AUSTRALIA has been peopled for something like 50,000 years with slow cultural change until the mass immigration from Europe and Asia in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Australians are recognised internationally today as people with a complex, tolerant and multi-ethnic culture incorporating ancient human wisdom and the best values of Eastern and Western Christian civilisation.
With this background we can look at the present plight of the Catholic Church in Australia, with the deep erosion of faith leading to a desperate shortage of ordained priests.
It was once the case for parish priests (in Queensland at least), to be especially revered according to the richness of their Irish accents.
And while we must ever be grateful to Ireland for our past, it is sadly the case that the brogue can no longer get us out of trouble.
Fortunately the Church universal has developed (with dedicated assistance from Australian Catholic missions) to such an extent that there are growing numbers of capable young ordained priests in Africa and Asia who might be inspired to devote their priestly lives to the revival of Christianity in the West, as much perhaps as St Francis Xavier was inspired to take Christ to the East originally.
Why do we not pray and ask for their help before it is altogether too late?
With our new familiarity with people from other countries and real faith in the meaning of ordination, we should have no difficulty in adapting to different priestly styles, and could look forward to being spiritually rewarded for any inconvenience.
We are part of a Church which is universal in space and time, and our present situation is not unlike that of the early Jewish followers of Jesus who needed to adapt to the new orthodoxy preached by St Paul.
An unusual accent in a speaker in the synagogue at Jerusalem would no doubt have been the talk of the town at the time when St Paul was telling his congregations to wake up and accept Greeks and other strangers as their brothers in Christ, despite the cultural differences.
What might St Paul have to say about the predicament of the Church in Australia today?