July 1 - Thursday
TO OTHER GROUPS
few issues have come up this week about the relationship between Project 2030
and other groups. Someone wrote
asking if another group could join us going to the World Youth Day in Cologne
next year. My first reaction was
negative. They are mostly in their
late teens. Though if we have some
early 30s in the 20s why not late teens? At
the last two WYD events in Toronto (2002) and Germany (2003) we had some people
who were not really part of the group as well as past staff at the Dehon Youth
Centre. The group took a while to
gel and some 2030s felt left out. That’s
one reason why we put in the main events sheet that WYD 2005 is only “open to
those who have taken part in another pilgrimage, weekend retreat or
equivalent”. Maybe the teens
could come to Malpas next Holy Week. How
would the late 20s, never mind the 30s, cope with teenagers. A breath of fresh air, I’m sure.
question that came up was whether to invite other Church-based groups to our
bigger 2030 events like parties. If
they are going to make the party a better occasion, then why not?
The problem is if they remain a group within the group it can be
off-putting, especially to newcomers who are not yet sure that they belong.
(At one party I was going around introducing myself to new faces.
If they were on their own they were usually glad to have someone they
felt they already knew to talk to. I
began to get perplexed at the number of “So what”, kind of responses, until
I realised that these were people from another group.)
always happily amazed on the joint events to see the way people gel who come
from different 2030 groups. When
you think of it, the link is quite tenuous, but we can very quickly feel
comfortable with each other and build up a bond because we belong to Project
2030. If anyone can put their
finger on it, it would be good to hear. It’s
the same with the Sacred Heart Fathers (Dehonians). We had an Indonesian priest, Santo, staying with us at
Stockport last weekend (he is going to Rome to study).
I hadn’t met him until recently and I might never see him again, but
because he belonged to the same Community as me I felt like he was my brother,
which he is.
important that we have certain big events which are exclusively Project 2030 so
that we can get to know one another and build up our sense of identity.
But why not occasionally hold a big event and invite other groups that
cater for Catholics in their 20s and / or 30s, or from other Churches.
In most areas we have built up a certain experience in holding social
events, though we don’t want to get pigeon-holed as just a social group. We are catholic in the widest sense of the term, covering
everything and everywhere. But more
of that another time.
July 2 - Friday
DUBLIN 30’S MONTHLY GATHERING – SUBSCRIPTIONS
a relaxing day off yesterday visiting the family, heading to Dublin to see the
30s. On the first Friday of the
month they get together at the Bankers Club in St Stephen’s Green.
So if you are ever in Dublin….. If
you are visiting any of the other areas check out the website and see what is
on. On Wednesday the Glasgow 20s
heard that someone they know well from London was passing through town soon en
route to the Isles. So they’ve
put something on specially to have a chance to meet up with them again.
was also supposed to be a 30s steering committee meeting this evening but it was
postponed as some were away already on holiday. The new system of doing the monthly newsletter is working
well. Someone goes round and
organises who’s doing what in August. Another
types it out. A third person sends
out to the postal people and makes sure that those who welcome newcomers have
enough copies. There were 30 plus
there this evening including a few new faces and a few who hadn’t renewed
their subscription last year but who just couldn’t stay away.
The postal people pay 30 euros a year and the email list pay 20.
This helps to also cover mailings to parishes, posters, mobile phone,
never been a big fan of the subscription. Would
fund-raising not be better? But
that doesn’t happen in the other groups and the Dublin 30s are happy with the
system. The big disadvantage is
that good people don’t renew their subscription because of laziness,
forgetfulness, being involved in something else at the time, etc. and then they
are lost to the group. But then we
saw some old faces coming back this evening.
The big advantage of the subscription is that it clears people out of the
postal list who are not interested. Email
people are cheaper. If we kept the
drop-outs informed they would more likely come back.
I’ve decided this evening to keep the old names on the email list for
main events, etc, because in all the groups there are those who rarely attend
their local groups but who are interested in pilgrimages, retreats, etc.
They’ll always be welcome.
problem in other groups is that individuals can run up high personal expenses
for phone, etc, if they are organising something big. People don’t worry if they are out of pocket arranging for
regular events. They are glad to
put something back in to the group. But
nobody should be seriously disadvantaged. They
can apply to central funds for re-imbursement.
July 3 - Saturday
NEW PEOPLE – NEW IDEAS – NEW WINE
An issue that came up yesterday at the Dublin 30s is how soon can you ask new people to organise an event. I was talking to someone who had been in the group a few months. I asked what kind of things they were interested in doing in the group. They came up with a few good ideas. Why don’t you organise that?”Oh, I couldn’t. I’ve not been in the group long enough,” was the reply. When I said there was nothing stopping them from putting it on and being the contact their face brightened. There was a case a few years ago of someone in another group arranging something after their first meeting and it turned out to be a bit of a mess and created more hassle for others. But that is the exception. When the later groups started we had to ask people right away to be contacts, and that went well.
In fact much of the impetus in a new group is the enthusiasm of people putting thing on right from the beginning. The dangers is that newcomers with energy and organising ability could quickly lose interest in the group if their talents are not used. In every area there have been new people who hit the group running and we’ve all benefited from their energy. The danger is that we stifle new ideas, people feel they have to fit into the old patterns and we can go stale.
the end of the evening I discovered that there were still a few gaps in the
programme for August. (The Dublin
30s arrange 2 or 3 events every week). I
had just been talking to a first-timer who had been describing the lovely walks
in her area and saying she would organise one soon. I suggested to a few of the committee that she might be ready
to be a contact straight away, and after a holy huddle I put the question to
her. After some hesitation about
what it would involve and would she recognise the people who turned up, she
decided to have a go at it. Why
not? It might be a step too far,
but I doubt it.
factor when new people arrange their first event is that there can be a tendency
for old-stagers to prefer to go to things if they know who is organising it.
Naturally they will be more inclined to support their ‘friends’ or
people they know who put on a good event, but that leaves new people at a
disadvantage. Remember how when the group started and we went
along not knowing exactly what we were going to find.
But that was what made it such fun.
Okay, we build up experience as a group as time goes on, but we don’t
want to lose the freshness we had at the beginning.
become more aware of the need to welcome new people and make them feel at home,
but are we open to them changing the group and leading it in a new direction?
If it’s still the same people organising things this year as last year
then we’ve got problems. I’m
not saying the Dublin 30s are worse at this than others.
They are likely better, but the question is still there.
If people go away because they would like to do something else then
we’ve missed a good opportunity for growth.
New wine, new wineskins was how Jesus put it.
July 4 – Sunday
PREACHING ABOUT PROJECT 2030 – SOME HISTORY OF THE GROUP
you had to give a talk about Project 2030 what would you say?
Today I was celebrating the 12.00 Mass here in Stockport and took the
chance to speak about the groups. Not
that there were many in their 20s and 30s at the Mass, but many people find
about 2030 from family members. Also
it was a good opportunity to let people locally know what I am up to.
Other age groups are always happy to know that there is something like
this going on.
idea for the group came from Richard, then a medical student in our parish in
Irvine, Scotland. He was doing a lot to help us in the parish on the
computers, etc. One day, about
1997, I asked him if there was
anything we could do for him, not really meaning it, and he said he would love
to have a way of meeting up with a group of Catholics his own age. He’d tried to get people in their 20s together in the
parish, but there was not enough interest.
Could we advertise in a number of local parishes, throw the net wider and
get a group together. Nothing was
done at the time but the idea stuck with me.
1999 I was finishing my previous job as Provincial and was asked if I had any
ideas of what I would like to do. I
wrote out a plan of setting up groups for people in their late teens, early 20s,
as a follow-up to the work we were doing for school groups at Dehon House, our
Youth Residential Centre where I was based. I got the go-ahead, and the rest is geography.
I sent questionnaires around the parishes, then advertised meetings for
people in their 20s and asked what they would like to do together, how could I
help them? I didn’t want to set
the agenda, but let things come from the grass-roots.
people who filled in the initial questionnaires were looking for a more
spiritual programme and helping the poor. But
those who came to the first meetings were more interested in getting to know
each other at a social level first. Gradually
people got the confidence to suggest a retreat for Lent or a Taize Mass or a
talk. The Twentysomethings in the
North-West of England, West of Scotland and Dublin started in 2000.
London came a year later. There
were so many in their 30s saying “what about us?” that we set up a
Thirtysomethings as well.
