By Penny.

Get online on August 9!

So ran the slogan for the 2016 Australian census, which – for the first time ever  – could be submitted online. We’d been assured it was unhackable, which inevitably turned out to be more or less the same as unsinkable. I got online on August 9 and found the website down, bombarded by so many millions of fake logins that the Australian Bureau of Statistics had hit the panic button and closed it down.

In filling out all the census questions a couple of days after the original deadline, I was reminded suddenly of the last time someone attempted to include me in a survey of this kind, which also didn’t work out as planned. Three-and-a-bit years ago, a letter from my former university arrived in the convent mailbox containing a Graduate Careers questionnaire for all alumnae. I dutifully filled it out:

What is your current occupation?


What are the primary responsibilities of this role?

Prayer, penance, and the witness of a holy life.

How many hours per week do you spend performing this role?

Ideally, every waking minute.

What is your current annual income?


What is your anticipated annual income in five years’ time?

See above.

What is your level of seniority within the organization?


What is your next anticipated career development?

Novice, about eight months from now.

What is the level of seniority of this position within the organization?


At what age do you expect to retire from the workforce?


Sadly, although it gave the sisters a laugh at recreation, I didn’t end up mailing back the answers above; partly because I genuinely didn’t want to skew the results of their survey, and partly out of a sense that a religious vocation is not something that can be broken down into a tidy set of numbers as they would have to attempt to do. (Imagine an accountant trying to classify “a hundredfold in the life to come” as your superannuation, and you’ll see what I mean.) Had I still been in the convent this year, I assume my superior would have entered me on the census as an employee in a religious non-profit/charitable organization or some other odd contortion of language like that, because the census isn’t equipped to handle “spouse of Christ” any more than the census that brought Saint Joseph to Bethlehem two thousand and six Decembers ago had a category for “carpenter/foster-father of the Messiah” (#censusfailcaesaraugustus).
A census is a practical, quantitative tool, not a qualitative one: if I check “Catholic” in the religion category, a computer somewhere far away will go click and add one Catholic to its demographic information, and that’s the whole bewildering tapestry of my religious experience to date statistically done and dusted. It’s rather like the limitations of the Google Analytics data that I, with my Blog Mistress hat on, use to measure traffic through the Leonie’s Longing website. I might be delighted to see a spike on the graph showing that over a hundred people viewed a particular article, but that spike doesn’t tell me the most important thing of all: what that article meant to the real people who read it. My own cheerful postulant answers to the university survey were contrariwise all true, but contained not a single piece of information that they could use because everything that mattered was inside my soul and therefore unquantifiable. And although I’ve finally submitted my census, and hope that the government will be able to use the information I provided to help get an idea of the demographics of Australia in 2016, the act of filling my life out on a form is a reminder that although a human can be represented in numbers, the numbers will always fall short of the image and likeness of God.

March For Life

By Misericordia.

Today, as we celebrate the gift of Life we pray in a special way for the unborn children who are vulnerable to the threat of abortion. We also lift up mothers who have suffered from abortion or who have been pressured to do so, and that the rights of women may be respected – including the right to give birth to their child and the right to raise their children in a safe environment. We also pray for those who are involved in abortion and any attacks on the dignity of life, that the Lord will open their eyes to the gift of their own lives and those around them.

In today’s world we see so many attacks on life. We have heard most recently about the attacks on Christians in the Middle East and other atrocities. And even in our own country there are victims of trafficking, all kinds of abuse, domestic violence, euthanasia, mistreatment of the poor, the sick, and the disabled.

What can we do? What can I do? Where do we start and how can I even make a difference?

A simple answer came to me when I was visiting my family for the birth of my nephew. As I watched my sister, her husband, and their new son I was struck by the simplicity and the overwhelming beauty of life and love. I saw in the love of my sister and her husband the pouring out of the love of our Heavenly Father and the love of the Son returning it all back without reservation. Out of that love was born a new person, who embodies that love between them, as the Holy Spirit is created out of the love of the Father and the Son.

And if there could be so much love on earth, in one small hospital room, between
three people… how much more does the love of God surround us? As my sister looked down at her son, just seconds old, the pain was now forgotten. Only he mattered. And she didn’t hold the pain against her precious little one. That pain only made her more in love with him, and the suffering only made him belong more intimately to her who had waited nine long months to hold him in her arms.

Isn’t this a reflection of the love of Jesus for all of us? After he
 poured himself out upon the Cross for us, he didn’t look at us with annoyance, shame, or guilt because we had “caused” him such pain. Rather, it only brought us closer to His Most Sacred Heart, and it only strengthened His love for each of us.

How precious must we be to God! How precious must you be to Him! Experiencing His love gives us the context to celebrate the gift of life and to reverence each life no matter the circumstance.
Even the greatest sinner and those who commit acts of violence, even they are looked upon as precious, and they especially are deserving of our love and prayers. So must we dare to love! Without reservation and without counting the cost we love even those who have hurt us. We can love them because they too are children of God.

I realized the truth of each person’s preciousness in the Eyes of God and how close He keeps each of us to His Heart as I looked down upon my nephew, only a few minutes old. The Lord will never let go of us even when we feel abandoned and alone. For any of you who have left Religious Life and feel that you have failed God, remember the mother who does not cease loving her child when he cries as an infant, or when he screams and has temper tantrums as a toddler, or when he gets in trouble or struggles with addiction as a teenager, or when he loses his job as an adult, or even if he fails to be there when she is dying. Her love is always and forever.

How much more then is the love of God, who loved us into being?