The annual Safeguarding Month in Broken Bay began on 3 September with a beautiful Liturgy of Inclusion and Care at Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral Waitara.
This is the fourth year the Diocese of Broken Bay has held a Liturgy in Safeguarding Month, and this year the theme focused on Inclusion and Care, particularly for those vulnerable in our communities and those with disability.
The Labyrinth was used as a tool throughout the Liturgy, with participants receiving a card with a raised labyrinth to follow with their finger.
An image of Jesus with ribbons woven across His face was used in the Liturgy to demonstrate how our community is woven together, a unity in our loving God. Participants from across the Diocese removed the ribbons one by one to reveal the image of Jesus as we are born in the likeness and image of Jesus.
Attendants at the Liturgy were asked to take a card containing a word and scripture quote, and a painting from local artists with disabilities from the Boonah Creative Arts Centre. They were also invited to walk the path of the labyrinth in the nearby Nulty room outside the Cathedral to reflect and pray.
The Liturgy of Inclusion and Care is an important event in our Diocesan calendar. We pray for all those that have been hurt in our community by members of the Church, and further our commitment to safeguarding our young and vulnerable persons in our community.
Reflection for Liturgy of Inclusion and Care
2019 Safeguarding Month
3 September 2019
Fr David Ranson
Unmistakably, ‘liberation’ is a central impetus of Christ’s ministry and of the Gospel. At the very outset of his ministry – almost as a charter – Jesus announces that he has come to set prisoners free, to raise the downtrodden, to proclaim liberty to captives.
Against his Palestinian social background, accustomed to the economic usefulness of prisoners and of the presence of the ‘great unwashed’, Jesus’ enigmatic declaration might be interpreted as simply a grand scheme of emancipation, a dangerous aspiration of anarchy and subversion. It does not seem, however, that Jesus equates liberation with simple emancipation; nor did he reduce liberation to lazy principles of freedom. For Jesus, liberation was at once a more basic and more complex human experience than either emancipation or freedom. The sense with which he uses the concept of liberation implies rather an enterprise through which people are made alive from the bondage of what seems a living death, an adventure through which others are enabled with the agency to create a sense of future beyond the shackles of the past. True liberation is born in the conception of hope, in the entertainment of possibility, in the release of imagination. We are liberated when we can dream again. It is the mission of Jesus to give back to others the dreams which make them uniquely themselves but of which they have been robbed or denied by forces greater than themselves.
We gather at this time each year to lament the way in which people, especially in our own communities of faith, have been robbed of their dreams because of the crimes of others in the community, especially the crimes of its leaders. We gather to pray that in the face of such hurt and pain new possibility might be perceived both for those who have been hurt directly, and for our whole community of faith which has been so greatly damaged by our history. This year we remember also those who have felt excluded by their disability, who have felt rejected and unable to participate as their dignity compels. We pray that through them we may understand more deeply how a community of inclusion might look.
Indeed, whether by the crime of abuse or by the failure of inclusion, no greater force of stealth exists in human experience than that of isolation. It was to those imprisoned in isolation that Jesus went, creating a new sense of community which alone assures the human heart of its dignity and of its capacity for growth and responsibility. Community provides the ecology of liberation: it is the air which true liberation breathes and the ground from which true liberation realises its aspiration. People are brought out of the imprisonment of their isolation by Jesus into the freedom of healing relationships with one another. As I have often referred, borrowing from an observation from the late Princess of Wales, “nothing so fragments the personality as isolation.”
Liberation from such isolation can only happen, though, when we are prepared to listen to actual stories of isolation. Recently, I have been able to explore the insights of the sociologist of illness, Arthur Frank in his classic study, The Wounded Storyteller. Frank is interested in the redemptive character of illness – what makes for genuine healing. As he declares,
What makes an illness story good is the act of witness that says, implicitly or explicitly, “I will tell you not what you want to hear but what I know to be true because I have lived it. This truth will trouble you but, in the end, you cannot be free without it, because you know it already; your body knows it already.”
Referring to the French-Canadian philosopher, Paul Ricouer, Frank identifies how the self only comes to be in the process of the life story being told: “the subject is never given at the beginning” of a narrative. . .” It unfolds as the story is told. This is true for individuals on their own unique personal journey of liberation. It is also true for an entire community on its journey of healing. We hear the stories of pain; and a new story opens up for us in the hearing. When we can find the courage to listen to a story of pain, something begins to change for us.
However, Frank goes on to identify three possible types of stories that can emerge from such an encounter with pain. The first of these are what he calls ‘restitution stories.’ These attempt to outdistance mortality by rendering pain and disability transitory. “We will get over it” is the logic at the heart of these attempts at liberation. The second are what he calls ‘chaos stories’ by which we are simply sucked into the undertow of our situation and the disasters that attend it. But then we are left overwhelmed by the sense of oppression.
Neither ‘restitution’ nor ‘chaos’, in the way that Frank details them, lead us to liberation. In their place, Frank proposes that we need what he terms, ‘quest stories.’ These are the stories that meet suffering head on; they accept our situation just as it is and seek to use it to create a new sense of community with those who are suffering likewise. In this way, our pain becomes the occasion of a journey that become a quest. What is quested for may never be wholly clear, but the quest is defined by our belief that something is to be gained through the experience, and more especially, by the experience that is shared. This is why the ancient model of the labyrinth which we are using this evening as part of our ritual has much to teach us. It speaks to us of a journey, a journey that searches, a journey open to unexpected twists and turns, a journey that is a quest.
And this is the Kingdom of God – the transformation of vulnerability into hospitality. Where the place in which we both hurt and hope at one and the same time becomes a place of invitation to others then we have the confidence of the liberation that is truly of the Gospel.
Our commitment, therefore, is not simply concerned with the delivery of effective remedy to social need; it is about the restoration of dignity. It is not simply concerned with bandaging broken bodies; it is as much about tending the wounds of the human spirit. It is not simply concerned with a kind of rehabilitation that can surrender social responsibility; it is about the formation of relationships which break the fetters of isolation – lasting relationships, continuing relationships, committed relationships, relationships that weave us together.
In the 1990s my work often took me to New Zealand. At different times I had the privilege of being introduced to Maori culture which deeply impressed me. One of the lessons I learnt from this culture is the importance of community for our sense of well-being. As one distinguished Maori priest, Pa Honare Tate shared with me, we humans are put together by the way we are related. He spoke of the binding, the sewing, the stitching, the bonding that must go on in our life if we are to be truly human. He reflected on this Maori proverb, “Bind all that is above, bind all that is below, bind all that is unseen, bind all that can be seen.” In other words, become aware, ever more deeply aware, of how inter-connected we are with everyone and everything around us.
May this recognition be the source of our healing and of our liberation now and into the future.
 See transcript of interview of Princess Diana Spencer with Martin Bashir, November 1995, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/special/politics97/diana/panorama.html, accessed 1 September 2019.
 Arthur Frank, The Wounded Storyteller: Body, illness and ethics, second edition, (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1995, 2013).
 Frank, The Wounded Storyteller, 63.
 Frank, The Wounded Storyteller, 61.
 Frank, The Wounded Storyteller, 115.