July 5 – Monday
SERMONS AND THE HOLY SPIRIT? – STARTING THE 60 SOMETHINGS?
been reflecting more on my sermon yesterday about the group.
It’s interesting to reflect on the kind of examples you give or the
things you stress. It is said that
the priest if often preaching to himself, saying the things that he needs to
hear and work on, though he doesn’t realise it.
What kind of things do we never say?
The preacher has to try and give the congregation a balanced diet, but
depending on his own character and preferences he might just be giving all
vegetables and no meat, or carbohydrates and no protein.
And what about those who like fruit, or have a sweet tooth?
I highlighted how isolated younger Catholics can feel today in our society.
That can also apply to older age groups.
Non-practicing Catholic friends can even think you are weird for going to
Church, while non-Christians can react as if you are a fanatic, a
fundamentalist, or even a potential terrorist in one case.
But others do show respect. Much
depends on our own confidence. I
repeated the example Jeremy gave us in his talk at Malpas last September. When he’s going to a lunch-time Mass on a Holiday of
Obligation he let’s people know why he is going to be out of the office.
When he comes back he might say: “That was great.
I really enjoyed that. It
has set me up for the rest of the week.”
Then people respond with the likes of: “Wow!
Aren’t you lucky to have a faith,to have something like that in your
life.” He also told the story of
a client who made disparaging remarks about Catholics.
When he said he was a Catholic and got a lot out of it, the guy started
to back-track. It turned out that
his daughter was due to make her first communion the following week and he was
quite looking forward to it, was quite proud of her. The anti-Catholic remarks were just the kind of macho thing
he felt he had to say.
preparing a sermon I usually think of about 10 points or examples I could use,
but then just wait and see what comes out, how the Spirit inspires me.
When talking about setting up the group yesterday I stressed that the
formula was really a very simple one and could be used easily for any age group.
Someone in their 30s once phoned me up and said: “My mother is in her
60s, can you do anything for her?” In
the sermon I had thought of saying: “If anyone is interested in setting up a
group locally for 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s or teens, then just let me know and I’ll
help you get off the ground”, but it didn’t come into my mind while I was
speaking. Was that the Spirit
holding me back?
the end of Mass I made the offer and lo and behold two ladies came into the
sacristy to say they wanted to start a 60s group. Had I put my foot in it?
I hadn’t cleared the idea with the Parish Priest.
Was it the spirit that had moved me to make the offer outside the sermon
or just over-enthusiasm on the spur of the moment?
Time will tell.
Tuesday 6 July
LETTERS AND TEXTS TO THE MEDIA. ABORTION. CONDOMS.
I get the bug to contact the media about articles and comments that are relevant
to the Church’s teaching. I’ve
been doing a bit of this in the past week.
Maybe it’s because I have a different energy after my holidays or maybe
it’s just my biorhythms.
Last week 4D photographs of a 12 week baby in the
womb were published and began a rethink about abortion.
This was my response to an article in the Guardian which was beginning to
get worried that its ‘abortion under any circumstances is okay’ approach was
Phillips (Analysis 30 June) writes about those who become
accidentally pregnant. I thought you still had to have sex first.
No insurer would pay out on
that. Try using that as an excuse to the Child Support Agency.’
BBC 1 Heaven&Earth show on Sunday morning had someone reviewing the changed
abortion debate in the newspapers. I
‘Your reviewer says that no one has recreational
abortions. They do if it is linked
to recreational sex.’
good measure I also texted them with:
Frost said this morning that David Steele (who introduced the 1967 Abortion Act)
had changed his mind on abortion. There
is a God after all.’
‘Your coverage of the 'Can Condoms Kill?' debate in recent weeks has been more in favour of the use of condoms where abstinence by the HIV sufferer is considered too difficult. You highlight Cardinal Daneels saying that not to use condoms in these circumstances could be equivalent to murder. Yet the San Francisco study featured on the BBC's Panorama showed that there is still a 1 in a 100 chance of the partner being infected when condoms are used for a year. Surely this is too big a gamble to take and could amount to at least manslaughter in a court of law. It is certainly more dangerous than Austen Ivereigh's proverbial crate of condoms falling from the sky (by which he implied that was the only way that condoms could kill you).
commentators, including the BBC and the Tablet, have been too easy on the
men involved in these cases. Does anyone know of circumstances where
infected women have been so heartless and irresponsible as to take the chance of killing
their partners? If people with Aids insist on having sex and endangering
other lives there are enough voices encouraging them to use condoms, but let's
not put the Church's seal of approval on such risky business or pretend that
so-called 'safe sex' is the more moral option. Even the condom
manufactures are getting more graphic in their health warnings. Just wait
till they start getting sued.’
I don’t expect any of these to get published or broadcast, but it lets the media hear the other side of the debate. Though I did get a couple of letters published in The Times in the 90s. One was defending Cardinal Hume who had been attacked in a previous letter, and the other was responding to someone who implied that religion was only good for causing wars. My response was that wars were usually caused by earlier wars or the unfair domination of one group over another. The last thing that can be taken away from a defeated people is usually their faith, and so their religion becomes the focus of their assertion of independence. This is what happened in Ireland, Yugoslavia, the Middle East etc. God is not the issue but the survival of their culture.
July 7 –
WEB PAGES – INSURANCE – EMAIL ADVICE
over the emails of the past couple of weeks there have been a few interesting
developments that I have not mentioned.
20S WEBPAGE : A web page has been
set up for the London 20s. It’s
first use was to do a survey of what people are interested in and likely to go
to as a help to the next programme. It
is quite a sophisticated package and we could use that system to do surveys of
everyone on what people would want for main events next year, or to gauge
people’s reactions to issues that are relevant to the inter-group Review
Meeting at Malpas in September.
FORUM WEBPAGE: The London 20s are
also setting up a web page forum so people can log on and exchange ideas about
the group or things of mutual interest. Everyone
who wants will have a personal access code.
They hope to open this up to other 20s groups.
WE INSURED? What happens if we
organise a walk and someone breaks a leg, or they organise games at the London
picnic in the park in August and someone gets injured.
The Sacred Heart Fathers (Dehonians) have a Public Liability cover for
such eventualities, but there were so many emails flying round London between
members of the group who are solicitors, insurance brokers and official party
organisers that I contacted the Insurers directly to check on things like food
and other products. We are covered,
but the first responsibility would fall on the caterers, etc.
This doesn’t mean we don’t take out the usual personal insurance for
holidays, etc, and don’t go tripping up somewhere so you can make a fast buck
out of us.
July 8 –
DAY OFF – A PRAYER FROM ONE OF THE GROUP
are those in the group who are hoping that Project 2030 can continue to help
them in their faith, not just as individuals, but by creating a sense of
community. Someone has sent in this
prayer. They write: “Speaking of
community, I’ve drafted a Dehonian style prayer as an idea for the type of
group prayer we could maybe say as members of 2030. Would be interested to know your thoughts.”
Why not try and write a prayer yourself?
We might do a workshop on ‘group prayer’ at the gathering in August.
Son and Spirit,
are a community of love
has made room for us
share eternity with you.
love is made visible to us
the Heart of Jesus,
loved without limit
who were indifferent
those who were cruel and violent.
we never lose sight of your love.
we always be aware
you long for our good
that you long for our freedom
all that wounds us.
us to share Your love
those in the 2030 group,
we, too, may become
community of love.
You bless all who have
part in the group especially…….
we be the first to love
who may be lonely
those who may be
to make friends
that we may be a sign
your love in our daily lives.
fill us with your Spirit
we remain in Your love
the joy of knowing
And serving you in each other
our journey home to your Heart. Amen
July 9 – Friday
ARISING FROM PHONE CALLS
I mentioned bits of news arising from emails.
These days there are less phone calls than emails.
Here is some information arising from recent calls relevant to the group.
PEOPLE: Most new people in Britain
now ring the office mobile number which they see on posters and parish
newsletters. (The Dublin groups
have their own mobiles for new people to ring).
The office mobile is answered by Celia and Clare, but a few still come
through to my 0161 number. If
someone just leaves their number we ring them back.
If they leave their address they get the welcome letter, the newsletter
for their group and the magazine. That
can be a bit impersonal. In the
North-West 30s there are people in the group who ring up new contacts to welcome
them to the group, but this doesn’t happen in other areas.
(The London 20s get in touch with new email people).
So if you feel you have the ‘calling’ to ring up new people and
explain more about the group to them let us know on email@example.com
- this applies if you could do the same by email for your group.
