Ancient wisdom heard in the time of the ‘instant’

8 Panmure cemetery 1

Hearing voices from the ancient world, praying ancient prayers and having hope in the same way as our ancestors in the faith did were topics touched upon by Bishop Patrick Dunn at a Mass for the deceased clergy of Auckland diocese.

Preaching at St Patrick’s church in Panmure on November 8, Bishop Dunn referred to Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical on hope “Spe Salvi”, in which the “very interesting observation” was made that “when the Gospel was first preached, in the ancient world, what astonished those who heard it was the realisation that these Christians actually believed they had a future”.

“It is something we take so much for granted, it is sort of part of our DNA.

“But Pope Benedict said that wasn’t the case in the ancient world, that they didn’t know if there was a future or not. But these Christians, they had this confident faith that they had a future.

“And Pope Benedict made that lovely comment – he said of course, we believe we have a future, and that future is a person and that person knows us, loves us and calls us by name. We have a future. And so we gather to remember those who have died.”

Remembering at every Mass those who have died was one thing former Prime Minister Bill English remarked upon at a function where he spoke about his Catholic Faith, Bishop Dunn said.

“He said that he really appreciated, every time he went to Mass, he was invited to remember those who died.

“And I remember the Prime Minister was saying so often in our day to day lives, life is so busy that we sort of remember someone who died when they die and then  . . . we just have an occasional thought for them. He said he really appreciated how, in the liturgy, at every Mass, we remember as God remembers.”

Bishop Dunn also noted a past comment by Mr English that at Mass he had the chance to listen to “ancient voices” in the Gospels, and the prophets in the readings – voices which are thousands of years old.

“And he said you don’t do that in ordinary life. Ordinary life is – answer this text, respond to this email, it is sort of instant. But he said when he came to Mass he listened to ancient voices, the wisdom of those who have gone before us.”

“So we, like the Prime Minister, we listen to these ancient voices that remind us who we are, who we are called to be. And we remember those who have died.”

At the Mass, Bishop Dunn read out the names of priests who have died in Auckland and in some other dioceses in recent years.

There was also a prayer said “that has been prayed for over 1000 years for those who have gone before us”.

After Mass, Bishop Dunn went with the clergy and laity present to the cemetery where graves of deceased clergy were sprinkled with holy water and prayers were said.

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Michael Otto

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