I’ve been thinking about blogging (keeping a diary on the internet) for a while. The only problem is that when it comes to writing things down I can get in a real twist, unless I just do it off the top of my head, and that can have it’s problems as well, as you never know what is going to come out.
never kept a diary like this before – or did I for a while when I was younger?
I kept a lot of notes the month I spent in the Holy Land in 1999, but I
didn’t have much else to do except take in the experience.
It could become quite selfish and indulgent, just looking for an audience
for your view.
am I doing it? My passion at the
moment is Project 2030 and the Twentysomethings and the Thirtysomethings groups.
Whatever I do I want to help the groups, and much of what I write will be
to do with the groups. The blogg will only be advertised through the groups.
But will it be helpful?
people will get a better idea of what is happening in the other groups, but then
people might become afraid to speak to me. They’ll be asking themselves: “Is this going to go into
Hugh’s diary?” Do I mention the
person who emailed recently because they were not happy that another event was
being arranged near the time of their event, or the person who rang concerned
about someone in the group? Obviously
people’s identities have to be concealed, but is that enough?
I’m going to keep this diary for a few weeks then I’ll email it to some
family, friends, colleagues and especially people in the groups who use email
and internet quite a bit, and ask them what they think.
it gives me a chance to see if I can keep it up. No point in fanfaring it to see it fizzle out within a month.
Do I have enough energy to keep it going?
Is it just a silly phase I’m going through?
I write I can feel a lot of energy for it, but as St Ignatius reminds us, if you
feel too excited about something, it often means that it is not coming from the
Holy Spirit, and you should be careful about making decisions when you feel like
that. The Spirit is to be seen more
clearly when we just feel moderately up about something.
And the opposite, if we feel really depressed about something, that is
not coming from the Holy Spirit. We
should avoid making decisions when we are really down.
But if we feel a bit down and uneasy about something, that is often the
Spirit nudging us to make some kind of adjustment.
is it the Spirit leading me to do this blogg/diary on the internet?
Time will tell, and the response of others.
Is it going to help spread the word?
other big issue is – do I have enough energy?
Do I have enough discipline to keep it going when the novelty wears off?
But maybe it could energise me and give me more focus in the work of the
groups. We’ll see.
quite a bit of the morning phoning round joiners to get some wooden Dehonian
crosses made. They are not much
more than an inch each way with a heart in the middle. People who went to Germany and India received them.
They also sell them at Malpas. We
use the cross on the Project 2030 letterhead.
I mean to use it more for posters, etc.
Want to get some done especially for the European Gathering at Malpas in
August, but also generally to send round the groups.
None of the local joiners have the machinery for that kind of thing.
I end up phoning Leeds. They
advise me to contact a sign maker, but even they draw a blank.
If anyone knows of anyone who can do that kind of thing in wood then let
us know. Touch wood, we’ll get
some eventually (touch wood originally meant touching the Wood of the Cross).
The original ones were made in Italy.
the room for the 20s November meeting in Dublin on May 26 at the Earl of Kildare
Hotel, Kildare Street. We’ve
discovered at the last newcomers meeting for the 30s in Dublin that only 3 out
of 30 saw the details or the posters. The
others saw it in the parish newsletter. But the 20s at their last review meeting were keen that a
poster goes up as well. The
advantage of the poster is that it stays up for quite a while and people can
tear off the phone number and email address.
They often ring up months later when they rediscover the number in their
confirmed with Fr John Kelly SCJ the day for the Dublin 20s at 66 Inchicore Rd
on 13 June, but his day with the Dublin 30s on ‘Exploring your dreams’ might
need to be moved to 6 June.
I’ve got a free weekend and am enjoying having a Saturday at Stockport.
Once a year a friend of a friend can get tickets for my brother, nephew
and myself for Man Utd. We were supposed to go to the Charlton game today until it
turned out to be the semi-final of the cup against Arsenal. That’s why I had nothing else booked.
month I received a letter from our headquarters in Rome and I have to reply by
15 April. The founder of the Sacred
Heart Fathers, the Venerable Leo John Dehon (that’s why we use the title
Dehonians more) is likely to be beatified next year. All the processes have been completed and it just needs the
Pope’s final approval.
wants to produce a book for the occasion on different aspects of the life and
spirituality of Leo Dehon, and they’ve asked me if I’d like to do a chapter.
is 20 years since I did my two year course on Spirituality in Rome and I’ve
not kept up to date enough on the research that has been done on our Founder, so
I feel I have to say no to the invitation.
I had considered doing something on “Dehon and his ministry to young
adults”. As a young priest he
went in 1871 to his first parish in St Quentin, north east of Paris.
Very few of the young adults came to Mass, but within a few years he had
built up an association of over 300 young workers who got involved with the
Church at all kinds of different levels.
example of our Founder obviously played a big part in inspiring me to set up
Project 2030, and it is the kind of work many of our priests do in different
parts of the world. Maybe I could
have taken a week from my holiday time in June and gone to Rome and done some
research in our Archives. After I
had written to Rome I regretted a bit saying no.
Maybe what I wrote would be as good as anyone else, but what I have
written I have written, or, as Pilate didn’t say,”Quod non scripsi, non
for the diary I’m just picking out a few things from the day that I think will
be interesting to people. I might
give the impression that I don’t have very much to do. Then again, I sometimes might give the impression I have a
lot to do. It’s somewhere in the
a few last minute phone calls and emails about our Holy Week gathering at St
Joseph’s, Malpas. We have a full
house again. Most are from the
north west, but there are quite a few from London and Glasgow. I thank the new secretary at Malpas for all she’s done for
us by taking the bookings. She says
how impressed she’s been by the people who have been ringing up and wants to
know more about the groups. This
reminds me of the first big party we had in London last August downstairs in The
Penderel’s Oak. I was on the main
door, and a guy at the bar who has been watching everyone arrive comes up and
asks: “Are all these people Church people?”
When I say yes he says “You can tell there’s something different
about them.” He means it as a
compliment, and I take it as a compliment.
As it says in the Book of Revelations 22:4, “His name will be written
on their foreheads.”
I keep up writing as much as this. I
doubt it. What happens during
holidays? Maybe I could get people
from the groups to write in their own ideas, or do a guest column.
I suppose I’ll need to let people send in comments about what I write,
or ask questions.
booked some talks for the Glasgow 20s at Hill St for May and June.
Patricia is going to talk about her experience with the Alpha course (in
London after the Lenten retreat we considered doing the Alpha course as a group,
but decided to follow the ‘At your word, Lord’ course first), and a friend
of hers aged 22 who is training to be a Church of Scotland minister is going to
talk about being a Christian from a different perspective.
The third one will be a Question and Answer session by yours truly,
unless I can find another speaker to save me from the wolves.
No, it’s not that bad. We
did a Q and A once before and I don’t think I got stuck, though I remember
later checking up the New Catechism to check that I had not led people astray.
Which reminds me that the London 20s also want me to do a Q and A session
soon, but I don’t think I have any weekends left between now and the summer.
interesting how in Scotland the groups are energised more by talks and
discussions. This could be because
people usually have a stronger network of Catholic friends to socialise
with, and feel the need of being able to “defend the faith”.
In Dublin where most people are at least nominally Catholic, there are
plenty of groups that cater for the more spiritual/religious side of things, so
the 2030 groups are more interested in socialising with others who take their
faith seriously. The groups in
England are somewhere in between, having a good mix of the social and the
spiritual. Catholics in England are
usually more isolated so they are glad of anything that brings them together and
gives them a chance to meet up with like-minded people.
the Arsenal V Chelsea game. I
always support the home teams in Europe, but when they are playing each other,
who do I want to win? I’m not
telling you. More importantly I
keep zapping the teletext to see how my team Morton are doing. They draw and go to the top of the Scottish Second Division.
I’ve only seen them once this season.
attended the Chrism Mass of the Shrewsbury Diocese which was held in a
neighbouring parish in Stockport. At
this Mass the oils are blessed for use in the sacraments for the following year.
The priests also renew their commitment.
The Mass is designed to be said on Holy Thursday when Jesus ordained the
disciples to “do this is memory of me”.
Most of the priests of the diocese were there.
It gives me a great sense of solidarity.
Yet I can’t but help reflect that the average age of the priests is
high, and they are all white.
our visit to India in February it was great to see so many young men preparing
for priesthood with the Sacred Heart Fathers (Dehonians).
I told them to think about coming to Europe as missionaries.
We’ll need them soon. And
the Church throughout the world has always been stronger where there is a
missionary presence. I look forward
to the day when there will be Indian missionaries here.
The group that went to India is looking at ways to raise funds for them.
But we still need more people here to consider seriously whether God
might be calling them to be priests. The
good thing is that I know some people are seriously thinking about it.
a CD from Chris with the (almost) final version of our 8 page colour magazine.
It’s looking good and should be out soon.
We’ll send copies to all the parishes and help spread the message about
out an email reminder to all the groups about the weekend in Knock, Ireland, 14
– 17 May. Have been a few times
to this shrine where the local people over a hundred years ago had a vision of
the Lamb of God. The last time I
was there was 2002 when Liam Rooney was ordained.
Liam happens to be in my community here in Stockport.
He helps me out with information about a good B and B.