We all had to join the group once and we know how it feels breaking the
ice at the beginning. If you have
that kind of gift as a welcomer you could be a big help to new people.
2: a documentary company were
looking for us a few weeks ago. From
their phone messages it looked as though they wanted to use us for a
documentary. After a succession of
messages left on each other’s ansaphones it turns out they were looking for
volunteers from us to take part in a kind of religious Big Brother.
Six men and going to stay in a monastery for six weeks and experience the
monastic life. By the time we
finally made contact with each other all the places had been taken.
Would anyone have volunteered? It
seems a serious production, so look out for it in the autumn.
Someone who was more involved in the group a few years ago wanted to talk
on the phone about an offer they’d had to go to Africa and lead a drama
project for three months. I felt they could do it.
Anyone interested in volunteering abroad could contact vmm.com, the
Volunteer Missionary Movement, who are coming to our parish this weekend to
appeal for money.
A CONTACT: People who are contacts
for events often ring up for advice and let me know how it is going.
It can take a lot of time being contact.
I try as far as possible not to be a contact for events, but I’m still
main or part contact at the moment for Lough Derg, Lourdes, and the North-West
retreat on Sunday, and there have been quite a few calls about these recently.
July 10 – Saturday
– THE ARTIST’S WAY – CHERISHING LIFE – BUMF
is not often that members of the group use the post except for sending deposits.
Recently these have been coming in for Malpas and Lourdes.
Occasionally someone will send you something interesting they saw, and a
few times members of the group have sent books which they felt would be helpful.
Usually they mention it in advance to see if I am interested.
ARTIST’S WAY – a course in discovering and recovering your creative self.
Last week someone sent me a book called ‘The Artist’s Way’.
This came about because they felt I was knocking myself in the diary and
they were encouraging me to be more positive.
Time will tell if it is going to help with the writing, but the book is
very interesting and maybe just what I need at the moment.
Most days if I’m at home I’m not fit for much after 8.00 pm but
watching the television, and I often feel there are more creative things I could
be doing to wind down. I’ve often
looked at these watercolour sets in The Works, but don’t want to buy something
I’m not going to use. Maybe I
will take the plunge. It has made
me pick up the guitar again at least. The
book is by Julia Cameron, Pan Books, 1995.
LIFE: This is a booklet that came
through the post recently from the Bishops in England and Wales.
It looks at some of the issues facing our society today. It looks at life
from different aspects and even includes a section on ‘Being Single’ which
is very good. The following
quotation from the booklet reflects much of what Jeremy (and others) was saying
in his talk which got overlooked and was only sent round by email last week.
Many do not feel especially ‘called’ to the
single state, but this is where they find themselves and thus, this is where
they must live and act. All of life
is a pilgrimage during which we must attend to the opportunities that lie
immediately before us. Situations
change, but it is in the circumstances of the present that each person is called
by God to walk and love and act. It
is in our work and voluntary activities, in church and in our local area,
through colleagues, friends, relations and neighbours that we discover our
vocation in the present moment. This
is equally true for those who are married, for those are single by choice, and
for those who are single for the time being.
You get a lot of circulars etc through the post.
Most people throw bumf straight into the bin but it can be interesting to
see how groups advertise and present themselves.
When people complain that their church did not put up our poster or
mention us in the newsletter I usually defend the Parish Priest because of the
amount of stuff that comes through the letterbox.
In these cases we should speak to our priests and say how important the
group is to us. Then he is less
likely to overlook us in the future.
think I get more than my fair share of Readers Digest ‘prizes’ and
Littlewoods vouchers because I have a weakness for filling in questionnaires.
Also, a few years ago, when we had run out of money, I thought I’m not
going to be able to afford a holiday and started entering competitions.
I won some vouchers, and even a five-day bus trip to Paris, though I
didn’t go on it in the end.
July 11 - Sunday
Today there was a retreat for the North-West groups here in Stockport. At the 30s review meeting in the Spring there was a consensus that there was too big a gap between the retreat weekends in Lent and Advent, and to put on a day in the summer. With all the main events etc, this was the only Sunday possible. I was happy for it to be at the nearby Shalom Centre run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Evron, as we were due to be getting back Poland late yesterday.
If you missed what happened to the Poland trip, we cancelled it in May due to lack of numbers and, as to be expected, quite a few tried to book just after that. In general, people were keen to go to Poland but not to camp for three days at the Young Catholics’ Gathering. We might try again in 2006 (2005 is the World Youth Day with the Pope in Cologne) and just visit the camp for a day, if they don’t mind us swanning in and out.
After a cup of tea and a tour of the house (it was our first visit here) we started the retreat with a time of prayer in the Chapel trying to open up to the kind of issues in our life that we need to bring before God, and just trying to be aware of God’s presence and action in our lives. Then I gave a talk in the big room on the benefits of taking time out with God. We need to get away from the hectivity of our lives, or just break from our usual patterns to give God a chance to get through to us. It’s also a good time to reflect on the quality of our relationship with God and work out some kind of structure, even if it’s only a few minutes a day, to make contact with him, just as we might have a pattern of contacting our family if we were staying away from home. Otherwise God can get squeezed out. I also went over St Ignatius’ way of making choices, which I’ve described before in the diary – basically not to make a decision when we are feeling really great or really down about something, and that the Holy Spirit is more likely to be nudging us in the right direction if we are just bit down (don’t do it) or a bit up (go for it) on the issue.
We spent time in groups getting to know each other better and sharing some thoughts relevant to the retreat and what was happening in our lives. After feedback and a good lunch break we had quiet time to ourselves with the possibility of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, or go for a walk or go to Confession. After a quick review of the day we finished with Mass. We liked the place and hope to come back for a day in Lent. We’ll also try another short retreat in the autumn at Loyola Hall to link in with our monthly Taize Prayer.
July 12 - Monday
KING BILLY. BISHOPS. WALKING PRACTICE.
There are certain dates you write which give you a memory jolt. It could be an important day in your life, or you realize you’ve forgotten someone’s birthday. The 12 July does it for me. Growing up in a divided Scotland, the Orange Parades today would remind us of King Billy’s victory at the Battle of the Boyne in Ulster. What is conveniently forgotten is that the Pope rejoiced at the ‘Protestant’ victory. Belfast is still calling.
Last Saturday has a description of some of the post that comes in. Obviously we send a lot more out with newsletters to groups and mailings to parishes. This week’s letters are going out to the Bishops where the group advertises, with copies of the magazine encouraging them in the support we receive from their parishes. We regularly mail 14 dioceses as well as parts of 4 dioceses which have towns near our areas. There are members that come from another 3 or 4 dioceses.
At our inter-group review meeting at Malpas in 2002 someone suggested that people speak to their own Bishops about the group and let them know how important it was to them. As far as I know, the Bishops of Wrexham, Salford and Westminster were approached. (Wrexham recently volunteered to put details into their Ad Clerum, the monthly letter the Bishop sends to the priests. More and more Diocesan Directories are giving us a mention and we hope to be in the National Directories next year). We don’t mail Birmingham, but when Elizabeth spoke to the Bishop about the group he was very interested. I believe he is also doing some of the cycle ride to Brussels that Tony is helping to organize. So Birmingham after Belfast then?
Yesterday after the retreat I managed two hours walking across the moors in Lyme Park, a National Trust property nearly where some of the Pride and Prejudice film was shot. I’m told that’s where the hero, Darcy, swims in the lake. This was the longest walk I’ve done in preparation for the West Highland Way in 12 days time. Today I felt I’d better do a follow-up walk to test the system as I’ll be doing 5 or 6 hours a day for 3 days, starting from Glasgow. The others will be doing 7 days all the way to Fort William (named after King Billy?). It’s rare that I go out on an ordinary afternoon, so it felt deliciously wicked heading off to the hills. Must do it more often. The system held up, but I broke the 11th commandment of walkers, which is: ‘If it rains though shalt keep smiling and on no account use an umbrella’. Only the second part was broken, for the smile was broader than the faces of the ‘great washed’ that passed the other way.
July 13 - Tuesday
LONDON 30s THINK –TANK MEETING. PROPOSALS.
Heading to London today for the first Think-tank meeting for the Thirtysomethings in the south-east of England. When the groups started my policy generally was to get people together and wait and see what came from the group. Recently I’ve been thinking that I need to be more hands-on and pro-active. Just this morning I decided to type out a sheet of issues and proposals for this evening’s meeting. Many of these ideas have surfaced already from the grass-roots and others will be proposed tonight. My main intention is to keep the group open to the broader objectives of Project 2030. Much has been achieved since the London 30s started two years ago. But there is always the danger that groups solidify by trying too hard to preserve the lines that have already been developed and cut themselves off from other possible developments. That applies just as much to Project 2030 in general as it does to the groups in particular.
