February 1 - Tuesday
HELPING THE TSUNAMI VICTIMS IN INDIA
The area that the group visited in India was hit by the tail of the Tsunami. I've just heard that the Dehonian community there are involved in helping out. Two of our students come from Tamil Nadu in an area that was badly affected. They have gone home this week, after their exams, with two of the priests to see how they can help. I put out feelers last month to see if any groups here needed helpers to go out for the re-construction. Maybe we can do something through Fr Martin. We plan to go out again next January. Fr Martin, originally from Holland, is the priest with overall responsibility for our mission in India. It's he who hosts our visits and who has written this description.
Our neighbourhood village is one of the areas quite affected by the tsunami. More than 2,156 families are suffering from this event. Five people died. The leaders of the other three villages, Kanamaly, Cheriakadavu and Kandakadavu came together to discuss this matter and they decided to distribute some food for them. They also invited us to take part in this action.
It became a cooperation between Hindu, Muslim and Catholic populations in the above villages. The Congress Political Party members took the leadership. They decided to have the distribution on the 57th anniversary of the assassination of Gandhi. It was a very meaningful decision. So yesterday, January 30th, was the day leaders came and expressed their concern about the people affected by the tsunami. They invited the people to work together to rebuild the victim village in cooperation with the local government. The coordinators should be informed immediately of any irregularity . They emphasized the example of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, and also the help through the central party leader, Mrs Sonia Gandhi. The distribution of the food to one Manual took place immediately and the other mandals later on that day. Our Dehonian community took the responsibility for 562 families out of 2,156. So we divided 2250 kg of rice in buckets of 4 kg for each of the 562 families.
Our plan is to give further assistance in that area by building one or more water tanks. Investigations are going on in good dialogue with the local authorities. Next Thursday we will visit a very heavily affected area in Tamil Nadu, Kanyakumari district: more than 1200 people died. There was even a burial with more than 200 people in a grave. The psychological burning is very much beating the survivors. After our visit I shall give you further information.
With love and concern, on behalf of our Indian community.
Fr Martin SCJ
February 2 - Wednesday
THOSE WHO DON'T LIKE GROUPS - ALL NIGHT VIGIL
I've said already that before the groups started I did a questionnaire round the parishes for people in their 20s (I should dig it out - it would make interesting reading five years on). People had to give their answers out of 10. I threw in a question at the last minute: "Something should be done for those who don't like groups". This got the highest response of all. We've never found even a partial solution to this need.
Today I said the midday Mass as the three other priests were at a deanery conference - a local meeting for priests and deacons working in parishes. I spotted someone in their 20s who often comes to mid-week Mass. I'd never had the chance to talk to them before. Today we got chatting, and I was just about to mention the group when they said they had been keeping up to date through the web page, but they had never gone on the mailing list as they were not that keen on groups. "So what would appeal to you?" I asked. Quickly they said "I'd love an all-night silent vigil at New Year". Wow. Immediately I'm thinking did I promise my sister I'd definitely be with the family next New Year? Would people come out at New Year? How about doing the vigil here in Stockport on the shortest night, around 22 June. We could finish with a walk while it is still dark, about 3.00, and see the sun come up. Some of you are thinking "how pagan", but the Church put the Feast of St John the Baptist on 24 June to balance with the pagan festivals, like Christmas in December. Who made the sun? By the time we come back MacDonalds would be open for breakfast. Yum.
Then I realised that 24-26 June is the Manchester Open Weekend. When else could we do it, we wondered. What about the Feast of the Sacred Heart? Was that my idea or theirs? The Feast of the Sacred Heart if on Friday 3rd June, and we are having our England celebration for the beatification of Leo Dehon here in Stockport that evening. I was going to invite the group anyway. We could continue with a vigil from midnight till the dawn walk. We could have silent prayer going on in the church and other things in the hall for those who would find the long silent prayer too much. This could be a goer and might appeal to some who are not into too many groupie things, but we would have fun as well, and it would be cheap. No overnight accommodation required. Watch this base.
February 3 - Thursday
FLATS ON THE LEVEL - ARE WE A GROUP?
Last week we sent an email round the people in London on behalf of someone from the group who had a room going free in their flat, and would have liked a Christian or preferably someone from the group to get it. We helped someone out like this last year. I don't know if the room is taken yet, but another wrote to say they were looking for a place in another part of the city and could we email out the details. Why not. She also thought that it might be a service that we could provide for young Catholics who would rather be with others from their own background than take their chances on the open market. Why not. The idea has been raised before. Initially it would be just a question of sending out occasional emails, but if it took off there could be a central clearing system.
We could call it "Flats on the level" (or "Faith Sharing". What about "Rooms with a pew" or "Rooms for Romans" - no, I don't like using Roman. We are Catholic catholics.) It would be another way of providing a service for 20s and 30s and reaching out to those who are less likely to get involved in the group. Group? Why do we call it a group? Maybe that's what puts off those who don't like groups. Project 2030 is Project 2030 and there are groups affiliated to it, but we are not a group. We are here to serve anyone in their 20s or 30s. Individuals needs are much more than just having the chance to be part of a group, important though that is.
To get back to the subject, I can see all kinds of problems trying to run some kind of service for those looking for accommodation or having rooms to spare. But if the need is there we could reduce the problems faced already. And the big plus would be enabling us to live with others who shared our values. It could spark off other benefits. Our weekend at Malpas, 18-20 February, is looking at "Growing in Community". It didn't mean living under the same roof, but that might be what some are looking for, deep down. After thirty years I can certainly testify to the benefits of community living.
February 4 - Friday
DUBLIN 30S - MENSA PUZZLE - GROUPS DON'T ORGANISE NOTHING
In Dublin for the 30 Somethings monthly first Friday gathering at the Banker's Club. Also need to prepare and send out a mailing to the Dublin parishes about the information evening for the 20s on the last Saturday of February.
On the way over I was working on Nick's Mensa puzzle (see diary for 31 January). There's only four that I can't get an answer for and a few others I'm not sure of. Admittedly I've done one of these puzzles before - different, but it also had the books of the Bible (clue). Took some copies of the puzzle in to the 30s. Some tables went hard at it. Others took it away to pass on. And no, sorry, I don't have the answers. I promised they'd be in the diary by the end of February (to give people time). I hope Nick has the answers. Otherwise 1 will 8 him 4 lunch 2. Or 10 to send him to 7 strung 5 from a 3. 6, 9? (a correct solution to this numbers game guarantees his 11, but don't 12 too deeply into it. Blame Mensa.)
A few new faces this evening. They complimented the 30s on the things it puts on. I puzzled them by saying that the group does not organise anything. It's individuals that organize events and the group publicise them. They got the point that the group is based on the efforts of the single members who are able to be contacts. Not everyone can do this, but I encouraged the new people to think what it is they would like to do with others. Someone said they enjoyed going to the gaelic football games which get massive crowds at Croke Park. Quite a few in the group go to the games, but no-one has ever thought of organising it as an event. And it would be quite easy to do as you mostly don't need a ticket.