When I phone it turns out that the grand daughter of the couple goes to
our parish school next door.
thinking that I’m not going to be able to write as much as this each day.
It’s good fun, but writing has not usually been something that comes to
me spontaneously, unless I take the chance to do it off the top of my head,
stream of consciousness stuff. Someone
suggests writing once a week would be sufficient.
But would it be worthwhile doing it then.
It’s strange, but even though nobody has read this diary yet, it is
making me feel more in contact with the people in the groups.
I always said I was a group person.
And it is also energising me in other ways even though the writing does
my head in. Sometimes it’s easier
to say things publicly to a number of people than it is to say to individuals,
or even admit to ourselves.
trying to clear the desk and inbox before heading to St Joseph’s, Malpas in
Cheshire. 30 of us are gathering
for Holy Week. Preparing and
celebrating the Services of the Paschal Triduum will be the centre of our days
together, but there will also be time for walks and exploring Cheshire and just
centre of the Maundy Thursday Mass is the washing of the feet.
Someone has heard of a cathedral where they have been told to use
individual towels for people. Is that health and safety gone mad? Or is that why Peter refused to have his feet washed by
Jesus! The lowest of the servants would normally do the dirty jobs.
Jesus proves in so many different ways that he gives himself totally.
But he is also telling us in his mandate/Maundy that we should wash each
other’s feet and love one another as he loved us.
not on retreat, but this year no-one goes down to the pubs in Malpas.
When we had a weekend here in September on Christian vocation we had a
lock-in at one of the locals. Is
there a connection? Instead people
spend more time before the Blessed Sacrament, keeping Jesus company in the
Garden of Gethsemane. For some
people this was the high point of the weekend, accompanied as it was by the
tooting of owls.
great to wake up in the sunshine in the country. Breakfast, morning prayer, ice-breakers, then preparing the 3
pm service. The hour long walk
before lunch turns out to last an hour and a half, so we are late for our soup
and rolls. Most people are from the
groups in the North west, but there are about 10 from London and Glasgow.
of the ceremony takes place in the gardens, though the group who have prepared
the Passion use the main staircase in the house for the crucifixion.
At the veneration of the Cross we are given a twig of wood to remind us
of what God has done for us. “Touch
wood” as they said in mediaeval times, “God willing”.
the evening a group has prepared the Stations of the Cross while some go to
Chester to see “The Passion of the Christ”.
Most found it very good, though one found the violence too much. I saw
the film in Dublin the other week. On
the one hand it moved me, yet it manipulated my emotions less than your average
film. There are a few
non-scriptural bits I would have left out, but I will go and see it again to try
and let the reality of what happened to Jesus sink in more.
finished the evening with a quiz, which has become a bit of a tradition for Good
Friday. Our team won every time,
thanks mainly to Gavin.
Saturday. Nigel has volunteered to
do morning prayer, mainly because he was keen to include the Holy Saturday
sermon from the Office of Readings which had struck him at Westminster Cathedral
morning service. I could not
remember it, so was very impressed when Martin knew what it was all about.
morning followed the same programme as Good Friday, then people were free to go
out for the day. Some went to
Chester or Whitchurch while others took the chance of a longer walk.
Jeremy had taken a collection for the party after the Vigil.
It reminded us of the 6 visitors we had last year from a 2030 type group
run by our priests in Germany. I
had picked them up at the bus station in Chester.
I couldn’t resist remarking on the heaviness of the backpacks, but all
was revealed when we came out from the Easter Vigil and they presented each of
us with chocolates and bottle of beer they had brought from home.
In Germany they are usually off both for Lent.
didn’t go out for the day, taking a chance to get some space and recharge my
batteries. These days are very
enjoyable, but you are always thinking what is next or helping people prepare
their part of the ceremony, like, can you find a sponge for Adam for the
crucifixion or a vase for Veronica for the flowers, etc, etc.
So it’s good to take some time out, though I end up adding to Nick’s
newsletter for the NW 20s.
pops in to Malpas for lunch. He’s
just got a new job with the Diocese of Shrewsbury.
I tell him he was on my email list to receive a copy of this diary and
see what he thinks. He’s never
heard of blogging, so it can’t be that current a term if Mr Computer hasn’t
even heard about it. He tells me to
get a hit counter for the diary web page which had been my intention as I
don’t want to be writing this and nobody reading it.
the Vigil we did not try and repeat the massive Easter fire our German friends
had built last year on the hill overlooking the Dee valley.
Even though they had dug out a circle of turf temporarily, the grass
around had been scorched for months, though a good reminder that God’s fire
had been there.
year Nick returned to fire-making duties and we all made our contribution to the
flames by throwing in a sheet of paper asking God to take from us what we did
not need, then a sheet where we asked God to give us what we do need.
night was calm so we were able to light our candles outside.
“The light of Christ has come into the world.”
the Vigil, before the renewal of baptismal vows, everyone was invited
individually to “rise up” as their candle was lit. Then they were sprinkled one by one with the new Easter
water. In all, our Vigil lasted two
and a half hours, but people still had plenty of energy for the party that
followed. I beat a hasty retreat
before the witching hour, and not just to avoid Patricia’s chocolate and
Sunday. Everyone’s looking
surprisingly bright the morning after the night before.
After morning prayer we spend some time reviewing our days together.
Do people have ideas for next Easter or for doing other things like this?
I mention that Malpas is
booked for the summer of 2005 for a silent retreat from a Monday to Friday.
This causes quite a stir with some saying they could never keep quiet
while other have experienced that kind of retreat and recommend it.
summer we have the European Gathering at Malpas on 9 – 13 August.
I stress this is not a European meeting to which we have been invited,
but it is our week and we have invited people from other countries to come and
join us. There will be plenty of
time for fun and reflection, with a day out in North Wales.
So far people are coming from North and South Italy, Spain and Portugal.
only disappointment for me is that we never managed a game of football.
Last year, with the Germans on our side, the Rest of the World beat
England. It will be interesting to
see who wins our ‘European Cup’ in August.
Liam suggests that we also set up volleyball on the old tennis court for
the weekend I’ve been thinking who could go with us to the Dehonian European
Meeting in Portugal in October in preparation for the World Youth Days in
Cologne in 2005. Chris has already
said he would love to go. This is
not a reward for editing the magazine (though I’d left a proof copy of the
eight page colour magazine lying around at Malpas and people were very
impressed), but Chris was in Germany at the European Gathering and was on a
committee that wrote out a way forward for younger Catholics who were associated
with Dehonian Communities.
we leave Malpas I ask Helen if she would also like to come to Portugal in
October. She was in Toronto with us
for the last World Youth Day. She
is a veteran of our gatherings at Malpas (not to say Dehon House) and she has
been involved with the Twentysomethings groups in the North-West and London.
She’ll let me know soon if she can get away that weekend.
Mass we head for an early pub lunch at the Egerton Arms.
Then people head for home, having enjoyed their Holy Week.
thanks to the community and staff at St Joseph’s, Fr Chris, the Director, was
away doing the Holy Week walk to Iona. Bro
Richard and the others spoiled us as usual.
It was also good to meet our two Indonesian priests who were here “to
learn the English”, Fr Wanto and Fr Santo.
Bank Holiday, but I seem to spend most of the morning in the office.
As usual in the office I don’t know where the time has gone.
As I’m away tomorrow for 6 days I try to clear the desk and emails.
There’s a reminder to the Glasgow 20s about the newcomers’ meeting on
Wednesday, and one to the group in the North-West to say that Jane can still
take bookings for the next weekend in the Lake District.
almost one o’clock now and I have to start getting ready for the wedding of
Matt and Michelle nearby in Altrincham. It’s
1.15 before I look at the A to Z and realise that it’s further away than I
thought for the 2.00 start. Fortunately
the church turns out to be near Sean’s place where William (brother), Stephen
(nephew) and I pick up the tickets for our annual visit to the Old Trafford and
I make it with 10 minutes to spare. This
beats the time when I dropped off Fr Ike half an hour early at the wedding of
Margaret and Steve in Chester. Could
I find a parking space? Surely the
bride will be late. They have a
photograph of me slinking up the Church steps as Margaret descends from vehicle
registered 1 DO.
his sermon Fr Peter points me out as the match-maker. Michelle joined the Twentysomethings early on but disappeared
from view for a while, as people do. Matt
meanwhile joined and also helped with the music ministry, as well as leading the
CAfe (yes CAfe) programme. Michelle
was invited to our first Project 2030 wedding last Easter Monday (Ailish and Leo
had met at Malpas in Holy Week 2001!). Meeting
up with the group again she decided to go on the pilgrimage to Iona in May.
She ended up sitting beside Matt in the minibus on the way to Oban, and
the rest is geography.
the groups started someone who came said, “I hope this isn’t just like a
Catholic singles club, where people are just looking for a wife.”
I said I hope it isn’t either, but I’d be delighted if people found
someone through it, because my own parents met through the Legion of Mary.
And the story has it that the priest set them up.
Each week at the meeting members were given a task, and the priest sent
them together round the sick to tell them when he would be bringing communion.
Mass was a cheerful, musical and solemn occasion. I was asked to give the nuptial blessing, then present the
newly-weds with the papal blessing at the end of Mass.
