April 1 - Friday
EASTER QUIZ FROM MALPAS
At Malpas there is a tradition now of doing a quiz on the evening of Good Friday as no-one is going to the pub. Gavin prepared this year's.
First of all there was a picture round with pictures of Paul Young, Gail Porter, Wayne Rooney, J-Lo, David Dickenson, Geri Halliwell, Sienna Miller, Michael Howard, David Jason and Kiera Knightley. At least one table got each answer right except for Sienna Miller. For the overall quiz two tables tied on 24 out of 30. Answers next week.
April 2 - Saturday
THE MENTAL CAPACITY BILL
Someone sent me a copy of details of this Bill which is going through Westminster, and asked me to pass it on.
PARLIAMENT: EASTER 2005 - THE MENTAL CAPACITY BILL
A Final Push to keep this important Bill on course and stop Euthanasia.
During the week of April 4th, when the House of Commons resumes after the Easter recess, the Mental Capacity Bill will return for its final stages. Although significant improvements have been made, Archbishop Peter Smith, along with the Anglican Bishop of Winchester and the All-Party pro-life parliamentarians in the Commons and Lords, still believe that the Bill is defective. The Government's failure to close a loophole that will allow suicidally motivated Advance Directives will open the way for euthanasia.
Professor John Finnis, Professor of law at Oxford University, says: The Government has "carelessly introduced a new culture of prescribing death by the artifice of arranged and managed omissions, or at least considerably reinforcing that new culture. The Government answers....about blatantly suicidal Advance Directives, were utterly without merit or credibility."
How you must help:
Please use this last opportunity to write to your MP at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA urging them to take immediate action. Or telephone him or her at the House of Commons: 020 7219 3000.
This vote is about Life and Death.
April 3 - Sunday
THE DEATH OF JOHN PAUL II
This is an email that has gone out to all of the groups today to commemorate the life and death of Pope John Paul II and to suggest that we try, as far as possible, to unite ourselves in times of prayer for him and for the Church over the coming weeks every evening at 8.30 pm.
We will all have
been touched, I am sure, by the news of the death of our Pope, John Paul II.
Last Monday I
included a tribute to him from The Times of London in the diary. This week
I have been gripped very much by the news of his impending death and it could be
that this man who was so vigorous in promoting the Good News of Jesus Christ
might have made his greatest witness to God by the way in which he died and,
just as Jesus rose from the dead, we pray that new life will come in to the
Church now because of the great example of Karol Wojtyla.
exactly where I was when I heard that this cardinal from Poland had been elected
Pope. It changed the outlook of the Church at a stroke. When I
studied in Rome from 1980 - 1982 I saw and heard him many times and was able to
bring visitors from Britain to his audiences in St Peter's Square. I knew
where to wait at the end of the audience so that people would have a chance to
shake his hand. One of the ladies from St John Ogilvie's, Irvine, said
"Now I can die happy". When he was shot on 13 May 1981 it was
not such a great shock. The Poles at the college had been telling us to
expect something like this.
When I was the
provincial of the Sacred Heart Fathers I was introduced to him twice. On
the first occasion, when he heard I was from the British-Irish Province, he
said, "Ah, English", and I replied, "No, Scottish". I
like to tell people we only exchanged two words but he got me wrong and I said
'no' to him. This must be his technique because I heard a priest
yesterday say that when he was introduced to the Pope as coming from Manchester
he said, "Ah, United", and the priest said, "No, City".
Each of us will
have been touched in our own way by the life and death of the Pope. It was
very helpful for me this morning to follow the Requiem Mass from Westminster
Cathedral on BBC1 and to feel united with other people. I am suggesting
that as a group over the few weeks until the new Pope is elected that we try and
spend some time of silence and prayer each evening at 8.30 pm, united in the
thought that others in the group will also be praying for the repose of the soul
of the Pope and for his successor. This is also a good time for us to
reflect what it means to be a Catholic and to belong to a worldwide Church which
uniquely claims to be the one universal community descended from St Peter, the
head of the apostles. Hopefully in the middle of the evening you will be
sufficiently rested after your day's work and it is not too late to open our
hearts to the presence of God in our lives in this way. If it works for
you then maybe you can let us know in such a way that it will be helpful to
others who are trying to keep this time of solidarity and prayer.
As for the
beatification of Leo John Dehon on 24 April (there are almost 30 of us going out
to Rome) this was the worst case scenario. I am not sure what will happen.
I will let people know when it is clear, but we might even find ourselves in
Rome for the election of the Pope or his Installation, or the beatification
might even be one of the first public services of the new man.
Let us continue
our prayers for John Paul and for his successor and continue to reflect what it
means to be a Catholic and belong to the People of God.
April 4 - Monday
USING THE PSALMS
At retreats we often use the Jewish Psalms for our prayers. Sometimes we have a period of silence where people can read out the line that has said most to them as a kind of meditation. It always works, and to hear what is important to individuals can be moving. Here is a prayer closely based on Psalm 139 which also inspired a famous poem by Francis Thompson called 'The Hound of Heaven'.
A PRAYER (AFTER PSALM 139)
Father, God of love,
You know all about me.
You know my most secret thoughts,
You know when I am sitting and when I am standing.
Nothing I do is hidden from you.
Even before I start to speak you know what I am going to say.
You are behind me and before me protecting me with your hand.
This knowledge is way beyond me, a height my mind cannot reach.
Where could I go to escape you?
Where would I ever be away from you?
If I climb to the heavens you are there.
If I go into the depths of the grave, yes you are there.
If I flew away to where the sunrise starts, or away across the sea, still you are there,
guiding me and supporting me with your loving hand.
If I said to the darkness: "Hide me and change the light into night",
The darkness is not dark to you, it is as clear as day.
Yes it was you who created me. You formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you for the wonder of myself.
I thank you for the wonder and mystery of all your creation.
Father, you know me totally,
even from the secret of my mother's womb.
You knew all my days and actions before any of them came into being.
Search me and know me.
Know all the thoughts of my heart.
Protect me from walking in sinful ways
and guide me into life everlasting.
April 5 - Tuesday
HOW WRONG WAS THE POPE?
For my monthly discussion on the BBC Radio Five message board I tackled some of the criticism that has come to Pope John Paul II because of his stance on certain moral issues. Here is the first part of the discussion. I can only give what I have written because of the BBC rules, but I have tried to give a flavour of other peoples reactions. I generally only replied if people were critical of what I said. Other people wrote supporting my stance.
How wrong is the Pope Hugh 2030 - 6th post -
5 Apr 2005 16:35
re: How wrong is the Pope Hugh
2030 - 7th post - 5 Apr 2005 16:54
re: How wrong is the Pope Hugh
2030 - 9th post - 5 Apr 2005 17:08
re: How wrong is the Pope Hugh
2030 - 11th post - 5 Apr 2005 17:25
April 6 - Wednesday
FROM THE RADIO FIVE MESSAGEBOARD
Here are more extracts from the web discussion I started defending the Pope. Over a 24 hour period it was by far the most popular debate on the Radio 5 messageboard. There were about 100 other discussions with an average of 10 contributions each, with topics ranging from who will be the next Pope to the election and the royal wedding.
We had almost 50 postings. You might still be able to see the whole discussion on http://www.bbc.co.uk/cgi-perl/h2/h2.cgi?find=%3C1112727588-10922.31%40forum2.mh.bbc.co.uk%3E#mid I'll be starting another debate like this next month. If you want to know when a discussion is starting so that you can follow it or contribute to it, send an email message to email@example.com and we'll give you warning. Or why not start you own topic?
re: How wrong is the Pope Hugh
2030 - 17th post - 5 Apr 2005 19:28
you talk about abstaining as long as you can and giving in, I think part of you
wants to agree with me. I don't think the Pope would have so actively condemned
the use of condoms if people had not been saying to him all the time that he
should give them his blessing. The same applies to homosexual sex. Homosexuals
were continually pushing the Pope for acceptance of anal sex. The Pope did not
come out often and condemn heterosexuals who were living together before
marriage, because no one has been campaigning to say it is a good thing and get
the Church's acceptance. I can't remember the Pope ever saying anything about
telling lies. Most people do tell lies at some time, but society does not then
try to say that there is nothing wrong with telling lies. The problem in sexual
matters is that in Western culture people want to say:' Well, everybody is doing
it, so it must be alright then.'
It's not the Pope who has
left people vulnerable to disease. They
are doing it to themselves by going against nature which has designed us for
fidelity to one partner. By being one of the few voices saying that you don't
need to indulge in easy sex he has given a support to people who know in their
heart of hearts that sex is really only worthwhile in a loving committed
As for an accident with condoms just being an accident and therefore not manslaughter where HIV/Aids is a possibility, tell that to the man who runs the bungee jump, or his insurer [reply] [Complain about this post]
re: How wrong is the Pope Hugh 2030 - 10th post
- 5 Apr 2005 17:20
re: How wrong is the Pope Hugh 2030 - 18th post
- 5 Apr 2005 19:37
14 year old mother might easily 'hate and despise and goes onto resent ignore
that child who grows up unloved, uncherished and disenfranchised' as you say,
but she might not, especially if there was a climate in our society which was
more supportive of children no matter how they came about. It's not the child' s
fault. If that was me in the womb I think I would want to take the chance.
