June 1 - Wednesday
WRITE SOMETHING FOR THIS WEB DIARY
Why not write something for the web diary? Last year when I went on holiday we had a good selection of contributions from the group to fill in the diary while I was away. People appreciate and enjoy the writings that come from others in the group, so why not send in something this year. It can be something you have written yourself or something interesting you have seen. And it will be read. The web page gets over 300 visits a month, plus 18 who receive the diary every week by email.
This summer I am doing a week’s retreat from 10-17 June, then going on holiday at the end of June. So we are looking for quite a few contributions. They can be as long or as short as you want, on any subject that interests you and would interest others. Here are some suggestions:
Send your contribution as soon as possible to firstname.lastname@example.org. under the subject “Summer Diary”. Send it also as an attachment as it is easier to upload. Say how you want to be known, full name or initials, your group, or just anonymous. We are also happy to post your writings and contributions at any time during the year.
June 2 – Thursday
LESSONS FROM THE MONASTERY
People keep talking to me about the BBC 2 programme where 5 men lived in a monastery for 5 weeks. Why doesn’t the group do something like that, they ask. Well, we have our holiday retreat at Malpas 25-30 June.
Someone showed me a copy of this editorial that appeared in The Tablet last week about “The Monastery”. It mentions the small communities which Cardinal Murphy O’Connor is trying to set up. Someone else wrote to say that our groups were already along the same lines as the Cardinal is suggesting.
The picture of declining church attendance and falling numbers of priests that has characterised Catholicism in most Western countries in recent years is at odds with the extraordinary international response to the death of Pope John Paul II, in the media, in the huge surge of pilgrims that flocked to Rome and, not least, in the thoughts and feelings of millions of ordinary people. It was undoubtedly the transparent yet profound spirituality of Pope John Paul rather than the doctrines he taught that caught the headlines and drew crowds to his funeral. The Church continues to digest the meaning of this response, to see whether, by adjusting its tactics and strategy, it might capitalise on this vast display of interest, the better to promote the Gospel.
is not entirely disconnected from a remarkable three-part television programme,
the last part of which was broadcast by the BBC this week, which followed the
experiences of five typical modern men, none of them Catholic, who spent several
weeks as guests of the Benedictine monks of Worth Abbey in Sussex. Under the
wise influence of the Rule of St Benedict and the gentle and sensitive handling
of the monks, all five reported rather against their expectations that they had
benefited profoundly. One at least had felt a life-changing moment, as his
subsequent personal history has shown.
was not spirituality without religion, which the modern age seems to think might
be the answer to its needs, but religion serving the purposes of
spirituality. The men were invited to dig deep within themselves, not asked to
accept a heap of doctrine from outside. But without the doctrine, as the viewer
was well able to understand, there would have been no monks, no monastery, and
hence no journey of interior discovery – and no television programme to
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor mentioned the television series in a lecture he gave this week, saying that the young men involved “were overwhelmed by the sense of being accepted for who they were, yet at the same time grateful to be challenged to be much more than who they were”. Hence they were illustrations of the challenge the Church faces in modern society. The need is there; indeed the absence of and search for spirituality is a central ingredient of modern European angst. The cardinal’s solution in his own diocese of Westminster is to promote the idea of small worshipping communities linked together, so that a parish becomes a community of communities.
June 3 - Friday
FEAST OF THE SACRED HEART. RENEWAL OF VOWS.
Today at the midday Mass as a Community we renewed our vows for our Patronal Feast, the Sacred Heart. As religious we take temporary vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for a year after our novitiate. These are renewed yearly for between 3 to 9 years (usually about 5 years) before taking Final Vows for life. We are four priests in the community here at Stockport. This was the formula we used today for the renewal:
Annual Renewal of Vows
Father in heaven, today we recall with deep gratitude that you have called us to serve you as Religious.
Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit you have enabled us to answer your call by the total consecration of ourselves to you in this Society.
