Family Faith by Selina Venier
IT was eerily comforting to turn to the regional pages of The Catholic Leader last Sunday and see three recent photographs of Bishop Michael Putney.
An early in the week “print day” can be challenging for a weekly paper.
It’s helpful and timely to have on-line updates and The Catholic Leader is no exception.
Bishop Michael’s death, on the Friday following the “print Tuesday” was imminent but still no doubt, sent waves of grief throughout faith-filled circles.
Much noteworthy praise of his character and ministry has been said and written since.
It’s such a credit to his character and ministry that he kept doing what God had called him to do for as long as was humanly and divinely possible.
I look at those photos from last Sunday’s paper – one taken from the launch of his new book on ecumenism and the others with students and education leaders in Townsville diocese – and can’t help but smile, because of the fact Bishop Michael was and is such an inspiration of faith and trust in God.
My humble observation is he himself was smiling at death.
He seemed to be smiling because of his faith, because of trust in the heavenly promises awaiting him and because of a sense of having lived out a God-given vocation.
It’s likely we all have a story or many stories to tell and remember of the extraordinary man of faith Bishop Michael was.
When my grandfather died five years ago I spoke in the eulogy of our patriarch “always making an impression”.
While there are countless others who knew Bishop Michael much closer than I did, I can’t help but think the same of him.
Well over a decade ago he came to celebrate Confirmation in a southside Brisbane parish, as was customary in his role as auxiliary bishop.
I had catechised the 150 plus Candidates for the celebrations, one of which was my sister.
A photo I cherish is of Bishop Michael anointing her as I stood as sponsor.
His presence still makes an impression from that photo and in my memory.
I note it wasn’t just his thumb covered in the Oil of Chrism but the whole palm of his hand – the Candidates certainly received a healthy dose of the sacred oil.
I remember the prayerful and deliberate way he anointed each and every one of them.
I remember the prayerful and deliberate way he had, earlier in the liturgy, gone to each Candidate for the Laying on of Hands, not hurriedly but purposefully.
His presence made an impression then, as does the memory of it now.
Speaking of impressions, I received one of those emails that do the rounds recently.
Fortunately, it was sent by a wonderful woman of faith, so I took the time to read it.
The email said to imagine I’d won a prize of $86,400.
But the offering came with conditions.
Every one of those pennies not spent within a day would be “taken away”, the email said.
Transferring the money between accounts was not permissible either.
Also, I could be the only one to spend it and all going well, the $86,400 amount would reappear every morning.
The final condition was “the bank can end the game without warning… at any time it can say, ‘game over’”.
Have you read this before or guessed the twist?
The twist is, if we live out a 24-hour day, we receive 86,400 seconds “as a gift of life”.
The email went on to ask, “What will you do with your 86,400 seconds?” encouraging readers to “enjoy every second … take care of yourself, be happy, love deeply, enjoy life … (and) start spending”.
I ponder the photos of Bishop Michael and can’t help but think he spent his seconds wisely and contentedly.
He made an impression in life and even in death, continues to make an impression.
To the people of Townsville diocese, our thoughts are with you as together we remember a shepherd who was always with the sheep of the pasture.
To his family we collectively offer prayers of comfort and consolation as together we remember a man who modeled the Good News of Jesus Christ, in more ways we can even imagine.
To God we give thanks for all the seconds of Bishop Michael’s life so well lived.