Fr DaveDear Friends,

Hospitality and welcome are familiar and important themes in our Parish Community – attitudes and practical responses that are second nature to us. Hospitality and welcome are core Advent realities as we prepare to celebrate the Birth of Jesus at Christmas.

In Jesus, our God extends hospitality and welcome, inviting us to enjoy his faithful love made present to us in the life of his Son. We in turn are invited to offer hospitality and welcome to our Saviour who has embraced our human condition, in how we love, in how we pray, in how we live. Of course, Christmas is an Easter Feast as it celebrates our Redemption. Every gospel account is coloured by faith in the Resurrection of Jesus, and so we don’t need to pretend at Christmas that Christ hasn’t yet been born or hasn’t risen from the dead.

Hospitality carries strong overtones of the generosity of God, his joy at his Son’s birth and our birth too. We are very familiar with Jesus’ special attention to the outcast and the needy during his public ministry and how he reveals to us the God who is compassionate, generous and forgiving. This is the God we recognise in the healing grace of the Sacraments.

Fr DaveDear Friends,

Over the years our Parish Community of North Harbour has been influenced by a variety of religious values and charisms, including the distinctive Augustinian and Good Samaritan charisms, both of which are very ‘hands-on’. The Good Samaritan Sisters whose charism comes out of the Benedictine Tradition established St Cecilia’s School in 1929 and St Kieran’s in 1953, fostering a spirit of friendship, service and participation, values that continue to endure.

This great Feast of Christ the King is a good time to reflect upon the Kingdom of God and the paradoxical kingship of Jesus which evokes the imagery of God as shepherd and protector who, in Jesus, reigns by embracing the lowliest service and concern for the poor.

Pope Francis models this kind of service in both his words and actions and has been openly critical of leaders in the Church whose lifestyle is not in accord with this, especially some bishops and priests. Very early on, Francis suggested that pastors should be shepherds who ‘smell of their sheep’! While his general approach has drawn some criticism, Francis has captured the imagination of so many who feel he is speaking to them in the context of their daily lives with all the challenges that go with living.

Fr DaveDear Friends,

As families we rejoice in the special celebrations and achievements of various members, particularly those who are saints for us – family members, friends, those we know who reflect goodness in their daily lives. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned former parishioner Stan Arneil as a person whose life reflected the kind of virtue and Christlikeness that Jesus calls us to imitate and in his livestreamed homily, Fr Abel accorded Stan honourable mention too.

Do you have any ‘family’ saints? It’s well worth having a look around just in case we miss them. They might be in the same house, across the breakfast table, or among the significant people in our story who have gone before us. Our lives may have bumped against theirs or been intertwined.

Each year on 13 November, Augustinians celebrate the Feast of All Saints of the Order. I’ve met a few along the way, usually ordinary men and women whose simplicity and transparency make you smile and realise how good God is and how great it is to be alive. Most possessed the quality we call ‘humanita’, down-to-earth humanness, understanding of human weakness, readiness to affirm others not only in the big things but in the small too. In the midst of the human struggle, they managed to love well and others knew it.

Fr DaveDear Friends,

Last week, I reflected on the great Feasts of All Saints and All Souls, contrasting and complementary celebrations reflecting the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s Dying and Rising. They begin a month of Sundays that focus more and more closely on the themes of the end time and the Second Coming, culminating in the celebration of Christ the King on 22nd November.

Sometimes called the Month of the Holy Souls, November is a time when we are invited ‘to remember our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection’ (Eucharistic Prayer II). Our customs include recording the names of our beloved dead in a special book, asking that they be remembered in Masses during November, visits to the cemetery, parish and family prayers for the dead.  

Our prayers are important as we face the great mystery of death, both as a way of becoming more closely bonded with those who have died and especially those with whom we were not always at peace in this life, confident in the promise of ultimate reconciliation in the kingdom where God ‘will wipe away every tear from our eyes’ (EP III).