There was quite a time as usual before the meal, so I confess that I took
the chance to sit in the car and catch up on writing this diary, as Malpas had
been too busy at times to catch breath.
the meal I’m sitting next to Liam and friends of the couple from University.
They are interested in this Twentysomething thing.
Suzanne has been to the 20s a few times in London.
I don’t recognise her with her hat on.
says how hard it is to be a Catholic at work these days.
People immediately think you are a fundamentalist, even a terrorist.
That’s one of the main reasons for the group, to give people space so
that they can enjoy being Catholics together without people thinking they are
weird. I put the point that
religion is a force for good when peoples have been conquered and dominated.
The last thing that can be taken away is their faith, and so it becomes a
focus of their identity. Witness
Poland, Ireland, Yugoslavia. The
problem is when politicians get in and exploit people’s faith which leads to
violence. I admit, this explanation, even if true, is not much
consolation if you are living in an environment which is fundamentalist in a
secular, liberal and atheistic way and where people worship other Gods which the
Church will not bow to.
the speeches the priests are presented with a bottle of wine.
I give it to Liam who is going to bring it to Iona next month where we
can toast Michelle and Matt.
seem shy to use the little camera that has been provided on the table, so I go
a-wandering to catch some of the bridal party, talking to the guests.
The parents express their gratitude to me for helping the couple to get
together. They are both good
Catholic families and Matt and Michelle are both strong in their faith and
active in their parishes, so they are well-suited to each other in more ways
than one. I see them together and
get someone to take a photograph of the three of us before I say goodbye.
to head north today. There’s a
new members meeting in Glasgow tomorrow for the 20s. Hoping to get away a day early, but get sucked back into the
office. Find myself going back over
the proof copy of the magazine. I
make corrections and additions. Originally
it was to be directed at the people on the postal list who don’t receive email
reports on the joint events. There
have been some brilliant write-ups and also talks that have been given by
members of the groups at different times. But
it would take a massive magazine to contain them all (see the web page www.project2030.org.uk
for some of these reports), and who is going to read page and page of print that
arrives all at once. So the
magazine will be more directed to newcomers and publicity in the parishes.
We might work out a subscription service so that people with no email
(and they are the minority now) could receive reports by mail every few months.
I can drive Celia and Clare, who help me with the office work, to distraction by
the way I can go back over things and change what I’ve written. Then there are
other times when it just comes off the top of the head and I don’t worry about
what I’ve written. The diary is
easy like that, but then I’m only describing what has already happened, not
making decisions for the future.
and Clare are identical twins who have worked for the Sacred Heart Fathers at
Malpas for twenty years. They also
do quite a few hours a week for Project 2030 – emails, newsletters, mailings,
dealing with new people, keeping lists up to date, phone calls, etc.
nearly lunch-time and I realise that I’m not going to get away early enough to
drive to Scotland. Although I’m
north of the border regularly this is the first time in a year I’ve taken the
car. I avoid driving distances if I
can, but I’m going to need the car for the Lake District at the weekend.
I phone my brother, William, and say I’ll be up on Wednesday.
I get away in the afternoon and stay in a B and B in Carlisle overnight.
pops up again today. While
travelling up the motorway there’s a play on the radio about the founding of
the Iona community in the 1930s. George
MacLeod, a Church of Scotland minister, gets into trouble for being too Roman
when he sets about restoring the old mediaeval monastery on the island.
What I didn’t realise was that he was subsidised by the Lithgows who
owned the shipyard my father worked for in Port Glasgow.
realise this is the first night I’ve been away on my own since the Christmas
holidays. I’ve been able to stay
a few nights with the family since then, but most times I get away for a few
days to a retreat centre or some other place for a bit of quiet and recharge the
batteries. Last week I got a letter
from John who is a retired Methodist minister I knew around Malpas.
He said when he saw the Project 2030 main events sheet for 2004 it could
look as though my life was one long holiday.
I don’t do so badly, and I enjoy very much the weekends and pilgrimages
with the groups, but I won’t be going to the more exotic places this year like
Barcelona, Cuba and York. The times
away are the best for getting to know each other.
You could sense the spirit and friendship grow last week at Malpas. But I have also come to understand more what they mean by
“a busman’s holiday”. That’s
why I enjoyed the Lake District so much last year.
It was the first weekend we
on where I didn’t have to organise things.
on where I didn’t have to organise things.
heading for Glasgow for the 20s New Members Meeting. I have plenty of time so am hoping to get in a good walk on
the way, but not too strenuous as I’m playing golf with my brother tomorrow.
very hopeful of a good turn out this evening as Celtic are on the television
playing Villareal in the Uefa Cup. Normally
we are very careful about checking our dates for these kind of games.
The mistake this time was that I’d checked and saw there were no
Champion League games on tonight. The
Uefa games are usually on the same weeks, and on Thursday nights.
And it’s not just the guys who are into the football.
Some of the women are season ticket holders or went to Seville last year.
few years ago we arranged a retreat day in Glasgow on Mother’s Day.
There was a Rangers v Celtic match on the television and the weather was
foul, but we still reached double figures.
If we get that tonight I’ll be happy…..
almost made double figures, with a few apologies, and some “if it hadn’t
been for the matches”. Others
have seen the notice at church and have rung or emailed.
The other good thing is that usually we don’t like asking parish
priests to advertise us too often, but we can have another newcomers meeting
before the summer and get it into newsletters with the excuse that we clashed
with the match.
thing we’ve always known about getting new people to come is that, even if you
are quite confident, it’s still a big step going into a new group of people.
In another area someone once told me that they had walked up and down
outside when we were meeting and were afraid to come in - on two different
occasions. Last night Mairi, or was it Lucy, came up with a good
suggestion – that we advertise it as an Information Evening, so people realise
they are coming along without any pressure to join.
old stagers were doing most of the talking so we left the new people to chat
among themselves for a while, and we got some ideas together for the next
programme. Besides the talks
we’ve got a ceilidh (a wild Scottish dance), a walk, curling, bowls (on grass)
and a visit to Edinburgh.
night stayed with my younger brother, William, in Wemyss Bay.
We’re hoping to play golf in the afternoon.
All of the men in the family, and most of the men in Scotland, play some
golf. Thursday is usually my day
off. How am I going to deal with
that in the diary? Can’t just write a combination of: had a quiet day, went to
the baths, visited the library, saw a film, went for a walk, etc.
And I don’t want to have to do any writing on a Thursday.
Likely I’ll just write a reflection or something else over the week and
put that in. Then there’s
holidays. Maybe I’ll ask for
guest contributors. There’s
plenty of willing writers around in the group.
will be a day off with the family. I
have two brothers and one sister, 7 nieces and nephews (6 in the 25 – 35
range), and now 4 great-nieces and nephews.
They mostly live within 25 miles west of Glasgow, near the river Clyde.
picking up my older brother, Michael, at 10.00 Mass in Greenock as he’s having
an MOT done at my nephew’s garage. Afterwards
we go and visit out aunt, Sister Helena, who is looking after the retired Bishop
of Paisley. It’s good to see the
Bishop, who ordained me in 1976.
is at my sister Margaret’s in Port Glasgow.
The golf idea has to be dropped because of the rain.
This gives us plenty of time to chat.
Michael looks at the proof copy of the 2030 magazine and comes up with
some good ideas.
leisurely day. In the evening I
visit an elderly aunt. I had hoped
to get a new mobile phone today to replace the one I lost. It turns out that my niece has an old one in good condition,
so we get that going. No excuse
10.00 Mass at the Cathedral in Paisley, headed south for the weekend at
Castlerigg Manor, Keswick in the Lake District. Last year I declared the same weekend to be the best weekend
I had had with Project 2030, mainly because it was the first weekend where I had
not been involved in the organisation of things. Also because it was a very nice place and we had a very
scenic walk on the Saturday.
the first service station on the A74 I called in to get an Orange swipe card,
but when I rang 453 they told me I had no money left. At the next station they had no top-up vouchers either, but
the lady in the shop got through for me and activated the swipe card.
I made a call to my sister Margaret, and sent a text to my brother
Michael to say “we have lift off”.
I switch my mobile off. I only give
my number out on occasions when we need to keep in contact.
I couldn’t cope with people ringing all the time to ask where we are
supposed to meet in London for a walk, etc, while I’m in Dublin or Glasgow.
I can get messages any time from my land line ansaphone.
year I went through a phase of practicing how fast I could text.
I remember texting Radio 5 on 85058 one morning before breakfast to
comment on a report from Iraq during the war. “You better watch Gilligan.
He’s going native.” This
was a few months before he made his controversial broadcast accusing the Prime
Minister of lying.
outside Keswick, about 4.30m, I’m struck by an interview of Radio 5.
The Rev Jepson, a young female vicar from Chester, has won a judicial
review of a case where a 24 week unborn child was aborted because it had a cleft
palate. The Rev Jepson had had the
same complaint when she was younger. I
text Radio 5 to say I thought the interviewer had been very insensitive to her.
At 5.45 their headline implied she was mainly interested in going after
the doctors. I texted to remind
them she was more interested in defending the unborn child and they were
demonising her. At 6.15 their
headline said she “denied she was leading a witch hunt”.
