A Catholic Jew Pontificates

I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Signs of the Times: Jews, Joseph and Our Lady

 According to the private revelations given to the great Italian mystic and servant of God Luisa Piccarreta we entered a new era in September 1889 when for the first time since the Assumption of Our Lady the grace or gift of Living in the Divine Will was restored to earth. Through Luisa as the new born of the Kingdom of the Divine Will the grace became available for all which 2,000 years ago had only been given to the inhabitants of the Holy House of Nazareth. Jesus told Luisa that the Roman Church will give this gift of Living in the Kingdom of the Divine Will to the Jewish people.

According to Blessed Pope Paul VI we should be surveying the signs of the times. "By carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods to the growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society..." The promise of a new and divine holiness (as articulated by Pope St John Paul II) given to mankind is part of the signs of our times. "God himself had provided to bring about that “new and divine” holiness with which the Holy Spirit wishes to enrich Christians at the dawn of the third millennium, in order to “make Christ the heart of the world.” Pope Francis following the example of his predecessors stated. "God is not afraid of new things! That is why he is continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways."

Another sign of our times according to Father Elias Friedman the founder of the Association of Hebrew Catholics is the return to Israel in 1948 and Jerusalem in 1967 of Jewish rule, another sign that he saw was the rise in America of the Messianic Jewish movement. Another was the second Vatican Council and Nostra Aetate 4 with a new understanding of Jews and Judaism.  Today there is a ongoing dialogue between Catholics and the Jewish communities as well as dialogue with the Messianic Jewish communities as well as the Helsinki Consultations between the Messianic Jews and the Church Jews. These are all signs of the times.

Another sign of the times is the Charismatic, Eucharistic Adoration, Marian and Josephine movements which are enriching our understanding of the Holy Spirit, the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Alongside this is a movement of understanding the Jewish roots of the faith. Yeshua, Miriam and Yosef were devout practicing Jews and today there is a move among many Messianic Jews and even Church Jews to a return to Jewish observance in the life of the Jewish believer in Yeshua. A new move towards the believer having a mystical and intimate union with Yeshua is also part of these signs of the times.

The private revelations to Sister Neuzil in regards to the devotion of Our Lady of America unite the longing for intimate union with obedience to the Torah and its connection to Living or Dwelling in Divine Will.   Our Lady Miriam a devout Jewess told Sister Mary Ephrem Neuzil 

“My poor child, you have suffered much, but do not fear. Take courage, for soon a haven of rest will be given you — not a refuge from suffering and pain, but a nest of solitude for the little white dove, so dear to me and the Heart of my Son. Patience, sweet child! The Will of the Father must be dearer to you than all else. This is the lesson every soul desiring intimate union with my Son must strive to learn.” 
 St Joseph himself a devout Jewish Tzadik (Righteous One) also told her:
It is true, my daughter, that immediately after my conception I was, through the future merits of Jesus and because of my exceptional role of future Virgin-Father, cleansed from the stain of original sin.

I was from that moment confirmed in grace and never had the slightest stain on my soul. This is my unique privilege among men.

My Pure Heart also was from the first moment of existence inflamed with love for God. Immediately, at the moment when my soul was cleansed from original sin, grace was infused into it in such abundance that, excluding my holy spouse, I surpassed the holiness of the highest angel in the angelic choir. My heart suffered with the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Mine was a silent suffering, for it was my special vocation to hide and shield, as long as God willed, the Virgin Mother and Son from the malice and hatred of men.

The most painful of my sorrows was that I knew beforehand of their passion, yet would not be there to console them. Their future suffering was ever present to me and became my daily cross, so I became, in union with my holy spouse, co-redemptor of the human race. Through compassion for the sufferings of Jesus and Mary I co-operated, as no other, in the salvation of the world.
St Joseph also said:
" ...Mine was perfect obedience to the Divine Will and it was shown and made known to me by the Jewish law and religion. To be careless in this is most displeasing to God and will be severely punished in the next world...".
 Our Lady told Sister Neuzil that: "My holy spouse has an important part to play in bringing peace to the world." This role of St Joseph is very connected according to the renewal of fatherhood and the family and Pope Francis' calling of a special Synod on the family is part of these signs of the times. St Joseph also reveals to Sister Neuzil his role in teaching about Divine Will:

 "The cross, my little one, upon which my heart rests is the cross of the Passion, which was ever present before me, causing me intense suffering. I desire souls to come to my Heart that they may learn true union with the Divine Will. It is enough, my child; I will come again tomorrow. Then I will make known to you how God wishes me to be honored in union with Jesus and Mary to obtain peace among men and nations. Good night, my little one."
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov a devout Hasidic Jewish Tzadik, who died in 1810, proclaims Joseph as the Hidden Tzadik who is the Master of the House (Home) in Likutey Moharan 67. 

