A call from Pope Francis to make chutney

pope francis laughingLast week I made some pear and apple chutney. It turned out ok. I found some basic internet recipes and then just bunged whatever I had into the pot. Sultanas were a good addition but overall I think I used too much vinegar. It was Pope Francis who set me off on this chutney session. I didn’t get a personal phone call but I did feel he was nagging me none the less.

This Pope really seems to get into our lives. From encouraging parents to bring their children to Church, to reminding us not to waste our food, he really gets down to the basics of how to live a good life.

I do try to use all my food wisely by planning meals and using left overs. But I know there are always vegetables I never get around to eating, cheese that I don’t store properly so it goes to waste and left overs in the freezer that I toss out because I’ve forgotten what they were in the first place. So when I saw that bowl of saggy looking pears and apples, which no one was bothering to eat, I knew something had to be done.

Over summer I’ve been reading Down to Earth by Rhonda Hetzel (thanks to the kind friend who gave it to me.) It’s a beautiful and practical book that encourages everyone to live simply. It talks about the value of home and the value of the home skills.

Simple living is “living a life that’s not complicated by wanting or having too much. It’s being satisfied with enough, whatever that may be. It allows you to discover the significance of home life and how your home can nurture you. It’s a lifestyle that allows you live well on little money, thereby enabling you to build a family and a home that is based on authenticity and love.”

Now isn’t that exciting! But also daunting… the book has some high ideals like making your own soap and knitting your own winter jumpers! Still, as it’s the start of the year I’m inspired to make some small steps.

Living a life of poverty or simplicity isn’t a new idea in the Catholic Church. Saints, Popes and everyday Catholics have been trying to live simple lives for centuries. However Pope Francis’ message really seems to be hitting home at the moment. It’s as though we are hearing an old message again for the first time.

Why does living a simple life seem so inspiring? Why would we be crazy enough to welcome a little poverty into our lives?

I suppose it has to do with our heart. Living simply, not creating unnecessary needs for ourselves, de-clutters our hearts so we can love. Our hearts are free to love people rather than things.

So perhaps it’s part of some plan that for now I don’t have a working oven, our plumbing is a bit hap hazard, we are fighting a battle against an ant invasion and I’m sitting here pregnant during a heat wave. Can’t say I’ve always born it graciously.

It’s a crash course in living simply and de-cluttering my heart. I bet if I told Pope Francis about it all he’d have a good chuckle.


Admitting to be Catholic


Many Australians form their impression of Catholics from movies and the media. The problem with this is they rarely get a very truthful picture.

Sometimes admitting your Catholic at university or in the workplace can feel like stepping into the Roman arena – you are just waiting for the lions to appear.
Movies are hilarious when they bring on Catholic clerical stereotypes. A Catholic means cue the shadows, smoke and evil sounding music. You expect Darth Vader to appear – instead it’s the Pope.

Getting out of Australia can really help Catholics regain their sense of pride. Go to the Philippines and you will see the Churches packed many times a day. Go to Rome and you will see thousands of other Catholics, the beauty of the Churches and the history behind your faith. You suddenly realise that you are part of a religion far larger than any small minded view portrayed on the ABC news or in the Sydney Morning Herald.

What are some things you should be proud if you are Catholic? This list is not definitive but it’s a good start.

J.R.R Tolkein and other good company
So many great writers are Catholic: J.R.R Tolkein, Dorothy L Sayers, Grahame Greene, Evelyn Waugh, G.K Chesterton, to name a few. Even Oscar Wilde became a Catholic on his death bed.

Acts of Kindness

The Catholic Church runs invaluable charities all over the word and has done so for centuries. The Church has founded schools, universities, orphanages, and hospitals. The Catholic Church serves the poor  and has been a driving force for eduation that has shaped culture. 

Our priests

I realise some may never have had the opportunity to come into contact with a Catholic priest.
So many priests that I have met are like the present Pope. The more I hear about Pope Francis, the more he feels entirely familiar to me. The priests I’ve met are humble, have a good sense of humour, are kind and full of wisdom.

The Big Brains
Catholics have an amazing tradition of intellectuals. Richard Dawkins attempts to debunk a few of them in his little book The God Delusion. When you start reading  the Catholic intellectuals you realise how far they tower above him in depth and precision of thought. Their wisdom is astounding. To name a few there is  Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Moore, Edith Stein, John Paul II, Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena. These are only a few that I’ve dipped into. It would take a life time to discover them all. Personally I find their wisdom comforting, inspiring and an encouragment admist a world that can be so shallow.

Our inside information
When Pope Francis was elected the speculation began on what sort of agenda he would be running. Most Catholics however knew they had an inside scoop. This Pope was Catholic – he would quite simply teach the Catholic faith.

If any journalist has a question on the Catholic religion can I refer them to the Catechism of the Catholic Church – it’s quite a detailed document. If they are short of time, there is even an abridged version. Basically it answers any questions in beautiful detail. From the ten commandants to every Sacrament, it covers it all.

A universal religion

I was baptised by an Irish priest, married by a Spanish  priest and my baby was baptised by a Vietnamese.  From Cambodia to Vanuatu, when I’ve gone on holiday, I’ve always found a Catholic Church.

It’s a challenge

Being a Catholic isn’t for the faint hearted. We are called to love everyone just as much as Jesus loved them. And he gave his life for everyone. That means we can’t just love our best friend who buys us coffee and tells us we are looking fantastic. We can’t just love the members of our family who we get along with.

We have to be kind to the person at work with bad breath who talks too much. We have to be welcoming and hospitable to all our relatives, even if they only talk about tennis and its bores us to death. This sort of love is revolutionary!

It’s timeless
A good reason I’m proud to be Catholic, is it just isn’t fashionable at the moment. Being Catholic will rarely win you anyone’s instant admiration. You might find yourself elbowed out of the cool crowd.
In the 16th Century it was fashionable for women to paint their faces white with lead.  In the 17th and 18th Century you wouldn’t have been seen dead without a large, lice infested wig. In the 19th century women strapped themselves in corsets so tight they could barely breathe and were still giving their babies away to a wet nurse for the first year of their life.
History tells me, that as a woman it’s not always wise to follow fashion.
So that’s why, looking left and right for lions to pounce, I’m still proud to be a Catholic.