SOUTH-EAST ENGLAND 30s THINK-TANK
MEETING, 13 JULY 2004
The London Thirtysomethings is a Project 2030 group to help cater for the needs of Catholics in their 30s who come from the South-East of England. The aim of Project 2030 is to explore ways of bringing younger Catholics together and to help them to do the things they feel will be of benefit to them in their life and faith.
The Think-tank will meet three or four times a year to review the programme, plan ahead and discuss any issues that have arisen in the group. The meeting is open to anyone in the group and it is open to the discussion of any ideas that would be of benefit to members of the group and to Catholics in their 30s generally.
It is to carry out the policy of the group as decided by the annual Review Meeting. Any decisions that the Think-tank make will be consistent with the ethos of Project 2030, and can be reviewed at the following Review Meeting.
SOME PROPOSALS AND ISSUES FOR DISCUSSION:
July 14 –
30S – THINK-TANK MEETlNG
is endlessly fascinating with its continual buzz. We met in the Penderel’s Oak in High Holborn where we had
the party on the London Weekend last September.
Ten wasn’t a bad number considering most people don’t like meetings
and might be reluctant to come along in case they get a job.
We’ll have some of the future meetings at weekends to allow others to
attend. Many live far outside of
group is going well. There are new
people coming in all the time and there were some new faces with ideas at the
meeting. The numbers at events have
been high, with as many as 30 at some things like the visit to the Globe.
The small group that did the ‘At Your Word Lord’ course together had
enjoyed it and plan to do another 6 consecutive Sundays at Hans’ hotel.
We weren’t short of ideas for the future and spent time looking at
bigger events like the Christmas meal and the parties in September and
January/February. The idea of a
Ball came up again though we might need to go in with another group for this. People liked the retreats, though synchronologically, like in
the North-West, it was also suggested that we go back to having some day
retreats as well as the weekends.
had any problems with the description I had written of the think-tank and the
group (see yesterday’s diary). Some
new people are still not sure what the group is for, so we’ll look at a
mission statement at the next think-tank. Nobody
was volunteering to be Chair or Secretary, so it fell back on Matt who is quite
happy to be the power-house behind the group.
Nor was it necessary to find help for him to put the newsletter together
as there are plenty of ideas coming in, My
first principle had been to ‘keep it simple’, so on that basis why the need
to have a small email group to consult in-between meetings, as I’d suggested.
Matt and I will continue to make any necessary decisions.
the meeting we’d found a quiet corner in the downstairs bar.
Half-way through they were closing up so we had to move upstairs.
We didn’t have a chance to look at all the issues, but quite a few of
these had been looked at at the last Review Meeting.
We spoke about our relationship with other groups and the parishes.
Again, publicity varies from church to church.
The idea resurfaced of getting someone to speak at a Mass where there
were plenty of younger Catholics. We
could attend as a group and meet up with the interested locals afterwards.
The younger the speaker the better, so why not approach the 20s about
this as they had a few obvious candidates who had the ‘gift’.
we continued to brainstorm and look at the main events.
Londoners are talking about doing Bruges and Prague next year.
What about Fatima? Could
the Scottish Weekend not be in Edinburgh, something that the groups there had
been considering. Or go there
during the Festival, staying in Glasgow for easier accommodation.
Stratford on Avon in August has about 30 going, so let’s find another
place next year between London and the North-West. Someone suggested why not start a group in Birmingham.
Yes, after Belfast.
July 15 –
DAY OFF – WHO’S MY NEIGHBOUR?
the retreat day on Sunday the Gospel at Mass was the story of the Good Samaritan
(Luke 10:25-39). Jesus told the
story in answer to a question from a lawyer who was trying to trick him.
The Jewish Law said: ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your
heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind, and
your neighbour as yourself.” The
lawyer asked Jesus: “And who is my neighbour?”
us neighbours tend to be the people who live next door, and most people have
less and less to do with them. Yet
Jesus supports the idea that we must love our neighbours as ourselves.
First of all we need to love ourselves and care for ourselves.
That can be difficult enough. Later
Jesus was to give a new commandment at the Last Supper: “Love one another as I
have loved you.” That seems to
imply more that we have to love particularly those who are closest to us.
Where does that leave our neighbours?
to the story of the Good Samaritan our neighbour is anyone in need that we meet
along the road of our life. Today
we would consider the starving in the Sudan to be our neighbour and those
suffering in any part of the world, but we cannot do everything for everybody.
We still need to love ourselves and care for ourselves.
Some people can even go out of their way to help others as a way of
escaping themselves and from facing up to their own needs.
the Gospel the man who has been attacked on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho
is passed by the Priest and the Levite. They
might have been good to the people who lived next door to them.
They might have been afraid of defiling themselves by touching someone
who was dead, but it is the Samaritan, an outcast, who was ‘moved to
compassion’ and stops to help. Not
only does he show us who our neighbour is, but he proves that, even as a pariah,
he is also our neighbour. No-one is
excluded from being our neighbour, and we can learn how to be a neighbour from
people we might not have expected but who can teach us how to show pity to
all comes down to love. We try to
love our neighbour. We try to love
ourselves. This is based on trying
to love God with all we have got, and all of this can be possible if we accept
first that God ‘loves us’. God
is the one who will stop for us along the road of life and inspires others to
help us when we are in need.
July 16 –
on my day off I went to see the new Spiderman film. It’s not my usual type of film, but it was the only one
before noon when the prices are cheaper. The
hero is a bit like Superman flying from building to building in New York on his
web slings, helping people and stopping criminals. I’ve been thinking about the film since, because it was
about celibacy for the sake of a higher cause, almost. Spiderman for most of the film feels that he couldn’t have
a girlfriend as it would be too dangerous for her if his enemies found out. When
he’s off duty he is just a poor student who has no money and no time for
himself or anyone else. But
Hollywood does not know what celibacy means, even though there was a fashion a
while back for stars to say things like: “I’ve been celibate for the past
month!” In the end he gets the
girl. Or she gets him.
could have done it, remained celibate, but today’s culture could not cope with
that. There is a danger of Jesus’
option being lost. Even within the
Church it is often misunderstood. Great
progress has been made in recent years on our understanding and appreciation of
sexuality, but the more our culture promotes it as the only road to follow,
people become less fulfilled sexually and find it harder to cope with commitment
and marriage and children. Society’s
pressure also makes it harder to make a choice for celibacy in the priesthood
and religious life. There is still
a high level of respect for those who have made that commitment, but if someone
says they are thinking about it even Catholic friends and family can react
parallels with Spiderman might be a bit melodramatic. I never had to make that choice in a concrete way.
Priesthood with celibacy was my aim for almost as long as I can remember.
Obviously the choice has to mature as you get older, and not getting
married was one of the realities you had to face as you approached ordination.
People often ask if the Church will allow priests to get married.
The Church could decide to ordain married men, and has already made
exceptions for Anglican Vicars who become Catholics, but it will not accept
priests marrying. Today many older
men are ordained Deacons but they have to accept they cannot re-marry if their
The Church’s rule of celibacy for priests might seem tough, but in previous times it was not seen to be such a difficult option and there are signs already that our own culture is backing off from putting such a high price on sexual fulfilment. It’s different again for me as a member of a religious community as opposed to a priest in a parish who comes directly under the Bishop. We take a vow of celibacy as Brothers long before ordination, and it never seemed a hard choice for me then or since. Once I was on an ecumenical pilgrimage and it became a source of open amusement to the group that a very nice non-Catholic lady had taken a great shine to me. On the last night we had an impromptu concert and she got up to sing a song “for all those who are single whether they want to be or not”! Then she looked over at me and said loudly: “And whose idea was celibacy anyway?” “Jesus’s” I chirped back.
July 17 –
LOUGH DERG – ST PATRICK’S PURGATORY
catching the 9.00 bus from Dublin to Lough Derg near Pettigo in Donegal.
Looking at my diary there were nine who said they were going, all male.
That is now down to three (someone has to work, another has an audition,
a third heard too many scare stories). I’m
not surprised. The surprise was
that so many were interested in three days of fasting and one night without
sleep in the footsteps of St Patrick. Tradition
is that he came here on retreat in the 5th Century.