Fr Dave

Dear Friends,

Recently, someone commented that Mary MacKillop probably didn’t realise that she was a saint! I thought to myself – ‘If you think you’re a saint, then you definitely aren’t one!!’

The great Feasts of the Saints and the Faithful Departed remind us of our heritage and the people who have given us the example of how to live the Gospel message in day-to-day living. In many respects, the two feasts are different sides of the same coin.

Saints are strange creatures. Some are personally quite attractive in how they lived, what they said or wrote, where they were from, and so on. Some can be a touch forbidding, in their demeanour, their austere lifestyle and their eccentricities. Do you have a favourite saint? Many of us have a soft spot for Mary Mackillop, perhaps because she was an Aussie and knew what life is like in this hard land. From my experience in other parishes, I know that praying the novena for Mary’s intercession for the sick, especially for young children, brought communities together in faith and prayer.

There is a variety of saints – in the Gospels, in the history of the Church, in our Parish, in our own story – often with very different approaches to spirituality. Saints like John, Peter, Martha and Mary never used the word ‘spirituality’ because Christian life was a total commitment. Each showed great humanity and had a unique relationship with the Lord.

Fr Dave

Dear Friends,

Recently, someone commented that Mary MacKillop probably didn’t realise that she was a saint! I thought to myself – ‘If you think you’re a saint, then you definitely aren’t one!!’

The great Feasts of the Saints and the Faithful Departed remind us of our heritage and the people who have given us the example of how to live the Gospel message in day-to-day living. In many respects, the two feasts are different sides of the same coin.

Saints are strange creatures. Some are personally quite attractive in how they lived, what they said or wrote, where they were from, and so on. Some can be a touch forbidding, in their demeanour, their austere lifestyle and their eccentricities. Do you have a favourite saint? Many of us have a soft spot for Mary Mackillop, perhaps because she was an Aussie and knew what life is like in this hard land. From my experience in other parishes, I know that praying the novena for Mary’s intercession for the sick, especially for young children, brought communities together in faith and prayer.

There is a variety of saints – in the Gospels, in the history of the Church, in our Parish, in our own story – often with very different approaches to spirituality. Saints like John, Peter, Martha and Mary never used the word ‘spirituality’ because Christian life was a total commitment. Each showed great humanity and had a unique relationship with the Lord.

Fr DaveLast Sunday, the Church marked World Mission Day and we were reminded that Mission is at the heart of the Church’s identity as together we seek to bring forth the fruits of the Kingdom. The call to Mission underlies the Pope’s challenge to ‘Brothers and Sisters All’ in his recent Encyclical Fratelli Tutti. Pope Francis’ Mission Theme this year is taken from Isaiah 6:8: ‘Here am I, send me!’

It is not surprising that every communication of any significance these days is coloured by the broad impact of COVID-19 across the world. Just as the Gospel forms our thinking, so the pandemic influences most aspects of what is humanly possible. Reflecting on our call to mission, Pope Francis acknowledges the disorientation and fear provoked by the current international crisis, yet the Lord continues to ask ‘Whom shall I send?’

Despite the personal frailty in the pain and death around us, we remain committed to the sacredness of human life and know in our hearts the call to mission as an ‘invitation to step out of ourselves for love of God and neighbour’, both through unselfish service and compassionate prayer for one another.

fratelli tuttiPope Francis’ Social Encyclical Fratelli tutti is a lengthy document but well worth reading in our current world setting, complicated as it is by COVID-19 and a complex social, economic and political world situation. The following summary offers a ‘taste’ of Francis’ teaching.

Chapter One: Dark Clouds over a Closed World - The document reflects on the many distortions of the contemporary era: the manipulation and deformation of concepts such as democracy, freedom, justice; the loss of the meaning of the social community and history; selfishness and indifference toward the common good; the prevalence of a market logic based on profit and the culture of waste; unemployment, racism, poverty; the disparity of rights and its aberrations such as slavery, trafficking, women subjugated and then forced to abort, organ trafficking (10-24).

