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The Southern Cross : February 2012
February 2012 Page 13 www.thesoutherncross.org.au The Southern Cross The Southern Cross opinion | I recently bought an iPhone. After spending the past two years convincing myself I didn't need a "fancy" phone, the peer pressure finally got to me and I just had to see what all the fuss was about. Two weeks later, I bought an iPad. The latest i-purchase, I kept telling myself, was purely for the family -- we would use it together to learn and explore faraway places and concepts. Hasn't happened yet. My five-year-old is obsessed with the "incey-wincey" spider game, my three-year-old is attached to the screen once the Disney Princess dress-up app is activated and my husband can't get enough of the game where "Jaws" slaughters a beach-full of swimmers. Great babysitter but thumbs down for quality learning time together! It got me to thinking about how I spent my own childhood. Sure, we had Atari, but we only used it sparingly and our days were far less structured. We would ride our bikes aimlessly up and down the street quite content to just go with the flow. They were not jam-packed with play dates organised months earlier or activity days at the local library or vacation swimming lessons, cooking classes, holiday fun programs or indoor play gym cafes. And we spent much more time with extended family. As a kid I can clearly remember countless parties in our garage where Mum and Dad would jam-pack 40 relatives for a feast of pasta, prosciutto and provolone. The kids would play outside until very late in the night or until our legs couldn't hold us upright anymore. The men played cards and the women would gossip -- harmless stuff. What I recall most though was a sense of belonging, consideration and unhurriedness. Family would drop everything just to be together -- maybe it was a childhood fairytale but it all seems very different now-a-days. The ever increasing fast-pace of living, jam-packed work and social calendars, kids' after school sports, arts, and dance, and, of course, hi-tech connectivity, often leaves us too exhausted to connect beyond ourselves and our needs. Walk down the street today and the majority of us are tweeting, texting, talking -- our heads down and oblivious to those around us. Where's the simplicity of time spent together, where's the communication? Where are the kids spending hours playing hide and seek instead of sitting elbow to elbow on the couch with their iPods, iPads, Nintendo DS -- not even blinking an eyelid at each other, or adults who converse more frequently by SMS than by face. I remember a time when the strength of family ties was an unspoken, unbreakable and respected bond, even if we didn't like each other, or disagreed. Where is this all heading? Maybe I should ask Siri (Siri is an "intelligent software assistant" that listens and talks to users of iPhone 4s) on my iPhone! Or maybe, as we head towards that time of the year when, as Catholics, we spare a thought for Jesus' sacrifices on the Cross and try to emulate his loss with some of our own, that we turn to our iPhones for inspiration! How about this Lent, instead of giving up the chocolates or the beer, let's try spending some quality, face-to-face time with the people we are supposed to love most. Rebecca DiGirolamo La famiglia -- where's the app for that? What is an International Eucharistic Congress? It is tempting to answer, "a World Youth Day for older Catholics", but that would be misleading as an IEC is for Catholics of all ages. An inspiring festival of faith, it enables participants to deepen their understanding of the Catholic tradition through seminars, concerts, workshops, exhibitions and, above all, great celebrations of the Eucharist shared by pilgrims from around the world. The 50th International Eucharistic Congress being held in Dublin from June 10 -- 17 2012 coincides with the 50th anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council. Before the Council, great emphasis was placed in Catholic piety on Christ's presence in the consecrated Host. Eucharistic Congresses promoted belief in the "Real Presence" and encouraged devotional practices like adoration of the Host outside of Mass. At the 29th IEC in Sydney in 1928 there was a procession from St Patrick's College, Manly, to St Mary's Cathedral. The Blessed Sacrament crossed the harbour in a ferry painted white and gold for the occasion, accompanied by hundreds of smaller vessels. Around 750,000 people witnessed the procession, many kneeling and singing "Sweet Sacrament Divine" and "Faith of our Fathers" as the Blessed Sacrament passed. In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, more emphasis was placed on Christ's presence in the Scriptures and in the Eucharistic community. For many Catholics, this led to greater attentiveness to the Word of God and participation in worship. Some lament, however, what they see as a loss of reverence as celebrations of the Eucharist became more informal. Other problems also confront the Church today, not least the growing shortage of priests and the smaller number of teenagers and young adults in the pews on weekends. It is, therefore, a good time for Catholics to ponder again God's gift of the Eucharist. As its central theme, the Dublin Congress will take up one of the most significant theological notions of the Vatican Council: the importance of communion with Christ and one another. Fifty years on, there is still much wisdom from the Council which is relevant to the needs of today. Archbishop Piero Marini, President of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, commented in 2009 that an IEC "is not a triumphalistic manifestation of faith, a great act of homage shown to the Eucharist, but a grace for the ongoing renewal of the Eucharistic life of all the people of God". Archbishop Wilson will attend the Congress in Dublin and has asked me to lead a pilgrimage from the Archdiocese of Adelaide to join him. After the congress pilgrims will be able to see some beautiful Irish scenery in the Connemara region, Galway and County Clare. We will then fly to Glasgow for a week in Scotland following in the footsteps of Mary MacKillop who visited the homeland of her ancestors in the Scottish highlands in 1873. The rich concept of "communion" also includes communion with the saints and those who have gone before us, including the many Irish and Scottish Catholics who helped establish the Church in Australia. An Australian presence at the Dublin IEC would be a fitting tribute to their faith. If you are interested in being part of this special experience, please contact Harvest Pilgrimages' representative Ian Maitland (8234 3530 or ian@ airporttravelcentre.com). Josephine Laffin is Senior Lecturer in Church History at the Catholic Theological College Revisiting the Blessed Sacrament Josephine Laffin