Hugh is on holiday till 21st July. Meanwhile here are some contributions from members of the group. And if you feel inspired to write something yourself for the diary it is not too late. Send it to email@example.com before 16th July.
July 1 - Friday
PRAYER FOR COURAGE - sent in anonymously by a member of the group
I write a lot of lists to try and keep on top of things, so
I tried to write a list of what I need to pray for,
by the end of the list I think I was finding some answers.
Pray that people can like me
Pray that someone can love me
Pray to like myself
Pray to love people
Pray that I won’t be left alone
Pray to control my negative thoughts
Pray to not be overwhelmed
Pray to cope
Pray for quietness of mind
Pray for clear thinking
Pray for self assurance
Pray for acknowledgement
Pray for courage
Pray for confidence
Pray for a meaning
Pray for more time
Pray for quietness
Pray for things to slow down
Pray for tears and laughter not numbness
Pray to trust others
Pray to love others
Pray for the poor
Pray for the lonely
Pray for others who are worse off than me
Pray to look outwards and stop thinking about myself.
July 2 - Saturday
NELSON MANDELA ON THE G8 SUMMIT
"Today we live in a world that
remains divided. A world in which we have made great progress and advances in
science and technology. But it is also a world where millions of children die
because they have no access to medicines. We live in a world where knowledge and
information have made enormous strides, yet millions of children are not in
July 3 - Sunday
THE PROJECT 2030 ALPHA
COURSE VISION - By Mike Carson
July 4 - Monday
A SUGGESTED FORM OF PRAYER (from the book by John Powell SJ - 'Happiness is an inside job')
What I would like to suggest is something similar. Begin by trying to tell God who you are at this time. I am told that whenever we think, we also verbalize our thoughts at least mentally. So verbalize to God who you are. Force yourself to paint this verbal portrait. At first it will be difficult. But going into deeper and deeper layers of self is a very helpful exercise in self-knowledge, as well as good prayer. And since everything is really God's gift, it helps to begin with a prayer for the gift of praying well. Then proceed with reflective questions like: Who am I? How do I feel today? What are the thoughts and feelings that have been rumbling around inside me during the last twenty-four hours? What has been most important to me? What person has meant most to me? What did I enjoy? What has caused me pain? Are there any special persons who played an important role in my recent life? What motives moved me into action? What did I really want to achieve, win, avoid? Overall, what am I doing with my life? Do I really want this?
I find that as I force myself to verbalize my answers to questions like these, I am actually getting to know myself better. Every day the answers are slightly different, as I peel off more layers and look into new corners of myself. Also, my moods change. Some days I feel tired of it all. Other days I am ready to move mountains. I also leave the 'conversational door' open to God. We humans actually have many doors through which God can come into the dialogue. We have our minds into which God can put new ideas, insights and perspectives. We have our wills or hearts in which God can implant desires and put his strength. We have emotions so God can comfort us in our affliction or afflict us in our comfort. God can come into our emotions with peace or with challenge. We also have imaginations which means that in our dialoguing God can say words or even suggest pictures to us. We have memories, and God can stir our memories in the prayer of reminiscence. God can also heal our hurting memories or transform them into helpful memories. All in all, there are these five ports of entry for God to come into our reflective prayer. The important thing is to know that our limits are God's opportunities..........
July 5 - Tuesday
POVERTY HISTORY RALLY, EDINBURGH
- 2 JULY 2005
Michael Robinson of the London 30s has sent this report.
Friday afternoon of 1 July 2005 saw myself, Ronan, Mary & Peter
set out from Luton Airport to go to the “Make Poverty History” rally in
Edinburgh the next day. After being
interviewed by the Bedfordshire Constabulary (who seemed to have left their
sense of humour back at the station) we boarded the plane and flew up to the
sunny Scottish capital.
Our accommodation for our stay there was in the home of Jimmy and
Margot who live in a suburb called Leith. They
were most hospitable giving us a set of keys to come and go as we pleased and
introduced us to the delights of chocolate chip shortbread (yum).
Mary and Peter had never been to Edinburgh before and after having a
nice Italian meal we all walked up to the Castle and then down the Royal Mile to
the new controversial Scottish Parliament.
There we chatted about it with the friendly Lothian Police who seemed
mainly keen to point out to us the structure’s price tag (a mere £460
million). From there we headed home via a brief sojourn at a local watering
After breakfast the next morning we headed into town to a park called
“The Meadows” which was where the march for the rally was starting from. On
the way down we passed quite a few people trying to sell us the Socialist
Worker. It was interesting that
some were selling it for 30p whereas others were selling it for a pound.
Once at “the Meadows” we made ourselves comfortable in front of one
of the stages and listened to speeches by Cardinal Keith O’Brien of St.
Andrews & Edinburgh, Jonathan Dimbleby and Peter Postwhistle amongst others
and enjoyed the performances of several World Music bands.
That little invention called the mobile ‘phone then came into its
own as we managed to track down amongst the 120,000 people there, the dozen or
so members of the Glasgow group who had arrived in Edinburgh that morning and
Duncan who was flying the flag for the North-West group.