When the group started we had to rely immediately on the first people to organise things. It was no problem and they quickly felt that the group was theirs. New people are naturally shy to suggest things. We shouldn't put pressure on them, but I feel we lost good people because they don't realise the group wants them to take the initiative. Maybe they don't like what the group puts on and don't think they can take the group in their direction. It's not the group that puts things on, it's individuals.
February 5 - Saturday
FEELING AWFUL - BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY - DEADLY SINS
Some mornings you feel awful. I don't very often, but today, yes. People who know me know that sleep is one of my 'Gods'. Late nights are to be avoided, but when I go to the Dublin 30s I know I'm going to be late. About 10.30 last night I was going to cut and run, but there were still quite a few I hadn't spoken to. It was after midnight before I left the Banker's Club and some were just warming up. Time is different in Ireland.
Strange how late to bed leads to waking earlier than usual. Four hours sleep. Lack of sleep leads to feeling negative. This reminded me of the discussion last night about the diary entry I wrote in November mischievously questioning whether the Dublin 30s could be considered a Project 2030 group within the ethos and principles I was coming up with at the time. A few from other groups thought I was being a bit hard. No one from Dublin got on to me about it until last night. The excuse I gave was that I was likely tired when I wrote it, after being out late with the groups. Being tired can get me into a bad mood. "That's what it read like, as if you were in a bad mood", someone said. Some things are better left unsaid. If you are not at your best be careful what you say. It might be true but it could easily come out the wrong way.
By lunch time I was feeling better. Was it the good meal, or the getting together with the community - Fr Bobby and Fr Jim who work in the parish, and Fr Maciek from Poland who is here learning the English. Maciek is still in his 20s. He is involved with the Polish community in Dublin. He is interested in the information meeting for the 20s later in the month and is going to bring along some of the younger Poles. He will be a good contact if and when we have the "meeting of the nations" in Dublin, i.e. publicising a gathering of people in their 20s from different countries, so they can meet up with their own nationality and also get involved in the group.
I continued to improve as the day went on. Of course, feeling better does not mean that you are better. Only that you are less bad. When I was Chaplain in a hospital there was a guy who was in intensive care for months. It was touch and go. Then he began to improve. The day he went back into an ordinary ward he said that he'd never felt better in his life. I'm sure that was true. Yet he was still a very sick man.
There are a few psychologists out there. It would be interesting, if not scary, to have your writing analysed, to see if they could spot what you were going through at the time (how were your biorhythms, etc). There was a columnist last week who was so anti Helen McArthur as she comes near the finish of her round the world record-breaking sail. It was so obvious that she was just envious of all the attention she was getting. Me, envious? Surely not, but there are other deadly sins, like anger. Be gentle on me. I've still not fully recovered.
February 6 - Sunday
THE JOYS OF MAILING - DUBLIN 20S INFORMATION EVENING
I'd forgotten how long it takes to do a mailing to the parishes. The Dublin parishes list is just over 200 with a few extras. Not as long as London or the North West which are over 600. The letter to the PPs gave details of the 20s Information Meeting on Saturday 26th February at the Earl of Kildare Hotel near Trinity College. I pointed out that the last newcomers meeting for the Dublin 30s produced several from the one parish because an announcement had been made at Mass.
The poster was a general one about the group, so people can see it on the parish noticeboard over the coming weeks and take the tear-off slips. It reads:
In your 20S?
Looking to meet up with others your age from parishes around Dublin?
Then come along to The Twentysomethings
Get involved in our programme of walks, meals, retreats, evenings out, etc
"We do what you want to do" (just thought of this as a slogan)
For further information contact 086 076 1598 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Dublin 20s have their own mobile phone and email address. The hotmail address means we don't need to use the usual UK address which would look a bit strange in Ireland, although the 'UK' bit did not stop us from starting when we started. Stop.
Going to Dublin by plane on Friday, I carried over the envelopes, the poster paper and (the heaviest) copies of last year's magazIne. Might as well use up the ones that are left and whet the priest's appetite for the new issue which is virtually ready to print. The new magazine will be a bit lighter to make them easier to carry and get more in an envelope for the postage.
To do the mailing there's also stamps to buy (not all adhesive), stick them on the envelopes, also the address labels. At one the stage the printer would not work and both photocopiers gave up on me. Finally stuffing the envelopes and humping them to the post office. And yet in a strange way I enjoyed the process. It was relaxing to do something mindless for a change. As Camus would say: "Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux".
February 7 - Monday
HELPING IN LONDON - MISSIONARIES OF CHARITY
The idea of helping others is catching on. In Glasgow we are going to arrange another visit to the Wayside Club where Martin works with the homeless and needy. In London Michael is organising a day in April to help the Besom charity. He writes: "12 or so volunteers from the group undertake a project with BESOM to paint/clean up a vulnerable person's house/flat who have been referred to this charity. It's a great set up - they provide all the paint etc and we simply turn up and do the work."
There will be a meal/drink for the volunteers afterwards.
Nick has emailed in a report on the visit to Mother Teresa's Sisters in Liverpool the other week:
Sunday a group of us went to help out at a shelter, which was run by the
Missionaries Of Charity, this was following on from the helping out in
Manchester at the sheltered housing complex. For many of us this was a new and
welcome experience including myself. Despite the fact that I had left my map at
home I managed to navigate my way there arriving just in time for Mass which was
very well attended. The theme of the mass was
‘Blessed are the Poor in Spirit’ from the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3) a
particular favorite of mine from the Sermon on the Mount.
the mass there was a really good meal for all the people there of
chicken, potatoes, veg and then afters, some even had second helpings which was
good. Everybody got stuck in, some of us serving tea/food, others helping to
wash and then others cleaning up afterwards. Once the meal was over the sisters
showed us round the shelter and then we all went to Wetherspoons for a drink and
something to eat. I felt that it was really good day out and it was a privilege
for everyone to be able to help out and give something back to the Sacred Heart.
had already been going to the Center a few weeks and was hoping to go several
times a month. We decided that we would target the last Sunday of
the month and that people could ring Anna who would co-ordinate those who wanted
to go other Sundays. Anyone can go any time to help. Just turn up.
The evening meal is at 4.30 except Sunday. There is also Adoration in the
Chapel 2.20 each day (3.00 on a Sunday). One of the guys was seriously
thinking of helping with some overnights, but wanted to do a few Sundays first
to be sure
the day was over I was reflecting on what it means to be Christian which is to
put other people first, particularly those less fortunate than us. As Christ
said to his apostles‘ Freely Ye Have Received Freely Give’. If we have any
resources or talents then we must try and use them for the good of other people
and not bury them in the ground. Jesus also led by example with his ministry
based on helping the poor, the sick and the less fortunate. It is important
therefore that we all try and let our light shine for the good of others and do
not hide away under a bushel.