It has been a continuous place of pilgrimage for over 1000 years.
The bus journey takes about four hours.
Then it’s a small boat to the island in the middle of the lough (lake)
from which there is no escape.
have to fast from midnight Friday. We
can drink as much water as we like. There
will be one meal every afternoon of tea, coffee, dry bread or toast and black
oatcakes. That has to do us until
midnight Monday. While on the
island we go barefoot. Other things
that are listed as not allowed besides shoes include food and sweets, alcoholic
and non-alcoholic drinks, cameras, phones and personal stereos.
we reach the island we leave our things in the dormitory and get down to the
serious business of praying and doing the various Stations straight away.
There is a Mass at 6.30 pm then, shock horror, we are allowed to lie down
for a couple of hours, but there are so many people coming and going that it is
difficult to sleep.
Vigil begins at 10.00 pm and goes on continuously for 24 hours.
It includes the kind of Services you would expect: Mass, Way of the
Cross, Penitential Service, Benediction, Sacrament of Reconciliation, Renewal of
Baptismal promises. Over the three
days you are expected to do nine ‘Stations’.
Typical of Celtic forms of prayer, a station is a series of movements
accompanied by a mantra-type prayer. Some
of these are done in Church, others are made in the open air on the
‘penitential beds’ – remnants of the beehive cells of the ancient monks.
begin each Station with a visit to the Blessed Sacrament in St Patrick’s
Basilica. Then you go to St
Patrick’s Cross where you say the Our Father, Hail Mary and Creed before
kissing the Cross. You then go to
12 other points on the small island saying different prayers as you walk or
kneel. At one point you stand with
your arms outstretched and say “I renounce the World, the Flesh and the
Devil”. Now don’t you wish
you’d come. Writing this
description on Saturday before we arrive at Lough Derg.
July 18 –
DERG – DAY 2
was about 1.30 before we arrived on the island yesterday.
There were about 90 of us starting the pilgrimage, joining about 200 who
were here since Friday. Everything
looks more modern than expected. Churches,
accommodation, shop, offices, Centre, all squeezed onto a small piece of land,
but wherever you turn there is a view of the sea and the shores of the Lough.
We have about 4 hours before Mass to do 3 of the Stations (taking about
an hour each) and grab our Lough Derg meal of the day.
We were worried that you were only allowed one piece of toast and one
biscuit, but we checked this out on the bus from those who had been here before
and they told us the tradition was you could eat as much as you liked.
All the Lough Derg people had changed on to a direct bus at Cavan.
The bus inspector turned out to be the brother of a classmate of mine who
I recognised by his voice even though I had not seen him for about ten years.
was surprised how much I enjoyed doing the spiritual exercises this afternoon,
even though it was mostly endless Our Fathers, Hail Marys and the Apostles
Creed. The fact of having to keep
walking most of the time made a big difference. Everyone says the prayers at their own pace, but there is a
sense of solidarity with the others who are on the same path. Also the sun kept
peeking out. My toes are sunburned.
Your feet soon get used to being ‘au naturel’, but gradually the
rocky paths around the old monastic cells took their toll on the soles.
Then later in the evening it got quite cold and not so much fun to be
barefoot. Before that I was getting
quite high on the experience and saying to myself: “Lough Derg, where have you
been all my life?” Everyone
should put this after swimming with dolphins on their list of things to do
before they die.
got our chance to lie down between 8 and 9 pm but sleep proved elusive.
After 10 those who had arrived on Friday were allowed to go to bed for
the night. One of the priests gave
us a very amusing and challenging talk. Then
between midnight and 6 am we spent four different hours saying the same prayers
we had said outside by walking round inside the church.
In the afternoon the mantra-like quality of the prayers got through to
you at a deeper level, but now saying them together at break-neck speed became
mind-numbing and most people were struggling against sleep.
To help us keep awake the doors were kept open at two sides of the
church. The idea worked but it got
very cold. As a warmer during the
breaks we were able to have a cup of Lough Derg soup, literally salt and pepper
in boiling water, not to be recommended.
was coping with the all night Vigil, but then during Mass at 6.30 am it began to
catch up on me. The lack of food
was not an obvious problem, though it likely got to me in terms of energy and
cold. The lack of sleep was taking
its toll so much so that by the time it came to the penitential service at 8.30
am I was feeling so negative that I wasn’t sure if it would be right to go to
Confession. In the end I figured
that I was likely no worse than most other people and this was par for the
course. As it got a bit warmer and
brighter things improved and after another hour round the ruins of the cells I
was almost back to normal, especially with the prospect of our ‘daily bread’
coming up soon.
conviviality of the dining room’s “we’re all in this together”
atmosphere helped steady the ship. The
rest of the day’s programme was lighter.
The only danger was dropping off during the Renewal of Baptismal Vows,
Stations of the Cross and Mass as we wait for 10 pm and the opportunity of seven
hours’ sleep. I must confess that
I’ve been asking some of the hardy annuals if last night was the best way to
keep Vigil. But we’re dealing
with more than 1000 years of experience of recreating St Patrick’s Purgatory.
I just hope it works for me. At
this stage I’m not so sure if I could encourage anyone to come to Lough Derg,
given how tough it is.
July 19 –
DERG - DAY 3 – HERMITS
blessed sleep. We’re up at 6.00
am and it doesn’t feel too bad. The
Prior says the 6.30 Mass. Gradually
the place is beginning to make more sense, and the demons of yesterday are
evaporating. It is beginning to
rain, only lightly, for the first time. That
gives the excuse to do the last of the Stations in the church as I’m worrying
that the feet will not stand another round of the jaggy rocks, with the West
Highland Way coming up next weekend. As
we walk round saying the same prayers over and over again suddenly things begin
to click. I imagine one of the old
hermits walking round his beehive cell, praying at the door as he comes back in,
praying as he walks round the single room that is only about 10 feet in
diameter, then kneeling at the cross in the centre of the room. He then goes down to the shore and says the same prayers as
he looks out across the lough. Various
thoughts and issues are coming back to me with possible solutions.
The words of the prayers make more sense and the Apostles Creed which
we’ve already said over 200 times begins to come alive as the basic belief of
Jesus’ chosen 12. Something
powerful is happening. The mystery
of Lough Derg is working. You
cannot put it into words, but after these last prayers I’m thinking that
people will need to put a visit to Lough Derg before swimming with dolphins, but
never take advice from someone who is on a high, especially if he is also
sleep-deprived and under-nourished.
boat leaves the island at 10.00. The
Dublin bus is waiting for us, and first stop is the nearby town of Pettigo where
a shop sells the bread and oatcakes that will make up our only meal today again.
We’re at the back of the bus and talk almost continuously the four
hours back to Dublin because the experience has raised fundamental issued for us
all. Over the years the idea of
being a hermit has often surfaced for me. I
even went looking for a hermitage once in Italy (more remote and better weather
– softy). I found an old
semi-abandoned church in the hills by accident, but by then I had stopped
looking. I sensed it could be too much for me and my motivation wasn’t right,
even if I would ever get permission. But
maybe the old Irish system of a cluster of hermits living in the same area would
work better. I must write to Lough
Derg and suggest that they build hermitages like that on one of the other
islands for people to go on retreat. One
of the ladies on the bus said they have something like this at Glendalough.
we reached Dublin we had our last meal of bread and oatcakes in the bus station.
The others head for the boat while I hang around for the last plane.
Kevin is going to write up a report to be sent around by email and
Francis has some digital photographs we can include. The journey back to Stockport takes 13 hours in total.
We’re not allowed to eat until midnight.
I wait up and have some yoghurt, biscuits and milk to get some
nourishment back into the system. It
is all catching up on me again and I am beginning to doubt whether we should put
Lough Derg on the programme next year. What
do you think? More information can
be found on www.loughderg.org - there
were a fair sprinkling of people in their 20s and 30s on the island.
You need to have a fairly tough constitution and it would help if you
came from a traditional Catholic background or were at least open to things both
ancient and new.
July 20 –
DETAILS ON 2030 GATHERING : 9 – 13 AUGUST
we sent out the final details for our gathering at Malpas 9 – 13 August to
those who are coming and to say that there are still some places available
Here’s the details, so if you can’t join us you can be with us in
TWENTYSOMETHINGS AND THE THIRTYSOMETHINGS
2030 Office, St Joseph’s Centre, Malpas, SY14 7DD.
763 234 firstname.lastname@example.org
GATHERING AT MALPAS: 9 – 13 AUGUST 2004
WEEK OF FUN AND REFLECTION
There are still places available the gathering for the Project 2030 groups at Malpas from 9 – 13 August. There are people booked in already from the North-West, London and Ireland and we are having some visitors coming from 2030-type groups in Italy and Portugal who all speak English.