"And all this is an aspect of "The Concealment", when the beauty and splendour of the whole world becomes concealed. However there is a Tzaddik who is beauty, splendour and grace of the entire world, and who is symbolised by Joseph, who was "beautiful in form and handsome" (Genesis 39:6), "a beautiful sight, the joy of the entire land" (Psalm 48:3). When the beauty and splendour of this genuine Tzaddik, who is symbolised by Joseph, is revealed in the world by becoming renowned and esteemed, then the eyes of mankind will be opened. And whoever is included in the genuine grace of this Tzaddik, the world's grace and beauty, by following him and surrending his self to become part of this Tzaddik's soul, will have his eyes opened, and he will be able to see... And with this we return to BeREShYT, the beginning, the RoeSh BaYiT, the head and master of the house of the world, namely, the genuine Tzaddik, who is beauty and glory of the world, represented by Joseph, alluded to in the verse, "Joseph is the ruler...he supplies food..." (Genesis 42:6), because he is the RoeSh BaYiT, the master of the house of the world. For he is the one who maintains the Temple and every Jewish house and home...And when the name of this Tzadik, who represents the head of the house, becomes esteemed, the eyes of the Jewish people are opened, as above. So this is the connection of "bereshit' to "l'einei kol Yisrael". Bereshit- this is the master of the house, the Tzaddik, who is the glory of the world, through whom are opened "einei kol Yisael", the eyes of all the Jewish people."

see St Joseph in the Divine Will

Sunday, August 09, 2015

From Punk to Catholic Jewish Consecrated Brother: A Hebrew Catholic Spiritual Journey

Me in my punk days at 21

I came from an assimilated Australian family of Anglo-Jewish and Anglo-Celtic ancestry. I am one of seven children. My brothers are Perry, Dean, Regan, Adam and Nathan. I have one sister Tamara. My grandparents were not religious but my parents became devout Evangelical Anglicans. One of my Jewish ancestors who has played and continues to play a great role in my spirituality is Rebbe Nachman of Breslov and his teachings. My crypto-Jewish, Frankist and Marrano ancestry has also made a deep spiritual impact on me and drew me to the books of Cecil Roth when I was a teenager. 

There was an oral tradition that my mother's ancestress Hannah Mayer (Maher) a Frankist belonged to the Rothschild family and was the daughter of the famous Amschel Mayer Rothschild founder of the great Jewish Banking dynasty. Instead she turned out to be a paternal granddaughter of Hannah Rothschild a rather poorer first cousin to Amschel Mayer Rothschild! Imagined riches found and then lost due to further genealogical research. Both my parents descend also from the famous Sephardi Jewish family called Montefiore. Their common ancestor was Moses Vita (Chaim) Montefiore was was an Italian born Jewish merchant who moved to London in the 1740's and was the grandfather of the wealthy Sir Moses Montefiore. 

My more immediate ancestors left their homes in the British Isles in the 19th century so that I was born in Subiaco (a suburb of Perth) in Western Australia in 1963. When I was a baby my family moved to a small north-eastern wheat-belt town of Morowa where my parents took up wheat and sheep farming for a couple of years. Both my parents were from another small south-eastern wheat belt town in Western Australia called Dumbleyung. 

Dumbleyung had been home to my mother's paternal Bartram family since 1886 when they arrived from another farming town called Beverley. My mother's paternal great grandfather James Bartram had arrived in the Swan River Colony in 1843 as a 16 year old from the village of Aylmerton in Norfolk. My mother's maternal family had arrived in Dumbleyung around 1908 when they left Corowa in New South Wales via Melbourne.  

Many of my mother's direct maternal ancestresses had been teachers and midwives for many generations. My mother's maternal grandmother Hannah (b. 1874) had been both a teacher and a midwife as had her mother Anne (b.1849) before her. Anne had established a school in Echuca in Victoria and then a maternity nursing home in West Melbourne and then another maternity nursing home in Wagin (a town near Dumbleyung). Hannah (Johanna was her birth name but she was always known as Hannah) in later life was a midwife to the group settler' families in the Northcliffe area among the huge Karri trees. My father's family moved to Wagin and then Dumbleyung during the Second World War when my father was a little boy.

My father's paternal ancestors arrived in Fremantle in 1865 on the "Racehorse". My father's direct paternal great-grandfather Edward Bloomer had been a soldier ( a bombardier) and came as an enrolled pensioner guard to the convicts on the ship. He must have been a terrific horseman as was my grandfather, my uncles and father. Edward (jnr) had spent 20 years in the Army in British India.  Edward's ancestors were also soldiers and his direct paternal great grandfather James Alexander Bloomer (b.1754) was a Loyalist soldier in the American Revolution (he fought under the name of Captain James Alexander). His Irish born father James (O'Reilly) Alexander (of Scots ancestry) had come from Spain to America where he died in the Indian Wars in 1756. He married Abigail Bloomer an American Jewess from whence the Bloomer surname entered my family's male line.