I text for a third time to say it is the BBC who are leading a witch hunt
against her. At 6.30 she gets
dropped from the headlines. I’m
not sure if this is a good thing or not. You
can rarely win against the media.
write to the Rev Jepson in support, telling her about how the BBC presented her
case and telling her about my texts. I
also take the chance to invite her to come and give a talk to the group some
the Youth Centre some have arrived already, but others are delayed because of
problems with the trains. We are
going out for a meal. We drive a
few miles out of town to a lovely place by the lake.
I’m not eating too late, so I drive back and pick up the stragglers.
It’s a leisurely meal and it is almost 11.00 before we are back.
Most people are ready for bed. Must
be the country air. Damien gives me
some bedtime reading, a tome by Hans Urs Von Balthasar, ‘The Glory of the
Mass for the brave at 8.00 am. Cooked
breakfast and real porridge. Castlerigg
Manor is the Diocesan Youth Centre for the Lancaster Diocese, similar to Dehon
House where I was based until last year. Good
to see Phil who is working here after his two years at Dehon and Dublin.
He’s also known to those who went to Germany last year.
have different ideas of the kind of walk to do. Damien and I decide to tackle Skiddaw while the others go for
something gentler. Skiddaw is one
of the four hills over 3000 feet in the Lakes.
The highest car park, just out of town, gives you a good start, but the
first part is very steep. A pleasant day to begin with.
Further up the wind is fierce and cold.
But the views were magnificent.
discuss the state of the media, the challenges of the world, difficulties of
those who have no faith, and the insights of Von Balthasar, etc.
At the top we shelter for a while against the wind and tackle the jaffa
cakes. We pass a munching sheep and
Damien teasingly asks, “Do they know they exist?”
Certainly not in the way we do, but we often under-estimate animals and
dismiss their instincts. When I share that I make decisions based mainly on how I feel
about things at an instinctual, physical level, on the rightness of things, it
seems trite compared to the heady conversation we have been having.
in the day, when I am reading some Von Balthasar, I am reminded how he wants to
approach theology and our exploration of God and life from the angle of what is
beautiful. This relates more to the
heart, whereas theology is usually more concerned with what is true (through the
head) or what is good and moral (through the body and our instincts).
So maybe my preferred way of making decisions does not seem so trite
takes a longer path down to explore other areas, while I head to the car and a
plate of soup. Just three hours up
and down’ I didn’t think I
would have made it. Two years ago I
struggled up Snowdon with the group and was dizzy the next day. But last year I climbed it again at my own pace and felt
okay. Today we took it easy.
When I got to the bottom I drove along to see the path Damien was taking
down and it looked quite a challenge. I
thought of an episode here last year and I was worried for a while, but he made
it down safely and got back before the rain came on.
happened last year is an episode I repeated often, especially when I wanted to
‘scandalise’ people who comment on mobiles ringing during Mass.
Had my phone go off twice while I was celebrating Mass last year at
Castlerigg. Just before Mass on the
Saturday evening we got word from the people who had gone to climb Scafell and
had still not come down from the
mountain top. Mine was the contact
number, but I didn’t want to scare the others with my concern, so we went
ahead with the Mass in the Community Chapel.
Didn’t the phone go off just before the Consecration.
They had been lost at the top but were now safe.
The phone, which I mostly use for ringing out myself, also rang at the
Gospel with news that my brother-in-law had gone into hospital.
has arranged to buy in food from the supermarket for our evening buffet, or, as
the French say, un self-service. As
with last year I’m wondering why more did not come on this weekend in the
Lakes, but the advantage is that the smaller group builds up a greater sense of
intimacy, almost becoming like a little family for the weekend.
Of course there were 30+ at Malpas last weekend,and in a couple of weeks
there will be 20+ going to Iona as well as a group going to Barcelona, but that
does not fully explain the lack of interest in the Lakes.
we sit around the old jokes and the old puns come out as well as reminiscences
about other group events that people have shared or heard about.
Conversation easily drifts into discussions on hell, other Churches and
‘outside the Body of Christ there is no salvation’.
only things that moves us is the bar opening across the hallway.
The spell has not been broken by our change of position, but eventually
people drift away to watch the DVD of ‘Master and Commander’ or to catch
Match of the Day.
starts the retreat for the Sacred Heart Fathers and Brothers at Malpas.
I’m not sure what I am going to do with the diary.
Will those days be blank or will I write a report on it at the end?
Over the years I have often kept a diary during retreats of my thoughts
and resolutions, but that is not necessarily what you want to share with the
past 18 days I have mostly enjoyed writing down my thoughts and experiences.
Sometimes the old brain cells are a bit sluggish, and I’ve noticed that
when I am with the group that takes up most of my energy, and I find myself
later struggling to keep up with the entries.
But in general the process has been energising and has heightened
awareness of my connection to the group, and a sense of unity with people who,
for example, will be meeting today in their different areas in Ireland and
Britain. As a body/instinctual
person sometimes I go too easily with the flow of life and don’t reflect
enough on what is happening.
also makes me feel linked to people who might not have been to events for a
while, but who still feel part of the group and want to know what is going on.
Some people can disappear for a year or more, but feel that they can come
back and get involved, and the group belongs as much to them as anyone else.
That’s how it should be. Others
only go to the main events, or retreats, or pilgrimages.
That’s fine. A few have been receiving the newsletter for ages and have
never been to anything, but they will email occasionally to say that they are
still interested, don’t drop me from the mailing list. Hopefully this diary will help their sense of belonging.
phenomenon is that before I started the group, I sent a questionnaire round the
parishes to be answered by people in their 20s. The question that got the highest response was ‘something
must be done for those who don’t like groups’.
We’ve never been able to solve that apparent paradox. A few years ago
we started emailing reflections to people to see if that would help unite people
who related to the group more through their computers.
People were invited to send in their thoughts on the reflection, but that
only made some people feel more guilty because they hadn’t responded.
this diary will help to bring some people out of the woodwork.
In general I would say that people in the group are quite self-contained
and independent, but they are looking for a sense of community and solidarity
with others from a common background. They
are looking for something that will shake them out of their isolation as
Catholics who care about their faith.
come to the group and decide it is not for them. But at least they had a look.
There are others who would love to get involved but who can’t make that
first step. Even if you are quite
extrovert it is not easy going into a group for the first time.
But it’s a bit like going to the baths.
Once you get into the water you soon adjust to the temperature.
Hopefully the diary will help them to take the plunge.
thing’s for sure. I’m never
going to be able to continue writing so much, nor are people going to be able to
cope with reading it all.
to Castlerigg, I’m up long before the wake-up call (of course!), but those
still dreaming are piped out of their slumbers by “I’m loving angels
instead”, followed by “I really love your tiger feet”.
That must be an incentive to people in the bedrooms to tickle the toes of
the heavy shirts who are still a-snoozing.
fine breakfast. Jane books the
Centre for another weekend next year in May.
Mass at 10.30. Leaving at
12.00 and dropping Phil off in Warrington to catch the train to Wrexham.
annual retreat does not begin until the evening, so I can do a good day in the
office. I can’t imagine people
will want to read long lists of phone calls, emails etc on office days, but it
might be worthwhile giving the details of today as an example, though it
wouldn’t be a typical day as I’ve been away so much and am off again late
this afternoon till Friday.
in the groups don’t send much by post, preferring to email or phone, but there
was one interesting envelope from Switzerland with the news that David and
Bettina, who met through the 20s in London, are to be married in May in Newton
Abbot. David was born in Georgia
and lived in Iran. Bettina was born
in Austria and grew up in Switzerland. David
was received into the Church at Easter 2002.
Bettina was at Malpas that Holy Week.
They discovered round about then that they were studying at the same
college, and the rest is chemistry.
is also a letter from one of our priests in Finland. They want to come to the gathering here in August.
the ansaphone a few new people from Scotland and the North-West have left their
details. I also have to phone Ruth
in Dublin about the 30s AGM next week, and Caroline has left a message about
Knock in May. Emails include one
from Nick with the North West 20s newsletter which just needs a few additions
re. main events from me. Anna wants
to try more advertising in her area for the group.
Matt haws good ideas for the 30s review meeting in London on Saturday.
There are some apologies from people who can’t make it on Saturday and
other information about upcoming events. There’s
news of Joanne and Steve’s engagement. They
met at Dehon House in 1992, and a Fr David Hanley from the States but originally
from Greenock has seen our web page and wonders if we are related.
We’re not, as far as I know, not at least in recent generations.
I write replies to emails by hand and Celia and Clare look after them.
Spending time at the computer takes three times as long and uses up three
times as much energy. This week they are going to have the NW 20s newsletter to
send out as well as the letter to parish priests in the North-West about the
newcomers meetings on 7/8 May. I’ve
double booked myself that weekend. I
was supposed to be in London for the India group re-union.
Rule of Life of the Sacred Heart Fathers and Brothers (Dehonians) says that we
should do a retreat of at least a few days every year.
You could feel guilty having the luxury of these days of quiet and
prayer. Yet the time can be
challenging (how many in Project 2030 will take the opportunity to do a 4 day
retreat in July 2005?). Usually
there comes a time in the retreat when you have to face yourself and face God.
And that is not always easy.