I even managed to meet up with several members from my parish back in
London there. At about that point Cardinal Cormac of Westminster walked right
past us and Ronan and myself went to say hello to him and tell him we were up
here from his diocese.
The rally involved marching around Edinburgh and just about everyone
was wearing a white top, as asked for by the organisers, which made an impact.
After waiting for nearly a couple of hours due to sheer numbers, we managed to
leave the Meadows and join the march. At
this point we bumped into Margot who we were staying with.
Due to the amount of people the Project 2030 group got fragmented
and I ended up walking with Ronan, and Rachel and Brenda from the Glasgow group.
We also ended up being accompanied by a colourful group of people cycling
on a contraption we nicknamed the Ganja bike and listening to some of their
songs which were quite catchy but did every now and again refer to the delights
of cannabis. Rachel had this
massive rainbow peace flag and when we were walking along Princes Street with
Edinburgh Castle as a backdrop, a freelance photographer took several pictures
of her and her flag. However, we
couldn’t find the photos in any of the papers the next day.
At 3 o’clock the march stopped for a minute’s silence to remember
the victims of poverty before continuing on again.
Mobiles again came into their own as we all re-gathered back at the
Meadows. Ronan, Rachel and myself
had a go at the bungie run at the CAFOD stalls. This involved having a bungie
rope attached to you and seeing how far you could run on a bouncy “castle”
like structure before the rope made you fall over.
Eddie Izzard appeared on stage and invited the crowd and the Lothian
Police to take part in a world record attempt for the largest eightsome reel.
A couple of the police waved back when invited.
I was partnered with Veronica from the Glasgow group who had done a good
job in organising them to come up for the rally.
Peter and Mary hadn’t tried any Scottish dancing before but they were
game for it. After being instructed in the steps for the dance by the caller,
the music began and we were off. It
was a great spectacle as we danced and spun around even if some of us did make
our own interpretations of the various steps of the eightsome reel.
The attempt, which the caller thought had broken the world record,
effectively marked the end of the rally and at that point, the Glasgow group
said farewell to us as they set off for home and we headed off to the evening
mass being given by Cardinal Keith O’Brien. We thought that this would be at
the cathedral but on the way there we discovered that it was at a church back
near the Meadows. Time was ticking
by when an empty taxi miraculously appeared and got us there seconds before Mass
began. The Cardinal began the Mass by saying that as he walked up the aisle he
had never seen so many people wearing dirty white t-shirts which was true as
they had been worn all day at the rally and we all laughed. The Cardinal was in
some splendid vestments and the African choir at the church gave a great feel to
We had a Chinese that evening after Mass and headed back to Jimmy
& Margot’s where we caught up with Mary & Peter and as we watched the
end of the Live8 concert together on the TV they told us how they had seen
Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown on the way back.
Sunday morning involved an early morning flight and who should we
bump into at the airport but Cardinal Cormac again.
The “Make Poverty History” rally set out to remind the leaders
meeting at the G8 Summit at Gleneagles that they should ensure fair trade,
cancel third World debt and give better aid.
By the time you read this, you will probably know the outcome of
the summit and whether the rally and the Live8 concert made a difference.
As I write this I’m reminded of the words of Jonathan Dimbleby I heard
at the rally that if we listened to the cynics and did nothing then there
certainly wouldn’t be any change.
July 6 - Wednesday
MORE ON THE G8 SUMMIT
Susan Boyle (London 30s) sent us this message as a further comment on the G8 summit:
SPUC has warned
that the Commission for Africa Report, brought to the attention of G8 leaders at
the Summit in Edinburgh at the weekend, promotes abortion on demand in Africa.
In a press release, John Smeaton, SPUC's National Director stated:
"Abortion is never a just or humane solution to extreme poverty.
Indeed, it is a sign that society is failing its most needy members. The
laudable recommendations of the Report must not be undermined by the promotion
of abortion on demand under the guise of sexual and reproductive health.
The people of Africa deserve better than that.
If anyone would like to email Tony
Blair about it he can be contacted through the following web address:
July 7 - Thursday
TODAY'S ATTACKS IN LONDON
World leaders and other international
figures have offered their sympathy and support in the wake of the attacks in
London this morning:
Telegram on behalf of Pope Benedict
“Deeply saddened by the news of the
terrorist attacks in central London, the Holy Father offers his fervent prayers
for the victims and for all those who mourn.
While he deplores these barbaric acts
against humanity, he asks you to convey to the families of the injured his
spiritual closeness at this time of grief.
Upon the people of Great Britain, he
invokes the consolation that only God can give in such circumstances”.
General Kofi Annan
“I was devastated by the atrocious
bombings that struck London today. These vicious acts have cut us all to the
core, for they are an attack on humanity itself.