 James Alexander Bloomer himself married a London born Jewess - Judith Cohen of Savannah in Georgia. They settled in Cavan Ireland as soldier-settlers after 1783 but in 1795 James went to Russia (Tartu, Estonia) with his son John to fight in the Czarist armies under the Russian General Orurk. Most of the family returned from Russia to Cavan after 1815 and settled in the Rooskey area of Knockbride parish in Cavan. In Russia the family had become Frankists and John's son Edward (snr) (aka Efraim Zvi Barzel)) who was born in Russia in 1798 later went with his second wife and his children to live in Palestine after 1827 where they reverted to orthodox Judaism using the surname Barzel. After the huge earthquake of 1837 Edward and his wife re-embraced belief in Jesus as Hebrew Christians and fled Palestine with some of their children and leaving some with their relatives. He was the father of my great great grandfather Edward (who came to Western Australia) by his first wife.

My paternal grandfather was also a soldier in World War One and two of my father's brothers were soldiers in World War Two and my father was a soldier in the Korean War. Many of my father's ancestors on both sides were soldiers and some of his ancestors fought in the Battle of Waterloo.

My father's maternal family came from Victoria in the 1890's to the Western Australian goldfields and then Perth where they were brick-makers, like they had been in Victoria. Some of both my mother and father's maternal ancestors had been publicans back in England among the crypto-Jewish families. An inn or pub was a good place where the publican doubled as a crypto Rabbi or Hazzan (worship leader) and the minyan could meet without drawing much attention. The publicans also were often farmers as well so they could provide kosher products to their crypto-Jewish flock.

 My ancestor Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Like all my brothers, I was circumcised on the eighth day after birth. My mother told me that her parents insisted that all their grandsons should be circumcised on the eighth day. My mother in turn was very upset when some of her own grandsons were not circumcised. After a couple of years in Morawa we returned to live at my parents house (on three acres) in the hills of Perth. We had chooks, a milking cow and calf, sheep, goats and even a horse at one stage and of course cats and dogs. My mother's sister Faye lived next door to us with my 6 cousins (5 girls and one boy). It was an exciting childhood with many adventures to be had. Many of my holidays throughout my life I was to spend in Dumbleyung at my father's sister Shirley's house, my mother's sister Una's house, my mother's sister Faye's house, at the farm where my sister Tamara lived or my mother's little house in town. It was a place I often went to renew my energy for life while walking and praying around the shores of Lake Dumbleyung. My three younger brothers Regan, Adam and Nathan all spent time living in Dumbleyung and attending some of their schooling at the Dumbleyung School where my parents had been educated. My sister and her husband stills lives on the farm near Dumbleyung to this day as do many other relatives.

Lake Dumbleyung in rural Western Australia

At age of seven I was baptised in the Anglican Church (St Luke's) with my father (a former atheist) and brothers. Sadly when I was nine my sixteen year old brother Dean died in a car accident in Tasmania. This sad event affected me greatly and it would take a lot of inner healing over many years to fully recover from this tragic event. Fortunately my family was like a huge clan and I had many wonderful cousins who are a treasured part of my life. Over the years people have complimented me on my eclectic knowledge and intelligence, however I would have to say that both my mother and my brother Regan were much more naturally intelligent than me. My father was a master storyteller and jack of all trades and he could do anything if he set his mind to it. 

My brothers and sister have been the bedrock of my life and the best of friends too. All my family were gifted and champions at every sport known to man except for me, even though I was good at athletics and swimming when I was young. My father and brothers were all brilliant footballers (Aussie Rules) which I also played until I was 14 at which I was mediocre (on a good day), which caused me great anguish as a child and teenage boy. I honestly believed nobody actually liked me (except maybe my mother and sister) but that they tolerated me. I was the only one of my siblings that was shortsighted which meant I was pretty useless at ball sports of all description. This combined with the trauma of the death of my brother Dean caused me to have a death wish until I received deep inner healing. This probably drew me to escaping into myself by reading which didn't make one the most popular of boys in a bogan school. It was only later that I realised my family did care for me and love me (with all my shortcomings) and I became very close to my father during his last ten years of life.

Me at 18

Me aged 14

Me aged 17 at my high School Graduation

My mother and her sister Faye also belonged to a Jewish Christian group ('Jewish Evangelical Witness' founded by Lawrence Duff-Forbes) as well as the Anglican Church. She and her sister Faye had become Evangelicals through the preaching of Billy Graham when he came to Perth in 1959. Many of my mother's cousins were becoming Jehovah's Witnesses in those times. My eldest brother in the 1970's married a daughter of one of these Jehovah's Witness cousins and he is to this day a devout JW.

I first remember being aware of my Jewish ancestry when I heard my mother discussing her strict Anglo-Jewish great-grandmother Matilda West at one of the Jewish Evangelical Meetings (also called the David House Fellowship) when I was about 8 or 9. Matilda's brother Simeon Levi West (who we called Uncle Levi) had been a devout crypto-Jewish Rabbi in rural New South Wales who was famous for his racehorse "Tradition" who came second in both the 1888 Melbourne and Caulfield Cups. Recently one of my mother's elderly cousins told me that his and my mother's great-uncle James Lewis (a nephew of Uncle Levi) had also been a crypto-Rabbi in Queensland. When I was about 13 I started to wear a gold Magen David that belonged to my mother. Today I still wear a gold Magen David under my habit in memory of my mother.