Provincial (the priest who has overall responsibility for our community in
Ireland and Britain), Fr Michael Walshe, welcomes us and tells us that today in
Rome they had the official reading before the Pope of the miracle
that has been accepted for the beatification of our Founder, Fr Leo John
Dehon. Someone was miraculously
cured through his intercession in Brazil in 1954.
He should be beatified in the autumn or the spring.
As soon as we know the date I’ll be inviting people from the group to
come along with on our visit to Rome for the occasion.
Provincial introduces our speakers who are two Sacred Heart Fathers from our
community in the USA, Fr Byron and Fr Joe who work at our centre a few hundred
miles north of Chicago, St Joseph’s Retreat, 3035 O’Brien Road, Bailey’s
Harbor, Wisconsin 54202 (tel: 414 839 2391).
They have brought with them copies for each of us of a new prayer book
they have produced: ‘This Day of God. Community
Prayers of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.’
The beautifully produced book of 217 pages has prayers of Leo John Dehon,
Prayers of Oblation (Morning Offering) for all the seasons, Devotions and
Services, as well as other prayers in the Dehonian spirit.
Copies can be obtained from The Sacred Heart Monastery, Hales Corners,
receive an email today from our Fr General telling us that the beatification of
Leo John Dehon was accepted yesterday. The
Provincial asks me to translate the letter during lunch to let people know.
We should have a date in November for the ceremony, to take place in Rome
in March or April 2005. Twenty from
the group went to Rome in September 2003 and people were asking to go again. I had intended to organise Rome for 2005, so we might as well
do it for Dehon’s beatification and be part of something greater.
I imagine there will be a programme organised for younger groups as other
Dehonian communities will be bringing people like they did to Germany last year.
time-table for the retreat is as follows:
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
9.00 Night Prayer (Compline)
are some quotations from a talk by Fr Joe on the theme of the Incarnation and
how the Word becoming flesh speaks to us in the light of the insights of Leo
John Dehon. It’s great for us to
get input on our Dehonian spirituality from our own brothers who are steeped in
the life and history of our Founder. (It
would be impossible to try and reproduce the talk, but here are some of the
ideas I jotted down, even if the quotes might not be exact).
said: “I have come to bring fire on the earth and how I wish it was blazing
in his last Testament before he died said: “I leave to you a treasure, the
Heart of Jesus.”
speak of the love of God it is not so much our love for God, but God’s love
for us when he sent his Son into the world (John, Chapter 3).
said that the heart of Jesus is not something to be admired from a distance.
We need to get our hands dirty for others (washing of feet?).
Allen said: “The lion and the calf might lie down together (as prophesied by
Isaiah), but the calf will not get much sleep”.
Word (in the Incarnation) will bring the world out of violence, injustice and
retreat we have the chance to dwell on God’s amazing love and to meet the
Incarnate Word who says that no sparrow shall fall to the ground without God
our planet might be, yet God still sees that it is good (Genesis 1).
bacon reflected ruefully: “It’s s though nature needs to be tortured so that
we can learn it’s secrets.
saw in the poor workers in France, at the end of the 19th century, an
image of God. We are all made in
the image and likeness of God (Dehon set up an association of young workers in
the industrial town of St Quentin, north of Paris, that grew from nothing to
over 300 members.
makes even the richest poor. It is
hard to imagine killing an image of God. There
is no such thing as a lesser divine image.
Dehonians we are called to be “prophets of love and servants of
that is not good news for everybody is not good news at all.
God’s love and purpose and you destroy God’s creation.
not willing to stay isolated and beyond our reach.
became human that we might share in his divinity.
not become human to make the world a nicer place but to destroy death and bring
about a new creation.
we dwell on what God gives us, the more amazing it appears.
to Leo Dehon, if our nature is made new then we begin loving like Jesus did.
In a time
of retreat we remember that all is new, all is grace, all will be well.
Jesus enters our sinful world to transform it.
talk given by Fr Byron
the Sacred Heart Fathers’ Rule of Life we are reminded that just as Jesus
tried to maintain union with the Father we too must set aside times of silence
to reach intimacy with God. That’s
what the retreat is for. We
continue the theme of the Incarnation, important in Dehonian spirituality.
When the Word became flesh, God chose intimacy with humanity.
Just as we are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis), God chose
to be made in the image and likeness of humanity in the incarnation. Jesus chooses to identify with everything human except sin.
spoke about the image of a target. The
bullseye is where we find ourselves alone in our solitude with God.
From there we get our identity and we hear God speak to us intimately.
In the next circle we put our significant other, for a married person
that would be their husband or wife, or it could be our closest friends. In the next circle would be other family and friends.
As the circles grow bigger there is less intimacy and the noise gets
louder as people grab for our attention. The
squeaky hinge always gets the oil. We
use more energy in the outer circles and neglect the inner circles.
We need to do what Jesus did and get away on retreat.
Sometimes Jesus would send his disciples away so he could have time
is much emphasis on quality time these days, but we need to spend quantity time
with those who are important to us. With
God we can do the same, slotting quality time of prayer, but not having enough
quantity time with him. We need
also to waste time with God. Let us
look at four characters who wasted time with God – people whom God called by
name not just once but several times. They are: Moses, Samuel, Martha and Paul (whenever we look at
the Scriptures we should read then as if they are about me).
Exodus 3 Moses is looking after the sheep when the Lord appeared to him in the
burning bush. “Moses, Moses,”
God said, “do not come any closer. Take
off your sandals for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
For the Jews all ground is holy. The
disputes today in Israel are all about land, so maybe God is asking Moses to
take off his shoes to slow him down and make him more vulnerable.
God wants to become vulnerable with us and he wants us to risk being
wounded as we move closer to him.
mother, Hannah, prayed for a son (1 Samuel).
When she got one she left him in the Temple to be raised by the priest,
Eli. He had great proximity to God.
At night Samuel heard his name called three times.
Eventually Eli realised it was God who was calling and told Samuel to
reply: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
Intimacy with God means listening. Often
in the bible there are phrases like “Hear, O Israel”.
is a patroness of our community as an example of a doer.
Jesus goes to the house of Martha and Mary for a time of rest and
intimacy (Luke 10: 38-42). Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to what he said, but
Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.
“Martha, Martha,” said Jesus, “you worry and fret about so many
things, but only one thing is necessary.”
Jesus is calling her to a deeper relationship with himself.
Maybe Martha never slowed down much in her work, but she did everything
in response to Jesus’ love.
was an over-achiever as a Jew in the area of the law. In the end he realised that the Law could not accomplish
anything, only his relationship with Jesus could. He changed when he heard his name being called by Jesus on
the road to Damascus: “Saul,
Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
on retreat Byron will challenge people by telling them not to pray.
Rather, let us allow the Holy Spirit to pray within us.
If we listen we can hear God praying a simple prayer within us.
He is repeating our name like a mantra.
If we get lost in a crowd, the first time someone shouts our name gives
us focus. The second time we hear
our name gives us direction
our retreat let us take off our shoes like Moses, and listen to what God is
saying/praying to us. As Catholics
sometimes we pray too much. The
contemplative is called just to listen. Take
a walk with the four characters: Moses, Samuel, Martha and Paul.
Let them talk to us about proximity, intimacy and listening to God..
talk from the retreat. We began
with the prayer of St Richard of Chichester, then a reading from our
Constitutions (Rule of Life) no 13. “With
all our fellow Christians we are brought to tread in the footsteps of Christ,
and so attain to holiness.”
1986 Byron was asked to look after a parish in the inner-city of Detroit.
It’s not just known as the auto capital of America but also the crime
capital. The area was run down and
dominated by drugs. It was a black
parish, small but lively. The people still had hope and wanted to make a difference in
their city. After 3 years Byron was
asked to move elsewhere. He and the
people knew it was going to be his last Christmas, so the people wanted to make
it special. While they were happily
decorating the church, he heard there had been a murder.
After spending quite a time with the family he got back to the presbytery
only to have someone else come to the door to say that his son had also been
murdered in a random killing.
felt angry and frustrated. How can
you celebrate in the midst of two murders?
Later he had to take communion to Ruthy who was housebound.
She was concerned for him. “How
are you?” He asked her how she kept her faith in the midst of so much
insanity. She answered in a strong
afro-american accent: “I don’t knows. All
I do knows is that God emmanuels me”. (Emmanuel
means ‘God is with us’).
Byron, her reply did not take away the insanity, but it brought God right down
in the midst of the city of Detroit in a very powerful presence.
God chose not to destroy it, like Sodom and Gomorrah, but to plop himself
in the midst of what it means to be miserable in the dark side of the human
story. What Ruthy taught Byron is
that God is more interested in energising (emmanuelling) us in a relationship,
that God is not so much interested in nouns but in verbs and actions.
our baptism God does not just give us titles – priest, prophet and king, but
gives us divine energy. Ruth would
have changed them into verbs: to priest, to prophet, to King.
is under attack today because it is too entitled and not energised enough.
In baptism God has given us the energy to participate in our own
conversion. Byron was received into
the Church in 1976 in his last year at high school.
He knows his day of conversion in the calendar.
But conversion is an action. It
means turning around and following the Lord in the big circle called life.
priest means to bless, to see things as God sees them.