February 8 - Tuesday
DOLLY THE SHEEP MARK II - BBC RADIO 4'S WEB PAGE
Last month I got a bit of a discussion going on Radio 5's web page about the Jerry Springer Opera on BBC 2. It was an enjoyable experience and I knew I could got hooked on that kind of thing, so I resisted going back to it - until today. After lunch I heard a discussion on Radio 5 about the permission that had been given to the inventor of Dolly the Sheep to make clones of human embryos. This is what I posted on Radio 4's web page, putting it fairly bluntly to elicit a response. Various people answered. This is what I wrote back to them.
the sheep Mark II Hugh
- 1st post - 8 Feb 2005 16:57
Dolly the sheep Mark II Hugh
- 2nd post - 8 Feb 2005 17:23
Dolly the sheep Mark II Hugh
- 3rd post - 8 Feb 2005 17:33
Dolly the sheep Mark II Hugh
- 4th post - 8 Feb 2005 18:01
Dolly the sheep Mark II Hugh
- 5th post - 8 Feb 2005 20:09
If you want to follow the exchange in detail see
February 9 - Wednesday
DOLLY THE SHEEP DAY II - RADIO 5'S RESPONSE
Today there were three other responses to the exchange yesterday on experimentation with early human life. This was the answer I gave on Radio 4's web page.
Dolly the sheep Mark II Hugh
- 6th post - 9 Feb 2005 18:54
had to laugh at your comment that the designer of the human reproductive system
must have been a bungling idiot. Yet it is still an amazing system that has
developed over the billenia. Many of the arguments you use for discarding early
genetic material could also be cited to support the abandonment of unwanted
infants. Left unattended they would soon wither and die.
the pre-embryo 'blastocysts' still need the coming together of a female egg and
male sperm. This break in the connection with natural human reproduction is
making it even harder for us to hold on to some semblance of sex being much more
than a recreational activity, with its consequent problems
you rightly say that blastocysts are unaware of their human existence, but we
are be aware of it and can give this part of the human chain our protection. How
aware are infants of their existence, how aware are we of our existence? We are
aware to the extent that we are aware, but how high a level is this. When our
attempts to eat from the tree of knowledge leads us to creating and disposing of
human life in a test tube then I begin to wonder how developed we are. How much
does Mickey Mouse know about Walt Disney? What would God think about this
research, you ask. I guess he would be less perturbed than we might imagine. He
can still turn everything out for the best. Someone said (was it Chesterton?):
'Ethical standards are not that important for God, but they are very important
Yesterday I started the same discussion on Radio 5's forum. There were only two brief responses, but more supportive.
the sheep Mark II Hugh
- 7th post - 8 Feb 2005 17:04
re: Dolly the
sheep Mark II Cuban Pete - 673rd post - 8 Feb 2005 17:07
The fun is just beginning.
re: Dolly the
sheep Mark II North_by_Northeast - 4th
post - 8 Feb 2005 17:07
.....however you'll probably find that most
of the sheep have already been cloned, post on these boards and bleat about
their collective persection in life.
Why not try the same yourself. Say what you think on a web page and see the response. Or let me know what you would have written about this issue on email@example.com
February 10 - Thursday
ASH THURSDAY ?
Happy Lent. I'm calling today Ash Thursday. Yesterday was the day to get our ashes, but Lent is not just one day and the spirit of "remember that you are dust" goes on till Easter. Yesterday I helped at the noon Mass and our big Church was almost full. There were many more than your average Holyday of Obligation. Ash Wednesday is not a holiday of obligation, but I sense that it comes second to Christmas as a ceremony that touches people. If you didn't get your ashes don't feel that you've completely missed the boat. Make up your own ashes celebration, something to get you going in Lent. Even mark your forehead with an ashes substitute. We can continue to remind ourselves of what we are doing for Lent by making a daily sign of the cross on our brow.
If I was a parish priest i would offer the ashes to people at other Masses this week, including Sunday. I've seen how they affect people. When I was school chaplain in Gateshead only half the school had the chance to come to the Ash Wednesday Mass because of the split lunch-time. When Mass was over others came in to see if they could get the ashes. A group at the back of the hall said "What about us?" Then people in the corridor saw there was still the possibility. Before I knew it I was out in the playground, and everyone wanted the sign of a new beginning. Even the touch guys were coming up with great reverence.
Another time when I was working at Dehon House Residential Youth Centre we explained to the school group of 15 year olds that arrived on Monday for the week that they would be getting their ashes on Wednesday. They kept talking about it and pestering us to know when this would happen. Even when the Mass had started they were asking when they would get the ashes. It was a more informal Mass where they had prepared prayers and plays, etc. The celebrant had to stop them from crowding the altar. He made them kneel down to keep them under control, and when he said "Right, you can come for your ashes now", they rushed at him on their knees. By this stage we were in hysterics trying not to laugh. After that we abandoned the Mass. How could receiving Communion compete with what the dust of burned palms had meant to them.
Think what Lent and ashes mean to you. What things touch you deeply in your life and faith?
Come back to me with all your heart.
Don't let fear keep us apart.
Trees do bend, though straight and tall;
so must we to others' call.
Long have I waited
for your coming home to me
and living deeply our new life.
The wilderness will lead you
to your heart, where I will speak.
Integrity and justice
with tenderness you shall know.
You shall sleep secure with peace;
faithfulness will be your joy.
Long have I waited for your coming
home to me
and living deeply our new life.
Come back to me with all your heart.
Don't let fear keep us apart.
Trees do bend, though straight and tall;
so must we to others' call.
(Gregory Norbet OSB - based on Hosea)
February 11 - Friday
THE PROJECT 2030 ALPHA COURSE
After the "At Your Word, Lord" course last year Michael has set up an Alpha Course for the group in London which is being sponsored by Catholic Alpha. This is how he describes it.
20/30 Alpha Course
Join us to explore more about our faith with others in a relaxed, informal and friendly setting. This is your opportunity to explore the meaning of life, the universe and more.......... asking all those questions you may have about Jesus, Mary, the Catholic Church and Christianity.
20 February 2005
St Thomas More House, 53 Cromwell Rd, S Kensington, nearest underground
station Gloucester Rd (5 mins walk).
Who is Jesus?
Why did Jesus die?
How can I be sure of my faith?
Why and how do I read the Bible?
Why and how do I pray?
How does God guide us?
Who is the Holy Spirit?
How can I resist evil?
Does God heal today?
Why and how should Christians tell others?
What about the Church? How
do I move ahead in the Christian Life?
We will listen to a short talk, and then break up into
discussion groups which will be your chance to discuss what you've heard, and
ask anything you like.
Anybody is welcome to join us - you, your friends,
active or lapsed Catholics, non-Catholics......... but it would be helpful if
you could let us know and book your place.
Don't worry if you can't make every talk, but do block out your diary if
you're interested in coming along. It should be fun!