The grave of my parents and brother

In my teens I became very interested in religion and politics. I became involved with right-wing conservative groups such as the Australian League of Rights which were often anti-semitic and I believed that there was a worldwide Jewish conspiracy and that Jewish bankers were controlling the world. I even started to doubt the extent of the Holocaust after reading David Irving and I became friends with mad Jack Van Tongeren who later blew up Asian restaurants. Of course I never told Jack about my Jewish ancestry as he was very anti-Jewish and adored Hitler. It can be difficult to convince people caught up in these anti-Jewish ideas as it can become like an obsessive compulsion, but I am proof that prayer, conversion of heart and discussion can change such thinking.

My mother and aunt and their mother were supporters of the British Empire Loyalist movement and the Australian League of Rights and other right -wing organisations even though they did not agree with the anti-Semitic elements or Holocaust revisionism. They also supported the Free China Association and Australian Rhodesian Society. They were traditional conservatives as was my father (who did not like the Australian League of Rights) who were pro-God, Queen, country, family and the English Common Law.  Both my parents did not like the ideas of Jack van Tongeren and were concerned at my friendship with him. 

Looking back I am amazed at how my mother and aunt could ignore the elements they didn't like in these organisations but support them because of their defence of the Queen, Empire and other conservative values. I remember as a teen coming across a huge pile of old copies of "Candour" the League of Empire Loyalists newsletter in my mothers wardrobe and read them secretly and avidly and came to admire their efforts to save the British Empire in the days before I was born and just after. Most of the people in these groups were kind, respectable, cultured and intelligent middle and upper middle class people who abhorred violence or any breaking of the law. It troubles me now when people demonise either right or left wing people and exaggerate their ideas. There are sincere, caring and wonderful people on all sides of religion and politics even if I think them mistaken. And unfortunately also corrupt ones on all sides too.

At fourteen years of age I read a British Israelite book belonging to my mother called "Christians Awake" by Gilbert Saddler and I became interested in the Bible and a supporter of the British Israel World Federation. I later found out that my great grandparents Leonard and Hannah Lewis and many of my grandmother's siblings had been believers in the British Israel Identity which was popular before World War Two. This earlier form of British Israelism was pro-Jewish and pro-Zionist but later forms became anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist which also influenced me in a negative way. 

At this time I was also starting to get interested in the occult and reincarnation. I shared this interest with my Russian Orthodox step-grandmother Madame Nadine (Nana Wuffa) who was a co-founder and past president of the Western Australian Ballet Company and a choreographer. We would discuss together the world religions among many other subjects and I became fascinated with the books of Edgar Cayce and Paul Brunton among others. Since I was a child I have had a passion for reading and for history. At this time I was anti-Judaism and anti-Catholicism. 

I also went through many fashion phases such as punk, goth and Prince (in his purple phase) and Billy Idol. I spent a lot of time with friends wildly dancing at night clubs. Even though I did learn ballroom dancing, I belong more to the Isadora Duncan style of dancing. All of my family love to dance. Due to my grandmother and mother's influence I still love attending the Ballet to this day especially with my second cousin Gaye who reared as a Jehovah's Witness was the first after me to become a Catholic - she now considers herself and her six children as Hebrew Catholics and each year keeps the traditional Jewish Pesach. One of the last lovely times with my mother before she died was when Gaye, her daughter Sophia, my mother and I attended the Ballet together. It was a wonderful night and I ended up spontaneously going back to my mother's place and staying a couple of days.

Perry, Me (the little blonde boy), Regan (baby), Tamara and Dean

Me aged 19

At 18 I had an experience of the Holy Spirit which instantly revealed to me that the occult direction was a false path. I also lost my anti-Judaism and anti-Catholic prejudices. I started to attend the Jewish Society meetings at the University of Western Australia and I attended Jewish camps on Jewish identity. I completed a Bachelor of Arts at UWA majoring in History and minoring in Ancient History, English and Music.  I had previously learnt the piano for six years. In 1984 I had my first full-time job as a teacher in New South Wales where I taught English, History, Drama and Physical Education at a private Protestant College. Strangely it was in the very town where my ancestral Uncle Levi had lived for many years.

After I moved to Melbourne I started to attend the Orthodox Jewish Synagogue and joined a Kollel with 10 Litvak Rabbi's from Lakewood New Jersey as well as studying with Lubavitch (Chabad) Rabbis. I started to become an observant Jew at this stage eventhough I was still very alternative in my dress which must have tested the tolerance of the Rabbis. Though they may have liked the challenge of this strange young man who wore stud-arm bands to synagogue. I loved the orthodox Jewish community and everyone was so kind to me especially the Rabbis. They told me not to reject Jesus but to have a little talk with him and tell him I was not rejecting him but that I was going to be concentrating on his Father for awhile. However I went through real inner turmoil as I wanted to be fully orthodox Jewish but I still loved Jesus and believed as my parents had taught me that he was the Jewish Messiah. Strangely enough my parents were more upset at me becoming a Catholic than when I had joined the orthodox Jewish community. In fact my mother forbade me to become a Catholic. However over the years they softened and would attend Mass with me on occasions. By the time of her sudden death my mother was almost a Catholic in belief without formally joining the Catholic Church. Not long before my mother's death in 2005 she was very happy when one of my sister-in-laws (Regan's wife) with her two teenage sons were baptised in the Catholic Church along with the two year old son of my brother Nathan and my cousin Gaye's youngest son Levi (who was a baby). What a happy day that was! My mother was most amused when one of her newly baptised grandsons (he was 15) asked her cheekily why she wasn't a Catholic as the Catholic Church was the original one. She responded, "He has only been a Catholic an hour and he is already a bigoted one". My brother Nathan has had all three of his children baptised as Catholics even though he and his wife are not Catholics at this stage. In 2011 my Aunty Faye who was in her eighties with her eldest daughter, one of her granddaughters and her four great grandchildren all became Catholics and at the same time her daughter's marriage was blessed and her son-in-law received the sacraments after a 40 year break.