When someone asks us to bless their rosary beads we say a prayer.
They go away happy. There is
no obvious difference, but a transformation (a transubstantiation ) happens in
the mind and attitude of the person. Priests are called to bless in the
Sacraments and in the community all the time.
As soon as I bless I am the one who gets changed, because I have to look
at people and things differently. We
become caught up in the energy God has given us.
prophet? We are called in the
anointing to remember the covenant relationship God has with us.
The prophets of old called the community back to a relationship with God.
Whenever we gather together in community we can come with an agenda, and
then we forget that we are men of faith called to respond to God who loves us.
What does any of this have to do with our relationship with God?
The prophet reminds us why we are here in the first place.
community we are planning for the future, as we should.
But a criticism of our planning is that our language is so corporate,
like business, and seldom calls us back to why we gather in the first place.
We need prophets to call us back to faith, hope and love, and to a God
who plops himself down in our midst.
king? In the USA it is difficult to
speak of royalty as there is no royal family.
The Feast of Christ the King can be awkward because there is little
understanding of royalty. If you
remember, there was a revolution. In
making us royal God has given us great dignity and made us an entity unto
ourselves. God anoints us and enthrones us and establishes boundaries.
recent scandals of sexual abuse in the Church are incredible scandals because of
what takes place in baptism. God
sets us up in a royal way with out own boundaries, telling us to respect
our own boundaries and those of others. The
king or sovereign is the personification of the nation and is meant to guard the
borders. If foreigners who come in
misbehave then they are deported. Boundary
work is a term used often today in psychology.
Boundaries are not an optional extra, but they are something to be
celebrated, protected and honoured.
baptism we are made a royal nation and a priestly people.
When we become members of a religious community we are nourished and fed
by the sacrament, as in times of retreat.
is the last day of our retreat. Here
is another of the talks.
John’s Gospel Chapter 3 Jesus says: “God so loved the world”.
God finds every aspect of the world adorable, like a parent looks on a
child and will do everything possible to promote life in that child, loves them
to death. God has loved us from the beginning of time and that love was
made flesh in Jesus Christ.
people might see the Bible just as a historical document, but the Scriptures and
the story of Israel is really the story of everyone who has walked the face of
the earth. The Israelites found
themselves slaves in Egypt, the property of Pharaoh. This is hard for us to imagine, as we are free under the law.
They were helpless and powerless to get out of it. All they could do year
after year was cry to God in their powerlessness.
God heard them and delivered them out of slavery and brought them across
the Red Sea.
In the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step programme the addict has to first admit that they are powerless over the alcohol or drugs or whatever. Only the higher power can lead them out of it. It has been argued that to be human is to be addicted. Every human is entangled in sin.. Israel was powerless. Yahweh lead them out of slavery and addiction. But sin is insidious. No sooner had they reached the other side of the Red Sea when someone started thinking back about the fleshpots of Egypt and cried out: “I would gladly give my freedom for the cucumbers of Egypt.”
was ‘on retreat’ in the desert for 40 years, not just a week like us.
Conversion, like recovery from addiction, takes time and discipline.
It is as if God says to the Israelites: “I no longer call you slaves or
addicts, but free. You are chosen
in my sight and I love you. Don’t
you get it?” But it is difficult
for us to risk being loved by God. John
reminds us that it is not our love of God that matters first but the fact that
God loves us. It is not easy for us to give up our old identity which feels
‘why on earth would God want to love me?’.
God does love us and woos us into a desert place so we can be nearer to him,
like being on retreat. We need to
allow God to love us as we are. It
took Israel 40 years in the desert before they could begin to believe that they
were chosen and loved by God. Eventually
God led them into the land of milk and honey.
In the desert they did not have a temple but a holy tent to help them to
understand how close God was to them, that he was within them.
the Holy Land they built a temple. There
is always the temptation to institutionalise God.
“Where two or three are gathered, I will be there in their midst”,
Jesus said. Instead we often say
where two or three are gathered “Let’s build an institution”.
Institutions are good, but the sin is that we often leave God back in the
desert and march off as if all depended on us and not God.
God becomes locked away in the Holy of Holies in the Temple.
It works, but it limps, and it does not help build up intimacy with God.
the Word of God, is born in the midst of all this institutionalisation.
So just as Egypt equals slavery and the desert is discipline, Jerusalem
means institutionalism. Jesus
continually reminded people that God dwelt within them – you are a temple of
God – the reign of God is here and now. There
were often complaints against Jesus’ disciples – they were not like the
disciples of John the Baptist or the Pharisees. That is because Jesus gave them
the freedom to learn.
the Last Supper Jesus tells the apostles that they are no longer slaves or
disciples: “I call you friends”. This
applies to us too, and it should knock our socks off. The marvellous thing about the Incarnation is that God comes
down to us but we can still keep him at a distance.
We need to draw nearer to a God who wants to befriend us.
It can be scary. When we move towards God we understand that God has always
sought out union with us. All we
need to do is stop wiggling.
do I take such a delight in catching the train at the last minute/
Usually, like today, I know that the next train will get me there in
plenty of time, but there is a great buzz in making it by the skin of the teeth.
They say there are three things certain in life: death, taxes, and trains
never leave early. Yet as a
Christian I believe that death is no more.
As a priest I’ve never had any money to pay taxes with, but I’ve
always suspected that a Kilwinning to Glasgow train left early once, though it
might have been my watch.
Morning Prayer at 8.45 I check emails, phone and post.
I’ve been out of the office since Monday.
There is nothing particularly dramatic, but there are six emails
responding to the first instalment of the diary that was sent out to some people
who use email quite a bit. All are
positive, ranging from good idea (x2), great idea, wonderful, fantastic,
who responded to my concerns about confidentiality thought it would not be a
problem. Emma (G 30s) thought it
was ‘lovely to hear the names of others in the group, some of whom are known,
others not’. Fr Dave appreciated
the bits that were ‘a little comical’.
Jennifer, my niece, is working through it on her lunch breaks, ‘at
least now mum and dad will know where you are and what you have been up to!!’
Jeremy (L 30s) has good ideas of how to link in reviews from people who
have been at the different events, and also make better use of the 2030 web page
for reports. Like others, he is
worried that the diary doesn’t become a bind and a pressure on me.
Time will tell. I feel
pressured the days I spend in the office, but when I am travelling I have spare
time on my hands. It beats doing
crosswords. And what I write is a
stream of consciousness.
Maria (NW 20s) ‘reading this has reminded me why I value Project 2030 so
much’. Martin (G 20s/30s) feels
that ‘it will really serve to further enhance the connectedness of the group
as a whole… and really will be a winner because of it’s personal nature’.
He goes on to share some of his dreams for the group, but I will check
with him before going public with that, maybe on one of my days off.
the post there was a letter from someone from the dim and distant past.
I had not heard from her for years, but she had decided to write to me
and let me know that she was still living out the personal commitment she had
made to the Heart of Jesus as a Dehonian. It
was good to hear news of her family and to have the chance to tell her how
things were with some of the Sacred Heart Fathers she knew, and send her a copy
of one of Fr Chris’ booklets taken from his reflections on www.malpas2000.freeserve.co.uk
just after 10.00 am when I leave the house en route to London for the 20s and
30s review meetings. Thank heavens
for those machines where you can buy your own tickets. I’m giving myself the best exercise of the day as I dash up
the stairs as the 10.08 is pulling in on time. If I’d missed it then I’d just have written this in the
waiting room instead of on the train.
always before things like review meetings feeling a little bit anxious as you
never know how they will turn out. And
they are important for the direction of the group. They say that even the most experienced actors feel nervous
before the show, even if they have done it hundreds of times before.
It’s when you are not nervous that you should get worried.
I’m not as bad as when I played for the school football team and was
sometimes praying that the other team didn’t turn up.
But I’ll leave any thoughts on the meetings until tomorrow.
review meetings in London went well. The
main issues were the links between the 20s and the 30s and the balance between
the social and the spiritual. Recently
there have been more joint events. Those who like them, like them, but for some of the younger
ones in their 20s it can be like hanging about with your parents’ generation
as some of the 30s hit 40 and beyond. Unlike
other areas, here there are quite a few younger 30s so there is a bulge in the
middle of the group that like doing things together, but it was good to hear
some of the older 30s say they also prefer their own events.
20s in London have always arranged more ‘spiritual’ events like their
monthly talks/spiritual discussions, and linking in a Saturday evening event
with going to Mass. The 30s are
thinking more about this, but I was keen to keep the 20s talks/discussions
separate in case the 20s get swamped and also to encourage the 30s to look at
putting on some things like that themselves.
The Lenten and Advent retreats are together, as will be the ‘At your
word’ series that Michael will be starting soon.
still haven’t understood why some people who are quite into religion
themselves are not keen on the spiritual side of the group, or afraid that
spiritual events will swamp out the social, which is very unlikely to happen.
Someone said that if people were looking for something more then they
could look for it in other groups. But
that would be quite sad as people, having got to know each other, would like to
explore their faith and spirituality more within Project 2030.
as well that Matt and James took notes at the meetings as there are a lot of
things I can’t remember the morning after the night before.