There will be a chance to join others for refreshments at Patisserie cafe bar opposite Gloucester Rd Station before/after the course. We will give more details at the end of Week 1.
There is no charge for attending the course.
February 12 - Saturday
This evening it's the London party. In September there's a London weekend with things organised from Friday to Sunday. This time it's just the party, but some have come from Dublin, Glasgow and the North-West/Wales for the weekend, even Friday to Monday. Most of us are staying at the St Athan's Hotel. The party is from 7.30 at the Fine Line on Kingsway, 120-30 expected. There's a buffet and disco, with profits going to India. These days I know I don't have to try and talk to everyone, but it's a good chance to catch up on people's news, moving house, new jobs, ideas for events, stories of events past, how India went, etc.
There's work to be done as well - getting local contacts for the visits to Dublin, Manchester, Iona, Turvey. 3 or 4 times as many will go if there is someone in the area to co-ordinate travel etc (just knowing someone else is definitely going makes all the difference). Declan has come with a detailed blurb prepared on the Dublin weekend which is sure to attract a big crowd. The party is going with a swing and the noise is increasing. It's harder to have a reasonable conversation, so after the vote of thanks decide to go out for some fresh air about 11.00. Some presume I'm heading off. They're not communicating any strong 'surely nots', which makes me think that I could go early and get away with it. But there's still the bills to be paid for the food, the bouncer and the DJ. We've spent enough time at the bar to get the deposit back. To tip or not to tip, that's the question. We tip and I skip. Back at St Athan's about midnight. The party's booked till 1.00.
February 13 - Sunday
WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL FOR MASS
To walk or not to walk. Some want to walk to the 12.00 Mass at Westminster Cathedral, but nobody's quite sure how long it takes, so we compromise and get the Tube to Green Park and walk across the park via Buckingham Palace. The place is heaving with minor crowds lining the roads. Two bands are playing. What's going on? The best theory is that the fiancee, divorcee, nouvelle arrivee is coming to lunch. I reflect to myself that the Church of England which started with a king, a divorce and re-marriage is likely to end by the same means.
We arrive nicely on time for Mass. I don't concelebrate this time. The microphones are better. The reader is excellent, and the priest gives us a very well constructed and thought-provoking sermon on temptation. He started by telling us of the fridge magnet his sister has, with something like: 'It's not worth the extra inch'. He considered it was when it came to chocolate biscuits and certain French cheeses. Add your own. He saw temptation as a short-cut, cutting corners to find happiness and contentment, but ending up in a blind alley.
There was no place booked for lunch. Where would we find tables for 30? First attempt, surprisingly. A reasonable Italians. The service was quite quick, but still gave time to whip out the Mensa Quiz (see 31 January). Andy has only three to get. I was down to four, but need to give up now as I got a couple of answers today. The one that no-one can work out yet is '15 M on an DMC'. Some football posers are exchanged. We agree that Chris should be added to the mostly North-West email list that send around questions like (if you don't want to know the bore look away now): "What is the most points you can get in a Champions League Section and still not qualify?" No Yorkies offered as prizes.
We also caught up on the recent London exchange on whether to have a discussion on The Da Vinci Code. After the recent slating the book got on the two-hour Channel 4 documentary I'm not sure what's left to discuss, except how to make a billion with a bit of imagination and lessons from Sydney Sheldon. But there are still questions that people are asking so we might still do the discussion. Someone has taped the documentary, which could be used.
At the end of the meal some go and climb the Cathedral Tower or visit the London Dungeons. Others go off to see 'The Reduced Shakespeare Company', The Bard from the sublime to the ridiculous. I had teased the ladies in saying that a certain quotation from Hamlet had made it on to the front page of the magazine. It was nun of my suggesting. Before it got too hot I took a chance to get me to a trainery.
February 14 - Monday
Recently we've been reporting on efforts within the groups to help others at a local level. Occasionally someone gets in touch who would like to help abroad. A few from the group have already got involved in helping in other countries. When we came back from India last year two were seriously interested in going back to help people learn English in the schools and communities we visited. It didn't work out for them as other things came up, but that possibility still exists. So if you feel the call to help like that in Kerala, get in touch.
Most people have considered going abroad to work for those who are less fortunate than we are - even if the thought only lasted for five minutes (in the dim and distant) after you had watched Live Aid or saw some other disaster like the tsunami. I can't say that I've ever felt a strong call to go on the missions, but after 2 years studying in Rome in the 80s the contact with people from all over the world made me put my name down as a volunteer, available to go to another country if required. We are not a mainly missionary community. About 1 in 4 spend some time working in other cultures. And even if you volunteer you are not always sent. I wasn't. It wasn't a big thing for me. I was ready and willing if required. If you really want to go you usually can. I had considered volunteering even before I was ordained, but because it was unlikely you would be sent unless pushed for it, I decided not to give my mother one more thing to worry about while she was still alive. In the 90s I got to know a few of our French priests in Cameroon who came here to learn the English. They wanted to move into the anglophone area and kept at me for a number of years to go out and help them. But at that stage I felt it would be unfair on the community here. In 1999, before I started Project 2030, I had six months sabbatical. I wanted to spend 3 months helping in India, but they said it wasn't worth it unless I could stay for 6 months. I needed a bit of a break as well, so I didn't go. I guess now they were just upping the ante, but if I'd gone to India for six months they would likely have tied me up and not let me come home.
How did I get into all that? Last week two people wrote saying they would like to help abroad and did we have any contacts? One had done something like that before but wanted to work in a different kind of environment. The other is coming to the end of a job and financially secure enough to give some time to others. The only ready opportunity we have within the community at the moment is to teach English in India, but we are present in almost 40 countries, so there must be other possibilities. Maybe we need to ask something like: "Who fancies doing 1, 6 12 months volunteering abroad in 2006/7?" and see what the response is. There are other Catholic groups like the Volunteer Missionary Movement, but they ask people to give 2 years and you have to have a skill to offer.
February 15 - Tuesday
PROJECT 2030 MAIN EVENTS FOR 20S AND 30S
Our main events list for 2005 has just gone out. For the benefit of diary readers who are not on our mailing list here are the main joint events between the groups from January to April.
2030 - MAIN EVENTS 2005 FOR 20s AND 30s
early to avoid disappointment. If
you are definitely going to an event and would like to be your area contact so
people can travel together etc contact Hugh ASAP.
Knowing that someone is definitely going from your area means that more
– 18 JANUARY – INDIA: Staying
around Cochin, Kerala. Experience
the culture. See the sights, visit
Dehonian missions and other communities. See
14 – 29 January 2006 for next year’s visit.
– 29 JANUARY – SKI-ING: Chamonix,
FEBRUARY – LONDON PARTY: 120
at this with visitors from Dublin, Glasgow and North-West England groups.
– 20 FEBRUARY – GROWING IN COMMUNITY: Building
on what we have in common. How can
Project 2030 help us more in our life and faith?