You seem to be saying that you would not abort if the foetus was older
than 16 weeks, because then it would not be viable outside the womb. That's more
generous than a lot of people who support abortion. But what is your definition
of viability. A born child is not viable for years if no one looks after it,
while a child in the womb is more viable if it is left to mature there as nature
intended. If wombs were transparent how many people would have abortions? [reply]
about this post]
re: How wrong is the Pope Hugh
2030 - 19th post - 5 Apr 2005 19:59
April 7 - Thursday
THOUGHTS ON THE HOLOCAUST
These thoughts of Duncan on the Holocaust were supposed to go on the Web on Sunday but got pulled because of the Pope's death. It was significant that the Pope's will, which was published today, only mentioned two people by name, the Archbishop who was his secretary and the Chief Rabbi of Rome.
I'm not sure I could visit Auschwitz. I
think it would be too much. I can read about the Holocaust but find it hard to
watch the footage or films. It does seem strange coach loads of people turning
up with their cameras. I hope they all realise it's a memorial, not a tourist
April 8 - Friday
THE FUNERAL OF POPE JOHN PAUL II
In recent months I've been using my mobile phone more. I can see how people can get hooked on them. I get up at 7.00 am and switch it on. There's a message from my brother who is in Rome with his wife on a pre-arranged holiday. They went down towards St Peter's Square at 6.00 am but could not get anywhere near it, so went back to their hotel to watch the funeral on TV. Lucia, Anne-Marie and Louise from the London 30s have gone to Rome for the funeral, but I have not been able to contact them.
There's a particularly vicious article and cartoon about the Pope in the Guardian, so after breakfast I send an email to the letters page:
To the Editor of the Guardian.
How could such a great man as the Pope be so wrong about condoms, unless of course he is right. By holding out against immense pressure from those who think that Sex must be obeyed at all times, he has led Aids sufferers towards faithfulness and abstention and thus saved more lives. Condoms are only 98 per cent effective at the best of times. If Polly Toynbee and others think that John Paul has been guilty of murder, then those who encourage people with HIV/Aids to have sex with condoms are at least guilty of manslaughter. The condom manufacturers have long since advised against using their products in dangerous circumstances. They don't want to be sued.
The response to the Pope's death has been almost unbelievable, but certain commentators feel they have to attack with all guns blazing. They cannot take the chance that the Church's moral teaching take root in our society. That would put the high priests of secularism out of a job.
The funeral is live on BBC 1 and ITV 1 from 9.00 am till 12.00. I imagine most of the group will have missed it due to work. It was very solemn, yet simple and moving. The service followed the same pattern that would be used for any Catholic's funeral. Cardinal Ratzinger spoke about John Paul's life and beliefs. He said that there were three quotations from the Gospel that motivated him above all:
It was amazing to see so many world leaders at the Vatican, yet somehow they did not seem as important as they usually do. Here we were dealing with different realities.
Shortly after the service I try to phone Lucia again and get through, but her battery is running flat and she is scared to speak too much. I don't know if they got into the Square, but she sounds excited, says that they'll write a report and she's also done a video diary. If we weren't going to Rome in a few week's time I might have gone out with them. The beatification of Leo Dehon has been postponed, but we could be there for the election of the new Pope.
I was going to remind you about continuing to keep united in prayer every evening for John Paul at 8.30. But the banners in the Piazza today were demanding that he be declared a saint immediately, and the sermon pictured him looking down from God's window in heaven. I am sure the Pope would want us to keep praying for him, but perhaps more so for his successor. The three BBC guest commentators were asked at the end about the next Pope. There are a very large pair of shoes to be filled, said one. We need above all a holy man, and thirdly we require a Pope not just for the Church but for the world.
There was a good response to the idea of being united in prayer and reflection every evening at 8.30 pm.
April 9 - Saturday
LONDON 30S RETREAT AT TURVEY ABBEY
This is Clare's report on the London 30s retreat Turvey Abbey.
Turvey was not a
place I had heard of until I saw the advert in one of the Project 2030 e-mails,
but I liked the rustic sound of it even before I got on the train out of St
Pancras. Due to frenetic activity
of one kind or another and a dose of cynicism after unhealthy over-exposure to
various Catholic movements last year, I had felt I needed a spiritual top-up and
not necessarily one I’d find in the Mind, Body and Spirit pages of a glossy
supplement of a Saturday national newspaper. Turvey is one of those little gems
that is very seldom mentioned in the drawing rooms of the intelligentsia but is,
at the same time, an open secret.
For all this, the
village is accessible. Three of the
group (of twelve) met on the X2 bus which links Turvey with Bedford station.
Door to door by bus and train, the journey takes about one hour forty
minutes from London St Pancras – just about commutable distance if you have a
penchant for country living. Our
fellow retreatants who came by car fared less well and got stuck in the
customary traffic jams etc. But
if you are delayed, Turvey is worth the wait.
The scenery there is quite beautiful: on a par with anything I have seen
in northern Italy, with rolling hills and valleys awakening in morning mist and
bathed in golden sunlight by the afternoon and the village itself is
The abbey - just set
off the main road - is inhabited by the Olivetan Benedictines, an offshoot of
the teaching order who still reside in Cockfosters. They have been there for fifteen or sixteen years but bought
the site (including the 18th Century country house which the nuns
inhabit) from a local family who, religiously speaking, ‘definitely had a foot
in both camps’ during the Reformation. Historical
suckers for intrigue will be delighted to hear the rumour of a tunnel linking
Turvey to a place of safety for fugitive priests and disappointed that the nuns
(spoilsports) have filled in most of it with concrete.
For the record, we saw no suspicious activity anywhere at all in Turvey
over the weekend. Incidentally, Br
Tom, one of the brothers in the monastic part of the site, was quite
disappointed that he never got the chance to have a look at any old vestments
that may be hanging in the tunnel. But
with Eurostar arriving at St Pancras, maybe it’s just as well the Turvey
extension got blocked.
overhaul is not something on the menu at Turvey. Rather it’s a place of respite from the world with a
genuine Christian ethos that extends to the poor and needy as well as
overwrought city folk on an alternative bender of a weekend.
But talking of menus, the food quality at Turvey is just superb.
Benedictines are, apparently, noted for their culinary skill and
hospitality (I hear Solemnes in France is also very, very good in this regard).
On the Friday, we had a choice of stew or a vegetarian option, plus
desert. But with a full stomach and
after a long commute and a short night prayers+ I was quite beached by nine and
chose to hit the sack for the rest of the night, although some of the others
went to the pub in the village.
sociable (and I’m not a morning person) and we had a tour of the grounds
(including pottery and the promise of a glimpse of the sisters’ tapestries
later on for those interested). After this, Fr Hugh gave a talk during which
time we had to look deep within at some of our issues and either get into
contemplative mood in the abbey complex or on a local walk.
I chose the second option but have to confess that none of my issues
really came up as I was more worried about trespassing on someone’s piece of
land or meeting a vicious dog than mulling over or processing my deepest
concerns. My silence came to an
end, anyway, when I bumped into another retreatant in the Anglican churchyard
and gave him a Werthers Original. But
I tried. The nun’s life is not
for me. We had mass at midday – a
very intimate mass in which the bread was broken over a round table around which
we sat and over which we later offered each other the sign of peace.
I couldn’t help wishing that mass could be like this all the time:
simple and meaningful instead of removed and artificially pious.
We had some free time
after lunch, with the option of visiting the neighbouring market town of Olney
or walking three miles to a country park with lake. I chose Olney and hitched a ride with Michael who was taking
Fr Hugh back to Milton Keynes and then wandered around with Sophie (from Central
London), finding the river bank and walking towards and then away from the sun.
We headed back to Turvey at fiveish.
Br John was giving a talk. I
would have been put-off by the title (‘Suffering’) but a lot of what he said
made sense and there was none of the hard stuff about being miserable and
carrying your cross (which doesn’t make it any lighter anyway).
It was rather about keeping a sense of peace and growing in real serenity
through sensitive prayer and charity. He
also told us a few anecdotes about canon law which were both illuminating and
reassuring. Behind the
machinery of Vatican governance Jesus’s message of love is still accessible to
all. The evening closed with
prayer in the main chapel (consisting of psalms set to unaccompanied music) and
the mandatory trip to the pub. But
there must have been something in the country air, as most of the group were
tucked up in bed by ten.
Palm Sunday in Turvey
is unusual. Although the abbey is
not a parish, people come from miles around to celebrate mass there and there is
some authenticity as the palms are real branches taken from the monastery
bushes, as opposed to imported leaves. The
service itself was conducted in the chapel and was dignified and solemn although
the chapel, with its glass roof lent the proceedings a light and a hope of the
new life to come at Easter.