Today, the world stands shoulder to
shoulder with the British people, who with others around the world had mobilised
so powerfully against poverty and climate change ahead of the G8 summit, and
who, I am sure, will confront this ordeal with the same spirit, courage and
July 8 - Friday
early June, a group of about 19 Project 2030 members met up in Cambridge to
sample the elegance of this distinguished University town. Here is an account
through the eyes of Sean Bucher of the NW group.
I arrived in Cambridge at about 2pm. After checking in to my B&B, I met up with Chris and some of the others from the Northwest and London groups on Jesus Green. We went for a wander around Cambridge city centre, landing up at Kings College, which I thought was magnificent. We decided to go to Kings Chapel, (the splendid building which was completed in 1547), for the Evensong service which we all enjoyed very much. The service went on for about 45 minutes and was the typical rich feast of sound we’d expected from the famous King’s tradition. On the way out of King’s College, we saw lots of birds nesting high in the archway above the gates. What type of birds they were, I’m sorry I do not know, but I thought they looked impressive (and well suited to the magnificence of Kings)!
In the evening, we went for a pub meal and we had a good time catching up with each other and meeting new people.
On Saturday morning we met again on Jesus Green to decide what we wanted to do for the day. Some wanted to explore the town and decided to take a tour bus or a guided walk around the city centre. Others, myself included, went on a really nice 5 mile walk to Grantchester (a small village just outside Cambridge). The walk ran along the River Cam for part of the way and then across and through typical Fenland meadows and woodlands. We also had as good a look as we could get at Jeffrey Archer’s house, The Old Vicarage. (The Old Vicarage was immortalised in a poem by the poet Rupert Brooke).
When we got back to Cambridge, we all met up and decided to spend the afternoon punting. Some took the DIY punt challenge (with admirable aplomb) while others, like me, opted for the chauffeur driven experience. We were informed by our young student chauffeur that you could walk from Oxford to Cambridge without stepping off land owned by Trinity College (founded by Henry VIII). Apparently there were also rumours that Prince Charles sent his bodyguard to lectures and that this faithful minder also sat the same final exams as the Prince – and achieved a higher grade!
After recovering with a coffee break, we decided to recharge the batteries for a night on the town. Chris and myself walked back to our accommodation via the Strawberry Fete on Midsummer Common. It was hardly cream tea stuff however, and more like a rehearsal for Glastonbury!
In the evening we had a lengthy evening meal in Pizza Express which again gave us the chance to have a gab and meet up with new people (some of who came up from London for the day). We met Tom, a local Project 2030 and found a pub to have a drink in before wending our way back to our B&B’s.
On Sunday morning we went to mass at a packed church and then after another coffee, some of us climbed up St Mary’s Tower (a 13th century church) where the views are great. Although many of the colleges were closed over the weekend because of exams, we managed to have a look around the elegant St. John’s College. After a laid-back lunch (referring to the waitresses here) we all started on our trips home.
It was a very enjoyable weekend in Cambridge.
July 9 - Saturday
Seen in a recent copy of
The Times, and sent in anonymously.
The Loch Ness Discovery
Centre which opened in Edinburgh in April, helps to explain sightings of the
world's most famous monster, and among the various theories of floating logs and
prehistoric animals, there are also some interesting weather possibilities.
The waters of the loch
are so deep that they settle out into a warm layer near the surface and a colder
layer deep below. Winds blowing over the loch can churn up the warmer
layer so vigorously that they set off huge underwater waves up to about 40m (130
ft) tall in the cold layer. These waves, in turn, can set off strange
movements across the loch's surface that might be mistaken for a large creature
moving around, and perhaps even give misleading sonar readings in the waters
possibility is a type of whirlwind known as a water devil, a small column of air
that whirls off warm waters on a hot day. From a distance a water devil
can look uncannily like a monster's neck and head poking up from the water and
can buzz around topsy-turvy, darting in one direction then pausing before
whizzing off in another. For added monster appeal, it can create a great
commotion of water spray and even monster-like roaring or gurgling noises.
Of course, none of
these theories rules out there being a real Loch Ness monster.
July 10 - Sunday
THE CARDINAL'S JOKE
This was sent in by Chris Driscoll, London 30s.
On the 25th May 2005, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor drew the ‘curtain’ on a fine series of talks on different aspects of Europe at Westminster Cathedral. Midway through a typically eloquent and thoughtful speech, the Archbishop of Westminster told the following joke. I thought it was worth recording as a tribute to both genuine wit of Cardinal himself and to show that the whole Englishman, Irishman, Scotsman gag can be turned on its head to reveal pure wit and humour. Please allow me a little poetic licence in delivery:
There was an Englishman, Irishman and a Scotsman.
Each of them was asked the question, ‘What do you think is the greatest invention of all time?’
The Englishman replied, ‘I would say it is the artificial heart valve. For without this wonderful instrument I would not be here today as it would have been curtains for me’.
The Scotsman thought for a few seconds and then said, ‘For me the greatest invention of all time has to be the ventilator. If it wasn’t for the ventilator, I would not have pulled through, and indeed, it would have been curtains for me also.’
To the Irishman the question was asked ‘What is the greatest invention of all time?’