Dehonian spirituality. From
6.00 pm Friday till pub lunch at 1.00 pm Sunday.
64 pounds. Send
deposit of 15 pounds to Project 2030 Office, St Joseph’s, Tilston Rd, Malpas,
Cheshire, SY14 7DD (Cheques made
out to ‘Project 2030’). Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Directions To Malpas - By car take the A41south from Chester.
After 10 miles at the second small roundabout turn right for Malpas. At the T junction in the village turn right for Tilston.
St Joseph’s is 300 yards, on the left.
There is a bus from Chester Railway Station.
Taxis can be booked from Whitchurch Railway Station (Acorn Taxis: 01948
– LENTEN RETREATS: In
each area. See group newsletter for
details. Or contact Project 2030
– 6 MARCH – ADVENTURE WEEKEND: Whitewater
rafting and Paintballing in North Wales. Cost
for both events 78 pounds plus 12 pounds per night.
– 27 MARCH – EASTER AT MALPAS: Take
a few days off and celebrate the Holy Week Services together.
In the countryside. Opportunities
for walks, village pubs, space to think and pray, visit to Chester etc.
Begins 6.00 pm Thursday (arrivals from 5.00 pm).
Finishes with lunch on Sunday. Single
rooms. Cost: 82 pounds.
Deposit of 15 pounds (for method of payment and directions see 18
– 25 APRIL – ROME: Centered
round the expected beatification of Leo Dehon, founder of the Priests of the
Sacred Heart, patron of the group. 15
booked already. You can stay a
longer or shorter time. Ryanair flights via Stanstead. Departing Friday 16.35
returning Monday 14.50 Return Flight costs (in pounds sterling) – London: 80,
Glasgow: 105, Dublin: 105. There is a cheap direct flight from Liverpool (68),
prices likely to rise nearer the date. No price yet for accommodation. To book
send the full amount for the flight (cheques made to ‘Project 2030’ )
to Project 2030 Office, St Joseph’s, Tilston Rd, Malpas, Cheshire, SY14
7DD ASAP. Other events arranged over the weekend – visit the sights of Rome.
If you want to go out earlier or stay out later in Rome, book your own
flights and let Hugh know.
APRIL – 2 MAY – IONA III: staying
on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. In
the footsteps of St Columba. Optional
visit to Fingal’s Cave, Staffa.
Price for B&B and travel from Glasgow 80 pounds approx.
25 went on this last year. Limited places.
Bank Hols in Ireland and Britain. Visitors need to be in Glasgow by
Friday night. For keen walkers optional free board in Glasgow on Thursday April
28th to climb Ben Lomond or Ben A’An on Friday.
February 16 - Wednesday
GLASGOW 20S TALK - POPE JOHN PAUL II ON SEXUALITY
In the Glasgow 20s members often give talks based mostly on their own life and faith. We also invite speakers to come. Before Christmas two from the group said that they had heard Fr John Keenan, chaplain at Glasgow University, giving a talk on 'Pope John Paul's vision of sex and marriage'. So we invited him to come along this evening to speak to us. His words were backed up by a powerpoint presentation. I took some notes but I could not do justice to John's 75 minutes of input and answering questions, but here are some ideas I jotted down.
February 17 - Thursday
JOINING THE CHURCH - RCIA - ALPHA
When we were at Westminster Cathedral on Sunday the priest apologised because the seats had been squashed in closer than usual to accommodate the crowd they were expecting in the afternoon - 750 people from different parts of the diocese who were preparing to join the Church, with family and friends. A few of us remarked how impressive that was. It is good to hear that so many want to become Catholics.
How easy is it to join the Church? I recently replied to someone who had been reading the diary though she is not on any of our mailing lists. She was thinking of becoming a Catholic. Could I give any advice? She had spoken to the priest in her previous parish and had attended some meetings, but after moving house didn't know how to proceed. Could we make it easier for people to come into the Church? There are no national telephone helplines or web pages (does anyone want to design one?). Even making that first step to go into a Catholic Church is a deep-breather for most people. We like to feel that we are welcoming as Catholics, but I have been to Churches where, for no particular reason I could put my finger on, I would not be keen to go back to in a hurry.
Most parishes or deaneries have an RCIA programme (The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). If you want to speak to the priest you can always ring him up for advice or an appointment. The number will be available in the newsletter or at the back of the church. If you are not sure how to proceed give the Project 2030 office a ring or email. There are people in the group who have joined the Church as adults and there are others who are looking at it. The London 20s went to Southwark Cathedral when David was received into the Church at Easter 2002 (he and his wife Bettina, who was at Malpas that Easter, moved house to Exeter this week).
Individuals sometimes say that being in the group has helped them to re-connect with their faith. The Alpha course in London will be a big help to those who are exploring, but it is also good as a refresher course (or you might have a friend who is searching that you could bring along). The secret of Alpha is that it keeps things simple yet looks at the bigger deeper questions. At the London party I was talking to Frances who works at the Catholic Alpha office at Holy Trinity, Brompton. If you are interested in joining a course in another area you can always google Catholic Alpha. Let's know if you can't come up with anything. If you don't want to go to a course on your own, let's know. There might be others from your area who are looking for the same thing.
February 18 - Friday
A POEM - LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST
Hans has just sent in the following (email 11 Feb).
A POEM WRITTEN BY A TERMINALLY ILL YOUNG GIRL IN A NEW YORK HOSPITAL.
Make sure to read what her doctor had to say in the closing statement after the poem.
ever watched kids on a merry-go-round?
listened to the rain slapping on the ground?
followed a butterfly's erratic flight?
at the sun into the fading night?
dance so fast;
Do you run
through each day on the fly?
ask, how are you? Do you
hear the reply?
day is done, do you lie in your bed with the next hundred chores running through
Don' t dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won't last.
Ever told your child - We'll do it tomorrow?
And in your haste - not see his or her sorrow?
Ever lost touch, let a good friendship die
‘cause you never had time to call and say "hi"?
You'd better slow down.
Don't dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won't last.
When you run so fast to get somewhere, you miss
half the fun of getting there!
When you worry and hurry through your day, it is
like an unopened gift....
Thrown away life is not a race…. do take it
slower…hear the music before the song is over.
from – Dr.
Dennis Shields, Department of Developmental and Molecular Biology 1300 Morris
Park Avenue Bronx, New York 10461
please send this poem to everyone you know or don't know. This little girl
has 6 months left to live, and as her dying wish, she wanted
send a letter telling everyone to live his or her life to the fullest, since she
Comment from Hugh: Many young children who are ill can
be an amazing example to us. They take their sickness in their
stride and in their innocence do not have the same hang-ups as adults. I
suspect that Talinar (to give her a name from the first letters of the words in
the last line) might have lived life more fully than most of us.