Mass was followed by
a talk by Br Tom, probably the youngest member of the community.
He gave us a potted history of his pre-Turvey days before leading us onto
consideration of the meaning of the crucifixion and some discussion.
Back to the pub for a
traditional Sunday lunch (back to the gym on Monday, I guess) and then the X2
and train home. We didn’t see
much of Bedford, which has a lot of history, and the bus station is not a place
in which to loiter (there’s a ‘recycling’ bin for knives and various
outside the police station opposite) but everything went well and we made good
connections again. As for Turvey, I
thought it was a little piece of heaven on earth.
The simplicity of the lives of the monks and sisters gives the place a
timelessness and there are times when you need the minute and second hands to
slow. Now that I’m back in
Croydon, the whole episode seems surreal; such is the dreamlike quality of that
part of Bedfordshire. I just wonder whether I didn’t dream the whole thing and
whether it will still be there, unchanged, in years to come. I hope so.
April 10 - Sunday
LONDON ALPHA COURSE - THE HOLY SPIRIT - THE FUNERAL
About 20 from the
London groups are halfway through the Alpha course. This programme was
designed by an Anglican
priest as an easy introduction to
Christianity. It has since been accepted by the Catholic Church.
Millions of people have now done Alpha throughout the world. It can also
be used as a way of renewing your faith. Patricia talks about the
benefits of Alpha for her on the back page of the latest magazine. The
group is meeting for 10 weeks from 2.00 - 5.00 on the theme of the Holy Spirit.
priest as an easy introduction to Christianity. It has since been accepted by the Catholic Church. Millions of people have now done Alpha throughout the world. It can also be used as a way of renewing your faith. Patricia talks about the benefits of Alpha for her on the back page of the latest magazine. The group is meeting for 10 weeks from 2.00 - 5.00 on the theme of the Holy Spirit.
The first two talks were given by Julia who works in the Alpha headquarters at The Holy Trinity, Brompton. A boyfriend had introduced her to it at University. She didn't get the guy, but she got God and went back to being a practicing Anglican. She guided us through various references to the Spirit in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Right from the beginning the Spirit (Ruah) was hovering over the water. We see the effect of the Spirit, for example, on Gideon who was chosen to be a leader even though he was the least likely candidate (reminds me of some Popes), and then there was Samson who was given the power to break free from his chains. In Jeremiah God says that he will put his spirit within us and remove from us our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh instead.
The Jews expected the Spirit to flow from the side of the Temple. Ezekiel predicts a great flood in the future. But it doesn't happen for a long time. John the Baptist tells us that Jesus will baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire. On the day of the festival when the High priests went down to take water from the stream at the side of the temple and bring it back in procession, Jesus stood there and cried out: "If anyone is thirsty let them come to me and drink. From their heart shall flow out streams of living water". He was speaking of the Spirit which had not been given yet. I thought how for Leo Dehon the blood and water from the side of Jesus, dead on the cross, was the symbol of this flood which has now spread throughout the world. We are not always aware of this torrent of love and grace even though we are part of it. Last week at the Pope's funeral it was more evident. As someone said during one of the breaks today, it was quite a week to live through.
One of the characteristics of Alpha is to eat together beforehand. Today we ate in the middle. Michael had prepared a buffet. I always enjoy "picnics" with their spontaneity, informality and variety. Michael also gave the third talk. He concentrated more on the gifts of the Holy Spirit as described in 1 Corinthians. St Paul tells us that within the Christian community there are a variety of gifts, but it is always the same spirit. Some are called to be Apostles, other prophets or teachers. There are many different gifts like hospitality or administration. This is something I have always stressed within the group, that we are all contributing something, even if we think we are not. If you stay away from the group or from the Church because you feel you have nothing to contribute, then you are depriving not only us but yourself as well. Michael had most of his talk written down, so I'm going to ask him if we can include it in the diary. He also invited one of the group to describe how they had experienced the gift of tongues.
I'm writing this on the train back to Stockport. About half an hour ago the light of the setting sun came streaming in. I went to the door to watch the sunset. While I was reflecting on what a day, what a week, Lucia rang to say how they had got on in Rome at the Pope's funeral (the emotion of last week came back just listening to her). Louise and Anne-Marie are going to write up a full report. I'm not going to spoil their amazing experience. Imagine the best case scenario. It was better than that.
April 11 - Monday
“Easter at Malpas 2005” Report by Katie
Howley (Glasgow group)
For me, the Easter gathering at Malpas was everything I hoped it would be. There was time for prayer, meditation, reflection, relaxation and friendship. It all began (for those of us from further a field) around tea time on Holy Thursday with just enough warm, hazy, sunlight remaining for us to absorb the breathtaking scenery surrounding St Josephs. As more and more of the group arrived sporadically throughout the evening, we prepared to celebrate Mass in our own private chapel, after which, we processed across the courtyard for prayers before the Blessed Sacrament. The first evening ended for some of us with a brief trip to the pub followed by night prayers then an early night to recharge our batteries.
By late morning on Good Friday, most of the group were present and it was time to be allocated our roles for the service. Before the serious rehearsing got underway, there was time for a walk around the pretty little village of Malpas and its surrounding areas.
The Good Friday service was very touching in a sense that it physically and emotionally led us through the pain and suffering endured by Christ in his final hours on earth, thanks to all the hard work and top-class performances from everyone. We all then had the opportunity to venerate the cross followed by some time for personal reflection at the end of the service.
It was now time for the boys to let off some steam and display their highly polished soccer skills. We were treated to the Lights v Darks resulting in the Light triumphing over the Dark. It was a very entertaining game indeed with some seriously questionable tackles but thankfully no major injuries!
The quiz in the evening gave each of us an opportunity to display our (lack of?) general knowledge. My team was fortunate enough to have Hugh there to answer all of the historical questions for us – sorry Hugh!....
By Holy Saturday we were all feeling relaxed in each others company and enjoying spending time with each other. After morning prayers there were opportunities for visits to Chester or to go on various walks etc. Everyone seemed to have a nice afternoon whatever they chose to do. It was soon time for the Easter Vigil which included a torchlight procession from the darkness of the garden into the light of the Chapel. Again this proved to be very moving and realistic experience thanks to all the hard work put in by everyone involved. We also had a beautiful Easter garden as a visual stimulus to help set the scene.
It was now time to get down to some serious partying. With the wine and fine ale’s flowing, we started off with “Dom & Duncan’s Saturday night take away” which then mutated beyond belief to something involving Gerry playing Snow White! For some of us, a brilliant evening wound up with a ceilidh, limbo dancing, musical chairs and passing the fruit, all to the dulcet tones of Boney M – There’s a first time for everything……!
Easter Sunday was a day of rejoicing and of sadness as we all had to say our goodbyes to old friends and new. The following replayed in my mind “from age to age you gather a people to your self, so that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name”
We were 35 people united in faith now going back to various corners of Britain to spread the Easter message through our daily lives. Hopefully it won’t be long before it is time for us to unite again.
I’d like to thank my fellow music group members for working so hard with me and learning lots of music in such a short space of time! I’d also like to say a big thank you to everyone for making the event so enjoyable and especially to Hugh, for without him, none of it would have happened.
April 12 - Tuesday
THE TIMES ON THE POPE'S LEGACY
Here is another editorial from The Times of London. It is encouraging to see how the secular press viewed him. What is particularly interesting about this article is how it hints that maybe John Paul's greatest achievements are still to come. There was a very good response to the idea of spending some time united in prayer and reflection every evening at 8.30 pm. The problem I have is remembering to do it (even on Sunday night in the train when my thoughts were very much in Rome). So last night I set my mobile to go off at 20.29. Just as well, for my reaction was still: "What on earth is that?"
A Pope like no other in recent times received a papal funeral of a sort without precedent as well. The extraordinary crowds in Rome were supplemented by many hundreds of millions around the world for whom the ceremony - although 150 minutes long - passed at speed and with dignity. The simplicity of the coffin of John Paul II was augmented by a service that was rich, profound and summoned up the traditions of many centuries. Despite the huge logistical challenges, not least concerning the security of dignitaries, the Vatican can be satisfied at how events passed.
This outpouring less of grief than a form of pride again illustrated the power of faith in an era when it is fashionable to deride spirituality. When the Pope died on Saturday, Italian officials estimated that about one million people might travel to Rome in the days before the funeral. By the standards of any previous papal death this seemed wildly optimistic. As matters evolved, it was a substantial underestimate. Yet the Italian authorities and the people of Rome have coped despite the astonishing human inflow. Nor will the queues disappear. Many who missed the opportunity this week will want to see John Paul II in his resting place.
These remarkable statistics pay tribute to his legacy. There is a broader sense, though, in which this Pope left not only his own faith but faith itself stronger. For all their difficulties in the past decade, religions across the spectrum have become, despite inevitable internal disputes, more comfortable with each other. There is an emerging understanding that whatever the finer disagreements of theological detail, the common rivals of mainstream religion are, on one side, radical fundamentalism (of various brands) and, on the other, an unthinking materialism that mistakes content for contentment and possessions for achievement.