Chapter Two: A Stranger on the Road - To many shadows, however, the Encyclical responds with a luminous example, a herald of hope: the Good Samaritan. The second chapter is dedicated to this figure. In it, the Pope emphasizes that, in  an unhealthy society that turns its back on suffering and that is “illiterate” in caring for the frail and vulnerable (64-65), we are all called – just like the Good Samaritan – to become neighbours to others (81), overcoming prejudices, personal interests, historic and cultural barriers. We all, in fact, are co-responsible in creating a society that is able to include, integrate and lift up those who have fallen or are suffering (77)…. “we were made for love” (88), the Pope adds, particularly exhorting Christians to recognize Christ in the face of every excluded person (85).

Fr DaveDear Friends,


Over the years, Popes have written many encyclicals, apostolic letters and other communications outlining the teaching of the Church on various topics, sometimes clarifying complex moral issues, providing fresh insights to support our faith, commenting on contemporary world issues. Some are scholarly works, some deal with provocative topics, some help Catholics relate more fully to the world around us and provoke common interest.

Pope Francis’ letters and addresses are mostly in the latter category and his latest encyclical letter, titled in English Fratelli tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship, responds to people’s solidarity in our ’wounded world’ impacted so much by COVID-19 and other human crises such as poverty, racism and violence. For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic broke out, the Holy Father travelled outside Rome to sign his latest encyclical in the crypt where St. Francis of Assisi is buried, on the eve of the Saint’s Feast.

Fr DaveDear Friends,

On behalf of the Catholic Community of North Harbour, I welcome Bishop Anthony Randazzo to the Parish for the first time. Bishop Anthony was installed as the fourth Bishop of Broken Bay on 4 November last year. We had hoped that he would preside at the Mass to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of St Cecilia’s School on the saint’s Feast Day, 22 November but this was not possible. And so it is with great joy that we welcome Bishop Anthony to St Cecilia’s today and we look forward to his visiting us again to preside at Sunday Eucharist in St Kieran’s.

WORLD DAY OF MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES - ‘Like Jesus Christ, forced to flee’

Each year, the Church marks the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, highlighting the sad plight of many thousands of people across the world who have had to flee their home country in the face of conflicts and humanitarian emergencies, poverty and persecution. We look to the Pope’s Message on this day to challenge the world to address these issues and the Church to respond. Australia has a very patchy record in dealing with refugees and asylum seekers, especially in recent years. While the number in detention has decreased, they rarely make the news and are for all intents and purposes invisible.

Fr DaveDear Friends,

        As our world faces protests over a variety of issues – democracy, black deaths, pandemic restrictions, border closures - many of us will have some strong views one way or the other. Some will have participated in protests at some time, believing it was for a noble cause… but even then we may keep our views to ourselves lest others disapprove.

Last Sunday, Pope Francis addressed the wave of protests that have swept the world, appealing for peaceful demonstrations: ‘In recent weeks, in many parts of the world, there are numerous popular protests that express the growing discomfort of civil society in the face of political and social situations of particular criticism… While I encourage the protestors to present their requests in a peaceful way, without falling into the temptation of aggressiveness and violence, I appeal to all those who have public and governing responsibility to listen to the voice of their citizens,’ he said, urging them to meet the ‘just aspirations’ of protestors while ensuring ‘full respect of human rights and civil liberties’ – always a difficult and delicate balance!

Fr DaveDear Friends,

           This Child Protection Sunday reminds us of our obligations to children in our families, parish, Church and wider community. September is Safeguarding Month and the Broken Bay Diocese began with a Liturgy of Lament at the Cathedral. The haunting hymns and chants set the solemn mood as we recalled our Church’s many failures and listened to a survivor’s graphic story and gave public expression to our sorrow.

Safeguarding Month focuses on ‘Promoting the Rights of the Child’ and National Child Protection Week which concludes this weekend has ‘Putting children first’ as its theme. Since the 1990s the Catholic Church has sought to put in place safe practices and protocols to protect children and to address past failures.

