HOMILY FOR MASS FOR RIVERVIEW 40 YEAR REUNION - St Mary's Cathedral Crypt, Sydney

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP,
21 Oct 2017

HOMILY FOR MASS FOR RIVERVIEW 40 YEAR REUNION
St Mary's Cathedral Crypt, Sydney


Jesuits make great martyrs and Martin Scorsese's long-awaited and recently-released film, Silence, is a confronting glimpse of one period of Jesuit heroism and betrayal. In the 17th century tens of thousands of Japanese Christians were persecuted for their faith as the Tokugawa shogunate resisted what they saw as a colonial incursion; the Jesuit missionaries mostly died with them. This left Japan's 750,000 Catholics with a stark choice: abandon their faith altogether or continue to practise it furtively, forever risking discovery. Suspects were ordered to prove they were not Christians by trampling on fumie - images of Christ or the Virgin Mary carved from stone or wood - or face being hanged upside down over a pit and slowly bled to death. The film swirls like the scenery as waves of superhuman constancy and all-too-human apostasy crash upon the rocks of faith and tyranny, or dissolve into a mist of cowardice or compromise. A monumental and punishing work, Silence explores the tensions between promises and prudence, between principles and practicalities, and leaves us with no clear answers. Robbie Collin of the London Telegraph wrote that "Scorsese's brutal spiritual epic will scald, and succour, your soul."

Well, Jesuits, as I said, make great martyrs, and around the same time that they were dying heroically in Japan they were also being martyred in Canada (hence another movie, The Black Robe), in Brazil, and closer to home in Micronesia. In due course the black robes spread as far as Australia where they found the authorities rather more welcoming. 'Your descendants will be as many as the stars,' Paul quotes God's promise to Abraham this evening (Rom 4:13-18) and, in the century before us and four decades since, the descendants of Riverview have multiplied and scattered wide, building families, leading communities, serving our world. Through it all there has been an enduring sense of friendship and goodwill towards the Jesuit fathers, the college, but perhaps especially towards each other, towards the guys we grew up with, not just alongside but under the influence of and with the support of. Like Scorsese's film, such an education can scald or succour your soul, or both, but I trust we mostly have happy memories of our education and comradeship at Riverview to cherish; I certainly do. I think the school shaped my whole way of thinking and my growing sense of vocation; the same may be true of many of us here tonight.

Our school motto, I like to point out, was written not by a Jesuit but by a Dominican: St Thomas Aquinas. It is taken from his great Eucharistic hymn Lauda Sion Salvatorem. Before St Thomas counsels us to dare to do our best, he first praises our Saviour as ducem et pastorem, our leader and shepherd. Jesus is the one in control, he suggests, not us. So when he then says we should dare to do our best, it's not personal bests he has in mind, not KPIs or superfund ratings or earthly success: above all, it is about daring to live lives worthy of Christ.

Our school's patron St Ignatius renounced the pursuit of personal glory as a professional soldier and embraced a life "for the greater glory of God" as "a soldier for Christ". He was charged with that faith that St Paul described as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen", the values that kept Abraham, and Paul, and Ignatius, and so many Jesuit heroes going when the going was tough. His college at Riverview was founded on that same conviction and intended for the learning not of elitism, wilfulness, obsession with self, but rather, as in St Ignatius' prayer, for the surrender of liberty, memory, understanding and will to the God who has great plans for us and for the needs of those around us. We receive rather than achieve our greatest gifts and calling, mediated through family, friends, school, church and community. But then we dare to do what we can in returning the gift of ourselves to family, friends, society and God. And in that receiving and giving we dare not just to do but (more importantly) to be all we can. Thanks be to God for St Ignatius' Riverview. Thanks be to God for each one of you!


INTRODUCTION TO RIVERVIEW 40 YEAR REUNION MASS
St Mary's Cathedral Crypt, Sydney

Welcome my brothers to the 40-year reunion of the Class of '77: it is joy to be back together after four decades. One of you joked with me recently that a previous class got to celebrate their 40th at Kirribilli House because one if their number was then the incumbent, but that our group 'lucked out' by only being connected to St Mary's! Sorry about that… Our gathering in a crypt might prompt us to commend to Almighty God those members of our year who have already passed away: Chris Brown, Tom Docker, Ashley Don, Simon Geddes, John Hancock, Martin Hawcroft, John Horsley, Lachlan MacDonald, Brad McNally, John O'Kane, Nick Robin, Peter Robin, Stephen Roche, Jonathan Rowbotham and Paul Stratton. We also remember our deceased Jesuit rectors, form masters and staff, and the lay teachers, who taught us so well. We implore eternal life for the deceased family members and friends who put us through Riverview or whom we have since loved and lost. And we pray for each other and for those of the Class of '77 would could not join us today.