The next Pope thus has grounds for cautious optimism. He will encounter a Church which, in contrast to the dark days of the 1970s before John Paul II emerged, is entitled to be more concerned about the dwindling number of new priests than diminishing congregations. Yet the combination of the example of the departed Pope and the yearning for a life that involved more than an accumulation of interesting gadgets might yet stimulate an increase in the numbers of young men putting themselves forward for the priesthood. If so, one of John Paul II's most potent achievements is to come.
This has been an amazing fortnight. It began with the Pope's pained personal appearance on Easter Day during Mass when he clearly sought, but could not bring forth, words for those gathered below him. It has ended with his farewell. The spiritual message that he articulated through his long tenure will surely outlive him.
April 13 - Wednesday
THE HOMILY AT THE POPE'S FUNERAL
This is the text of the homily given by Cardinal Ratzinger at the Pope's funeral. I spoke to my brother today who is just back from Rome. He was struck by the fact that the crowds at St Peter's were 80% younger people. Seeing this he told me how he became more convinced of the importance of Project 2030.
Service of Our Beloved Holy Father, Pope John Paul II
Friday 8th April 2005
St Peter’s Square, Rome
Homily of Cardinal
“Follow me" The risen Lord says these words to Peter. They are his last words to this disciple, chosen to shepherd his flock. "Follow me" - this lapidary saying of Christ can be taken as the key to understanding the message, which comes to us from the life of our late beloved Pope John Paul II.
we bury his remains in the earth as a seed of immortality - our hearts are full
of sadness, yet at the same time of joyful hope and profound gratitude.
These are the sentiments that inspire us, brothers and sisters in Christ,
present here in St Peter's Square, in neighboring streets and in various other
locations within the city of Rome, where an immense crowd, silently praying, has
gathered over the last few days.
greet all of you from my heart.
In the name of the College of Cardinals, I also wish to express my
respects to heads of state, heads of government and the delegations from various
I greet the authorities and official representatives of other churches
and Christian communities, and likewise those of different religions.
I greet the archbishops, bishops, priests, religious men and women and the
faithful who have come here from every continent - especially the young, whom
John Paul II liked to call the future and the hope of the Church.
greeting is extended, moreover, to all those throughout the world who are united
with us through radio and television in this solemn celebration of our beloved
Holy Father's funeral.
me - as a young student Karol Wojtyla was thrilled by literature, the theatre,
Working in a chemical plant, surrounded and threatened by the Nazi
terror, he heard the voice of the Lord: Follow me!
In this extraordinary setting he began to read books of philosophy and
theology, and then entered the clandestine seminary established by Cardinal [Adamo
After the war he was able to complete his studies in the faculty of
theology of the Jagiellonian University of Krakow.
often, in his letters to priests and in his autobiographical books has he spoken
to us about his priesthood, to which he was ordained on 1 November 1946.
In these texts he interprets his priesthood with particular reference to
three sayings of the Lord.
First: "You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you
to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last." [John
The second saying is: "The good shepherd lays down his life for the
And then: "As the father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in
In these three sayings we see the heart and soul of our Holy Father. He really went everywhere, untiringly, in order to bear fruit, fruit that lasts.
Let us be on our Way!" is the title of his next-to-last book.
let us be on our way!" - with these words he roused us from a lethargic
faith, from the sleep of the disciples of both yesterday and today.
let us be on our way!" he continues to say to us even today.
Holy Father was a priest to the last, for he offered his life to God for his
flock and for the entire human family, in the daily self-oblation for the
service of the Church, especially amid the sufferings of his final months. And in this way he became one with Christ, the Good Shepherd
who loves his sheep. Finally,
"abide in my love" - the Pope who tried to meet everyone, who had an
ability to forgive and to open his heart to all, tells us once again today, with
these words of the Lord, that abiding in the love of Christ we learn, at the
school of Christ, the art of true love.
me! In July 1958 the young priest Karol Wojtyla began a new stage in his journey
with the Lord and in the footsteps of the Lord.
Karol had gone to the Masuri lakes for his usual vacation, along with a
group of young people who loved canoeing. But
he brought with him a letter inviting him to call on the Primate of Poland,
could guess the purpose of the meeting: he was to be appointed as the auxiliary
Bishop of Krakow. Leaving the
academic world, leaving this challenging engagement with young people, leaving
the great intellectual endeavor of striving to understand and interpret the
mystery of that creature which is man and of communicating to today's world the
Christian interpretation of our being - all this must have seemed to him like
losing his very self, losing what had become the very human identity of this
me - Karol Wojtyla accepted the appointment, for he heard in the Church's call
the voice of Christ. And then he
realised how true are the Lord's words: "Those who try to make their life
secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it." [Luke
Pope - and we all know this - never wanted to make his own life secure, to keep
it for himself. He wanted to give
of himself unreservedly, to the very last moment, for Christ and thus also for
us. And thus he came to experience
how everything, which he had given over into the Lord's hands came back to him
in a new way.
love of words, of poetry, of literature, became an essential part of his
pastoral mission and gave new vitality,
new urgency, new attractiveness to the preaching of the Gospel, even when it is
a sign of contradiction.
me! In October 1978 Cardinal Wojtyla once again heard the voice of the Lord.
Once more there took place that dialogue with Peter reported in the
gospel of this Mass: "Simon, son of John, do you love me? Feed my
To the Lord's question, "Karol, do you love me?" the Archbishop
of Krakow answered from the depths of his heart: "Lord, you know
everything; you know that I love you."
love of Christ was the dominant force in the life of our beloved Holy Father.
Anyone who ever saw him pray, who ever heard him preach, knows that.
Thanks to his being profoundly rooted in Christ, he was able to bear a
burden, which transcends merely human abilities: that of being the shepherd of
Christ's flock, his universal Church.
This is not the time to speak of the specific content of his rich
would like only to read two passages of today's liturgy, which reflect the
central elements of his message.
the first reading, St Peter says (and with St Peter, the Pope himself): "I
truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who
fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
"You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching
peace by Jesus Christ - he is Lord of all." [Acts 10:34-36]
in the second reading, St Paul (and with St Paul, our late Pope) exhorts us,
crying out: "My brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and
my crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved." [Phil 4:1]
me! Together with the command to feed his flock, Christ proclaimed to Peter that
he would die a martyr's death.
With those words, which conclude and sum up the dialogue of love and on
the mandate of the universal shepherd, the Lord recalls another dialogue, which
took place during the Last Supper.
Jesus had said: "Where I am going, you cannot come."
said to him: "Lord, where are you going?"
replied: "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow
me afterward." [John 13:33,36]
from the Supper went towards the Cross, went towards his resurrection - he
entered into the paschal mystery; and Peter could not yet follow him.
after his resurrection, comes the time, comes this "afterward".
shepherding the flock of Christ, Peter enters into the paschal mystery, he goes
towards the Cross and resurrection.
The Lord says this in these words: "...when you were younger, you
used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished.
when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten
a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go." [John 21:18]
the first years of his pontificate, still young and full of energy, the Holy
Father went to the very ends of the earth, guided by Christ.
afterwards, he increasingly entered into the communion of Christ's sufferings;
increasingly he understood the truth of the words: "Someone else will
fasten a belt around you."
And in this very communion with the suffering Lord, tirelessly and with
renewed intensity, he proclaimed the Gospel, the mystery of that love which goes
to the end [cf John 13:1].
interpreted for us the paschal mystery as a mystery of divine mercy.
In his last book, he wrote: The limit imposed upon evil "is
ultimately Divine Mercy".
reflecting on the assassination attempt, he said: "In sacrificing himself
for us all, Christ gave a new meaning to suffering, opening up a new dimension,
a new order: the order of love... "It
is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love and draws
forth even from sin a great flowering of good."
Impelled by this vision, the Pope suffered and loved in communion with
Christ, and that is why the message of his suffering and his silence proved so
eloquent and so fruitful. Divine
mercy: the Holy Father found the purest reflection of God's mercy in the Mother
who at an early age had lost his own mother, loved his divine mother all the
more. He heard the words of the
crucified Lord as addressed personally to him: "Behold your Mother."
And so he did as the beloved disciple did: he took her into his home - Totus
tuus. And from the mother he
learned to conform himself to Christ.
of us can ever forget how in the last Easter Sunday of his life, the Holy
Father, marked by suffering, came once more to the window of the Apostolic
palace and one last time gave his blessing urbi et orbi.
can be sure that our beloved Pope is standing today at the window of the
Father's house, that he sees us and blesses us.
bless us, Holy Father. We entrust your dear soul to the mother of God, your
Mother, who guided you each day and who will guide you now to the eternal glory
of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
April 14 - Thursday
ANSWERS TO EASTER QUIZ
Here are the answers to the quiz held at Malpas on Good Friday. The questions were printed here in the diary on April 1.
April 15 - Friday
TO THE PEOPLE WE CALL OUR FRIENDS
Martin (Glasgow 30s) sent this personal questionnaire to a few of us. It might be something you would consider filling in and sending to friends. Copy me in. These are my answers.