Another Punk picture of Me

Me in my 30's

One day after studying at the Kollel and out of curiosity I went into the Catholic Church opposite where I felt the Divine Presence in the empty Church. I was puzzled as I had felt His Presence in the worship of both synagogue and Protestant church but when the synagogue or church had no service it just felt like an empty building. Why did the empty Catholic Church have this Presence? This began my journey into the Catholic Church. Just before my entry into the Catholic Church I attended some Messianic Jewish meetings where a Messianic Jewish lady (Betty Baruch) told me about a Hebrew Catholic group led by a holocaust survivor Andrew Sholl [cofounder of the Association of Hebrew Catholics]. So right from the start of my Catholic journey I was able to meet with other Hebrew Catholics regularly. This was in 1987 when I was 24 years old. 

My former gothic/alternative girlfriend Yasmina attended my reception into the Catholic Church in 1987  in all her gothic splendour. We had broken up not long before as I was still considering a calling to religious life. She was a nominal Catholic whose father was Muslim and her mother was a Catholic and her maternal grandmother Jewish. She was my first serious girlfriend since I had left Parkes in 1984 where I was dating two girls- one a Baptist and the other a Catholic. I was more serious about the Catholic one and we continued to write for some time after I left Parkes. When I was in Israel in 2002/3 I met and became close to Amy who was a young orthodox Jewish woman from Texas-we were very keen on each other but we realised that my being a Catholic would be a problem for her so that was that. In 2007 I dated in Israel two Hebrew Catholic women- one an Israeli Professor and the other an orthodox Jewish woman who was secretly Catholic (who I met through a friend who was an orthodox Jewish rabbi but secretly interested in the Catholic faith). But God had other plans for me than the married life.

I also joined a Charismatic Catholic lay community in 1987 that worked with street kids, prostitutes and drug addicts for many years. I had been working among the poor in Melbourne since 1985 before I became a Catholic in 1987. It was in 1984 that I felt a call to work with the poor and to be a religious brother. However in 1985 I first attended Synagogue and started to gradually live as an orthodox Jew in Melbourne. In 1986 I had trained and worked as an actor in an International Theatre Company in Sydney where I also attended Synagogue and learnt with some Chasidic seminarians in Bondi.

In 1988 I visited the UK, Europe and Singapore with my mother. I also lived in the Philippines for three years (1993-1996) as a seminarian for a community that promoted Perpetual Adoration. I completed a number of studies in Philosophy and Theology there. Before going to the Philippines I had studied at the Australian Catholic University in 1990 and 1993- completing my Graduate Diploma of Education. My father died on February 4, 1994 of a brain tumour when I was in the Philippines. This was a very difficult time for me.  It was in the Philippines as a fruit of my Adoration that I started to write from a more mystical perspective on the Jewish roots of the Catholic Faith. I was also invited by a group of upper middle- class Filipino ladies led by June Keithley (who later I found out was a famous personality in Manila) to teach them about the Jewish roots of the Catholic Faith. After leaving the seminary in 1996 and my return to Australia I became engaged to Miriam an Australian girl that I had met when I lived in Melbourne but we broke up due to her desire to consider being a nun (which she later did). 

After teaching Law (among other subjects) at a Catholic College in Western Australia to Years 9-12 I applied and was accepted to study Law but at the last minute felt that was the wrong decision and ended up going to Thailand as a teacher where I taught off and on for many years.  In Thailand I was very involved with my Bishop and some priests since 1997 in giving talks promoting Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, and the Marian and Charismatic movements. In this time I prayed over thousands of people for healing with the permission and direction of the Bishop and my parish priest. My last teaching stint in Thailand was in 2008 and I last visited Thailand for a month in 2011 (when I was already a consecrated brother) to see the Bishop who was sick and he died soon after. During my time in Thailand I had over the years attended the Synagogue in Bangkok for Shabbas and Pesach and other festivals on occasion.
Me at 21 or 22 at University of Western Australia