Two similar kinds of meetings blur into one another, and it was an early
start this morning. In the middle of the meetings we had Mass for both groups,
then later we met up at ‘Uno a Uno’, where discussion continues and other
plans are made for events. After a
late night it is always an early wake, but there is a bus from Euston to Milton
Keynes at 7.30 to catch the train. This
turns out to be a slow bus and the advice is that the 8.30 direct will get there
quicker. Interesting to see parts
of London you wouldn’t normally see. I
feel as though I’m on a bus tour.
meeting yesterday was held at More House, a university hostel/chaplaincy run by
the Augustinian Sisters. At the
beginning we met there more often, but now Hans invites us to use his family’s
hotel near Euston.
was a good turn out, over 30 between the groups, and there was quite a number of
apologies. A lot of people don’t
like these kind of meetings and they are afraid of getting a job.
But James and Matt are happy continuing to look after the newsletters and
co-ordinating events. The 20s will continue their meeting to plan future programmes,
and the 30s will set up a similar ‘think tank’. There is no appetite for committees. The turn out was 50/50
male/female, though in general there are usually more females at events.
When I started the groups I suspected the split would be about 80/20 and
that gradually the men could disappear, but that hasn’t happened.
It’s interesting that more men take responsibility for the newsletters. It could be a computer thing.
was a proposal in the 30s to charge a membership fee to cover postage, etc, but
most people who come to things are on email, and we are trying to keep the
informality of the group. The
groups are sponsored by the Sacred Heart Fathers (Dehonians).
They are happy to continue to do this, but I said to my community that I
would look at ways of raising some funds for the group.
When the new magazine goes out it will include a form inviting people to
pay something ‘anonymously’ by direct debit. I supported Ronan’s appeal to
raise funds for our missions in India, as well as the other needs we saw there.
the evening wears on we consider having a formal picnic/fund-raiser to coincide
with our overnight in Wimbledon on 31 July, but then decide to have it on
Saturday 10 July in Regents Park to coincide with the party Hans is having in
Milton Keynes the train is delayed and we are not due in Stockport till 2
o’clock. But delays can lead to
interesting encounters, and a growing solidarity. A Somalian refugee asks me to show him how to put a knot in
his tie. “You’ve asked the
right person!” I get talking to
the driver of the Liverpool train. He
admits he doesn’t know what the work is today on the line: “I’ve just been
training these past couple of weeks”. Quick
promotion on the railways then these days.
Marius also presented me with the final CD for the magazine to go to the
this while the printer is churning out the magazine. Not that we are going to print it ourselves, but the printing
company want us to provide a paper copy as well as the CD, presumably so we
can’t blame them for any errors. At
the last minute decide to get another estimate from the company who do our
‘Contact’ magazine. Graham will
get back in a couple of hours.
Church car park below is extra busy this morning. Besides the children being brought to school, people are
arriving for the parish’s annual pilgrimage to Walsingham. One of the younger classes is going across the yard for
assembly. Talk about the Ministry
of Silly Walks. John Cleese must
have got his inspiration from children. Everyone
has their own style. The pre-school
group are out doing the hokey-cokey.
printer stops. The final version of
the magazine looks brilliant. I’m
supposed to be making a final check for mistakes, but I’m too excited to
concentrate. We don’t want the
wrong email addresses going out. In
the North-West once the wrong number was down for a walk.
I phoned up the elderly lady to apologise and she said: “oh no, I loved
talking to all those nice young people”.
looks in order. The big addition
from the previous version is Ronan’s report on India. There are plenty of smiling faces and coloured photographs,
with extracts from some of last year’s events: Germany, the Lake District,
Brighton, Glasgow, Malpas, Dehon House, Iona, Donegal.
There is a taste of what each group does and a run-down of this year’s
gets back with a quotation which is much better than I expected, so I arrange to
bring the CD around this morning. They
are only twenty minutes away. I
remember I was here about six years ago when they printed a biography of Leo
Dehon for us. I’m not surprised
when Graham says they’ve been approached about a reprint.
The CD is compatible with their equipment, so Chris and Marius can rest
in peace. Our thanks to them, and
to Bernadette and Colette who are on the editorial team.
the way back I’m listening to Radio 5, my preferred station, though I switch
over as usual when the traffic report comes on. Does anyone actually know anyone who has been helped by the
knowledge that there has been a spillage in Spalding? Dido is on the local radio is telling me ‘Don’t leave
home’. A bit late for that now.
I suppose she’s worried she goes down with the ship.
She deserves nothing more than she gets.
No, I quite like philosophy honestly, for nothing I have is truly mine.
day in the office. Not all day, but
between 8.30 in the morning and 8.30 in the evening. I’ll spend about six hours at the desk. I’m not sure where all the time has gone.
the middle of the morning I go out to the Post Office and collect a direct debit
form from the bank. The idea is to
put a direct debit form in with the magazine to give people a chance to
contribute something to the expenses of the group.
or four days a week we have our lunch made for us. But Margaret has gone on the pilgrimage to Walsingham, so I
decide to treat us by getting prepared meals from Marks and Spencers.
Usually I’m an Asda man. There
is only Fr Michael and myself for lunch. Fr
Tom is away and Fr Liam is on the pilgrimage.
Michael, the parish priest, is from Dublin.
Tom is from Barnsley, and Liam is from Swinford near Knock, where he was
ordained in 2002.
parish is small in population, but busy because it is in the centre of town near
the shops and market. We have
morning prayer at 8.45, as a community. Then
there is Adoration in the Church at 11.30, with Masses at 12.00 and 7.30.
This week, with people away, I say one of the Masses. Normally I just
going out before lunch my head is not as frazzled as it usually is if I’ve
been in the office all morning, but I still take a good break after lunch.
If I can close my eyes even for a minute it sets me up for the rest of
when having a cuppa, I discover that the snooker is on and watch Stephen Hendry
clinch the final frames. Snooker is
one of those games that always appears boring to begin with, but the more you
watch the more you get hooked. I’m
glad of opportunities to switch off the brain.
On office days I can only spend so much time at the desk.
In between I’m looking for what can help recover the brain cells.
reply to the emails about the diary. No-one
is against it, but then a cautionary one arrives from someone.
Is there a danger of giving out too much personal information?
Maybe. But, as I said
earlier, it is easier for me to open myself up to a group than to an individual. Writing this has made me feel closer to the community of the
group. But she has got me thinking.
are a few newsletters almost ready to be sent out. London 20s and 30s and Glasgow 20s. I have to insert and update the information on the main
events. Stafford is prepared to be
contact for London for Lough Derg in July.
He’s been there already and will be able to advise people as to the
horrors. We don’t manage to tie
down the details of the London picnic in July.
Martin sends final details of Iona.
wants to advertise locally in Chester for the group in the local papers. We’ve
talked about this in other areas and always been afraid who we might attract.
This can be a pilot.
get an invitation to take part in a group in the Westminster Diocese that is
looking at ways to reach out to young Catholics and to listen generally to what
people are asking for.
to Dublin today for the Thirtysomethings’ AGM.
Still a few things to do in the office first. Yesterday was working on an update of the information for
groups coming from Europe to our gathering at Malpas in August.
Get this away by email.
the main events for 2004 I headline Malpas in August as a European gathering.
People got the idea that this was a European meeting to which the 2030
groups are invited. But it is
really our 2030 gathering. Just
that we are inviting people from similar kinds of groups in Europe to come
along. These groups are also sponsored by the Dehonians.
last couple of years we have had 50 to 60 at Dehon House for a weekend in July.
This time we are going for a midweek.
It means people have to take a week off work, but it gives us more time
and it should be a great experience. For
anyone who is not aware what is happening in August here are the details as they
now appear in the new area newsletters.
9 – 13 AUGUST – PROJECT 2030
Join people from the other groups and from 2030 type groups from Spain,
Italy, Portugal etc for a week of fun and reflection in Cheshire.
Day out in Wales. Sponsored
by the Dehonians/Sacred heart Fathers. Payment
is in the form of a donation. 4 –
6 places available for each of the
8 groups. Especially looking for
musicians, organisers, good hosts, discussion group leaders etc.
If you are interested contact Hugh as soon as possible, saying also what
you can contribute to the week. People
from other countries all speak English. Must
be there by 4.00 pm on Monday. Finishes
Friday after breakfast.
has emailed over the updated London 20s newsletter for me to see before it is
photocopied. There are a few things
I notice, so I ring before she leaves for work at Malpas.
not been able to adapt the direct debit form so people are going to be let off
from receiving a begging letter. But
if anyone wants to make a contribution or to ask family or other groups to help
out with funds for the group, send the cheque made out to Project 2030 to:
Project 2030, St Joseph’s, Tilston Rd, Malpas, Cheshire, SY14 7DD.
Ronan is co-ordinating raising funds for our missions and other groups in India.
Cheques can also be sent for this in the same way, but say clearly and
write on the back of the cheque that it is for India.
picnic I mentioned earlier for London in July is meant as a fund raiser for
India. Jean is going to get proper
caterers for it, but the added complication is that if we do it in one of the
parks in London officially you have to go through various red tape.
But it should be fun and there will be time to put details in the next
reminded me that I got a letter yesterday from someone we met in India in
February. She mentioned that she
had not heard from any of those who had promised to write to her (not me) so
I’ll need to get that message through to the India re-union in May.