I remember doing this ?aire about 18
months ago. Interesting to note the changes in doing it again. Would love to see
your own thoughts. Copy (not forward)
this e-mail and paste it onto a new e-mail that you will send. Change all
of the answers that apply to you. Then send this to a whole bunch of
people you know INCLUDING the person who sent it to you. It can't hurt to
learn more about the people we call our friends........
2. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING JUST NOW?
3. WHAT'S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
4. FAVOURITE BOARD GAME
7. FAVOURITE SOUND?
8. WORST FEELING IN THE WORLD?
9. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU THINK OF WHEN YOU WAKE UP IN THE
10. WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE COLOUR?
11. HOW MANY RINGS BEFORE YOU ANSWER THE 'PHONE?
13. MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE?
14. FAVOURITE FOOD?
15.CHOCOLATE OR VANILLA?
17. DO YOU SLEEP WITH STUFFED ANIMALS?
19.WHAT TYPE WAS YOUR FIRST CAR?
20. IF YOU COULD MEET ONE PERSON DEAD OR
ALIVE, WHO WOULD IT BE?
24. ANY JOB, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Nothing better than being a priest and religious if that is your vocation, but in another life would be great to work for an advertising agency where you only had to come up with spell-binding slogan every week or so, and, like a priest, all of life is related to your job.
25. EVER BEEN/ARE IN LOVE?
26. IS THE GLASS HALF-FULL OR HALF-EMPTY?
28. DO YOU TYPE WITH YOUR FINGERS ON THE RIGHT KEYS?
31. SAY ONE NICE THING ABOUT THE PERSON WHO SENT YOU THIS?
April 16 - Saturday
SERMON AT MASS FOR THE POPE
In the parish in Stockport we had a special Mass this evening to commemorate the life of the Pope. I was preaching. There was so much that could be said, but I didn't want to go on too long. I said some of the things that I've already mentioned in the diary, like meeting the Pope, defending his teaching, some of the group going to Rome, the worldwide impact of his life and death. Here are some other aspects that came into my thoughts and sermon.
April 17 - Sunday
LONDON 20S AND 30S REVIEW MEETINGS
Who said they liked meetings. Three today in London. Alpha Course (see Tuesday) and review meetings for 20s and 30s. I was going to send them the minutes of the inter-group review in September and the ethos and principles for Project 2030 that was sent round in December, but decided there was enough internal agenda to keep us going on Sunday evening, not necessarily the best time for a meeting.
The 20s were at 5pm. Here are some of the points that came up, in no particular order, according to my memory. Thankfully Catherine was taking minutes.
April 18 - Monday
LONDON 30S REVIEW MEETING
Yesterday was also the review meeting for the London 30s. Here are some of the issues that came up - as I remember them and reflect on them. Adrian also took minutes which will be emailed to the group later.
April 19 - Tuesday
HABEMUS PAPAM. BENEDICT XVI.
At my sister's for a family funeral. My mother's sister, my Godmother, died on Saturday, aged 94. A good innings, a good Godmother who looked after me a lot as a child when my mother was in hospital, and who was close ever since. We were sitting talking and News 24 was wallpapering away when someone noticed the smoke coming from the Sistine Chapel. Was it white? Surely not so soon. Where are the bells that are supposed to ring? The bells on the hour gave a false alarm and then the big one started that confirmed that grey was the new white. Immediately I felt that it must be Cardinal Ratzinger to be decided so soon. It was quite emotional, and the quick decision indicated a high level of unity among the Cardinals.
Early on I had never taken Cardinal Ratzinger's candidature very seriously. He was too close to John Paul. Conclaves usually look for a change of direction. The fact that he had a tough reputation was not a problem. I was familiar with him as a theologian and one of the best thinkers in the Church before he became a Bishop. In the 70s he used to meet every year with other members of the International Theological Commission at our headquarters in Rome. One of the community had the brainwave to give them a questionnaire on Dehonian spirituality and the significance of Jesus' pierced side and open heart on the cross. Most of them replied with a few sentences here and there, but Joseph Ratzinger wrote pages. When I was studying spirituality in Rome in the 80s I used the results of this questionnaire as the basis for an essay. (It was the easiest essay I ever wrote. The lecturer just had to take my word for it.)
When John Paul asked this Bishop/Theologian to be head of the Congregation of Doctrine and Faith it seemed like a master stroke at the time. He has been a faithful servant to the Pope and the Church for over 20 years. People might be surprised at his age, but it is common to have an older man after a long papacy. Two long reigns do not give enough scope for the checks and balances the Church needs. Benedict XVI will not be a clone of John Paul. He is very much his own man. We could be in for a few surprises.
We missed the appearance on the balcony of St Peters because we were having a family service at the funeral parlour for my aunt, then receiving her body into the Church. After the service there were three texts on the mobile phone. One was to tell me "have just heard there is white smoke from the Vatican". Another said "What do you think? Will certainly guard the faith well. Administrator rather than globe trotter. Less charisma, more conservative than JPII. Can't help but feel a bit deflated, but in the Spirit we trust. May God bless and strengthen him." I replied "When smoke came so soon thought that will be Cardinal Ratzinger. Felt good, but then worried 4 those who might find it difficult. A great theologian B4 became Bish, a radical thinker who did JP2's will."
The third text message said "May the beatification take place now new Pope in place? Very predictable I think, his successor". I replied "No, but inaugural Mass is Sunday". The 30 of us should be able to get to St Peter's for the Pope's installation if we get up early enough. Just as interesting will be the World Youth Days in August in Germany. This could be Pope Benedict's first visit abroad and his return "home". The millions will give him a great welcome. The Germans will remember what John Paul did for Poland and maybe see this election as a sign of final forgiveness from the nation for World War II. A boy who was forced to join the Hitler Youth becomes Pope. Will we ever have a Pope from our countries and what would it mean? Let's continue to pray for him and ourselves every evening at 8.30pm. I have certainly felt the benefit of stopping for a few minutes and having a sense of connectedness to the group. Is there anyone else out there? I can't work out what it is but I keep feeling there must be some other symbolic significance to 20.30.
April 20- Wednesday
ALPHA. HOW CAN I RESIST EVIL?
Yesterday afternoon in London I was able to attend another session of the group's Alpha course (see also last Sunday). Today's theme was 'Evil'. The talk was given by Michael from New Zealand. I thought he had prepared it himself and was very impressed by the depth and content. It turned out that it was basically the spiel prepared by Nicky Gumble who is the face of Alpha today. His videos are also very good. Here are some of the ideas that struck me.
If you want to ready Nicky Gumble's talks and discussion points you can find them in "Questions of Life" published by Kingsway. Other information can be found on www.alpha.org.uk
April 21- Thursday
OFF TO ROME. LUCIA ON THE FUNERAL.
Off to Rome this morning on a 7.00 am flight from Liverpool. This is how Lucia experienced the visit to Rome for the Pope's funeral.
When it seemed that the Holy Father was getting
progressively more ill, I suddenly started to realise that I could remember no
other Pope. The feeling that an era in my life was about to end and a new one
begin loomed large. When on the Saturday I received news of his passing, I was
out at dinner and more than one of us got a phone call to break the news, I
could feel a rising need to somehow say a real farewell. So it was that on
Monday my fingers hit the text buttons on my phone, having already asked Hugh to
email the group, and I waited to see if anyone would respond to my invitation to
join in what was going to be a pilgrimage and an adventure. A number of you
responded, but it was clear we were not going to get out on the same flights.
Really I think that at this stage it was a miracle we got out at all!
So it was that early on Thursday morning Anne Marie and
Louise Tucker and myself took our seats on a very early flight out of
London, bleary eyed, emotional from lack of sleep and wondering we
embarking on. During the flight we had the opportunity to talk and pray, and
felt a sense of calm. We had been told on Wednesday that the queue into St
Peter's had been stopped, so we resigned ourselves to the fact that we would not
be going in, and were simply thrilled that we would be present in the Eternal
City (provided we could get into Rome, it had crossed our minds that we might
spend 2 nights at the airport!) when all was happening.
We arrived at Rome's Fumiciano airport and were
surprised to see no throngs of people making a dash for the trains. In fact we
were interviewed by a reporter from the Guardian, a very in depth chat it was
too, then made our way into Rome. She confirmed that we would have no trouble
getting to Vatican City, so that at least was a relief. The train journey was
the start of some amazing encounters as Anne Marie found herself in conversation
with a man and his daughter (both from England), who during the course of the
conversation about recent events seemed to be reclaiming their Catholic faith.
Once in Rome, we bundled onto the metro, now the crowds
were starting, and made our way to Vatican City. The sun was shining as we
walked up to what looked like the nearest entrance, but this was blocked. We
noticed people talking to one of the guards and suddenly realised that the queue
was open again...a sudden sense of urgency gripped us and we confirmed this,
'yes', he said, 'St Peter's is open again, but you are some of the last, so go
quickly'. We needed no further encouragement and ran down the little street and
onto the via del Conciliazone, which leads straight onto Vatican Square.