Me in Thailand with Bishop Manat and Greek orthodox visionary Vassula Ryden

Me teaching in Thailand

My Jewish journey also continued and later I was blessed to have lived in Israel three different times where I helped found 'Catholics For Israel' group in 2007 with my friends and neighbours Ariel ben Ami and Countess Marie (in Nachlaot in Jerusalem). I also was involved in starting Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration in the Old City of Jerusalem at the Armenian Catholic Church in the Muslim quarter in 2002 as well as studying Hebrew in Ulpan and did Jewish studies in an Orthodox Jewish Yeshivah (I also studied there in 2007 and 2008). Tragically my nephew committed suicide at 23 years of age while I was in Israel just before the wedding of my youngest brother Nathan. I received the news when I was in Haifa just after visiting the Cave of Elijah at the Stella Maris Monastery where Father Elias Friedman (founder of the Association of Hebrew Catholics) had lived. I later also spent fruitful time in America four times with David and Kathleen Moss of the Association of Hebrew Catholics (in 2005,2007,2008 and 2009). While in the US I was privileged to meet two wonderful orthodox Bishops who were supportive of Hebrew Catholics- Archbishop Burke of St Louis (the former Cardinal Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome) and Auxiliary Bishop Cordileone of San Diego (now Archbishop of San Francisco).

Me and friends[Jeff , Sister Briana and Mary] in San Diego giving talks on Jewish and Catholic mysticism in 2008

Me with my mother in the 1990's

At the time of deciding to become a Catholic I read the book "Communion in the Messiah" of Father Lev Gillet a Russian Orthodox priest who was influenced by the Hebrew Christian Anglican priest Paul Levertoff. It was their vision of a Hasidic Jewish branch of the Catholic Church that helped make my leap into the Catholic Church. As my step-father and step-grandmother had been Russian Orthodox I at first considered becoming Russian Orthodox as I loved their spiritual tradition and as a ultra-monarchist I had a devotion to the Czars of Russia. 

After becoming a Latin-rite Catholic I discovered that there was a Byzantine Russian Catholic Church in Melbourne and I attended it on a few occasions. I treasure all the spiritual journeys I was led on and till this day appreciate the richness of the Litvak Jewish, Chasidic Jewish, Messianic Jewish, Anglican, and Russian Orthodox spiritualities which complement my Hebrew Catholicism rather than substract from it. 

About 20 or more years ago I became fascinated by my ancestor Rebbe Nachman of Breslov and his teachings. However I only met Breslovers in person for the first time when I went to Israel in 2002. I had a spiritually significant experience talking with a young Breslover in King David's Tomb (in the room below the Cenacle of the Last Supper) where I often went to pray. In 2007 I was to attend an orthodox Jewish Passover Seder there. I consider myself as a Catholic Breslov Hasid and Ushpizin is my favourite movie.David and Kathleen Moss introduced me to Ushpizin when I was staying with them at the Hebrew Catholic center in St Louis in 2007- I watched in about 6 times. Strangely when I was living in Israel later that year- my neighbours decided to watch Ushpizin and we suddenly realised that our street -Rama Street in Nachlaot- was in the film. I later also realised that the Yeshiva used in the film was one near my place in Nachlaot where I studied Talmud with some Breslovers.

My mother Laurie with her brother Garry

My mother Laurie

My parents Gil and Laurie 

After my return to Australia from Jerusalem in 2003 I first learnt of the Divine Will movement. When I was teaching at a Seventh Day Adventist School in Thailand I was given the "Hours of the Passion" and started to use these wonderful meditations in my prayer life. When I then returned to Australia I was invited by Jenny and Michele of the Casa de Luisa Piccarreta to give a talk on the Jewish Roots of the Catholic Faith. Since then I have become very involved in the Divine Will movement and given numerous talks (many of them sold on DVD) on Jewish and Catholic Mysticism both throughout Australia and overseas. In 2005 I gave a very successful talk to the Hebrew Catholic connections group in Jacksonville Florida. Sadly my mother died later in 2005 about a month after my return from America. She died in my sister Tamara and my arms while I recited the Divine Mercy chaplet over her.  She received the Sacrament of Anointing from a Catholic priest friend of mine the day before her death. Her funeral had Anglican, Catholic and Jewish elements. My mother was a very spiritual and mystical person who had a deep impact on my own faith journey and her death left a great hole in my life. For the next few years I kept busy traveling the world ( I think I was in shock) and in 2009-10 the loss of my mother struck me deeply and was one of the worst times of my life.

Me aged 23 in Melbourne in Jewish kippa and Tallis.