If you are going to Malpas you can also stay in Bootle, near Liverpool, the Sunday night, 8 August. There will be a Mass and party with the North-West groups on the Sunday evening. If you are coming to Bootle please arrive by 5.00 pm at Stella Maris, New Strand, Bootle, Merseyside, L20 4TQ (tel. 0151 922 6161) where the party will be held and where you will be able to stay overnight. There will be a bus taking us to Malpas at 3.00 pm on Monday:
Directions: The Stella Maris Centre is run by the Sacred Heart Fathers (Dehonians). By train – get the train going towards Southport which stops at the New Strand Station in Bootle. The Stella Maris Centre is 200 yards to the right when you come out of the station.
MALPAS: If you are arriving on the Monday you can get the bus from Bootle which leaves the Stella Maris Centre at 3.00 pm on the Monday afternoon, or we can pick you up at 3.30 pm at Chester Railway Station. These are the only two pick-up points – if you need a lift please indicate on the form below whether you need to be picked up or whether you are coming by car directly to Malpas.
We will be having a full day out to North Wales on the Wednesday. Tuesday and Thursday we will be staying around Malpas. There will be opportunity for workshops, games, Mass, walks etc.
The overall theme of the week will be on issues facing people in their 20s and 30s today. People are asked to think about this in advance and to come to Malpas with topics that they would like to discuss and deepen.
The week is being sponsored by the Sacred Heart Fathers (Dehonians). There is no charge for staying at Malpas or Bootle, but there will be an opportunity to make an anonymous voluntary donation. For the party and buffet at the Stella Maris Centre there is a charge of £5.
We finish at Malpas after Breakfast on Friday 13 August. If you are booking rail tickets book from Chester after 11.00 am.
SCOTLAND: Our visitors from Portugal and Italy will be heading up for the weekend to Smithstone House, Kilwinning, south of Glasgow and there will be a barbecue there on the Friday evening at 7.00 pm to give them the opportunity to meet the groups in Scotland.
GATHERING - AUGUST 2004
Name ……………………………………………………… Address ………………………………………
Tel no(s) ………………………………………….. Email ………………………………………………….
Enclosed a deposit of £20 / I have already sent my deposit
Please let us know your travel arrangements:
I will be arriving at the Stella Maris Centre, Bootle on ……………………………… at …………………...
I will be at Chester Railway Station at 3.30 pm on Monday 9 August YES/NO
I will be coming be car to Malpas YES/NO
Describe any special diet needs ………………………………………………………………………………
Please indicate what topics relating to people in their 20s and 30s you would like to explore this week …....
Please return this form as soon as possible to Project
2030 Office, St Joseph’s Centre, Tilston Road, Malpas, Cheshire, SY14 7DD.
July 21 –
THE RIVER THE SMART WAY
the walk in Scotland coming up at the weekend the following email circular might
have some relevance Sent in by
“Shyer olden Len” (Anagram).
day three men were hiking and unexpectedly came upon a large, raging, violent
river. They needed to get to the
other side but had no idea how to do so.
first man prayed to God, saying: “Please God, give me the strength to cross
God gave him big arms and strong legs, and he was across the river in about two
hours, after almost drowning a couple of times.
this, the second man prayed to God, saying: “Please God, give me the strength
and tools to cross this river.”
God gave him a rowboat and he was able to row across the river in about
an hour, after almost capsizing the boat a couple of times.
third man had seen how this worked out for the other two, so he also prayed to
God saying:”Please God, give me the strength and the tools…and the
intelligence to cross this river.”
POOF! God turned him into a woman.
She looked at the map, hiked upstream a couple of hundred yards, and then
walked across the bridge.
THIS TO A SMART WOMAN WHO NEEDS A LAUGH, AND TO THE GUYS YOU THINK CAN HANDLE
July 22 –
OF THE PRAYERS FROM LOUGH DERG
believe in God, the Father almighty
of heaven and earth.
believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
born of the Virgin Mary.
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
crucified, died and was buried.
descended to the dead.
the third day he rose again.
ascended into heaven,
is seated at the right hand of the Father.
will come again to judge the living and the dead.
believe in the Holy Spirit,
holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
forgiveness of sins,
resurrection of the body,
the life everlasting. Amen.
me, God I take refuge in you.
say to the Lord: You are my God.
happiness lies in you alone.
has put into my heart a marvellous love
the faithful ones who dwell in his land.
who choose other gods increase their sorrows.
will I offer their offerings of blood.
will I take their name upon my lips.
Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup;
is you yourself who are my prize.
lot marked out for me is my delight:
indeed the heritage that falls to me!
will bless the Lord who gives me counsel,
even at night directs my heart.
keep the Lord ever in my sight:
he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm.
so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;
my body shall rest in safety.
you will not leave my soul among the dead,
let your beloved know decay.
will show me the path of life,
fullness of joy in your presence,
At your right hand happiness for ever.
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July 23 –
SHORTER DIARY ? – BISHOPS AND BEYOND
patterns are almost back to normal after Lough Derg, but one of my legs is
killing me after going to the baths yesterday.
Maybe it’s all in the mind. Maybe
it’s the body giving me an excuse not to do the West Highland Way which begins
tomorrow. I’m beginning to get
excited about three days of walking through lovely countryside in the best of
company and good fresh air.
are a couple of emails about the diary. One
says make it shorter for my sake, the other saying make the spiritual bits
shorter or simpler for everyone’s sake. Shorter
has always been the aim. The
entries are getting smaller and I’ve taken the easy way out the past few days.
In general I enjoy writing, though some days the head can’t
concentrate. Some readers are too
conscientious for their own good. They
feel they have to read everything, while I imagine that the average browser
scrolls through a week or two in a few minutes. If I kept writing like this it would take me years to match
the amount of words in one copy of the Sunday Times.
fourth letter today arrives from one of the Bishops. Even though I said when I wrote to them the other week with
the magazine that there was no need to reply, it is still good to receive their
support and encouragement which I know is reflected in the other Bishops.
The letters came from Dublin, Westminster, Lancaster and Wrexham. The
other day I was speaking to the Fr Provincial, our Superior in Britain and
Ireland, and he was encouraging me to advertise Project 2030 in other Dioceses
so that, even if people did not have a group nearby, they could still get
involved in the main events. This
is already happening in some ways as a few of those coming to Malpas in August
for the gathering come from other areas or do not have much contact with their
to do about other Catholics in their 20s and 30s who are in this situation.
This was the main thought that was going through my head this morning as
I was making some changes to the long and very full minutes that Matt sent from
the London 30s think-tank meeting. Even
where we have a group Project 2030 wants to reach out to others who are not part
of the group but who are looking for support in their lives.
Earlier this year we cleared out a lot of people from the mailing list
who had not been coming. We gave
them a chance to stay on the mailing list if they wanted.
But maybe these are the very people who need something which only Project
2030 can provide. Let us know if
your needs are not being met.
July 24 –
HIGHLAND WAY, DAY 1 – HITCH-HIKING, ETC
are 10 of us on the adventure. The
others are doing the full 93 miles from Glasgow to Fort William.
I’m just doing three days. We
stayed overnight in Hamilton and Glasgow with Veronica and Martin.
We meet at 9.40 am at Milngavie Station to begin the trek. Tonight we will be in Drymen.
The ladies are in a B and B while the guys are sharing a wigwam/hut in
the garden – at least that’s how I’ve understood it. There would be just enough space for the six of us, but
I’ve been persuaded to stay in another B and B.
Not sure if that’s for my sake or their sake. We’ll celebrate the Sunday Mass in Drymen this evening in
the B and B. I’ve brought along
the necessary, but we don’t do all the carrying ourselves.
We’ve arranged for a taxi each day to take our bags on to the next
place we are staying. Is that
cheating or not?
last time (the only time) I did the WHW I carried everything, though I don’t
think I’d be able for it now. That
was 1987. It was the first time
I’d ever done anything like that for my holidays.
Previously I had always stayed with the family, but I could only take my
break in June when everybody was at work or school, so I decided to do something
different. That week I got back
into hitch-hiking. One day I walked
about 15 miles over the hills, parallel to the A82.
I hitched back to the Youth Hostel which I’d left 8 hours earlier that
morning and the car got down the empty road in 15 minutes.