The Augustinians support all of these initiatives and have developed a range of child protection policies which can be found on the Province website. Later this month, the Province’s safeguarding policies and practices here and in its South-East Asian communities will be formally audited by Catholic Professional Standards Limited. Along with the majority of religious congregations, the Province has joined the National Redress Scheme set up by the Australian Government to deal with claims from those who have suffered harm from the Church and other religious and community organisations.

Fr DaveDear Friends,

              Some years ago, I was invited to visit the Year 6 class in another parish to be ‘interviewed’ about the Vocation of Priesthood. The class teacher was also part of the interview and the children questioned her about the Vocation of Marriage. It was an amazing experience as the children asked some very probing questions. The teacher shared some wedding photos with the children and I took along my photo album from my Ordination 51 years ago. The children were most respectful as I passed around the ‘official’ photograph of the young man in clerical collar and ‘Buddy Holly’ glasses!

Every Vocation is about the Friendship of God in our lives as he graces us so that we may live well. Each year in both Church and Society, we mark important days that celebrate the importance of friendship – the various Christian vocations but also Mothers Day and Fathers Day. While the latter may be secular in origin, we can decide how we celebrate the gift of our parents. Each time I baptise infants, I remind parents that they are the first and best teachers, the first and best friends of their child.

Fr DaveDear Friends,

On this Social Justice Sunday, we pause to reflect on the 2020 Social Justice Statement, To Live Life to the Full: Mental Health in Australia Today, and we savour the wisdom of St Augustine and his mother St Monica. Sometimes our ‘saints’ seem to have it all beaten but most experienced inner questioning and self-doubt along the way. Monica agonized for many years over her wayward son Augustine who himself eventually faced his ‘wretchedness’ and the ‘heavy rain of tears’ at the time of his conversion.

Thankfully, our emotional struggles, the black hole of depression and mental illness can become our ‘blessings’, painful periods which ultimately heal us and make us whole. This was so for Augustine and Monica and it is so for many of us, including myself. We might call mental illness by more scientific names – like PTSD – but the impact of fear and anxiety on our inner self is life-changing. Even in Augustine and Monica’s time, society experienced massive challenges and people were no strangers to family strife and domestic violence. Throughout history, nations and peoples have faced public health crises.  The resilience of our human spirit is being tested during our present pandemic, as was the case during the catastrophic bushfires.

Mark ColeridgeThis year, Social Justice Sunday falls on Sunday 30 August and coincides with our celebration of St Augustine and St Monica whose Feast Days fall a couple of days earlier. In preparation for Social Justice Sunday. Some hard copies of the Statement are available in our churches and you can download it from the net. Printed below is Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s foreword to the 2020-21 Statement on the very timely topic of Mental Health in Australia today, particularly given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘COVID-19 pandemic is a threat in many ways – physical, social, political and economic. But it’s also putting pressure on the mental health of many people in ways both seen and unseen. Those who are at high risk, and those who love them, may be especially anxious.

‘The loss of jobs and income from businesses, together with underemployment and insecure work, place enormous pressure on people trying to provide for themselves and their families. Isolation has also been very difficult for many – and dangerous for those who are in situations of family strife and domestic violence. These can be stressful times for people in decision-making positions. It’s not easy to balance care for public health and safety and the need for social connection, economic activity and other essential communal activities – including public worship. Many of us will experience a mental health problem at some point through our lives – and this may well be the time.

Fr DaveDear Friends,

Some of you can remember the year 1950.  I started school that year but in the wider world, extraordinary events were unfolding. The Korean War began, the Soviets tested their first atomic bomb. China invaded Tibet, and President Truman ordered development of a hydrogen bomb. US military personnel went to Vietnam for the first time, Jordan formally annexed the West Bank, and South Africa established legal apartheid. These events occurred just 5 years after a World War that exacted a toll of almost 72 million combatants and civilians. The scene was set for the conflicts that define our world today.