The Irishman said, ‘Well it’s obvious that the greatest invention of all time is the Venetian blind, as if it wasn’t for the Venetian blind, it would be curtains for all of us’.
July 11 - Monday
TERRORIST ATTACK: A JOINT STATEMENT FROM CTBI AND MCB
This was sent in my Chris Docherty
who is the Youth Officer for the Archdiocese of Glasgow.
Terrorist attack: a joint statement from Churches Together in
Britain and Ireland and The Muslim Council of Britain.
‘Deepest sympathy is expressed at the death and suffering which
the series of co-ordinated attacks in London has caused to the families and
loved ones who have been the victims of this terrible atrocity.
‘This criminal attack is condemned in the strongest possible
terms. No good purpose can be achieved by such an indiscriminate and cruel use
‘The scriptures and the traditions of both the Muslim and
Christian communities repudiate the use of such violence. Religious precepts
cannot be used to justify such crimes, which are completely contrary to our
teaching and practice.
‘We continue to resist all attempts to associate our communities
with the hateful acts of any minority who claim falsely to represent us. In the
present uncertainties, we look to all community leaders to give an example of
wisdom, tolerance and compassion.
‘The events of recent years have challenged Muslims and
Christians to work together in order to acknowledge our differences, to affirm
our common humanity, and to seek ways to share life together. Much has already
been achieved, and nothing must undermine the progress that we have made. These
attacks strengthen our determination to live together in peace, and to grow
together in mutual understanding.
‘This crime must inspire us to work unceasingly together in
pursuit of peace, justice and respect for difference.’
For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Churches Together in
Britain and Ireland is the umbrella body for all the major Christian Churches in
Britain and Ireland. It liaises with ecumenical bodies in Britain and Ireland as
well as ecumenical organizations at European and world levels. Its work includes
Church Life, Church and Society, Mission, Inter Faith Relations, International
Affairs and Racial Justice. It provides a forum for joint decision-making and
enables the Churches to take action together. See www.ctbi.org.uk
Muslim Council of Britain is the UK's representative Muslim
umbrella body with over 400 affiliated national, regional and local
organizations, mosques, charities and schools. See www.mcb.org.uk
July 12 - Tuesday
MANCHESTER WEEKEND, JUNE 2005
This is our second report on the weekend in Manchester, 24th - 26th June, sent in anonymously.
to Manchester from Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and even from south of
Watford (i.e. London), lured by the promise of friendly hospitality, Christian
fellowship and entertainment in that great city.
Some brought with them
tales which indicated the fun had already begun: for instance, of
settling into their hotel accommodation, drawing back the curtains to gain
that all-important first view of the little piece of city that has become
one's temporary home...to find no window at all! But hey.
There was a birthday, and "Happy Birthday" was sung with gusto. Who is it? Quick, what's the name? Oh, it doesn't matter, just sing louder.
signings-up for meals, discussing the city tours scheduled for the morrow: this tour
or that one? How to choose? Can we do both?
And so to bed, busy
No time for lunch, so much to see! Sandwiches (sorry, butties) were consumed in a park with Roman ruins. Very little sun and the air temperature a bit chilly, but everyone agreed stoically that it was "good sightseeing weather".
On to the Science and Industry Museum: fantastic, so interesting, and all free. You could even be a nosy neighbour and peek into Coronation Street from there.
We ambled back towards The Triangle and Exchange Square, taking in St. Ann's, a beautiful church of rose stone, an oasis of calm in the heart of the shopping area. Some of us, new to Manchester, also visited the Cathedral, with its amazing mediaeval oak roof and lofty, angelic orchestra, contrasting with the beautiful modern sculpture of the Nativity scene, "Holy Night".
- So, all in all
a packed afternoon. Tour 1 had been an equal success: we were told about this
one, by its participants, later that evening, but it is to be regretted
that this reporter cannot recall the facts, certainly not sufficiently to
make a second-hand
report. You'll have to ask one of the others...In any case, our thanks go to our
guides Kevin and Christine on Tour 1, and Ian and Catharine on Tour 2, for
a great afternoon.
July 22 - Friday
BACK FROM HOLIDAYS
Arrived back from holiday yesterday. The first two weeks I was in Madeira, which is a Portuguese island in the Atlantic heading down the coast of Africa. I asked a few people if the island is technically a part of Africa, which I’m sure it is, but they looked at me blankly. I don’t suppose they would want to admit it. I was tempted to send the people who went to the G8 in Edinburgh at text saying: ‘Greetings from Africa’ as one of the main themes was making poverty history in Africa, but I restrained myself, didn’t want to break my holiday.
The main town in Madeira is Funchal. I arrived there the first day about 4.00 pm. The tourist information gave me advice on Bed and Breakfasts. I got one for £9 a night just behind the Cathedral, with a window overlooking a small square and glimpses of the sea and the mountains. The place was called The Astoria, if you ever fancy it, not that the island would be everyone’s glass of madeira, even if the cheap flight and cost of living made it a piece of cake. The typical person on the plane would be retired or getting that way, the beaches are rocky, everyone seems to be tucked up in bed quite early like myself and I didn’t see any Irish or English bars. The main attraction is the climate which is virtually the same all year round, so it’s a place to try in the winter. There are great walks in the hills and the flowers are florid. It never gets too hot or too cold, rarely above 25 during the day or below 20 in the evening.