It doesn’t look as though anyone else outside London will be able to
attend the re-union.
flight to Dublin is at 11.05 from Manchester.
The 9.20 bus from the bus station two minutes down the hill is the
target. It only takes 15 – 20
minutes. It now looks as though
it’s going to have to be the 9.50. Then
I remember that Ryanair now ask you to be at the desk 40 minutes in advance
(used to be only 30), so I decide to take a taxi (don’t tell anyone) just in
years ago I missed the Dublin 30s AGM because I could not get on the flight at
Stanstead. They had just changed
their policy. You needed nationally
recognised photo-identity, and the photograph I had used previously was not
acceptable. I got back to Dehon
House in time to send an email message that was read out by Tommy.
taxi driver is a Man City supporter. He
is not impressed when I tell him that on Monday I was at the printers who do
their programme. He is more
interested in telling me of the caravan holidays he had by Loch Lomond.
I tell him I’ll be passing the Bonnie Banks on the way to Iona on
Saturday. We’ll also be walking
that way in July on the West Highland Way.
Lomond has always been important to me. Sometimes
when people ask where I come from I say about twenty miles west of Glasgow or,
to be posh, about six miles south of Loch Lomond.
We grew up on Lomond Avenue, Port Glasgow, where Ben Lomond could be seen
across the Clyde.
the soiree after my ordination I was invited by public acclamation to sing a
song. The only one I could think of
was ‘By yon bonnie banks of Loch Lomond’.
The compere (who will remain nameless) whispered back: “You can’t
sing that”. It was too trad and
twee (that was before Runrig got a hold of it).
The only other song I could think of was a love song which I interpreted
even in its most graphic lines as describing my relationship with God.
The spiritual angle was not understood, and I’m still living it down
within the family.
get to the airport in plenty of time – time in fact to write yesterday’s
diary and post it to C and C. Yesterday
I also looked for the first time at how it appears on the web page.
It looks good. Seeing it in print the serious bits did not look so serious
nor the silly bits so silly. We’ve
decided just to keep the same web address for now, and the counter is now in
Bobby and Fr Jim are the two priests who look after our Parish of St Vianney,
Artane, Dublin. Jim was with me the
last four years at Dehon House and was always very welcoming to the group.
Likewise Bobby who was previously at our other Dublin community on
was still away giving a retreat to Sisters, so I offered to say one of the
Masses. I’m usually awake quite
early, so I opted for the 7.45. There
were about 50 in the congregation. I
expected it to be mostly workers but there were quite a few retired people
making an early start. There
didn’t seem to be anyone under 40 there, though I do know some in their 20s
and 30s who try when they can to go to weekday Mass.
morning is going to be fairly quiet so it gives me time to think over the 30s
AGM last night. The most pressing
issue is that Ruth is stepping down from her job as secretary.
In recent years the group has done all its own administration and
mailings. Address lists have to be
kept up to date, subscription fees collected, newsletters sent out.
It’s going to take three to do what Ruth did.
We got some volunteers who will give it a go and review the situation in
spent some time reflecting what the group is for. I explain that the original idea was to get Catholics
together in their 30s and help facilitate whatever they would like to do.
Gradually the group came to see itself more as a social group with
occasional genuflections to the spiritual side.
For a while we did not need to advertise in the parishes for new members,
but then we discovered that most people who were joining by word of mouth saw it
almost exclusively as a social group.
recently the trend has started to reverse, and people at the meeting were keen
to stress the importance of the religious dimension, but not sure how to go
about this in practice. I said that
other groups often met on a Saturday or Sunday for Mass and then went on to
the group have arranged to go to Knock 15 – 16 May, and there is also the
pilgrimage to Lough Derg, though naturally there won’t be too many volunteers
for St Patrick’s Purgatory and three days of fasting and sleep deprivation.
Fr John had offered to do a day at Inchicore in June, but this falls on
the Bank Holiday weekend, so we’ll need to look for another date.
Dublin 30s are the only group with a subscription. I felt this affected the ethos as well, making it too formal.
And those who were not so keen on the social side would have less
incentive to renew their subscription. Everyone
was quite happy with paying something. But
it was decided to reduce from 30 to 20 euros the fee for those who only receive
the monthly newsletter by email, to help cut down on postage and administration.
are in place for the 4th Birthday party of Project 2030 to be held in
Dublin on the last weekend in May. Last
year about 30 came from Britain for this. We don’t expect so many this year. But it’s always a highlight of the year, with a gathering
Friday evening, sightseeing and party on the Saturday, and Mass at the
Pro-Cathedral followed by a pub lunch on the Sunday.
the meeting Tommy gives me a lift back to the parish. He wants to know how people are that he met in Liverpool,
Malpas and London. We sit talking
for a while in the car outside the house. Fr
Jim had forgotten that I was coming to Ireland today and he is just about to
phone the police and say that there is a suspicious car in the car park.
They have had trouble before. He’s
noted the registration number, but it’s only me.
having quite a quiet morning, even reading an article in the TS on Von Balthasar
which admits that his theology concentrated on the individual and their
one-to-one relationship to God – a challenge to me and my seeing things
preferably from a group perspective. Even
the Trinity can be related to as a group.
a coffee, I realise that I’ve not made any arrangements to get the new
magazine distributed to the parishes in Dublin.
Jim is at a meeting at Malpas in a couple of weeks time.
He says he can bring them across. What
about stamps? I phone the post office for weights and prices and measure
out the equivalent of 250g. We can
send 6 magazines for 96 cents. It
costs almost 300 euros for postage for the 200+ parishes and the groups.
takes me to the airport after an early lunch for a flight to Glasgow.
I’m going to be a day early for going to Iona, but that means I can
have a day off. The pilot points
out Belfast as we fly over. These past three years Belfast has been my next target for
starting a group. This time last
year I literally had the phone in my hand to make the first official contact
with the Dioceses in the North. Then
something happened to make me realise I had too much on my plate at that time,
and the call never got made. I’m
not sure if I would have enough weekends to look after groups in five areas.
Maybe Belfast, like Glasgow, could have more things mid-week.
A group there would help to square the circle, and it would be good to
have two groups in Ireland. We’ll
As I said earlier in the diary, when I have a day off I am not going to keep the diary but will put in some other reflection. Last week I was asked to write an article on the life of Leo John Dehon, our Founder, for our ‘Contact’ magazine to celebrate his beatification next year. So here is the first part of it (second part next week).
Leo Dehon was born on 14 March 1843 in La Capelle, halfway between Paris and Calais. The house still stands and has recently been re-acquired by the Sacred Heart Fathers. His mother had a strong faith, but his father was quite skeptical and tried to persuade him not to become a priest. He sent Leo on long holidays, including 3 months in Britain and Ireland in 1862, when he visited all the main cities and tourist areas like The Lakes, Iona and the Giants Causeway.
Leo took his father’s advice and studied in Paris to be a lawyer, but once he had qualified in 1865 he went to Rome to begin his studies for the priesthood for his home diocese of Soissons. Yet gradually he realized that he wanted to join a religious community. One day in Rome he found himself looking at the portraits of Cardinals who had been canonized, and he noticed that nearly all of them came from monasteries. This is how he described his reaction: “Since I am a lover of logic, I concluded that I would enter religious life, not to be canonized but to become holy and love and serve our Lord better”.
When he was ordained in 1870 he wrote: “I stood up a priest, taken over by Jesus, totally his, filled with his love for the Father, with his zeal for souls, his spirit of prayer and sacrifice”.
In his last year of studies he was a secretary at the First Vatican Council. Then the Bishop sent him in 1871 to be the sixth curate in the town of St Quentin, not far from home. Within a few weeks of arriving in the parish he wrote: “For the good of the apostolate in St Quentin we are badly in need of a Catholic College, a youth centre and a Catholic paper”. He was to achieve all three in a short space of time. Later he was also appointed spiritual director to the Sisters of the Heart of Jesus. They helped deepen his appreciation of the love of Christ – “a most remarkable circumstance which would prepare the way for the rest of my life”, he wrote.
He was appointed a Canon in 1877 in recognition of his work in France to promote justice for workers and the poor. He still wanted to be a religious, but he could not find a community that would take him and adopt his ventures, especially his work for young workers. He had over 300 members in his association. He knew the Bishop wanted a College in St Quentin so he suggested in 1877 that he could start one if he was able to set up a religious community at the same time. The Bishop agreed and that was the beginning of the Oblates of the Sacred Heart.
The Community and College got off to a good start, but in 1883 the Bishop had some concerns, and one of the Sisters in the Convent was having ‘revelations’. He referred the matter to Rome, who closed the community down. People were amazed at the humble way Leo Dehon accepted it. Within 4 months the Church reversed its decision and the new Congregation grew from strength to strength, now to be known as Priests of the Sacred Heart.
The community soon spread to Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany. The first missionaries went to Uruguay and the Congo in 1888. Much of the Founder's energy was now concentrated on building up the community and inspiring his followers to spread his message to the needy - that God loves them, sin is forgiven, and something can be done about the unjust circumstances in which they find themselves. At the same time he become better known as a writer on the love of the Heart of Jesus and as a promoter of justice for the poor.