Into the roar and carnage of 1950 slipped another event that seemed to many quaint and irrelevant to the hard curve of human history. Pope Pius XII proclaimed a dogma of the Catholic faith - Mary, the mother of Jesus, had completed her human and baptismal identity by being assumed bodily into heaven - a belief held by the Church for many hundreds of years.

Fr DaveDear Friends,

This Sunday we focus on the vocations of Priesthood, Diaconate and Religious Life. A key question is - What kind of Church does the Lord wants us to be – a narrow, introverted, defensive Church or an open, inclusive, joyful Church? Pope Francis describes the Church’s call ‘to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open’ (Evangelii Gaudium n 47). Baptism is ‘the door’ and there should be a place for everyone.

All of us are part of the great journey of this Church of ours. What the Church becomes depends partly on us and how we live the Gospel and totally on the action of God in our world. It’s an unusual paradox but we will achieve very little if we fail to recognise, respect and foster the variety of vocations that Christ has given to his Church. Vocation awareness can only happen where we and our families are engaged with the Church in some way.

Priesthood, Diaconate and Religious Life are quite different vocations but all are about Service. We serve people in a variety of ways, including attending to their pastoral needs and witnessing through a life of prayer. The challenge is to find a personal balance between action and reflection in our lives. Some religious give witness through a life of prayer and contemplation - the Benedictine Sisters, the Carmelites and the Cistercians excel at the latter.

Fr DaveDear Friends,

During this Vocations Awareness Week, we honour the call to Ecclesial Ministry of all Christians - Marriage and Family Life, the Single Life, Consecrated Life and Ordained Ministry. The Church is the communion of the faithful and all Christians possess true equality, affirmed in Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church n 32, which describes the different vocations based on our common Baptism and states ‘…there remains, nevertheless, a true equality between all with regard to the dignity and to the activity which is common to all the faithful in the building up of the body of Christ.’ All are ‘…called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity’ (n 40).

It takes time to accept a vocation, perhaps even a lifetime, as we grow into our way of life. Marriage is a call from God to build a lifelong partnership with the help of God’s grace. Sacraments touch our lives, those places where we are most in need. Even for those without faith, grace works in their relationships because truthful love is always of God.

Fr DaveDear Friends,

              During these days of often grim news about more cases of Covid-19 in parts of Australia and around the world, you, like myself, may be becoming more aware of the fragility of our lives and relationships, the many things we still can’t do, and the increasingly dim prospects of our returning to the freedoms we once took for granted anytime soon.

Sometimes we may feel as if our lives are on hold though this may be a positive invitation to rearrange our priorities and live more simply. In the Gospel parables, Jesus chooses simple life situations to illustrate what the Kingdom of God is like – hidden treasure, fine pearls, a net full of fish. In recent Sunday Gospel readings, planting and harvesting have been prominent themes breaking open the meaning of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus’ parables make the wisdom of God’s message concrete because, in the final analysis, our journey is always about the Kingdom, the Reign of God. While this is something we should earnestly desire, or at least be open to accepting, we may think to ourselves, ‘I’m rather busy at the moment, remind me later!’ - when it’s more convenient… when I retire and have more time… when the children are grown… Yet the Kingdom is not like the cue on the computer screen; it is the divine gift that impacts on everything that happens in our lives.

Fr DaveDear Friends,

In the pattern of the Sunday Readings, there is often a strong thematic link between the first reading (usually from the Old Testament) and the Gospel but only an occasional link with the second reading which is usually from St Paul or other New Testament writer.

           Last Sunday’s three readings complemented each other with strong imagery of planting and growth; this Sunday’s readings reflect on the human condition and God’s patient understanding, leniency and forgiveness. Our second reading, again from Romans 8, moves on from its dynamic description of creation ‘groaning in one great act of giving birth’ to the generous image of God’s Spirit expressing our prayer when we struggle to put our needs into words, interceding for us and making up for our inadequacy when it comes to praying.

We so easily fill up our lives with activities and things to the extent that even God is challenged to find a space. St Augustine had a similar experience, though he does admit that God was always there, expressed in the familiar passage in his Confessions Book 10, 27: