The Benedictine Option


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In a world seemingly gone mad, where situations formerly inconceivable have become a reality, seclusion – also unthinkable once upon a time – has not only become alluring but within the realm of possibility. The age-old debate of how to live in the world without being of the world has been reignited in the form of The Benedict Option, a bestseller still sitting on my to-read list. However, here in Tasmania, there are whispers from the past amidst the chatter… about the original Benedict option: Benedictine monasticism.

Last Tuesday, the fledgling Notre Dame Priory held a clothing ceremony for its four novice monks. It was the first of its kind in Tasmania, and a new experience for all but the prior I suspect. I don’t exaggerate when I say that there was a timeless quality, for the ritual is well over a millennium old, and the setting was a (borrowed) church designed by the famed Augustus Pugin as he envisaged it would have looked in England in 1320. Indeed, from the southern crest overlooking the Colebrook Valley, St Patrick’s has the appearance of a pilgrimage destination.

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However, it wasn’t the beauty or ancient tradition that had a large number of us discreetly dabbing our eyes.

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The emotional intensity of the occasion was unexpected. As a photographer, I simply don’t cry at weddings because the images I’m creating blot out everything else that is going on. In contrast, Tuesday’s ceremony distracted me from my professional focus, and I found myself moved to tears. As the Priory’s photographer, I had the privilege of seeing the novices from the choir rather than the nave.

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Instead of white hoods or the backs of shaven heads, I gazed upon faces of poignant and tremulous joy. I had neither distance nor detachment from the momentous transformation of these young men.

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What struck me in particular was their quiet assurance. I spoke with one of their mothers beforehand and asked her how she felt, whether she had any doubts about her son’s decision, and she said she had observed how happy and peaceful he had become and that she could not help but be overjoyed.

The clothing ceremony accomplished a physical transformation, reflective of a general metamorphosis that had begun long before. I remember when their heads were shaved earlier in the year. It made recognition difficult, but it also made us all remember more of their faces rather than relying on their locks to tell them apart. And so too the shedding of their worldly garb has forced us to discern the person within rather than judge them by their attire. As symbolised by the discarded jackets and ties, they have forsaken career and status. Their conformity to the Benedictine Rule has made them more anonymous in the eyes of the world, but not for those who matter.

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These monks have abandoned the world, but make no mistake they are not running away. The secular world would perhaps try to belittle these men as too weak to survive in the real world but such caricatures come from insecurity and ignorance. If you had been there, you would have sensed the strength and masculinity of these spiritual warriors… and perhaps (if you are a parent of young children like me) you might have wondered how it is that such splendid young men are nurtured. I saw the answers in the rapport between these new monks and their parents and siblings. They clearly came from homes where the love of Christ and each other reigned supreme, where sacrifice was joyful and willing. It all begins in the home, with the family. These parents had not handed over their children to be brought up by society or the state.

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Fittingly, their prior, Dom Pius Mary Noonan, concluded his exhortation saying: “may these words of St Bede the Venerable become reality for you; if they do, you will have found beatitude on earth: I was no longer the centre of my life and therefore I could see God in everything.”  The beauty of it is that the death of self doesn’t only affect these novice monks but all those who know them. We are truly blessed.

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You can learn more about Notre Dame Priory in Tasmania at:


The Trump Parody

I was a teenager when I first realised that the media parodies those whom they do not like.  Growing up, John Howard (who later became our Prime Minister) came across as a stammering midget, a monkey-like figure.  However, I was fortunate to meet him on more than one occasion, and I found that he was not only taller than me but that he was an eloquent and dignified speaker with courteous manners.

The lesson I learnt was that we must be extremely wary of making judgements based on the mainstream media’s selective and skewed interpretation of events, even at the best of times.

Donald J. Trump is a case in point.  Instead of serious analysis of a key presidential speech, we find ourselves swamped with speculative drivel about the Polish President’s wife’s body language and gossipy denigration, e.g. “Reagan is nodding” and “religious paranoia”.

However, the tide may be turning.  Conservatives who have been keen to distance themselves are beginning to realise that there’s more to Trump than meets the eye.

For example, Johnathon Van Maren reconsiders his opinion of Trump:

It is now a media trope that wherever Donald Trump goes, he manages to embarrass us all. Considering his irritating proclivity for adolescent Twitter battles with figures in the media, this is an easy line to buy at times. But upon stumbling — completely by accident — on Donald Trump’s recent address in speech in Warsaw, I realized that there was quite possibly something else at play as well: Perhaps Trump is embarrassing the media elites.

Trump’s speech in Warsaw is perhaps one of the clearest calls for the defense of Western Civilization and its fundamental roots in Christianity and the culture and traditions it created delivered by any Western politician in several decades. He points out the enemy, warns that the West is under threat, points to our Christian heritage as both a defense and worth defending, and highlights the long struggle against the Evil Empire as evidence that where the will exists, good can triumph over evil. The speech was, quite simply, so eloquent I found it difficult to excerpt it for the sake of this column — and those who read my analyses of Trump’s campaign speeches, one of which I attended, will know that I found him generally callow, shallow, and crude.

You can read the full article at LifeSiteNews.  It includes extensive excerpts of Trump’s speech. Even better, watch the entire speech for yourself.

Either way, set aside your prejudices and judge this speech on its own merit.

Good-bye, Justice!


If you had any doubt that political correctness reigns in the corridors of power, read this article about blind recruitment and digest the implications.

Apparently, employing people based on merit, without knowing their gender or ethnic background, doesn’t bring about the desired result (diversity): “Introducing de-identification of applications in such a context may have the unintended consequence of decreasing the number of female and minority candidates shortlisted for senior APS positions, setting back efforts to promote more diversity at the senior management levels in the public service.”  Reported in another article, Professor Hiscox said blind policies should be paused and caution exercised so as to avoid damaging diversity efforts.

Translation: making the recruitment process fair won’t bring about the desired end result of more women in high-ranking jobs.

This policy of ‘positive discrimination’ is far from positive for men or women, and here are a few reasons why:

  1. It is not desirable to recruit more women if those women aren’t as capable as the men who also applied.
  2.  The end never justifies the means.
  3. Such policies assume that women can’t do as well as men without special treatment.  You don’t have to be a feminist to believe that women are capable of holding high level jobs on their own merit.
  4. Women will not reach their full potential if they have a lower ‘pass threshold’.
  5. Discrimination is discrimination.  There is no ‘equality’ in being given a job because you’re a woman. Imagine the outcry if we had such a policy for white Christian men.

None of this is new, but the open readiness to jettison a ‘blind’ policy communicates the lengths those in authority are willing to go in order to achieve their goals.  In the past, there was always a nod to fairness in advocacy of ‘positive’ discrimination.  Indeed, the very idea of blind recruitment was theoretically based on the idea that if we removed bias then women and ‘minorities’ would thrive in this fairer environment… but it’s “making things worse”.  So we now see (as we suspected) that it has nothing to do with fairness.  The end goal is all that matters.  In fact, “the public service has a long way to go on gender equality” we’re told, even though the study showed the APS discriminated in favour of women and minorities (by a whopping 22.2% when it came to indigenous women) and women comprise just under 49% of executives.

Lady Justice has always been represented as blind-folded, and there is good reason for this.  When government and society unashamedly advocate stripping her of her impartiality, beware!

Is this how I’m going to die?


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Is this how I’m going to die?

That was the inconvenient question that popped into my mind this morning as the nurse told me to relax and plunged a syringe into my upper arm.

You see, I’m one of a rather significant number of people who receive a free ‘flu’ shot each year. It’s free because my immune system is a tad dodgy. I’m one of those people who are chronically ill, constantly in pain. It’s not something I like to talk about – indeed, I try to soldier on, as no one likes a wet blanket – but there are moves afoot to legalise euthanasia where I live, and my medical condition makes me a potential victim.

Victim. That’s right, victim, because there’s no other honest way of putting it. Euthanasia is the administration of “prescribed medication” to kill someone. I don’t think I’m “eligible” yet according to the provisions of the bill that’s currently under consideration by the Tasmanian parliament, but a clever lawyer could argue it. After all, I already suffer from an “incurable and irreversible” disease. As much as I don’t like to admit it, it does cause me “persistent suffering”. There’s also no “reasonable prospect of permanent improvement” in my medical condition.

The truth is: every day is a battle. If it weren’t for so many people depending on me, I might slide into a malaise that would gradually poison my mind into thinking that life is not worth living. (Parenthood is hell, but it teaches you that self-sacrifice is worth it.) If it weren’t for the fact that I’m stubborn and implacable in my determination to experience life (even with all its pain and suffering), I might have given up living with this disease a long time ago. I look back at my younger self and recognise that twenty years ago I would possibly have chosen oblivion over the daily battle I now face.