Me in Melbourne aged 21 with friends Natalie and Jane

In 2007 I was invited by a community of Carmelite hermit nuns in the USA to give a series of talks on Jewish and Catholic mysticism and I also gave a talk to the enclosed Carmelite nuns in St Louis. The next year in 2008 the Carmelite nuns in St Louis invited me to give 10 talks on the connections between Jewish mysticism and Carmelite spirituality and another Carmelite nun invited me to give a series of 10 talks in San Diego to a Divine Will group as well as speaking to her enclosed Carmelite nuns and also giving a talk to a community of active Carmelite sisters. On my trip to San Diego I was accompanied by Jeff Ryan (who I met in Jerusalem in 2007) a graduate of the Franciscan University of Stubenville who is an expert on Catholic mysticism and he also gave some inspirational talks. Back in St Louis Jeff and I gave a series of talks at the Hebrew Catholic Center as the foundation talks of the Bnei Miriam Kollel with the encouragement of David and Kathleen Moss. Before this earlier in 2008 after leaving Israel I visited Ireland where I gave a talk to a Catholic group in Waterford. In Ireland I also visited Cavan and the Ring of Kerry. I have also given a series of talks in Queensland, country New South Wales, Sydney, Canberra and Tasmania in recent years including the Marian Valley Shrines in New South Wales and Queensland.
Me with my brothers Perry, Nathan and Adam in 2009 in Australia

Me with my mother in Singapore in 1988

My cousin Shaun (far left), held by my brother Dean, and Me (far right) held by my sister Tamara

I pray for the reunion of all into the one Faith expressed in many different ways. Unity but not uniformity. I thus look forward to the further development of the Anglican ordinariates and look with excitement at the fruits coming from the discussion between Messianic Jews and other Jews in the Churches that began in Finland in 2010 at the annual 'Jews in the Church of Christ' conference. I have been described as a spiritual troubador and trouble shooter. I have also realised I have the calling of a fool for Mashiach (Messiah) and I have learnt much from the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov and Luisa Piccarreta in recent years. The constants in my life have been the Hebrew Catholic apostolate and the promotion of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration with the friendship of two priest friends Fathers Patrick Barry and Doug Harris among others.

In 2009 I was a candidate with the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Land in Washington DC which did not work out as I expected and I later returned to Australia after spending some time at the Hebrew Catholic center in St Louis. In 2010 I taught at St Clare's Catholic Girl's College in Canberra and in 2011 on Feb 4 I became a consecrated Brother as Brother Gilbert Joseph of the Divine Presence with the 'Apostles of Perpetual Adoration'. [I had been a member of the APA since it was founded in 2006.] In 2012 I renewed my promises as a consecrated brother. On February 4 2013 I took life promises as a consecrated brother. 

On May 13 2013 the consecrated contemplative-active brothers within APA took the name of 'Little Eucharistic Brothers of Divine Will'. In 2013 I completed my Master of Arts in Theological Studies at the University of Notre Dame in Fremantle. In 2014 the Brothers moved to Tasmania. I think since I became a consecrated brother I have been at my most happiest and fulfilled than at any other stage of my life. There are still the daily struggles and the ups and downs of life but I have an inner peace that I didn't have in the past. However the first couple of years as a consecrated brother were very difficult and I almost didn't continue after the first year. Coming to Tasmania has only increased that peace and the wonderful way God has cared for us and provided for us (through so many kind and lovely people) has helped me grow in faith, hope and love. At the same time I embrace the Divine Will where ever he takes me next in life.
 Me celebrating Pesach with some of my Hebrew Catholic relatives
Me with Br John-Joseph in Tasmania

Friday, August 07, 2015

Father Antoine Levy and Jews in the Church: A Hebrew Catholic Insight

Father Antoine Levy a  French Jew , a Dominican priest and a Theological Professor in Finland writes: 

"Although some Christians like to tell Jews who became their fellow believers that they are “doubly chosen”, they have no idea what this dual election means in theory as well as in practice. As far as I know, the embryo of a Catholic – let alone a Christian Orthodox – reflection on the purpose and role of Jews in the Body of the Church has yet to see the light of day."

Father Levy is part of a team of  Jews in the Church involved in the Helsinki Consultations. In his recent paper titled "Christophoric Flesh" presented in Moscow he also said: 

" In some way, I think the role of Jews in the Church is essentially negative. In virtue of their own flesh or through their mere presence, Jews are called to exorcize the pagan spirit that still haunts the minds of so many Gentile Christians. There is – this belief is the fruit of my private experience as well as the experience of the Helsinki Consultation- an instinctive knowledge about God, a familiarity with Him that is equally shared by Jewish disciples of Christ and is neither communicated nor communicable to Gentile Christians. As I said before drawing on Paul´s teaching, it does not confer any status of superiority to Jewish disciples over Gentile disciples, just as being a man does not confer any privilege over being a woman when it comes to the reality of Christ´s Salvation. "
Father Antoine also speaks of the insights of Soloviev the great Russian thinker. Soloviev said that it would be the Jews in the Western and Eastern churches that would bring about the reunion of Eastern and Western churches. Father Antoine uses the Slavic idea of a Christophoric (Christ bearer) nation or people but instead of applying it to Poland or Russia he applies this to the Jewish people in connection with the Pauline passage in Romans which is quoted in Nostra Aetate about the Jewish people belonging to the Messiah in a unique manner according to the flesh.