We queued for 3 hours, but it didn't feel like this, we
prayed we talked with others around us. Women who had come all the way from
Nigeria joined us in the rosary, a man who had flown from the US joined our
little band and put us on the phone to his brother in the States who has worked
on the Turin Shroud, A young student from Canada told us how he had changed
his journey plans to come to Rome. We prayed when we reached the top of the
steps to St Peters, there was a real feeling of anticipation, we knew and
felt we were about to experience a very sacred moment. Once inside all was
peace and stillness. The song and prayer from those who were keeping official
vigil rose up like incense and there at the top of the aisle, the stained
glass icon of the holy spirit directly above him, lay the holy father.
It was very moving. He did look very peaceful and it saddened my
heart that I had not tried to know him better when he was alive.
Because we were some of the last few into St Peter's we were allowed to
remain and pray, and so we did, for almost 2 hours! It was like being in
heaven!! We said the rosary in Italian, we sang the beautiful alleluiah's, we
cried quietly every now and then and experienced a deep sense of peace, of
just being..this was a real gift. At one point one of the members of the public
chose to pay his own tribute and started singing, in a rich baritone, the Ave
Maria...how magnificent!! There was so much love in St Peters that day!
After finally leaving St Peter's, to cries of 'Andiamo!',
and 'Avanti!', everyone had been reluctant to go...we eventually found ourselves
a spot near the ponte Vittorio Emmanuel and at 1am finally lay down to rest our
weary bones for a few hours. Sleep was unlikely as the activity continued
through the night. Everytime you peeped out of your sleeping bag a troop of
poles would walk past, carrying the flag, on the march for the right spot
tomorrow!! Amazingly Mark Clayton, who flew in late the same night found us all
tucked up...the miracle of the mobile phone!!
At 4.30 am we succumbed to the increasing levels of
activity around us...there were so many bodies in sleeping bags, everywhere, and
got up! We started back in queue mode at 5am and after queueing for a further two hours
were let into the via del Conciliazone...oh what a rush that was!!! As we
squeezed ourselves, with some difficulty into the small neck of the Concialazone
I would be telling fibs if I didn't say there were arguments and pushing and
shoving. We were all exhausted! The three of us had drunk less then half a cup
of water each since yesterday..toilets were hard to come by(!) and so
dehydration as well as exhaustion had set in for us, as well as a few million
other people! We could not get into Vat Square (they had handpicked people
because of the security risks), but St Peter's lay right in front of us, bathed
in the soft pink of the rising sun, slowly the jostling stopped.
Then at 10am the bells of St Peter's started to peel
and suddenly the whole atmosphere changed!!! As a body we became still, focused,
intent on the moment. There was clapping, cheering, shouts of Giovanni Paolo and
cries of il Papa..and tears. I don't know how else to describe the experience of
that funeral...it was a series of emotions and exclamations and there was a
sense of solidarity..of the reality of the words, 'the Body of Christ'. Even
though we were a little way off we saw and heard everything on the big
screens, so poor Cardinal Ratzinger had to cope with us clapping everytime a
shot of the coffin came up! When finally our holy father was led up the stairs
and the coffin was turned towards us for the last time, we erupted into such
clapping and tears that they must have heard us in Florence!
Finally we made our way wearily to Anne Marie's friends
place, (only she could have a friend who lives near Vat City!! and yes we
could have spent the night there!) here we were treated to a beautiful home made
Italian lunch. This was a pilgrims feast! Funnily enough though it wasn't
the food that we ran for when we first got in the door!! After a wonderful lunch
during which we got the true Roman's perspective on current events...they
want a Roman Pope again(!)..we then made our way to the Piazza Navona
and met with Angela Callaghan, her friend Sue and two other lovely pilgrims
they had met on the plane. It was great to compare accounts of our time in Rome.
Eventually we made our way back to our hotel, ate our dinner going cross-eyed
from lack of sleep and apologising for this as the conversation was so
interesting, fell into bed and then woke up at the crack of dawn and threw
ourselves on the plane!!
The journey back was also marked with special
encounters, we sat in front of a group who were from the same parish as Louise
and Anne Marie and had conversations with some the airline staff as well about
the remarkable events of the last few days. Again Rome has become a place of
true pilgrimage! We prayed in thanksgiving and that this experience may also
enrich the lives of others we would come into contact with.
And so back down to earth..in many ways the events of those few days feel a little like a dream, and yet I know that this was a real experience...because inside me..something has changed. I went to Rome seeking strength and peace, partly because I am about to start a new job as a Community Chaplain at Feltham Young Offenders, what I found was love...the witness of love...John Paul loved everyone so much that his life touched us all..whatever our status colour or creed..we were all there...world leaders, princes, kings and ordinary folk like us. We responded to his love..his courage..his strength..the passion of his belief...his witness..this will be with me now, for the rest of my life.. reminding me of what is possible if we truly love.
April 22- Friday
DUNCAN'S THOUGHTS ON
MALPAS AT EASTER
was crammed to the rafters for the Easter get together. The Pope's
weakening health may have encouraged a yearning for togetherness at this special
time of the year. I think we all realised the end of a momentous era was
definitely approaching, and maybe shared a subconscious wish for the good Lord
to transfer the peace & sereneness & solidarity of the Malpas experience
to our great leader.
April 23 - Saturday
INDIA IN JANUARY
Still in Rome, so here is the first part of Catherine's report on the trip to India in January.
Adventures in India 2005 – Catherine Hopkins (London 20s)
It was still Christmas
when Louise, Carmel, Steve and I arrived in Cochin, Kerala on 5 January, and
large, colourful, glowing stars were hanging from homes and churches. We were
all very excited, as none of us had been to India before. Each of us came from
the four corners of London, except for Hans who joined us halfway through and is
from central London. Carmel, Hans and I knew each other quite well before the
trip. Louise was a relative newcomer, and Steve was a very new member, this
being one of his first encounters with Project 2030. Throughout the trip we got
to know each other extremely well and had many interesting conversations. We all
got on well, which was fortunate as we were living at very close quarters.
The car journey from the
airport to our accommodation was fascinating. The main road to the city centre
has mosques and churches, and the odd Hindu temple, dotted along each side of
it, and it was this diversity of faiths and cultures, coexisting in such close
proximity to each other, that was for me one of the most fascinating aspects of
Indian life. Driving around the back streets of Cochin allowed us to see more of
each community. In Christian neighbourhoods there were countless tiny chapels,
shrines and churches everywhere. However, if you turned the corner in to the
next street, you would suddenly find yourself in the Muslim district. We drove
through one when some children were just coming out of school, and they were so
excited to see us. Turn the corner again, and you would find yourself gazing at
an elaborately carved, colourful Hindu temple. Yes, you’re in another district
Travel in India is never a
dull experience. In the city centres it is common to see whole families on
motorbikes, tiny tuk-tuks crammed with smiling school children, and sometimes
people even riding on the roofs of buses! On three occasions we even saw
elephants on the main roads, carrying palm leaves in their trunks, and with two
or three people on their backs! And of course, no Indian street would be
complete without at least several cows and goats. The sheer volume of people
also struck me, especially in the cities, there are throngs of people everywhere
– Britain pales by comparison. I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised by
that, considering that India has the second biggest population in the world.
As far as we could tell,
Cochin seems to have escaped from the recent tsunami relatively unscathed, at
least in terms of physical damage. Reports of casualties from the locals were
conflicting, but they all felt that they had been extremely lucky. Indeed, our
accommodation and Leenus’s house were just a short walk from the sea.
Our first full day was
spent exploring Fort Cochin. We visited St Francis Xavier Church, the Dutch
Palace and Jew town. Visiting the synagogue was the highlight of the day for me.
It is in excellent condition, and has the most amazing blue and white tiled
floor. Each tile is unique.
To our delight, day two was
spent lounging around on a riverboat gliding through the backwaters at Alappuzha.
I could now understand why the locals call Kerala “God’s own
country,” as all around us there was nothing but palm trees, paddy fields, and
green water. Observing life on dry land was fun, as we passed many schools built
at the riverside, people washing clothes, and strolling along the water’s
edge. After a delicious lunch, the crew moored the boat and brought us fresh
coconuts each. Sucking coconut juice through a straw, straight from the coconut
felt like the height of decadence!
We met so many
wonderful people in India, but some of the friendliest we met were the boys at
Fr Martin’s pre-seminary training centre in Dehon Bhavan in South Kumbalanghy.
When we arrived, they welcomed us with a song, and we spent some time getting to
know them. On the second time we met them, we had Mass in their chapel. Going to
church in India is a humbling experience. All places of worship (regardless of
faith) require people to remove their shoes before entering. Usually the
congregation sits on the floor, and men sit separately to the women and
children. However, as guests we were always provided with chairs. Churches and
chapels are very plain, but often their pictures and statues are often decorated
with flashing lights. Most of the masses were in Malayalam, so it was lucky that
I had my missal with me.