February 19 - Saturday
GROWING IN COMMUNITY - THE PORTUGUESE PERSPECTIVE
There are 18 of us at Malpas for the weekend. It was advertised as growing in community for those who were looking for something more, for support in their life of faith or whatever. It was originally Martin's idea. He felt that there were enough people in the groups who wanted to go a bit further, who were ready to put a name to what they had in common, even to adopting a prayer that could be said. How could this common spirit be expressed in a spirituality? Was the Dehonian approach of the Sacred Heart Fathers based on love and self-giving the one for us? A spirituality is not something that can be learned, it has to be caught. In giving me as an example of a follower of Leo Dehon he almost had me canonised. This was balanced by his demonstration that when reading a Gospel aloud one day he realised he sounded awfully like me. And he did, to everyone's amusement, and to my almost not being able to read the Gospel during Mass later for wanting to giggle. Martin is going to write out his talk for inclusion in the diary, so we'll let him speak for himself another day.
We had two Portuguese dehonians with us who are in Final Vows in the community and are soon to be ordained. When Chris, Mary and I were at the European meeting in Lisbon in September, I asked our College there if they could send over a couple of younger members. We are trying to build up a closer relationship with Portugal, and it would be good to have them speak about our founder and his spirit. They had come prepared with powerpoint presentations translated into English giving the history of Dehon, the Rule of Life, followed by his priests and the development of the lay associations that follow in his footsteps. The basic message is love and self-giving while trying to repair what is broken in people's lives and society and in our relationship with God. There are three basic mottos: 1) "Ecce Venio" which is Latin for "Here I am", the attitude attributed to Jesus at his incarnation when he accepted to become human. We try to follow that eagerness to do the Father's will. 2) "Sint Unum" or "May they be one", which is the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper asking his Father to make the disciples (and us) united like he was with his Father. 3) "Adveniat Regnum Tuum" or "Thy Kingdom Come". We are called to work for the spread of God's influence, reign, presence in this world.
Joaquim and Elder also spoke about their time working in Madagascar or in their boarding school for teenagers who want to become priests. The former's DVD gave us an insight into the poverty and beauty of the country. The latter's home-made video amused us with pictures of the boys who, while hoping to dedicate themselves to God, still seemed very natural and normal.
February 20 - Sunday
SOME CONCLUSIONS FROM THE MALPAS WEEKEND
Yesterday there were various other discussions which crystallised into some suggestions today. A few of the women on Friday evening had expressed the hope of bonding more closely with the other females. We have never split the sexes in the groups before, but this morning for the final session we decided to see how it would work. It seemed to go well in a way that no-one could quite put their finger on. The conclusions in the gender groups were similar and did not cause any divisions.
Catherine is going to do a report on the weekend, but here are some of the main conclusions as I saw them:
Most of those on the weekend were from the North-West. There were a number of apologies from Londoners who wanted to be here. Maybe I gave them too good an excuse not to come by saying that we could do a day on the same theme in the South-East.
February 21 - Monday
VISIT TO LIVERPOOL - THE CATHEDRALS AND BEATLES MUSEUM
Elder and Joaquim from Portugal arrived at Manchester Airport on Thursday evening. On Friday morning they explored Stockport town centre. They are both excellent guitarists and were amazed to find three music shops within a few hundred yards of the church. They got some books to take home. On Friday afternoon on the way to Malpas I took them to see Old Trafford. We did the tour which showed you more behind the scenes than I'd expected. On Saturday afternoon Duncan took them into Chester. On Sunday, after Malpas, we went to the group's monthly Taize Prayer and meal near Warrington.
They are going back tomorrow, so to make the most of their stay, we hit the tourist trail today and headed for LIverpool. I feel there is more to see there than Manchester (can I say that?), and the advantage was that we could call on our community in Bootle and have lunch with them at the Stella Maris Centre for seamen. Traffic problems meant we couldn't see the cathedrals before lunch, so we called at Anfield instead. Goodison (Everton's ground) is very near, but we missed it in the labyrinthine streets and just made it in time for eats.
They were impressed by the Catholic Cathedral. We also got a tour of the crypt and the foundations of the ginormous edifice that had been planned in the 30s. At the weekend someone had infected me with the scandal that there had been a Beer Festival recently in the crypt, but there is much more than a church there with a theatre and large halls that are used for university exams and other events. The Anglican Cathedral had a guide brochure in Portuguese. There were more questions about ecumenism as we toured its vast inner space.
After the Lady (Madonna) Chapel, the piece de resistance for two guitarists had to be the Beatles Museum at the Albert Dock. It only seemed like yesterday when I was here with Fr McKenzie. It is such a magical tour with little left to the imagination, though I kept mulling over if Jesus was more famous than thingummyjig. No. Let it be. It's easy. The tour was so busy at the beginning we had to twist and shout. The reconstructed Cavern had a submarine effect. It's amazing how they could take a sad song and make it better. An enjoyable tour, but a hard day's afternoon on the feet (excuse the 13 references to songs). Help!
February 22 - Tuesday
THE TAIZE EXPERIENCE - FROM FRANCE TO THE NORTH-WEST
At the Taize Prayer on Sunday I kept saying to myself: "We must get to Taize sometime". Three times I've been in France with the intention to go there, but the Spirit hath prevented me. Unbeknowns, Andy who organises our monthly Taize was thinking to himself: "I must finish that report I was going to do on Taize". He did, and here it is with a proposal to go there in 2006.
"Taize is a small village on a hillside in Burgundy, France. Over sixty years ago a young Swiss man, Brother Roger, founded a Christian community dedicated to reconciliation between peoples, and particularly between Christians of different denominations.
The Taize community is a monastic one, and each brother makes a life long commitment to God. There are now over a hundred brothers from a variety of countries and Christian churches. Nowadays, most are from a Catholic background.
Prayer is at the heart of Taize. Going to Taizé is an opportunity to seek communion with God in prayer, silence and reflection. In doing so, it can be possible to rediscover a sense of meaning to our lives, finding strength for life at home. Three times each day, everyone staying on the hillside in Taize stops what they are doing and heads to the large church for common prayer. In the busy summer months there can be up to six thousand mainly young people praying and singing together. The evenings after common prayer can be just as enjoyable as everyone starts to get to know one another better. Alcohol doesn’t flow freely in Taize, but people quite easily make their own entertainment. Language barriers quickly disappear, and friendships start to develop. The “Buzz”, to borrow a 2030 phrase, is immense.
In order to make the prayer accessible to everyone, the community has developed the meditative songs that have become famous throughout the world. The large numbers of people praying and singing together is a great experience, and supports an individual’s personal prayer. For me, it has also made me experience the size of God’s family, and how he transcends cultures, languages and background. The desire for God is shared by all, and he is present to all.
