The Remnant. It’s well worth reading his entire article. Here’s how it starts:

On September 23, 2017, we will see the constellation Virgo with the sun rise directly behind it (the woman clothed with the sun). These events transpire during the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of “the woman clothed in the sun,” Our Lady at Fatima in 1917. What does it mean?

[Editorial Note: In the following article, I intend to present a series of facts and observations from which I draw no definitive conclusion. Yet, these facts and observations are of such a nature, for no other reason than their observation and reporting, that lend themselves to misinterpretation. So let me be clear, in the following article, I predict nothing. I am offering my observations on some upcoming phenomena, both heavenly and man-made, potentially of great import, that people might find interesting and of which people should be aware.]

I included his editorial note in full, because that’s especially important. Many of my readers probably suspect that we are in the End Times. I suspect as much myself. That’s all well and good, insofar as it informs a truly supernatural outlook, by which we strive for sanctity, and pray like there’s no tomorrow, because maybe there won’t be a tomorrow. As Our Lord advises, “when that day and hour will come, no one knows.” (Mt 24:36)

On the other hand, “millennial fever” is no good at all if it distracts a person from the interior life. Stockpiling food and water, and poring over calendars and prophecies, can be very destructive to a person’s faith — and the faith of those around them. It can also leave a person looking a bit cray-cray, which is really not a good way to attract others to Christ.

Of course, it’s also worth considering that there are people in every generation who think theirs is the last generation. Just ask the apostles! Be that as it may, there’s little doubt in my mind that we live in extraordinary times. Ours is a time where evil abounds, but grace abounds even more.

Deo gratias.

Tommy Corrigan

Tommy Corrigan

On this day in 1894 the champion jockey Tommy Corrigan died of brain lacerations, two days after he and his horse Waiter fell in the Caulfield Grand National Steeplechase.

He was born in Ireland, but his family migrated to Australia when he was 13. He worked for his father on a dairy farm near Woodford but at age 14, his racing career was launched with a win in Warrnambool. Later on, he settled in Ballarat. I don’t think we’re related — not closely — so it’s pure coincidence that we share surnames and hometowns. (In any event, I’m connected to Ballarat via O’Hehirs and Warrnambool via McElgunns. The Corrigan side of the family comes from outback Queensland.)

Tommy Corrigan was the greatest Australian jockey of the nineteenth century, and some call him the best jumps rider ever. Between 1866 and 1894 he recorded 238 wins, 135 seconds and 95 thirds from 788 starts. That’s a 60 per cent strike rate. I’m a bit surprised that he doesn’t have an entry in Wikipedia. Maybe I’ll do something about that.

The diminutive Irishman’s fame was huge, and like all popular Australian athletes, it was his good nature and beaming smile which shielded him from the tall poppy syndrome. We could imagine him as a 19th century version of Pat Rafter, or even better, another Michelle Payne! By all accounts, he was devoted to his family, and to his Catholic faith. He sought out a priest and made a good confession before every race, and 11 August 1894 was no exception.

For two days, his life hung in the balance, and for two days crowds milled through St Francis’ Church, praying for his recovery. His funeral was the largest ever seen in Melbourne. Traffic was suspended for two hours, and most businesses were closed all day. The route from his home in Caulfield to his grave in Carlton was lined by thousands of mourners, and onlookers described Swanston Street as “a mass of humanity.”

The great jockey is memorialised in a poem by Banjo Paterson:

You talk of riders on the flat, of nerve and pluck and pace—
Not one in fifty has the nerve to ride a steeplechase.
It’s right enough, while horses pull and take their fences strong,
To rush a flier to the front and bring the field along;
But what about the last half-mile, with horses blown and beat—
When every jump means all you know to keep him on his feet.

When any slip means sudden death—with wife and child to keep—
It needs some nerve to draw the whip and flog him at the leap—
But Corrigan would ride them out, by danger undismayed,
He never flinched at fence or wall, he never was afraid;
With easy seat and nerve of steel, light hand and smiling face,
He held the rushing horses back, and made the sluggards race.

He gave the shirkers extra heart, he steadied down the rash,
He rode great clumsy boring brutes, and chanced a fatal smash;
He got the rushing Wymlet home that never jumped at all—
But clambered over every fence and clouted every wall.
You should have heard the cheers, my boys, that shook the members’ stand
Whenever Tommy Corrigan weighed out to ride Lone Hand.

They were, indeed, a glorious pair—the great upstanding horse,
The gamest jockey on his back that ever faced a course.
Though weight was big and pace was hot and fences stiff and tall,
“You follow Tommy Corrigan” was passed to one and all.
And every man on Ballarat raised all he could command
To put on Tommy Corrigan when riding old Lone Hand.

But now we’ll keep his memory green while horsemen come and go;
We may not see his like again where silks and satins glow.
We’ll drink to him in silence, boys—he’s followed down the track
Where many a good man went before, but never one came back.
And, let us hope, in that far land where the shades of brave men reign,
The gallant Tommy Corrigan will ride Lone Hand again.

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