by Fr. Bryan Cunningham on 31/03/2011 -
Just listening to an hour of economic news and I learned three new words: frictional unemployment, webbinar and cloud computing. Frictional unemployment explains the heartache and uncertainty many people are undergoing at the moment. It does not compare with the wave of destruction in Japan nor with the uncertainty of tenure of life in North Africa but it is very real to many people who will be left behind in the country’s time of recovery. (In the eighties we had structural unemployment which left an enormous number of young people unemployable because we had a country undergoing tremendous change and not all could get on board.) Young people have these issues as real questions which effect their lives directly. Will I get a job? Can I afford to go to university? It leads them to the deeper questions they have to answer as life’s questions: Who am I and why am I here? Will I meet the love of my life and is there somewhere I can make a difference?
In the Australian outback they had a whole new take on distance learning. Children sat at home and talked to the short wave receiver to the teacher sometime hundreds of miles away. In some cases their nearest neighbour was two days travel. A Webinar is a seminar you do not have to be at in order to attend – your participation is virtual. The well know phrase comes to mind: “You should get out more!” Our young people move at a pace and in a way which twenty years ago was thought of but without the innovation and technology to make it reality. The question arises: with all the new means of social networking do we actually get any closer to one another. Are our intimacy skills fit for purpose? There is a real thirst for friendship and a real need for community, family.
We live in the clouds. Previously we stored things we needed in a warehouse and we consulted books in a library. I remember vividly my first Apple computer Fr. John Evans gave me while working in Sydney. It had a total working capacity of 64k ram. Fr. John encouraged me to learn how to use a computer and that I did not have to press the return key at the end of each line on the screen because the screen image did not relate to the printed version of the text known as hardcopy. I believed I was on the road to overcoming the new incompetence of the middle twentieth century – computer illiteracy. Cloud computing means that we access virtually programmes and systems capable of all sorts of weird and wonderful things. Our power over production has increased. The question arises what about our relationship to reality – not virtual reality but the unseen reality of eternity?
During this time of Lent we are joining Fr. Andrew and our young adults in the Retreat in the World. The invitation is extended each Friday Morning in Lent – before the traffic starts in ernest – to consider the importance of a Father in our lives. Our God is a Father who keeps his promises. Lent reminds us that his greatest promise was to create new ways of friendship with him no matter what the cost – his Son Jesus gave all there is to give as the purchase price. In the Shrine we find the imprint of the hand of Fr. Joseph Kentenich, founder of the Schoenstatt Movement. This imprint was taken just about a year before he died. The reverse side of the imprint of the Father Hand is a relief of the image of our Lady of Schoenstatt carrying her Son into the world. The idea was that if we enter the school of faith life initiated by Fr. Kentenich and allow ourselves to follow the spiritual way of the Covenant of Love we will be shaped into the image of Jesus and Mary and experience a deep and life-changing friendship with them. The intention card reads: ‘Father I place into your hands (today)… Both you and I are invited to write what we want to place in the father’s hand today.
Fr. Kentenich wanted to have a roadmap to sanctity for everyman. He called it everyday sanctity. In a small publication produced in time for the WYD in Cologne they spoke of Gospel Heroes and looked for those people who live the reality of friendship with God. Fr. Kentenich said we have to find a balance among the various elements of our lives: our relationship to God, to those around us and to the world we live in. This includes an ethical and sustainable approach to the world of work. Also in the world of suffering which plays an inevitable part in our lives we have to find the love of God behind the hand of fate. Our horizon includes a real solidarity with those in need. (Perhaps we should all wear a red nose every day.)
Speaking both at Strawberry Hill and in Hyde Park our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI expressed the hope that among those he was speaking to were some of the saints of the twenty first century. Our challenge is to just do it!