Conscious of our weakness and failings yet aware of your constant grace, we wish to renew our commitment to you and rekindle our desire to serve you in all things.
United in heart and mind, we now renew our vows of poverty, chastity and obedience so that we may grow in perfect charity.
We renew our loyalty to our Society and ask that, as we draw closer to your Son's Heart, we may offer ourselves with generous love to your holy will.
May the spirit of love and reparation which so inspired Leo Dehon, inspire us also in our love for you and for everyone.
In union with the Heart of Jesus and in the spirit of our Society we express our renewed dedication: Here we are Lord, we come to do your will.
We offer you, O Lord, our lives and our work, however poor and unworthy they may be.
May the joys and sorrows we share unite us in love for you and for each other.
May this re-dedication of ourselves renew within us the life of Christ and, through the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, may we be Prophets of Love to all people. Amen.
June 4 - Saturday
ALL NIGHT VIGIL. A FOOTBALL FORUM.
It's unusual to have a 'free' weekend. Originally we had been planning an all-night vigil for the group here in the parish to follow on from the special Mass we had last night to celebrate the beatification of our Founder, Leo Dehon. The beatification was cancelled because of the death of the Pope. We hope it might now take place in October. The new Pope has said that he will go back to the old custom and not do beatifications himself. I said this to someone who had been in Rome in April, but she still said she would be keen to go out there again for it. The dark and cold of October might not be the best time for an all-night vigil. Yesterday I was regretting not going ahead with it anyway. How many would have come is another matter, though someone did ask last week: "What happened to that vigil?"
This weekend there is a main event on at Cambridge. I had already said to Chris that I couldn't be there. We try to stay in community for our special Feastday and I didn't fancy travelling down today to come back tomorrow. And I'd already decided that I wouldn't necessarily go to all the main events this year. Gave Chris a ring this morning to see how they were doing. Some of them were on a walk along the river to Grantchester, then they were going punting this afternoon. Sounds all very civilised. Most of the people are from in and around London, though 5 have gone down from the North-West.
With the extra time available this weekend decided to do my monthly web discussion on the Radio 5 site. Couldn't think of a religious topic that would get me and others going, so decided to indulge myself with football fantasy. This was the question I posed. More responses tomorrow.
Title: LET'S CHANGE SOME RULES IN FOOTBALL
The rules of football were made up 150 years ago for 15 year old, 5 foot, unfit
boys, so why not a few changes to make it more interesting: - make the goals
bigger and give us more goals. Even an extra foot each way would give us a goal
every time the ball hits the woodwork now and the commentator shouts out: 'It
deserved a goal.'
do away with offside except when someone has been blatantly waiting in an
offside position. Make it so that when a team is attacking you cannot run
change the penalty spot to a penalty line 2 metres long so you don't get the
area around the spot softened up, as Beckham, Sutton and many others have
have some penalties taken from the 18 yard line when the foul was not in a
goal-scoring situation. This would also be better for shoot-outs, making them
more of a football challenge than a lottery.
goal-kicks should be taken within 10 seconds of the ball being returned to the
penalty area. Teams that are winning are taking 25-30 seconds to get the ball
back into play.
the ref should be able to stop play when a player is obviously injured and not
have to wait until the ball is kicked out.
This was how I started the discussion on the web forum. Responses in tomorrow’s diary.
|It was agreed that Celia in the Project 2030 Office could send out
reminder emails about events with more details if the organiser of the event
The 20s group
Some people in their thirties are still
attending 20s events. Hugh expressed concern that this would discourage people
in their early twenties from attending regularly, and this is an age group that
Hugh feels we still need to attract more of. Two possible solutions were
discussed: starting an under 25s group, or being stricter about age limits
within the groups. It was agreed that:
Joint events between the 20s and 30s should be organised primarily by the 30s group. They are willing to do this. This does not prevent the 20s from taking the initiative to organise joint events if they want to.