I certainly enjoyed it, plenty of walking, some swimming, a bit of Portuguese practice, though not a lot of speaking, more going to mass, reading and watching the TV. They also had Eurosport, so I was becoming hooked on the Tour de Lance.
When I came back from Madeira I was at Malpas for a few days for a meeting, then I had my third week in Aberystwyth, which is half way down the Welsh coast. Here I was lucky to get a B & B because it was graduation week at the University (no wonder there was little interest in the ‘What next?’ week at Malpas if it was sandwiched between Finals and Graduation). One of the highlights of my year is the Golf Open Championship. I’ve managed to get for a day about seven times, so I enjoyed watching the all-day coverage last week on BBC. I overindulged the first day, so that made me on the second day go and play on the local 9 hole course just to make sure I went out. And I need the practice in case Nick wants a revenge match at the Lake District next year. I’ve been two years in Stockport now and I haven’t played a game of golf locally (I occasionally manage a game with my brothers in Scotland), so that has to be one of my resolutions after my holiday – get a few games of golf. Adrian, who helps me in the office’s dad, has offered me a game. Must take it up.
July 23 -
Before I went away on holiday I went to the Orange shop to get a British number for the telephone I had to buy in emergency in Rome. This meant I could take a phone with me on holiday and leave my usual mobile to be answered in the office. The small shop was quite crowded, and when I was asked my occupation I was surprised how difficult it was for me to say: ‘Catholic priest’. It’s not that I have any problem being a priest in myself or in Church circumstances, but when I am off duty I usually fight shy from saying who I am. Can a priest ever be off duty?
Often people ask you what you do. If I’ve got to know people I would always tell them that I am a priest, or at least initially that I work for the Church, but when people ask casually ‘What do you do?’ I often reply: ‘As little as possible.’ I’ve even used: ‘If I told you that I would need to kill you.’ In the B and B in Madeira people were unusually chatty at breakfast. There was an artist there from Devon who was out to sell his paintings along the prom. When he asked: ‘What do you do?’ I was tempted to answer: ‘If I told you that you might live for ever.’ The second week a Dutchman was more insistent (he turned out to be a freelance journalist), so I told him I worked for the Church. Big mistake when you are on holiday and don’t want to end up on a busman’s holiday. He began to tell me how he had been brought up a Catholic but was alright now. When he started talking about the Gospel of Thomas and then the Gospel of Mary Magdalen (never heard of that one) I knew I was in trouble. Inevitably I got sucked into a discussion that was going where I did not want to go. Maybe both of us realised we had gone too far in defending our positions, even though it was all very amicable. Is this going to ruin my breakfasts, I wondered. Next day was not so bad. He already knew I was going to the 8.00 am mass at the Cathedral as he had been amazed at seeing the numbers coming out from Church as he waited for his breakfast. He decided he was going to come to Mass with me the next day. He went a few times and enjoyed the space for meditation. We didn’t get involved in any heavy discussions after that, but it could have spoiled the holiday.
The landlady in Aberystwyth last week also asked me what do I do. I replied: ‘I don’t usually say. It’s the kind of thing that stops all conversations and then starts all conversations.’ I could see she was disappointed at my evasion, but if you ended up staying with people who were keen Catholics or avid atheists it could end up dominating everything. Why do we always want to know what people do?
Part of my reticence could come from our general unwillingness these days in our secular/anti-faith society to admit that we are Catholics. On the other hand there is what has become known within the group as the Jeremy approach. Jeremy shared with us once at Malpas how when you are upfront and upbeat about being a Catholic people respond positively and even say: ‘Oh! Aren’t you lucky to have a faith like that.’ (People often ask how Jeremy is doing. He’s not been around for a while but is still doing well.)
Maybe it’s also that I am quite shy, honestly, especially when I am on my own. I don’t like getting involved in situations that could prove conflictual, and normally I have a high sense of being on duty, so it’s good to get a break from that. Though didn’t Jesus say: ‘If you disown me in the sight of men, I will disown you in the sight of my Father.’ But then he did go up to Jerusalem once anonymously, and he often took time away to be on his own. The jury is still out.
July 24 - Sunday
BOMB AND WORRIES AND SAYING MASS
The event that had most impact while I was away was the London bombings. My sister was in Lourdes at the time and left a voice message on my mobile worrying if I was okay. She knew I was on holiday, and that I was splitting my holidays, but she didn’t know which airport I was flying from, and knowing that I often went to London…. That kind of scenario must have repeated itself millions of times. The bomb that went off in the bus in Tavistock Place was just down the street from Hans’ Hotel which we use often in London. One report on BBC spoke about people taking refuge in a local hotel. I contacted the office and asked them to check that Hans, family, staff or guests had not been caught up in the explosion. They got back soon to say that everyone was okay. Hans has since asked me to let people know that he will no longer be in the family hotel. It wasn’t working for him. He hopes the group will be able to keep using their facilities, though this is not certain yet. We are grateful to Hans for all that he and his family have been doing for the group and we wish him all the best. He’ll still be around.
