One hundred hears ago, my predecessor as Parish Priest was still in Adelaide. Back then, Adelaide was the only house of the Dominican Order. Though he was Adelaide assigned, Fr Stanislaus Hogan was no stranger to Melbourne. He had preached successful missions in this part of the world, firing people in their Catholic faith, himself well attuned to those deaf to spiritual matters. At the end of one mission, Fr Stanislaus made a courtesy call on the great Archbishop Mannix at Raheen. He thanked the Archbishop for having him in Melbourne for the mission; he also asked him on behalf of the Irish Provincial for a parish near the city so as to make an impact on it. Mannix’s reply was legendary. “Certainly,” he said. That was the twenty-fourth of September, 1923. It would take six months for our friars to arrive. It was something of a long Advent for them.
At this time a century ago, they were making in Adelaide their last Advent proper. That was their last Advent before the series of firsts we shall commemorate this coming year. We celebrate the Lord’s Advent before our celebrations begin in earnest. We rejoice not in ourselves and our forebears only, but in the Lord’s coming among us in the flesh, his terrible death and glorious resurrection – all of which promises so much life and hope to us.
When we are aware that a “last” is upon us, gratitude is a good reaction to make. We might call to mind the last time we shall see a loved one in this life or that day, or the last day of school or work. Various reactions come over us. Many of them are somewhat instinctive; all are impulsive. We can fear a loss, worry what’s next, get hyped up about change, become frenzied making arrangements. Perhaps all of those are understandable. But the watchfulness which the Lord is asking of us won’t allow those knee-jerk reactions to be our only reaction.
Watchfulness means we have recognised that it’s not all up to us. Happily, we’re all under the Lord’s sway – he is leading us, day by day, provided we remain free from sin and are disposed to grace. We are watching for him. We are attentive to his promptings. We know his urgings by the randomness of the inspiration and the peacefulness they present to our minds. As a priest, I spend my day hoping for them: start this now, speak to her, listen to him, avoid that, finish this. For these promptings, known to be his because they are random and peaceful, we are thankful.
Gratitude is rather popular at the moment. The worthies of social media propose we spend time in gratitude, which for them seems to mean anything from revelry in privilege to delight in gifts. For us to be grateful, we Christians know that must direct our gratitude to God, the source of all good things. We give thanks to God for what we have received from him and become through him. The Mass goes by the name thanksgiving: we call it the Eucharist, the thanksgiving of the Church to God. We give thanks that his Son died for our sins and rose for our life; we give thanks to him for each day and our destiny.
As Parish Priest at the start of this centenary year, I echo the words of the Apostle Paul: “I never stop thanking God for all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:4). I give thanks to God for all of you. Thank God you are here at the start of this new week; thank God you are using the faith you have received from others; thank God for them too. You are the sign of God’s faithfulness to humanity, because through you others are to be drawn to him in the one faith of the Catholic Church. He so fires your life so that you will give warmth and light to others. He so floods your day with grace so that all dryness and need will be blessed.
One hundred years ago, our friars were making their last Advent in Adelaide in preparation for a strange and foreign place called Camberwell. They had the missionary spirit which has been so strong in the Irish clergy who served here. I hope we shall all use this Advent to become ever more thankful to God. He has not left us alone; he abides with us to prepare us and deploy us. We know the one who is coming.
May Christ the Truth be praised, blessed, and preached here at St Dominic’s this centenary year and until he comes again.
Fr Paul Rowse, OP Parish Priest