You may wonder why I am not bothering to elucidate all the moral arguments against euthanasia as is my usual wont, but at the end of the day it is our personal experiences that shape us. Perhaps we shouldn’t, but most of us make decisions based on the way we feel, and as rational as I am I can’t and won’t ignore the power of gut instinct. It is gut instinct (or conscience) that often tells us something is wrong before we even know why it is wrong, and that is where I want to begin.

My point is that being unwell affects the way we see the world and our place in it. When I am sick – or, more to the point, when I am extra sick because I am sick all the time – all I can see are my failures. I’m useless, hopeless, and everything is pointless. I think my children would be better off without me, I imagine no one reads what I write, and the household chores are not only endless but impossible. I imagine I am the ugliest and most repulsive woman on the planet.

Chronic illness takes those periodic feelings of depression and magnifies them. It draws them out… forever. It makes us vulnerable to the most destructive of thoughts.

The lure of suicide, of escape from it all, is enough of a problem in our society. I think we all know someone who has succumbed. We wonder if we’d spent more time with them, listened more, or simply not left them alone, that perhaps they might still be with us. So why would we want to validate it, enable it, and empower it? Why would we want to not only endorse suicide but legislate a raft of measures that disguise killing as mercy?

A friend of mine lost her husband not so long ago. He was not euthanised, but he wasn’t resuscitated. Despite her tearful pleadings, and even though they were newlyweds with a beautiful two-year-old son, medical staff decided his chances of a full recovery at his age (early fifties) were too low. He adored his wife and young son, and I am certain he would have gladly lived bedridden or in a wheelchair in order to watch his son grow up and be part of their lives, but the doctors decided it would be more merciful to let him die. And that’s the sort of mercy I think we can do without.

The euthanasia mentality is already with us, poisoning the way we think about life and the people around us. So many of my friends suffer from depression. I know I am not alone. But there are people who lift me up and give me strength. Some of them are concentration camp survivors. Their passion for life was strongest when they were suffering most. In the midst of the most unspeakable torture, they clung to life and fought for it with a strength they had no idea they possessed. They fought with every last breath to stay alive, because it was worth it, even to see one more ray of sunlight on the wall, a patch of blue sky through puffy white clouds, or the face of the one they loved.

They’re not small-minded politicians whose response to human misery is to get rid of the problem. They defied their pain and suffering and embraced life, and that’s the sort of person I want to be. That’s the sort of person I want all of us to be. I don’t want to put a metaphorical gun to someone’s head and put them out of their misery. I don’t want to turn doctors who save lives into state-sanctioned killers. I want to help people enjoy life, despite the pain, throughout the suffering. I want them to appreciate the small mercies that make it all worthwhile. Is that really too much to hope for?

Tommy Robinson Rants

There’s considerable vitriol being aimed at Tommy Robinson for his comments at the scene of today’s terrorist attack. Many articles are posting selective excerpts, videos cut to emphasise certain aspects of his commentary. However, he was being interviewed, so here is the interview fyi.
I’d also add that what Robinson is saying is (or should be) common knowledge. I decided to randomly check some of his claims.
1. “450 ISIS fighters been allowed to return to our country”. According to an article yesterday in the BBC, there are at least 850 British “jihadists” and approximately half have returned to the UK.
2. “4 terrorist attacks last week in France” I can find evidence of three such incidents after a two-minute search.
3. Al-Qaeda’s Inspire magazine “was downloaded by 50,000 British Muslims last year”. Actually, this is an underestimate. It was reported in early 2015 that 54,723 people downloaded it in a three-month period.
4. “3000 Muslims” being monitored for suspected terrorist activity. On 18/9/2015 the Times (amongst others) reported that MI5 and other security services are monitoring 3000 “homegrown Islamist extremists willing to carry out attacks in Britain” and that six plots had been foiled that past year. As for cost, the Australian reported in 2014 that the cost of monitoring just one jihadist in Australia was $8 million per year.
Robinson’s remarks are heated, but they’re based on solid easily-verified facts, and four people had just been brutally slaughtered. Many more (including school children) will be maimed for life. He has good reason to be angry.
The media seem determined to condemn Tommy Robinson for ranting and raging, to discredit him because he is emotional, but what I find disturbing is the selectivity. Apparently, it’s okay to be emotional about Muslim refugees but not about slaughtered Christians in the Middle East and Africa, to get upset about Clinton losing an election but not the murder of a police officer. I’m sure Tommy Robinson has his faults, but I’m not willing to censure him for getting upset about yet another horrific terrorist attack in heart of western civilisation. I’m pretty upset too. We all should be….

Croatia: Great Excitement For “The General” Feature Movie

Having read the book, I’m looking forward to this much-anticipated film/series.

Croatia, the War, and the Future

Actor Goran Visnjic (L) General Ante Gotovina (R) Photo collage: croatiaweek.comActor Goran Visnjic (L)
General Ante Gotovina (R)
Photo collage:

It’s been about a week and much of Croatia is buzzing with excitement about the start of the filming of a new feature movie called “The General”. Most say: About time! And indeed it has great significance and potential in spreading and maintaining the truth about Croatia’s Homeland War and its Operation Storm of August 1995, which swiftly and decisively liberated the Croatian territory, occupied and ethnically cleansed of all non-Serbs by the Serb forces. This is a movie and a TV series’ filming of the long-awaited life story of Croatia’s much-loved war hero General – Ante Gotovina.

On August 4th, 1995, Operation Storm commenced. It was a large-scale military operation led by Croatian armed forces in order to gain back the control of Croatian territories which had been claimed by Serbs. The united Croatian forces led by General…

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Croatia: The Haunting Of War Missing 25 Years On

Vukovar still haunts me; it always will. The basement of the hospital has been ‘preserved’, but to my eyes it has been sanitised. What it was like during the Serb siege then the occupation cannot be communicated through tableaux or memorials. Remembrance means putting it all together and re-living the stories of both the survivors and the dead. We give honour to them every time we tell their stories, lest we forget….

Croatia, the War, and the Future

Connor Vlakancic at Vukovar November 2016 Photo: Connor Vlakancic Connor Vlakancic
at Vukovar
November 2016
Photo: Connor Vlakancic

Being in Vukovar on the 25th anniversary of horrid atrocities committed against innocent Croatian people by the Serb aggressor was a sombre, sad, gut-wrenching experience for over 120,000 people who visited there on 18 November and vividly remembered the horrors once again as my last post read. For those who were unable to be there, here is a close-up journal of what Connor Vlakancic’s eyes saw in the day leading up to that big day, on the day of Remembrance itself and the day after; what he felt as any of us might in the same place; he came from the US to be there.

Photo: Connor VlakancicPhoto: Connor Vlakancic

It is now 03:01, I can’t slumber, I must search about. The sky black of overcast and haze at ground level in the streetlights. The temperature is brisk and a breeze…

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Life and Times Of Croatia’s Blessed Alojzije Stepinac – A Robin Harris Book

Croatia, the War, and the Future

From left: Robin Harris (historian and author), Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic (Croatian president) and Zeljko Tanjic (Rector, Croatian Catholic University) PHOTO: predsjednica.hrFrom left: Robin Harris (historian and author),
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic (Croatian president)
and Zeljko Tanjic (Rector, Croatian Catholic University)

It was Friday 21 October 2016 when in Zagreb Croatia, accompanied by the Croatian Catholic University rector Zeljko Tanjic the UK based Robin Harris presented a copy of his new book “Stepinac – His Life and Times” to the president of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic. Robin Harris is a well-known British historian, publicist, writer and an important adviser to the former United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

“Stepinac – His Life and Times” is the first all-encompassing biography of Alojzije (Aloysius) Stepinac, Cardinal Archbishop of Zagreb during WWII whose deeds and persona have been subject to controversies ever since WWII, mounted and perpetuated by the communists of Yugoslavia and their friends.
For the last seventy years—ever since his show-trial in 1946—Alojzije Stepinac, Cardinal Archbishop of Zagreb, has been the…

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The Haunting Reminders of Depravity of Communist Crimes

Croatia, the War, and the Future

Huda Pit Communist Crimes mass grave Transfer of victims' remains ceremony Photo source: dnevno.hrHuda Pit
Communist Crimes mass grave
Transfer of victims’ remains ceremony
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It was May, 1945. The Second World War was over, and the real agony of civilian refugees and defeated soldiers (independence and freedom from Kingdom of Yugoslavia fighters in particular) from the territories of former Yugoslavia had just begun. The agony of the defeated Croatian soldiers and civilians is known as the Way of the Cross. Instead of the humanitarian protection they should have received, Yugoslav partisans, communists, gave them death sentences. Endless columns of refugees from Yugoslavia walked towards the West, seeking refuge and instead were sent back and sent on the road of no return – Huda Pit was one of the places where that road finished for thousands innocent victims.
Post WWII Communist Yugoslavia was literally littered with mass graves, particularly Croatia and Slovenia – the remains cluttered the underground in deafening silence…

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