The long journey to the
elephant park in Guruvayur was definitely worth it, as we had an excellent guide
to introduce us to the elephants (all 63 of them!) They were a gift to the local
Hindu temple and range from 6 years old to
their eighties, and each had its’ own personality. The youngest elephant was
very mischievous, and threw no less than three branches across our path, and one
grazed Leenus on the leg, causing our guide to rebuke the elephant. The funny
thing was, you could see the elephant listening to him, and he seemed to
understand what he said, as he behaved after that! The guide also pointed out to
us the different physical characteristics of elephants from different parts of
India. For example, elephants from Assam in the north have very long legs and
trunk, and look rather gangly. By contrast, elephants from the south are short
We spent five nights in the Blue Mountains in Tamil Nadu, staying at Kottagiri, in a Carmelite house of prayer, which is situated in the middle of miles of tea plantations. Fr Thomas and Fr Hippolitus were our hosts. We were all relieved to escape to the fresh, tea scented air and serene beauty and peace of nature. There were so many stunning views by day, and at night you could see all the stars without any light pollution. As soon as the sun set, the temperature dropped dramatically, and I had the best five nights sleep in the whole of our stay in India.
April 24 - Sunday
TRIP TO INDIA
Here is the second part of Catherine's report on India.
On our first full day,
Father Hippolitus showed us his tree house. I was particularly intrigued to see
it, as I had heard so many stories about it from people who went to India last
year. True enough, it was very high up in the air, and as expected, Father
Hippolitus amazed us with his acrobatic antics. He encouraged us to join in, and
before we knew it we were swinging from the long rope attached to the bottom of
his tree house, and some of us even climbed up the ladder to the tree house
itself. The view from the top was worth the long climb. Father Hippolitus told
us that he had celebrated mass for eight blind girls in the tree house, and
sometimes he even spends several nights at a time there!
We took the unmissable
train ride from Ooty, and marvelled at the magnificence of the scenery. However,
the best views were still to come, and on our last day in the mountains Dennis
and Father Hippolitus took us to the most stunning viewing point where we saw
the most amazing rock formations. It was one of the high points of the trip for
me (literally), as I had never seen anything so awesome. Just to finish off the
perfect day, we also saw wild monkeys sitting by the roadside on the way home.
The most memorable people
and places that we visited in India were the Christian communities. We visited
Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity home for abandoned disabled children
in Cochin. The Mother Superior showed us round, and we were followed by two
children, who were probably about six or seven. The little girl had a skin
complaint that made her look as if she had been badly burnt. She had big sad,
red-rimmed eyes. Although I tried to be friendly to her, she looked at me warily
and would not smile. The little boy was lively and happy, and he was fascinated
by Steve’s watch. He could not talk, but the Mother Superior told us that he
is a bright boy and will probably be sent to school. The other children that we
met were severely disabled. In one room the curtains were drawn, as the children
are photophobic, and there were rows of cots. Each one contained a fragile,
helpless disabled child, who was totally dependent on the nuns and other staff
to care for them. In the adjoining room, we met children who, despite
significant impairments, enjoyed a degree of independence by feeding themselves.
Some even gave us joyous and mischievous grins! Although the building was clean,
and all the children had their own beds and food, there was not a toy or,
picture in sight.
We left feeling
emotional by what we had seen. I was quiet for a long time afterward, not sure
what to think or feel, and not sure whether these children were in a better or
worse situation than the children living below the poverty line in the UK. Hans
said that although the conditions the children live in seem extremely basic to
us, by Indian standards they are very lucky, and there are many children living
on the streets who have nothing. Without Mother Teresa’s nuns, many of these
children would have died a long time ago.
By contrast, the House of
Joy in Kotagiri really lived up to its name. A Polish nun called Sister Agatha
runs it, and she is the happiest, most enthusiastic, and lively person that we
have ever met! About ten girls in their late teens and early twenties live with
her. Most of them are blind, although some have other disabilities. She teaches
them to knit clothes and bags, and make jewellery and rosaries, which they sell
to support themselves. Most of the girls are very independent, and they all gain
important life skills at the House of Joy. Apart from their totally infectious
happiness, the thing that we shall remember them for was their exquisite
singing. These girls are professionals, without a doubt.
On the second to last day of
our time in India, we met the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP), of which Leenus
and his friend Anthony are active members. They took us on a walking tour, and
introduced us to five families that they are helping, most of which live
extremely close to the beach, or actually on it. Since the first group went to
India last year, Project 2030 has been helping these poor families as well as
the Dehonian missions. The profit from the London parties and the picnic raised
over £1,000 for them. About 70% of the families are Christian; Hindu families
are also helped. Often the SVP pays for medication for a family member with
mental health problems, e.g, dementia and depression. This is critical
assistance, because medication is always very expensive; one month’s course
often exceeds the family’s entire monthly income by 3 or 4 times. Indian
society is patriarchal, and if the man of the family dies, becomes too ill to
work, or abandons his family, then the entire family faces destitution. One
family we met had lost their home, and the daughters will be unable to marry if
they do not have dowries. By
helping these families too, the SVP provides support and hope in a desperate
situation. Meeting families living in such extreme and shocking poverty was hard
for us, and as a group we had mixed feelings about it. However, Hans
pointed out that the families were pleased to see us, and that by visiting them
we showed that people in the West are interested and do care. The large group of
children that followed us around so determinedly and demanded to have their
photos taken were most definitely pleased to see us!
For most Indians, life
is a precarious existence. The middle classes especially walk a tightrope in a
concerted effort to maintain or improve their way of life. They are painfully
aware that if they lose their balance and fall, it will be a long, difficult, if
not impossible struggle to escape from the depths of poverty. Not surprisingly,
Communism is growing in strength in Kerala.
As we said goodbye to our
guides Leenus and Dennis at the airport, we were all sorry to leave India. It
was definitely the trip of a life time; a great opportunity to gain a different
perspective on life and a wonderful way to explore and grow in faith. I would
love to return, and will certainly always remember the inspiring people that we
April 25 - Monday
Still in Rome. Duncan comes to the rescue again.
Health & Fitness - The Real Facts: sent in by Duncan McDermott
I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true?
out eventually. Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that's
like saying you can
the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.
So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables
Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a good source of field grass (green leafy
a pork chop can give you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of
fruity bit so you get even more of the goodness that way. Beer is also
made out of grain. Bottoms up!
is two to one, etc.
could getting more vegetables be bad for you?
April 26 - Tuesday
IN ROME FOR THE POPE'S INAUGURATION
On the way back from Rome after the inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI. The beatification of Leo Dehon, our original reason for going to Rome, had been cancelled, but we felt fortunate to be able to go to St Peter's for the ceremony on Sunday. The beatification will likely take place in October. There were 23 of us staying in the same hotel near the main station. Another 6 were staying elsewhere and we managed to pick up a few strays - people who could find no accommodation in Rome got to know the group and got squeezed in to our accommodation when others went home. Squeeze is the word. The process of booking the hotel had been so tortuous that it wouldn't have been a surprise to arrive in Rome and discover that our rooms had been given to others. As it was, people were squeezed into rooms of 4 and 5 beds that would have been tight for 2 or 3 beds. People took it all in the spirit of a pilgrimage. At least I did not get too many grumbles my way, though when I mentioned that I'd been to confession in St Peter's some wag asked: "About the rooms?" Or as someone else put it: "The hotel was a wonderful experience not to be repeated".
Not that we got much sleep anyway. 5 of us had flown out by Ryanair on Thursday from Liverpool. That afternoon, while visiting the Basilica of St Mary Major, we bumped into one of our American priests, also over for the beatification, who invited us to join his group for a Mass at St Peter's tomb in the Vatican on Saturday morning. We also met some Germans we knew from the gathering in 2003. If you saw someone wearing a dehonian cross it was a good excuse to stop and chat. The majority arrived out from Stansted on the Friday evening and most made the early rise to go to St Peter's for the 7.00 am Mass. We had arranged various times and points of contact during the day so people could get together again or go off and do their own thing. On Friday my mobile started playing up, which would have been a disaster given the complicated nature of the group and the programme, so I bought an Italian mobile which was just as well given the number of calls and texts - where is the group, when are we meeting, where are we eating? Every evening most of us managed to get together for a meal.
We never tried to stick together. It would have been impossible given the crowds. In groups people managed to see the Coliseum, Forum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Piazza Navone and the other main basilicas and churches. There were long queues to get into St Peter's, the tomb of John Paul and the Sistine Chapel. On Friday the early arrivals saw a crowd outside the apartment block next to the Vatican where Cardinal Ratzinger had lived. He had come in and out of there a few times in the previous week and again on Sunday. When the Police Commissioner announced that he was not going to appear that day the paparazzi (soon to be known in Rome I'm sure as the paparatzingers) looked disappointed. So to make them feel better I suggested to Maria that we pretend she was famous in Britain if they wanted to take her photo. The snappers looked at me stonily. Elaine had given the game away by giggling. Next day at the same spot Catherine H agreed to do it again for a laugh. The others had been warned not to give the show away. One of the photographers took a second glance, but Catherine was smiling too nervously. The next time we'll get someone to practice that sultry get out of my face look.