Most people spend a week in Taize. Besides the prayer, the Community encourages visitors to share the week with others, living as simply as possible. This usually takes the form of being in a small group for the week. The groups might meet once or twice a day, sharing faith experiences, discussing themes from a bible introduction, and even washing up together. The Community’s first vocation is welcoming young people. In Taize you become an adult when you are 30! Over 30s are welcome, but the brothers like to welcome groups of young people. The vibrancy and energy that can be felt in Taize is perhaps a reflection of the large numbers of young people staying there.
I have been to Taize quite a few times now, and each visit has been different, particularly as I’ve got older. The beauty of the prayer, and sharing a week simply with others, has remained constant throughout. Lots of things are brought back from Taize, and happily the essentials have not been lost completely in the noisier surroundings of daily life. In addition to the friends made, the chants, the music, and the simplicity underlying the prayer are easily moved to a different setting. Many “Taize” prayers are held locally, and there has been a monthly Taize prayer in the Northwest group for a couple of years now. Fortunately there is a pub just across the road from Loyola Hall, so we can go for a drink and something to eat afterwards, which is a bit like being in Taize. The food is also a lot better in the Ship than in Taize!
Going to Taize is not like going on a normal holiday. It can be just as enjoyable, and the experience of Taize can recharge and renew lives in a very different way to the more traditional 18-30 holiday abroad."
February 23 - Wednesday
MORE ABOUT LAST WEEKEND
Martin has written some thoughts on the weekend. We hope to read his talk later.
The weekend for me was quite
encouraging. In a sense, I feel we didn't explore concretely either what
community means or what Dehonian spirituality is all about . Nevertheless, it
was an interesting gathering and some of those who took part tended to be people
who are more interested in perhaps exploring the possibility of forging closer
links with one another. This was encouraging to me personally as it's good to
know I'm not alone. I was excited by some of the ideas and enthusiasm expressed and
also that Fr Michael Walshe spoke of there being a pattern already in terms of
lay people trying to 'access' the spirituality on offer. Maybe these things
point towards a need and a way forward.
It also helped achieve greater
clarity for me in terms of what I'm personally looking for. I think it's a
few things: a spirituality that resonates and that can help draw me closer to
Jesus in my daily life; a spirituality and prayer life that connects me to other
people; to commit to a group who individually attempt to incorporate this into
their own lives; to share life and faith within such a group; to give
as part of a collective effort to the good of those on the margins. Other things
like simple living (that others may simply live) also appeal.
I think a lot of the above stems from
my 'encounter' with Dehonian spirituality and 2030. There, I experience Jesus,
the Servant of reconciliation par excellence, as the centre of
life and love for us. I get a sense of us being a part of each other's
healing and wholeness, of being in one another's 'soul care' and of experiencing
Jesus in one another. I feel a call to include the excluded especially in reparation
for my own weakness like Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), and to live more simply and
justly as an oblation.
I had a jar of golf balls with me at
Malpas and I was hoping to offer an exercise whereby we observe the jar to be
full before we then fill the gaps in the jar with pebbles (or in my case chick
peas!) again observing it to be full before we fill the gaps further with sand.
The golf balls represent what's most important in life to us - God, family,
friends, community, what we believe in, what energises us etc. The pebbles are
what's of secondary importance. They are less related to our identity and
essence. So, our houses, cars, jobs, possessions etc. The sand represents
the rest - the small stuff that we spend most of our time attending to. The
point is that if we filled the jar firstly with the sand there would be no room
for the pebbles or balls. Life is like that too. We often neglect what is dear
to us for the small stuff. As Lennon put it, 'life is something that happens to
us while we're busy doing something else'. Tweaking Tony De Mello's story, we
could compare our lives to the journey of a group of tourists on a tour bus. The
bus passes through the most gorgeous scenery, lush plains, spectacular
mountains, stunning coastlines but the shades of the bus are drawn and no one
sees any of it. Instead, some are sleeping, some are going through paperwork,
some are making fun of others on the bus to increase their own popularity and
others still are fighting over who should sit in the best seats. And so
they remain til the journey ends... It's an image of life for many of us sadly.
Hey, this should have been in my talk!
So I guess the golf balls for me
include not only God, Church, family but also 2030, some of the group I'm really
close to, fellowship, the need to express beliefs in an active way and so on. The
idea of being concerned with doing this as part of daily life rather than just
fitting things in when I've got time attracts me. And so, some of the ideas expressed
excite me particularly:
* a group prayer and/or prayer
* a lay associate / Dehonian Family
group that meets regularly
* a live-in community
* local contacts to gauge interest
and develop ideas
* a community 'internet forum' to
gather thoughts and ideas
* Fr Michael's study group
* overseas work with the Dehonians
Overall, after a tentative start,
things perhaps went not too badly. The most important thing perhaps was to throw
out some ideas and get the ball rolling. I feel more optimistic of any
developments through time than I did beforehand. I'm sure things could go better
still in London and maybe at some point in Glasgow.
February 24 - Thursday
LOOK AWAY NOW
If you don’t want to know
the scores look away now. These are
the answers to the quiz that was posted on January 31st.
I thought I had got all but three which would have qualified me for Mensa,
but I had three others wrong (or had different answers).
Andy said he was down to two, but we don’t know yet if he made any
mistakes. If anyone got the last
one right then Andy is going to give them a special prize.
YOU SCORED _
February 25 - Friday
PRAYERS OF THE HEART - FROM LAST WEEKEND
Here are some prayers that Martin used at the weekend. The first two were composed by Ged at Dehon House in the 90s. The third was written by Martin himself and first appeared in the diary on 8 July.
1) Heart of Jesus,
I open my heart to your love,
I open my life to your light,
I open myself to be your child:
held by you;
loved by you;
trusting in you;
loving in you and with you. Amen.
2) Heart of Jesus,
Sign of who you truly are,
Love made flesh and lived out among us,
love in the face of misunderstanding, ignorance, rejection and fear,
love in spite of hatred, violence and injustice,
love and forgiveness for the murderers who condemned you and the cowards who did nothing to stop them.
Love that never failed,
love that triumphed over sin and death,
love alive still among us.
sign of who I really am,
a heart of love and generosity,
but so easily led into selfishness and sin,
a heart that becomes bitter in the face of life's hurts,
of others' unfairness and hate.
Heart which never failed,
help my heart to grow stronger in love,
so that united with your Heart,
I too may come to new life. Amen.
3) Father, Son and Spirit,
You are a community of love
That has made room for us
To share eternity with you.
Your love is made visible to us
In the Heart of Jesus,
That loved without limit
Those who were indifferent
And those who were cruel and violent.
May we never lose sight of your love.
May we always be aware
That you long for our good
And that you long for our freedom
From all that wounds us.
Help us to share Your love
With those in the 2030 group,
That we, too, may become
A community of love.
May You bless all who have
Taken part in the group, especially.......
May we be the first to love
Those who may be lonely
And those who may be
Slow to make friends,
So that we may be a sign
Of your love in our daily lives.
Jesus, fill us with your Spirit
That we remain in Your love
Experiencing the joy of knowing
And serving you in each other
On our journey home to your Heart. Amen.