Although the 20s group is grateful for the work that some people in their early 30s do to organise events, it was recognised that people in their twenties should take more responsibility for this.
While no-one should be forced to move on to the 30s group, think tank meetings and review meetings for the twenties group should only be attended by people in their twenties, so that they take ownership of the group.
We need to encourage more people under 25 to come, and devise ways of
doing this. Perhaps we need to arrange specific events?
There is a ‘What Next?’ event being organised at Malpas 20 – 23
June to attract especially university leavers.
This is open to other people in their 20s as well (see Main Events
This was a success, even though only 8
people came. The location could
have been a factor, as it was not held in London.
Hugh will continue separate retreats for the groups.
There was a consensus that spiritual events
like masses, discussions, etc were very important to the identity and purpose of
the group, and that perhaps more were needed. The possibility of reintroducing
the Taize mass was discussed, but it was agreed that Mass would need to be
earlier in the evening rather than later. We could organise more talks.
Hugh suggested that members give some talks as well about their personal
experience of life and faith. Catherine will find out what sort of events
|A standard talk is almost ready to publicise the groups in parishes.
|It was agreed that think tank meetings should be held twice a year.
|Helen commented on how good the newsletter and range of events had
been recently. James, Hans and Hugh were thanked for their ongoing support
and hard work. |
LONDON 30s ANNUAL REVIEW
MEETING ON SUNDAY 17 APRIL
summary of the things we discussed:
Two Social Events at the same time.
At the Annual
Review Meeting we agreed to try and avoid
clashes of social events. We know there may be occasions where we can run more
than one event but we have agreed to try and avoid clashes in order to try and
encourage good turnouts at each social
event. If people
want to organise Social
Events at Short Notice (including
the occasional birthday
dos or parties) we will actively encourage
them to try and arrange them
around the Pre-Arranged Events already on the programme.
NB: Before the meeting Matt obtained feedback from several members on this issue. Most, but not all, members felt it was best to avoid clashes of social events where possible.
2. Advertising Events by other Catholic groups.
As a number of
Project 2030 members said that they would like
us to advertise a few social and spiritual events put on by other groups
it was decided that we will advertise some from
time to time as long as
they are in keeping with the Project 2030 ethos.
We haven't put a limit on
how many we advertise. We'll just play things by
ear and see how things
go. It may just be one a quarter, it could be more
or less. If
more people are
asking if they can organise events in-house there
will be less room to do
this. In contrast, we are well
aware that we must
not over advertise them
otherwise Project 2030 could
lose its own identity.
If other groups’ events are
advertised there must be a named contact from the group going to the event
so people in Project 2030 have a point of contact.
This is very important
NB: It was accepted that Michael and Matt are often placed in a difficult position of deciding what to advertise and what
not to advertise. If they are not sure what to do they will consult Fr Hugh.
3. Advertising Events by Non-Catholic groups.
People were generally less favourable to this because most seem to want Project 2030 to maintain its identity as a group
for "Catholics" as Catholics are in a minority in this country. However, it was agreed that we will experiment with advertising one or two events with non-Catholics throughout the year as Michael Carson and Clare Corcoran successfully argued the case that it is not bad to do this in the interests of Christian Unity. Christian Unity week in January would be one ideal time to do this, but we may get other opportunities as well. We will play things by ear and consult Fr Hugh if necessary.
4. Support of the 30s group for the 20s group.
At the meeting it was accepted that whatever line we take on age we can't please everybody. So we decided to continue with a flexible age policy, i.e. having some 20s only events, some 30s only events and some joint 20s & 30s events. From the feedback we've received, people seemed quite happy with the current arrangement of having one joint 20s / 30s event per month and allowing the 20s and 30s to do their own thing the rest of the time. We agreed with Fr Hugh that it was a good idea to encourage those under the age of 30 to take control of the 20s group and to encourage the 20s group not to become too dependent on the 30s group.