We have not heard of anyone else being closely affected by the bombs, though someone emailed:
‘I don't know if you would consider saying a Mass for the victims and
those affected by the London
bombs. I am sure quite a lot of us know people who have been
impacted in some way.
The whole thing has been absolutely awful. It is one of those situations where you feel completely powerless.’
They got back today to say:
‘Hugh, on reflection I don't think this is a wise idea given the
current travel situation within London. In addition to recent
incidents there are security alerts which are causing further
We’ll say one of the masses next week during the holiday retreat at Malpas for all those who have been affected by the bombs, not just in London but in other parts of the world. Someone wrote recently about the terrible ongoing situation in Iraq and other places. One of our priests from the States who went and camped in the desert during the first Iraq war also sent details of a campaign that is being run by a Catholic group based in Chicago. Their concerns about Iraq can be seen on www.8thdaycenter.org/aboutus/statements.html
July 25 - Monday
THE HOLIDAY RETREAT BEGINS TODAY
Thanks to everyone for their contributions to the diary while I was on retreat and on holiday. We covered more than half the days. There is now going to be another gap in the diary because the person who does the uploading from home is away for a week’s holiday from today.
The chances are I would not be able to write much this week anyway as we are going to be busy at Malpas during the holiday retreat. ‘You’re not having another week’s holiday?’ I hear you ask. Some people might be having a holiday at Malpas but not me. We advertised the possibility of individual time each day with one of the directors. Fr Chris was going to help me, but the bookings last month were only in single figures and something else came up for Chris so I said I would look after the group on my own. The number have since more than doubled, so if everyone wants to see me individually every day then I’m going to be going from morning till night.
In recent years a few people have been saying that they had gone for a retreat over the summer, so we thought we would try one ourselves. The timing is to suit the teachers in England who just broke up last week for the holidays. At first we advertised it as a silent retreat, but the retreat buffs squealed that a week’s silence would be too much. So we readvertised it as a ‘holiday retreat’. People can go at their own pace and take more or less quiet time and space as they need. I imagine that as the week goes on many will move more into times of silence. Holiday comes from ‘holy day’. The only breaks that people used to get in the Middle Ages were the major Feastdays of the Church. Then holidays were given on ‘ferial’ or ordinary days in the Churches calendar. It’s from ‘ferial’ that we get the word ‘Fair’. In Scotland they still speak of the summer holidays as the Fair Holidays.
It’s a big investment for people to give up a week of
their holidays to spend time in retreat. There
will also be opportunities for walks etc and we are going to make a visit to
Chester. The one negative on the
horizon is that the weather forecast is not so good.
To be able to get outside and encounter God in the wonders of his
creation can be one of the highlights of a week like this.
July 26 - Tuesday
SETTLING IN AT MALPAS
There were 16 of us at the holiday retreat, representing all the areas. One of the first things we did was share what had brought us to Malpas. Some were looking for the peace and quiet, time to think and pray, while others felt in need of a good break or a rest. Would the week work? Would those who were wanting more of a holiday or more of a retreat find what they were looking for without putting the others off? I had my doubts. I stressed the importance of everyone being able to go at their own pace without feeling obliged to come to times of prayer, etc. Some people had travelled long distances (Lucia had broken down on the road and had to be transported by the AA) and were coming from busy lives. There is a good tradition on retreats to encourage people to rest on the first day. Some didn't need to be told twice, even the idea of "sunbathing" in God's love was taken literally.
We had to be down before 9.00 for breakfast. At 9.30 there was Morning Prayer in the chapel. We used the psalms and sometimes had a gap at the end of them so that we could reflect over them and say out loud the lines or phrases that had struck us. Then I gave an input in the lounge with ideas for those who were looking for themes to pray about. A retreat is a bit like the invitation Jesus gave to the disciples to go with him to the other side of the lake so they could be along by themselves, for there had been so many people coming and going that they didn't even have time to eat. We've all come from busy lives. What would we say to Jesus on the boat? What would he say to this, what would it be like to spend time alone with Jesus? We also need to listen to what thoughts, emotions, reactions come to us as we settle in and enjoy the large garden and country lanes. On the first day just go with the flow and see what happens. Thank God for the gift of your life and the beauty of creation.
At 12.00 those who wanted to share how the morning went or discuss other ideas met up. Lunch was at 1.00 and in the afternoon people went out to Llangollen or Chester or for walks. The weather was good at the beginning of the week and it was great to be able to just sit outside and chat, though in the mornings we tried to keep a quiet atmosphere except around the tea room.