Elizabeth and Cath C decided to sleep overnight at St Peter's to get a good spot for the inauguration. Some decided to come down at a reasonable hour, but most of us set off at 6.15 (5.15 BST). When we got to the Piazza about 7.30 there was such a crowd we thought the square was full, so we moved back for a better vantage point. Only later did we realise the crowd was a queue, so we eventually got into St Peter's Square. It was great to be there. The crowd was in high spirits, interrupting the Pope's sermon 38 times. I'll write some more about this tomorrow. Peter managed to see the Pope again at St Paul-outside-the-Walls on Monday. By this time most people were on the way home. Patricia who had got the overnight train up from Sicily where she is teaching English was getting a good response to the invitation to go as a group there next year. Ryanair go to Palermo. Some said they would even consider coming back for the Beatification of Leo Dehon, but definitely not to the same hotel. "They all rolled over, and the little one said..."
April 27 - Wednesday
THE POPE'S SERMON ON SUNDAY
When we got into St Peter's Square on Sunday there was more space than we expected. Those who stayed out in the Via Conciliazione were more squeezed, though not as bad as the infamous 64 bus where people were fainting and Catherine C had her wallet pinched. In the square I was able to translate some of the Pope's words for those around. These are some of the ideas I picked up, but don't quote me.
April 28 - Thursday
I DON'T WANT TO TALK, WELL, MAYBE
Find myself in the middle of a four week period where I'm only going to be at home for two full days. For the others I'm either away, setting off or coming back. On my travels it's rare that I speak to strangers on the train. Basically I don't want to get involved. It's a way of saving relational energy. Strangely when I'm away with the group, like in Rome, I'll talk to anyone. Recently though I've had a couple of interesting conversations on train and plane.
Last week on the train from London my phone kept going off. Or so I thought, yet I could never speak to anyone. I apologised to the lady opposite who eventually put me out of my misery by telling me that it was someone else's phone that was ringing. Later I could sense that she was getting frustrated with the Guardian Quick Crossword so I came to her aid with a few answers. I really wanted to get on with writing the blog, but I couldn't resist a comment when I saw what looked like a script being studied. When I had exhausted my limited experience of the stage and hadn't got much kudos for saying that I know a script writer from Coronation Street (has anyone seen Catherine Hayes name in the credits recently?), she then asked me what I did. When I explained she eagerly enquired: "Catholic or Protestant?" She herself was a Jew. I got more brownie points for saying I was Catholic, because she wanted to say how much she had been fascinated by the Pope's death and funeral. "I've been videoing the news when I'm out." When she realised I was going to Rome in a few days she was ecstatic (and she was far from being your typical theatrical luvvie). "You might be there for the smoke." The mystique of the whole thing had got to her. No wonder Dan Brown is selling so well, even though I had to give up reading his novel about the meteor in the Arctic. I can happily enjoy pacy novels with a reading age of 14, but when the emotional target age is 12 and the instinctual age is 10 it can get a bit much. Matt and Chris are going to lead a debate on the Da Vinci Code in London next month. I'd like to be a fly on the wall. Presumably we'll get a report.
Anyway, this lady more or less said what had been the poser I'd put earlier in the month in the Radio Five web debate: "How could such a great man be so wrong about so many moral issues?" I won't repeat what I said 9 and 10 April, but she was very open to arguments. We didn't quite get all on the road to Emmaus. The sticking points for her were abortions and condoms as a solution to Aids. She almost came around to agree with me on one of them, but I can't quite remember which as we tried to sum up our positions as the train pulled in to Stockport. Jews are very close to us in their ethical perspective. When she spoke about her relationships (heaven knows what the people nearby were thinking of our blunt conversation) she admitted she'd been musing recently that if only society said that you married the first person you had a sexual relationship with then she would likely be happily married to him now, with a teenage son, instead of going from pillow to post. She was the kind of person to whom I could have said: "You've never really had sex yet, you've just been playing at it", and she would have agreed.
On the plane from Rome on Tuesday I was beside a couple and she obviously wanted to talk, guessing I had been at the Pope's Inauguration. I had two days of diary to write, but after finishing one I gave in. Not only was she Catholic, she had heard of Dehon. She lived near Dehon House and used to drive into the grounds to say a quick prayer at the Lourdes shrine from her car. We ended up talking about a lot of the moral issues. Does this mean that I steer the conversation round to what I'm interested in? The hardest for her was divorce as seen by the Church. Why do people need to stay in dreadful relationships? They don't. She was a reader also of the Bible, but some of her ideas of the Church were picked up from the likes of 'Loose Women' on ITV Daytime. I was pleased that she encourages her son to think about the priesthood. I could see where he would get the potential from. As the plane came in to land I asked her what was the one thing she would ask the Pope to change. "Women priests", she replied in such a way as to say: "And don't bother trying to give me the answer about it". John Paul basically said that it was something he could not change even if he wanted. When the announcement came that we could disembark and we kept talking, the man in front gave a big "Shush!". Too much of a good thing.
April 29 - Friday
PREPARING FOR A PILGRIMAGE
In Scotland for the weekend visit to Iona. Also had an Information Evening for the 30s here. A reasonable turn out, enough to justify the group's re-launch with the support of Project 2030. Here is what "An Iona Prayer book" by Peter Miller says about pilgrimage.
Christians can be described as 'the pilgrim people of God', and in the Bible this idea of the spiritual life as a 'journey' is expressed many times. Through the centuries, pilgrims have come to places like Iona seeking healing, inspiration and redirection.
The outward pilgrimage is a sign of this inner journey - of repentance, resurrection and rebirth - the journey of the heart, held in the Creator's hands. It is rooted in the conviction that life itself is a process of continual change and movement. We are never static, and we carry within us a sense of expectancy, of looking forward in hope.
The writer to the Hebrews framed that reality in some memorable words: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith' (Hebrews 12:1-2, NRSV). Here is expressed that marvellous journey of the Christian soul, on a continuing pilgrimage into the heart of God - a pilgrimage which will never be completed here on earth, but continues in God's wider Kingdom.
Iona, in a particular way, is associated with pilgrimage, but the 'pilgrim path' is located everywhere and never just in sacred places. The question remains: are we open to being a pilgrim? Are we prepared to live with some of the risks and uncertainties and loose ends which pilgrimage always entails? The pilgrim can never have everything neatly 'sown up' - there is always the exploration, the search, the movement, the questions and the challenge.
Each Wednesday there is a pilgrimage round the island, visiting places of historical and religious significance and reflecting on the journey of our lives and the life of the world. Yet whether on a Hebridean island or in our homes, Christ keeps inviting us to join him on this journey into Light and Truth.
April 30 - Saturday
IONA. WHO PUT THE GRIM IN PILGRIMAGE?
Nobody said that pilgrimages were meant to be easy. Ours to Iona did not get off to an auspicious start. We had gathered at the Central Station in Glasgow to board our four cars and a minibus for the drive to Oban and the ferry to Mull. At the last minute the key got jammed in the minibus door. Fortunately Martin's Centre was just round the corner, so he was able to go and get a spare set. The driver's door was stuck for the rest of the trip. Meanwhile the cars had paid their parking fees, but by the time they followed the bus through the barrier one of them was over time. As they went to pay extra in the machine the other cars pulled in behind to wait for them. Then another car had gone over time and the pantomime had to be repeated. This might have happened 3 times. I was in the minibus.
We all met up at the Drovers Inn on the banks of Loch Lomond. We had booked for lunch but now only had half an hour. They fed and watered 28 of us in a whirlwind. We arrived in Oban in good time for the 4.00 pm ferry, which allowed us to walk along the front and watch the swirling of various kilted bagpipe bands who had gathered for a competition, much to the pleasure of those who had travelled up from London and North-West England. Most of us were to stay in Band Bs. A few were in self-catering so they went off to get some provisions. When the boat had loaded up they were nowhere to be seen. At the last minute I dashed into the ticket office and left their tickets there. We didn't make mobile contact with them until the gangway had been pulled away. They thought it was a wind up. Then we saw them looking forlorn on the quayside. They caught the 6.00 pm ferry and got a lift from a passenger who was heading up towards Iona, almost converting him to Christianity in the process.
Further details of Iona can be found in this diary for the same Bank Holiday weekend last year. We don't stay on the island itself, but in Fhinnophort less than a mile across the sound. This village is just a cluster of Bed and Breakfasts, with one shop and an inn with a restaurant. Compared to the Drovers the service for food was snail pace. "You can eat in two hours". But no-one was in a hurry. Across the water we could see the restored ruins where St Columba had set up his monastery in 563. The day had been cloudy, but now we were rewarded with an hour long 'son et lumiere' as the sun set over Iona and we walked along the beach or scrambled up the rocks to get the best pictures. This 'roaming in the gloaming' reassured us that we had come to somewhere special, if anyone was in any doubt.
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