February 26 - Saturday
MAGAZINE MAILINGS - DUBLIN 20S INFORMATION EVENING
In Dublin for a 20s Information Meeting this evening and a 30s retreat tomorrow. Came over in the plane last night laden with magazines and envelopes and Main Events lists to be mailed out to the groups. Spent much of the day putting the mailing together, so if we only have your email address send in your postal address for a copy. Likewise, anyone who is not on any of our lists can request a copy of the magazine by sending their name and address to Celia Granger, Project 2030 Office, St Joseph's, Malpas, SY14 7DD.
Those who have seen the magazine have been impressed by its high quality, and all prepared ready to print by Chris, Marius and Bernadette in London (many thanks to them again). Plenty of good reading, lots of bright photographs and designs. We hope to do two magazines a year, one more directed to groups internally, and the other to attract new people, but both will be sent out out everyone in the groups and the parishes. The paper is slightly lighter this time so it is easier to carry, and enables us to mail more for the same postage to the parishes.
There was a better than usual turn out for our Information Evening/Newcomers meeting. This was partly because Fr Maciek, a young Polish priest who is in our parish community in Dublin, came along with some Poles. They said that there were many Poles their age in Dublin now, but most of them were mainly interested in making money, so it was good to meet up with others in a different atmosphere. There was also someone from Slovakia and from France, as well as people from around Dublin. Three of the locals came from Bray, a small town down the coast. Proportionately more people seem to come from places outside Dublin. Is that because the city dwellers have more on offer or are more hardened, or do the priests push it more in smaller parishes?
At earlier newcomers meetings I had to do more of the talking, but tonight quite a few of the old stagers were able to speak about what the group meant to them and things they had done. The cosmopolitan nature of Dublin makes us more ready to try an international meeting next time and encourage people from different cultures to come along, form sub-groups if they want, and get involved in the wider picture.
February 27th - Sunday
ASH SUNDAY - 30S RETREAT - THE WATER OF LIFE
After the 30s retreat today someone at the pub meal was wondering why elements in the Church could be said to glorify pain too much. They have a point, though the Church with its hospitals all over the world must be the biggest global organisation for the relief of suffering. Someone else felt the pressure of trying to explain to others why some people or families face more tragedies. I'm not sure Jesus even had an answer for what is hard in life, but he accepted what was tough in his own situation and did not shrink from pain and death.
Later I wondered if this reaction in the group was because I started off the 30s Lenten retreat with an Ash Wednesday service (we were meeting at the Dehonian community house in Dublin). Maybe I enjoy too much the "hell and fire" element of it. Some of the prayers and readings include: "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return." "Spare they people Lord. Do not be angry with us forever." "Save us from our sins and everlasting death." What's wrong with that one day a year? Hey, but you're doing it twice a year now. "Change your life and believe the good news" was the formula I used when putting the cross of ashes on the forehead. Maybe I push the idea because it touches me deeply when someone does it to me. People had the option of not taking the ashes and a few declined. (The Gospel for Ash Wednesday encourages us to prayer, fasting and almsgiving - all in secret. Pray at least one minute a day. That might not seem much, but if we truly related to God for 60 seconds a day it would change our lives. There should be a health warning on prayer. Be careful. You never know what it could do to you. The same for reading the Bible. Instead of giving what you have saved on fasting to the poor, go and buy yourself a Bible if don't have one. And neglect the poor? No, reading the Gospels will make us help the poor more. And fasting in Lent is not just a good excuse to go on a diet. Even the pagans do as much. The anti-smoking brigade tried to take over Ash Wednesday a few years ago.)
The retreat lasted four and a half hours. There was time for quiet prayer and the chance to go for a walk in the nearby park which leads down to the River Liffey. We also had a session on the Gospel of the day. Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. We read it quietly on our own, then we talked it over with the person beside us. We shared our thoughts and reactions with the group. The insights were very deep: Jesus' welcome to strangers and foreigners; his openness; the change that came over the women; the symbolism of the water, the new life; how other things do not satisfy us, like other drinks still leave us thirsty. Water is best.
In St John's Gospel Jesus is shown as the water of life, one of the signs of the Saviour, like multiplying the loaves, healing the blind, raising the dead, etc. In Chapter 7, while the high priests are bringing water up from the stream at the side of the temple, Jesus shouts out: "If anyone is thirsty let them come to me". As Scripture says: "From his heart shall flow streams of living water". At the foot of the Cross, John highlights the blood and water that flows from the pierced side and opened heart of Jesus. For John, as for Leo Dehon, this becomes the most powerful sign that Jesus loves us, as the waters of new life and love flow out from his heart across the world. We are part of that flood, giving new life to us and bringing fresh hope to others.
February 28th - Monday
BE A EUCHARISTIC MINISTER - A PARISH MISSION
When the group started I thought it would also be a way to get people re-involved in their parishes and local Church. That hasn't really happened yet. It's always a surprise at retreats how few of us are eucharistic ministers. That could be because we don't want to be tied down to going to a regular Mass. Group activities could make that even more difficult. But why not become a Eucharistic Minister? The next time they are appealing for candidates tell the Parish Priest you would like to volunteer but you cannot guarantee a regular slot (in these days of flexibility and movement). There must be many other people in the same situation. Which means that the average age of ministers is likely to get older, reinforcing the image that the parish is ageing. With a bit of imagination and phone calls a group of younger single and married people could guarantee to look after one of the Sunday Masses, if individuals know that they could easily get a substitute when we're going to be doing something else. This could also provide a good way of connecting with Catholics nearer your age in your area.
Adam is someone who likes to get involved in what is happening in his parish and deanery. He has sent in a report on a mission that is taking place in Northampton Cathedral.
Between the 5-20th March 2005, the Cathedral of Our Lady and St Thomas of Canterbury will be the central focus of a Parish Mission. The Mission is being led by the Sion Community, and a Marist Father from New Zealand. The purpose of the Mission is to renew and deepen our Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and to prepare us all during this Lenten Season in preparation for Easter. The first week will included house to house visitations, where members of the Sion Community will spend most of the time on calling as many parishioners as possible to take part in this mission, and to make those in the community aware of the services that will be taking place in Week 2 of the Mission. Week 2 will include Mission Services concentrating on the celebration of our faith and on-going conversion. These evening Services will include preaching, Liturgy, Drama, Music and Testimony, and normally a Parish Social, with a special Mass on Palm Sunday to conclude the Mission.
The Mission will begin on the 5th March with a 40 hour Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Cathedral. What a wonderful and most blessed way to start a Mission, in the presence of the Lord, praying that the Mission will bear much fruit and interceding for his blessings on all those participating in the Mission and making it happen. For me, this will be a grace filled experience and an excellent preparation for the great Feast of Feasts, Easter. I wish you all a most blessed Lenten Season and Easter, praying that God will shower down his choicest heavenly blessings upon you all. In Christ, Adam.
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