We celebrated Mass each day, usually at 5.30, then evening
meal. After this there was the possibility of quiet adoration before the
Blessed Sacrament with a night prayer at 8.15. We gathered then to reflect
on the day and find out what everyone had been up to. This was when I was
confronted with any hard questions that had come up in the discussion group at
midday. I wasn't part of this as I was seeing people individually.
How do we interpret Jesus' advice to turn the other cheek? How do we
become vulnerable without being taken advantage of? Ironically it is often
those who feel weakest inside themselves who have to put on a tough show.
They can't be seen to be weak in any way so they can end up as dictators.
if you are confident of your own inner strength then you can let yourself be
July 27 - Wednesday
WHERE WAS MOSES WHEN THE LIGHTS WENT OUT?
The first readings at Mass this week were mostly about Moses. We'd been looking for a lively hymn to start mass and someone suggested "Follow me, follow me, leave your home and family". This fitted well with our theme of being prepared to move on from our comfort zone. We can so easily get into a rut in our lives. When we take time out it is a good opportunity to think about our options in life, where is God nudging us forward. Moses had to leave home and move on several times. As a Hebrew male child he should have been killed according to the Egyptian law because they were afraid that the Israelite slaves were becoming too numerous. His sister put him in a basket in the river. He was seen and adopted by an Egyptian princess who, at his sister's suggestion sent him unbeknown to his original mother to be reared. Later he was brought up in the Royal Palace. He had to flee Egypt after killing an Egyptian slave-driver. He was accepted by a family in the desert and married one of the daughters. Then after encountering God in the burning bush he was sent back to Egypt to free his people. This he did, but because of the people's unfaithfulness they had to spend 40 years in the desert before entering the promised land. But God did not allow Moses to cross the river Jordan. Hence possibly the question: "Where was Moses...?"
We sometimes imagine that because Moses received the commandments from God on the mountain that this encounter was somehow negative and severe. The first words God speaks to Moses are about love and compassion for his people. And the commandments are not meant to make life difficult for us, but to give us common sense advice on how to live together, otherwise there would be anarchy and even more sadness and pain.
Moses often encountered God in the wilderness and up the mountain. That's why it's good on a retreat to find a special place in the house or outside where you can be more open to God's presence and what he is saying to you. This can also apply at home, even if it is just a corner of a room or a special chair. When Moses came down from the mountain with the tablets of the covenant/ten commandments, these were placed in a tent outside the camp. It was called the Tent of Meetings, because that's when Moses went to encounter God. When he came out from speaking to God as one speaks to a friend his face was so radiant that others were afraid to look at him.
In the afternoon everyone went to Chester. The highlights were rowing on the river, visiting the Cathedral, the Walls, the Roman remains, shopping. We had a quieter Mass later in the evening in the gathering dusk to the twinkling of candles.
July 28 - Thursday
WAYS OF OPENING UP TO OURSELVES AND GOD
Over the week there was the possibility of different ways of praying and reflecting and encountering God and ourselves. We are all different. Some things suit some people better. These were a few of the things on offer:
In the evenings some had been going into the village to test out the pubs. Our final evening we decided not to have a party in (last night we had had an impromptu sing along and a demonstration of salsa and a few other dances), but to use the room at the back of the Red Lion, where the North West have their parties. Chris had prepared a quiz. The CD packed up and we ended up back in the bar. Not sure whether that was because people wanted to play darts again, or because the local fire brigade volunteers turned up at the pub. Work it out for yourself.
July 29 - Friday
REVIEW OF WEEK. CRYING AT MASS.
At the beginning of the week I wondered how I would be able to cope with seeing people individually. How many would want the chance to chat and how often? I made half a dozen slots of 20 minutes available each morning and afternoon. In the end I saw about five people a day, but some up to an hour if the following slots had not been ticked. Not only did I survive, but I found it a great privilege to be able to share in people's lives and in their journey through the retreat. Fr Michael Walshe, our Provincial Superior, was also available for confession, and did good business. There were various jokes and comments going around like: "Poor Hugh, how does he cope with listening to all our worries. He'll be slitting his throat."
When we met as a group to reflect on how the week had gone the big complaint was: "Too short. We need more days next year. We're just settling in. We could do with more of this." Next year we are booked in for another 5 days, but this time over a weekend so we don't need to take so much time off work Thursday to Monday. I don't think we can extend it. Better also to have them going away wanting more. People liked that they were free to come to prayers or reflections if they wanted. Those who were looking for a quieter time were not put off by those who were looking for more of a holiday, and vice versa. Other big pluses were: "Location, location, location." St Joseph's Centre is in such a lovely spot with so much nearby. The food was better than 5 star. The beautiful garden with donkeys, rabbits, hares, squirrels. No one saw the fox or the badger. A big thanks to Rebecca for the musical accompaniment and songs in the chapel. Book up early for next year. It was a good idea insisting that everyone be there for the full week because even though we were so different in character we built up a great sense of community as the week went on.