Why walk when you can hitch? For
the next three years for my holidays I hitched round France, Germany and Spain. The call of the open road is still there, but getting dimmer
by the year.
Drymen the West Highland Way cuts across the hills to the banks of Loch Lomond.
We stay in Rowardennan Youth Hostel the second night at the foot of Ben
Lomond. There is a rumour that Duncan is going to climb the almost
3000 feet hill before breakfast. The
third night we stay in the Drovers Inn at the top of the Loch.
From then on there are places like Crianlarich, Bridge of Orchy, Glencoe,
Kinlochleven and finishing at the foot of Ben Nevis.
July 25 Sunday
WEST HIGHLAND WAY – DAY 2
sleeping arrangements yesterday were varied.
With a lot of people doing the walk it is not easy getting places near
the route. Hence last night
everyone except myself (not my idea) was supposed to be staying in 2 wigwams on
a farm near Drymen. Five guys in
the one small space was going to be tight, so a couple of cowboys managed to get
into the same B and B as me. At
breakfast the three of us imagined the others having a pow-wow and hoped they
didn’t have to pass around the peace pipe after a night of such close
proximity in their wigwams. We
wondered what names we should give the braves and the squaws.
Without giving away their sexes we came up with Missing Dog (some
sections of the Way are forbidden to our canine friends), No Strings Attached
(played guitar at the Mass last night), True Image (think of the Way of the
Cross and wiping face), and Heap Joker.
experience of their Indian night had not been as bad as expected and their
breakfast was as good as the farmhouse meal we had last night.
After the evening meal we celebrated Mass on the same table.
The theme tune of Casualty during the Consecration was a bit of a
distraction. After the Mass we
thanked our host and said: “We’ll come again”.
His reply was: “That will be the Second Coming then”.
we set off walking about 10.00 the sky looked promising after the almost
continuous rain of yesterday. No-one
else had an umbrella. No-one else
stayed dry. But today was sunny
most of the way. We only had
another 12 miles to do but this time there was a hill to climb.
We had our packed lunches at the top overlooking Loch Lomond and sang the
first of many renditions of “By yon bonnie banks”.
In the afternoon some of us did literally “take the high road” while
others with sore feet took the low road and got to the youth hostel at
Rowerdennan an hour in advance. The evening meal was taken at the nearby hotel where they
also provided a couple of singers for our entertainment. Sore feet were forgotten as the dance floor beckoned.
We all got up for Clannad’s rock version of “Loch Lomond”, Martin
even doing a solo.
July 26 –
HIGHLAND WAY – DAY 2
all the groups that we met along the way we were the only ones who had a
travelling chiropodist. Even though
Catherine was suffering most of all she dished out materials and advice
liberally. A weekend of going
barefoot at Lough Derg had come back to haunt me, but pads just below the toes
made a big difference today. We had
14 miles to cover along the eastern shore of Loch Lomond where there is no road
or habitation, except for the Inversnaid Hotel, 7 miles on foot, but 40 miles by
road. Catherine was unable to walk
today, and hitched a lift with the baggage handler. Her stomach can testify to all the bumps on the rocky road to
Inversnaid, but it was a place of rest for us and a long leisurely lunch
regretted by a few stomachs on the miles ahead. Leo Dehon, the founder of the Sacred Heart Fathers, had
stayed at the Inversnaid Hotel on his tour of Britain and Ireland in 1863.
His father gladly paid for him to go on long holidays and tours in the
hope of changing his mind from wanting to be a priest.
When I did the West Highland Way in 1987 and again today I meant to ask
the staff if they had old visitors’ books going back to the 19th
Century to see if I could find his name., Looks
as though I’m going to have to do the walk again.
after Inversnaid we came to Rob Roy’s cave.
The guide books said it was hardly worth the diversion, but we had fun
scrambling over the rocks. While we
were there a packed tourist boat came drifting by. All they would see was a giant ‘CAVE’ painted on the
rock, and all they would hear besides the captain’s commentary was us/me
shouting things like, “This might not be the real place” (true), and “You
can stay here for £20 a night”. The
longer you stay together the more certain levels of daftness become more
acceptable. It might have been the
strain of keeping up the pace, or dehydration or whatever.
It was about this time that some of us started singing to help take our
minds away from our feet. There was
the usual ‘Kumbayah’ and ‘Show me the way to go home’. Other favourites were ‘Follow me’ and ‘Keep right on to
the end of the road’. There were
regular requests for Scottish songs to complement the haggis we had for
breakfast, even though most of us were from the North-West branch. Songs were dredged up to suit what was happening, like
‘Tulips from Amsterdam’ whenever we caught up with the Dutch group. A
sense of community builds up with fellow travellers who are going at roughly the
same pace as you. One group of
lasses happened to appear a few times when we stopped for photographs so they
became our unofficial photographers with half a dozen cameras to click at a
time. I took a photograph for a
group of Taiwanese but had to keep introducing myself to them later as we all
look the same to them. I found a
one-off unused camera in our room last night.
The hostel said I could keep it. I
clicked merrily away all day but now think I’ve lost it.
Now someone else might have the joy of looking at the photographs.
That could start a new trend, unless I find it in the labyrinth of my
again was sunny, but there was a nice breeze coming off the loch (lake).
The midges were not as bad as expected.
The Americans might claim that our midges are smaller, but they have
bigger teeth. It’s great getting
away from your day to day concerns, where your biggest worry is whether to put
on your sun cream or your midge repellent first.
9 hours on the path (about the same as yesterday) we reached our place of abode,
the Drovers Inn. Some stayed across
the road at The Stagger Inn. No singers booked tonight, but at about 11.00 pm
somebody who will remain nameless and who didn’t even have a drink decided to
try and start a sing-song. It
didn’t get very far. After a
couple of verses of ‘bonnie banks of Loch Lomond’ a Canadian lady, at least
we thought she was a lady up until then, shouted over ( 3 or 4 expletives
deleted) “I’ve been trying to get away from that song for the past three
July 27 –
HIGHLAND WAY – DAY 4
Drovers Inn where we had been staying overnight claims to be world famous.
Certainly once you’d seen it you’d never forget it.
The farmers driving their cattle to Glasgow used to stop here in earlier
centuries and they’ve tried to keep it the way it was a couple of hundred
years ago, dust and cobwebs included. Inside
the entrance there is a stuffed bear (caught in the area?).
The paintings on the walls have holes in them – the place hasn’t seen
paint in decades. After a fine
breakfast I bumped into one of the cleaners a few times.
Eventually I plucked up courage to say: “It must be a difficult job
cleaning this place yet keeping it looking a mess>”
“It’s a fine art”, she replied.
There were no complaints from those who stayed there overnight.
intention had been to do only two days of the Way. That became three because there was no public transport from
the other side of the Loch. The
feet were feeling better so I decided to do another six miles this morning to
Crianlarich. Another fine day, but
we had left behind the cooling breeze off the Loch and the heat was telling.
The group had asked me if I would say Mass on the evenings of days 2 and
3, but by the time we reached the accommodation it was too late if we were to
have something to eat. Today we had lost our appetite for singing along the path.
Maybe because we were now in open country and the acoustics were not so
good, or we hadn’t recovered from the Canadian lady’s tirade last night (she
chatted away with us at breakfast as if butter had never melted in her mouth).
After an hour on the road we were beginning to feel the pace.
Someone suggested we say the Rosary, not just to help take our mind off
our feet. “Okay”, said someone
else. “But with due respect to
Jeremy’s confidence, let’s stop if we meet others along the way.
We know our place in a pagan country.”
Crianlarich we stopped for our packed lunch.
There was still 12 miles to be done today, so a few others decided to
accompany me down to the station and take the train north to Bridge of Orchy
where they were staying tonight, while I headed for our community at Smithstone
House, Kilwinning. I had done 44
miles out of the 93. I was
beginning to feel I could have done the lot, but my excuse was I had a Question
and Answer Session with the 20s in Glasgow tomorrow.
Maybe next year I can do the full walk.
Suggestions already include doing the St Cuthbert’s Way to Holy Island
again, or Dartmoor and the Coastal Walk in SW England.
The Way of Santiago in Spain would be too hot unless we did it in the
spring or autumn. Our thanks to
Duncan for being the inspiration behind the walks and to Veronica for doing all
the organisation before and during. Veronica is going to do the email report.
I caught the train with a mixture of satisfaction and relief.