Of course this emphasis on the flesh is a deeply mystical concept intrinsically linked to the Incarnational mystery of the Word becoming flesh in the Messiah Yeshua and the Eucharistic mystery of the flesh and blood of Yeshua which is Jewish flesh and blood. Many have linked the passion and via dolorosa of the Messiah in time with the passion and via dolorosa of the Jewish people throughout history. Jews are connected to the Messiah as a passion people before their baptism whereas Gentiles (as individuals or even as peoples) enter through embracing that passion through baptism. Of course this opens us up to the Marian mysteries of Our Lady as the unique Jewish God bearer and Jewish passion embracer (at the foot of the Cross- the Co-redemptrix) as Jewish Mother of God. This then using the concept of "like wife, like husband" (used by Father Francis L. Filas) opens us to a deeper penetration of the mystery of St Joseph as Jewish Hidden Tzadik and Jewish virgin father of the Messiah. 

From what I am reading from some of the discussion from the Helsinki Consultation on Jews in the Church- that there is some kind of unique "feeling" (not sure that is the right word) as Jews in Mashiach that bonds the Jews participating whether they are in the Messianic movements or in the Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant churches. Father Levy speaks of his difficulties with his Gentile Catholic Domincan brothers:

"I imperturbably continued my path in the same state of mind within the Dominican Order. However, through the years of study and ministry, some sort of new awareness arose and started growing deep inside. I could clearly see that not all the divergences and sometimes clashes between me and my Dominican brothers could be put to the account of my difficulties, as an exotic new-comer, adjusting to the objective standards of Christian charity. I was under the impression that increasingly often the fact that I did not see eye to eye with them stemmed from my being a Jew and them not being such, so that it had hardly anything to do with the norms of Christian charity. Rather it had to do with what I would call an ontological difference, something that derived from the creative will of God. In other words, what surfaced was the inability of these brethren to acknowledge and value a feature which, at its core, could not have been intended to destroy the bonds of charity within the Body of Christ but on the contrary, to bolster and strengthen them.  Of course, these good men were not personally to blame..." 

Father Levy then discusses the relevance of the Jews in the different churches and the Messianic movements coming together. 

"This being said, nothing would have come out of this new awareness, had I not had two simultaneous encounters several years ago. The first was with a group of Finnish Orthodox believers who viewed Jews and Judaism in a favourable light. The second was the discovery of Messianic Judaism as a religious phenomenon. If there is such a thing as a Jewish way of being disciples of Christ and if this way has a value in itself, as Messianic Judaism claims, should this reality not prompt historic Christian denominations to re-assess the status they currently grant, or refuse to grant, their Jewish members?  Jewish disciples of Christ have something to say to the whole Body of Christ by dint of merely being who they are. Accordingly, I was led into thinking that the commonality of their human and spiritual experience would be sufficient to give Jews affiliated with different Church bodies not only the duty, but the desire and the ability to speak with one voice. ... We, Jewish followers of Christ, experience a human and spiritual commonality the depth and the power of which are definitely superior to that of the division between our denominations...".

I think that the reflections of Father Antoine Levy are very relevant to many of us who are Jews in the Church even if one doesn't see it in the same way as he does on every detail. We are at the beginning of a great project and we need prophetic voices and more importantly we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit who leads us into deeper and deeper dimensions of our Faith. However I don't think the unique place of the Jewish people as a Christophoric people "in the flesh" means that Poland or Russia or the Slavic peoples in general are not also Christophoric peoples "in the spirit" with a unique mission of their own. In fact I think the Slavic people have embraced this concept of being Christophoric or passion bearing nations due to interaction with the large Jewish presence in their midst during the centuries. One day the envy or jealousy will depart from between Judah and Ephraim and they will embrace one another and all Israel will be saved. 

We are not Gnostics and thus flesh and spirit, body and soul, must always go together. Unfortunately in much Gentile Catholic spirituality there is a Gnostic tendency that needs this Jewish "enfleshment" that renews our spirituality in the Scriptures and Tradition as received from the Jewish apostles of the Mother Church of the Circumcision. Unfortunately due to Gentile pressure and also the Jewish converts own misunderstanding the Jews in the Church for too long tried to metaphorically hide or remove the cut of the flesh which is circumcision (symbolising the brit (covenant) and their Jewishness) contrary to the advice of St Paul. Many of us Jews in the church became like the Hellenizers of Maccabee times rather than like the mother of the seven Maccabean sons. Many a Gentile Catholic has been like the Torturer of the Maccabean sons saying "Go on a little taste of pork won't matter, fit in, don't make waves, don't be different". The Torturer of the Maccabees starts to look very like the Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. 

Father Antoine Levy asks some very important questions:

"...is it the will of God, as manifested in Jesus Christ, that the Jews should retain their identity as they form one Body with other disciples? If it is the will of God, then the existence of Messianic Jews must have a precise purpose in God's providential plan. But what could it be?

This is the heart of all the discussion - the Divine Will and its coming on earth as it is in Heaven and how that Kingdom of the Divine Will shall come in its fullness through the ingrafting and ingathering of the Jewish people as laid out in Romans 11 and confirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Father Elias Friedman the Carmelite founder of the Association of Hebrew Catholics saw that the restoration of  Israel and Jerusalem to Jewish control and the rise of the Messianic Jewish movement as part of the signs of the times that would reverse the regime of assimilation and create a space for a Jewish community in the Catholic Church that would eventually lead to the ingrafting.