At the beginning of the final Mass today I invited everyone to come and light their individual candle and place it on the altar. They could say something or explain their artwork which was laid out at the front. Someone chose to say a word of thanks for the journey through bereavement they had made over the week. (This had been the main question for a few others). I'm telling something of her journey because she hopes to write it out for the diary. Her father had died 10 years ago and since then she could no longer believe in heaven, and it was an almost daily pain for her. She couldn't speak for crying, but more joy than pain. Coming on the retreat she didn't want to think about it, but it inevitably came up. As the week went on and she talked about it the pain began to clear and she eventually became convinced that there was a heaven and her father was there, that it was not something she believed but something she knew.
We were all moved by her words and tears. Today was the Feast of St Martha, who with Mary and Lazarus was a close friend of Jesus. As I read the Gospel I was still feeling emotional. When it came to the part where Martha said to Jesus: "If you had been here my brother would not have died" I could not continue for wanting to cry. I had to get someone to finish the reading. Often at group Masses I've felt emotional due to the sense of togetherness etc, but I've never been near crying at Mass before. It was hard for me to speak at the sermon, but I managed to clear my throat and say "It's just because I'm tired", which wasn't true, but got a laugh and cleared the air. When it came to the sign of peace I was so embarrassed by my crying and still feeling emotional that I almost started giggling. "Oh, he's lost it completely now", they'd be thinking. Giggling is something that has happened to me at Mass before, but we'll leave that till another day.
July 30 - Saturday
DUBLIN 30S MASS AND BARBECUE
At the last AGM of the Dublin 30s it was suggested to have a mass every two or three months at the Dehonian community house, Inchicore Rd, Dublin, and to add something on to it. This evening we had a mass and barbecue. The small chapel was fuller than any previous 30s occasion. After the Gospel I said: "I'm glad to have got to this stage of the mass without crying" (see yesterday's diary). Rita, who had been at Malpas last week, was smiling and knew what I saw going to say when I was only half way through the sentence. My thoughts were again very much on bereavement, because three of the people at the mass had lost a parent in the last year. I told them what had happened at Malpas yesterday and how it had been such a big issue for others there as well.
In the second reading (Romans 8 : 35 - 39) St Paul says: "Nothing can come between us and the love of Christ, even if we are troubled or worried or being persecuted, etc.... neither death nor life.... nothing that exists, nothing still to come can ever come between us and the love of God."
We know that what St Paul says is not always true for ourselves, because there are times when we see things coming in between us and God, and we feel ourselves being separated from Christ's love. Bereavement is one of the main things that can undermine our confidence in God. How highly would we score God for all the good things he has given us and the beauty of his creation, 7, 8, 9, 9.99 out of 10. If people hold back from giving him full marks it is usually because of pain and death and suffering. But how many points do we take off for that when there are millions of other good points where God does so brilliantly. And if those are the only things that he "seems" to have got wrong, maybe he's right on those as well, but we just can't see it or accept it. If we have been bereaved recently it is not easy, even though for many people a death is the way for them to find God in a deeper way. If we are not feeling particularly bad at the moment about things let's re-affirm that we are not going to let anything come between us and God's love. Let's think of the worst thing that could happen to us and say: "God, I will still accept that you love me." It might not be easy at the time when things go wrong, but preparing ourselves now can help.
The barbecue went with a swing. The weather was not great, but we managed to stay outside. There was more than enough to eat. When the tables were cleared there was even dancing outside the back door till 11 0' clock, but I didn't even join in the conga. What the neighbours thought after having the Sacred Heart Fathers living so quietly beside them for 25 years we can only guess. But the community was glad to have us and chatted away. Fr John even suggested we come for a party at Christmas. Our next event will be a mass with a questions and answers session after. As someone said: "If the other groups can get asking Hugh all the difficult questions, why can't we?"
July 31 - Sunday
BOMBS IN LONDON AND ELSEWHERE
At the Dublin 30s Mass and Barbecue yesterday Hilary gave me this poem/prayer that had been inspired by the bombings in London and elsewhere.
Father forgive them because they know not what they do (by Hilary Ryan)
Father forgive them because they know not what they do
Terrorising London, Bali, Egypt, Madrid and many other places too,
Satanic acts of devastation
Chilling plans to self destruct,
Heinous crimes against humanity
The very opposite of brotherly love.
The intelligence looks for leads, or for any possible clue,
Father forgive them for they know not what they do.
Indiscriminate and senseless killings
Causing immeasurable grief and pain
The destruction of the innocent has been their evil way.
The calm emergency response contrasts the shock and tears in sad refrain
No motive can be good enough that takes a human life
That causes such misery and heartache and ongoing mental strife.
Not only do adults suffer but also children too,
Father forgive them for they know not what they do.
The greatest insult to our Creator
Is to take a human life.
Have you not hear His call for love?
Terrorists will pay a heavy price
There must be atonement
It just can't go on this way.
We all know about our Judgement
God will have the final say.
As Jesus died upon the cross
He said these words to me and you,
Father forgive them for they know not what they do.
RECEIVING THE DIARY BY EMAIL
If you would like to receive this diary once a week by email send ‘SUBSCRIBE ME TO THE DIARY’ to email@example.com