That was the most exercise I’d done since the last time I’d walked
the West Highland Way. It was
certainly worth it, unless I get the proverbial heart attack within the next
July 28 –
– 20S QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
fairly quiet day at Kilwinning. It
was warm enough to sit outside and catch up on the diary. I thought of the walkers struggling on through another sultry
day. The rain that is forecast for
tomorrow evening might be welcome? I
call the office and deal with a few enquiries that need an immediate response
re. the London picnic, the August Gathering, Lourdes, etc.
Our European visitors will be based here in Kilwinning from 13 – 16
August. The grounds look lovely for
the barbecue on the Friday evening. Not
sure whether to go to Edinburgh by bus or train on Saturday.
I get a few prices. Martin
can bring his minibus for the Sunday when we’ll be revisiting Loch Lomond,
though we still need a few cars as well.
evening there was the Question and Answer Session with the 20s in Glasgow.
People wrote down their questions on smaller pieces of paper, then they
were shuffled and I answered them as they came.
Here are the questions, not in any order:
of interesting issues there. At
least I had fun answering them to the best of my ability (especially when I
didn’t know what was coming next). People
had a chance to give their own thoughts or ask additional questions.
After an hour we stopped for a cup of tea.
There were only 20 minutes left to get through the rest, so when the
questions were read out half the group had to raise their hands within 3 seconds
or the question was dropped. The
pace quickened as a result and the only issue to suffer the indignity was the
one on ecumenism, but that might be because people were still working out what
it meant Plenty of material here for filling up the reflections on the
Thursday ‘day off’ slots. There
seems to be an appetite for issues in the diary.
Of the three people who made comments on it on the walk, 2 said: “Liked
the bit last week about Spiderman and celibacy”.
the end of the evening we had a discussion on the next programme and got a few
volunteers from the group to give talks at future evenings on ‘My experience
as a Catholic’ and ‘The Church and Chemistry’.
We’ll also line up a few outside speakers.
July 29 –
GOD HEAR/ANSWER PRAYERS?
was going to be a reflection of last Sunday’s Gospel, but it also fits in with
one of the questions last night. “Does
God hear/answer prayers?” From
the Gospels it looks as though Jesus only taught his disciples how to pray after
they asked him. So our first prayer
should be: “Lord, teach us how to pray”.
It was then he taught them the Our Father. From there he went on to encourage them to persist in prayer,
even to pester God. He tells the
story of a man whose friend arrives in the middle of the night and he has no
food in so he goes to his neighbour and asks him to give him three loaves.
The man answers from inside the house: “Don’t bother me.
The door is bolted and my children and I are in bed.
I can’t get up to give it to you.” Jesus’ conclusion is that if the
man will not get up and give him the bread for friendship’s sake, then
persistence will make him give his friend what he wants in the end.
So should we pray, persistently.
story was particularly appropriate at the weekend because the walkers in
Scotland were sleeping on the floor of the small wigwams and if one moved it
would disturb everyone. The Jewish
family also slept in one room, the parents in the middle and the children all
around, so to get up would wake the lot. Jesus
goes on to say: “Ask and it will be given to you, search and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you… What father among you would hand his son a stone if he asked
for bread, etc” Would we go and
ask our neighbours for things? No
one admitted to this in the group, but someone said they had been asked. (Who is
my neighbour?). On the walk we did
a fair bit of asking each other for things (and also offering without being
asked) – can I borrow your mobile, can I have some suncream, does anyone have
midge repellant, shall I carry your bag (this sometimes after indirect hints).
Why is it that we are so afraid to ask?
We don’t want to be knocked back.
We don’t want to impose on others.
But we cannot impose on God in the way we can on each other.
God is too big for that and wants us to ask.
Jesus never screams, but in this Gospel he comes closest to it –
We usually only ask people we know well or whose job it is. Don’t we know God well enough to trust him, to believe that he’ll want to give us what we ask? Sometimes as well it’s by asking someone for a favour that we begin to build up a stronger friendship with them. Try and imagine God looking at us and saying “Why doesn’t he/she ask me?” God often gives us what we need without our asking for it, but part of our human make-up requires that we know what it is we need and push to get it. God doesn’t always seem to answer our prayers, but do we persist? Keep at him. He’s big enough to cope with our bad manners. When I was a child and older I used to wonder how God could hear us, but now when I see how easily we can communicate by phone and email over the world I realise that God in his power and in the might of his other dimension can cope easily with our requests. His switchboard never gets overwhelmed, his computer never crashes. Sometimes our prayers are answered in different ways. But he always gives us enough bread for our daily needs. Sunday’s Gospel, however, finishes with a sting in the tail: “If you then, who are evil (ouch!), know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the HOLY SPIRIT to those who ask him.” Jesus might have been the first to say: “All you need is love”, but here he is implying that all we need is the Holy Spirit. Don’t let people put you off. Keep asking for what you need and don’t take no for an answer.
July 30 –
Brother, should we be watching it or are we just encouraging another kind of
agenda? The first
series of Big Brother mostly passed me by.
I caught the end of the Spanish competition that year on holiday and
found it fascinating even though I didn’t know what it was about.
Since then I’ve got a bit interested in the final weeks as the
characters become better known. The participants over the years have been a mixed bunch, but
the winners have often been nice people. I
almost cried when the cheeky joiner Chippy from Liverpool came out and said he
was giving his prize money to a friend with special needs.
Then last year there was the Christian from the Isles who was not afraid
to talk about his faith.
he was the reason I watched the opening night this year, and what a bunch of
weirdos they produced for our delight and delectation.
The next day I suggested we vote for Davina and get her out before she
lost all credibility, but having watched the first night and got a handle on
some of the names, the characters became more identifiable.
A psychologist could have a field day.
can go for ages and not see Big Brother. I’ve
never voted to get anyone ejected and mostly don’t care who gets shown the
door. I usually only watch it if
there is nothing else interesting on at the time, but tonight I was hoping
Michelle would be the one to go. Her
growing friendship with Stuart was cringingly embarrassing from the beginning.
Some things are better kept off stage (‘obscena’ in Latin).
It was obvious that he was not comfortable showing his affections on
camera, even though he admitted to some of the men that he would have acted
differently in other circumstances. Having
sex under the table was a step far too far (the producers should have avoided it
by insisting that they keep on their microphones which they do in all other
circumstances). It was good at
least to see that the viewers and the media turned against Michelle for pushing
Stuart in directions he didn’t want to go.
How must his family have felt, never mind hers?
I felt a bit guilty at being glad that she was booed when she came out,
but happy that the young audience again showed they still have some sense of
what is right and appropriate.
worst is that Endemol are already thinking up what extremes to subject viewers
to next year. I read recently that
advertisers in the USA have discussed that while sex and violence might attract
a bigger audience, people don’t take in the adverts if the images on the TV
programmes have been too strong. Will
they ever learn?
July 31 –
2030 OVERNIGHT – THE WALKERS
to London today for an overnight with the groups. In Advent and Lent we’ve had weekend retreats at the Centre
run by the Sisters of Marie Reparatrice in Wimbledon. In March someone thought out loud – wouldn’t it be good
to come back here for an overnight in the summer, not for a retreat, but just to
chill out. The Sisters were happy
to welcome us for this. People
started arriving after lunch. There
had been suggestions of going to visit the Tennis Museum or doing archery, but
in the end most of us went for a stroll on Wimbledon Common.
Far from chilling out it was very hot, but it didn’t stop us having a
game of frisbee football based on the rules of American football without the
the evening we went for a meal to Pizza Express, not a fast food outlet but a
classy place as you would expect in these parts. There are 20 of us staying overnight. Others joined us just for the meal while some will come along
for the Mass at midday and the pub lunch tomorrow.
The idea has worked well, even if it is being overshadowed by the picnic
for the groups next week in Regents Park. A
while back over 60 had booked for this, and still rising.
There will be caterers and a marquee, with profits going to the Dehonian
missions in India.
I’ve phoned the West Highland walkers a few times to see how they are doing. Last night I heard that they had finished the Way, though not everyone was able to do it all. They are staying around Fort William for the weekend, with the possibility of going to Skye or climbing Ben Nevis (if they feel up to it. By now I was expecting to feel much fitter, but the staircases in the underground seemed just as tough and the 39 steps to the top of the house in Stockport did not get any easier). I came away today without any of the walkers’ mobile phone numbers, but a few of the Londoners had Martin’s number from the Iona trip,so we were able to keep Duncan informed of the cricket score in the England V West Indies game.