There has been very positive feedback to the Alpha course and the BESOM charity work day. Michael Carson suggested that a logical step after Alpha was to have a weekday ‘home group’ in More House. If you are interested in this please contact him.
We didn’t get
round to discussing the Advent and Lenten retreats but may do so at the next
Think Tank meeting.
2030 website: A new website is
Poster: An advertising poster is
being developed that can be placed permanently at churches to promote the
Events: It was agreed that emailing
once a week was fine. No emails
will be sent out if there are no Short Notice Events to advertise.
Advertising events in Local Areas was also raised at the meeting. We will talk more about this at the next Think Tank meeting. We have advertised events in Local Areas before so there is scope to do this from time to time, e.g. meals in Harrow and Croydon. If meals were at the opposite end of town it was felt that it would be possible to advertise two at the same time.
We received this letter from Jessica Faleiro (London 20s) who has been doing some voluntary work in Goa, India:
I’ve been here for over a
month now, after leaving the UK temporarily for a career break to do some
voluntary work. With no definite
idea of what kind of work I wanted to do or which organization to work with, I
arrived with only the thought in my head that I wanted to help somehow and learn
in the process.
After much prayer, I
eventually followed a trail of people and events that led me to a very warm
conversation with the director of ‘Jan Ugahi’, an organization that works to
protect women and children’s rights in Goa.
‘Jan Ugahi’, in Hindi, means ‘People’s Awareness.’
It amazes me to see what the organization manages to accomplish with only
a few resources and limited funding. Here
is a description of a few of their programmes.
|Non-formal Education for street/working children|
|National Open School for dropouts |
|Training in leadership & social awareness for
|Organising street/working children on child
labour & abuse issues, education, vocational training, shelter,
|Responding to the needs of children in distress
& in crisis|
|Tourism related child sexual abuse: investigation
& intervention with respect to issues of paedophilia and trafficking|
|Adult literary classes given at the Jan Ugahi
centre or at slums|
|Support and short stay shelter for abandoned
women or victims of domestic violence |
|Day-care centre for street children|
|Reproductive Health & Fertility Awareness,
including related women’s rights issues for adolescent girls.
|Promotion of self-help groups for women for
vocational training and income generation for example.
I have been helping the
director put together informational content about the organisation into a web
friendly format so that they can create a website. I’ll also be trained to give presentations to secondary
school children about child sex abuse, so that they can be aware of this growing
problem and protect themselves better.
There is much work to be done
in developing countries. But it
strikes me that so much can get done with individual dedication and commitment.
Volunteers can easily be a part of that process.
It will take:
|Saving some money|
|Planning your break ie dates, amount of time,
|A little bit of asking around to pin-point a
location and an organisation you’d like to help|
People are always willing to
help if asked for information. Parish
priests and volunteering websites are a-plenty when you are looking for
opportunities whether in the UK or abroad.
And the experience you pick up can always add another skill on your
curriculum vitae. Who knows what
you might find waiting for you as a volunteer!
If anyone has any questions
about my personal volunteering experience, please contact Hugh for my email
address or if you’d like to see my blog, check out: http://goatourism.blogspot.com
Until we meet again on my
return to the UK in September,
Jessica Faleiro (London 20s)
MY EXPERIENCES IN ROME - BY ELAINE TESTO (NW 30S)
This is the first part of Elaine's article.
I arrived at Rome Ciampino Airport on 21st April 2005. We decided to take a taxi to our hotel from the airport. I noticed during this journey the amount of buildings whose exteriors were covered in graffiti. Well graffiti is an Italian word and I guess it certainly is a way that the Italians express themselves. It’s an Italian form of art! Some of the graffiti is quite artistic and impressive whereas some looks like your usual mess in the UK.
I noticed that the taxi which travelled in was quite a versatile multi purpose vehicle with what appeared to be interchangeable seating arrangements so they could add or remove seats as and when required. Quite different to the UK Hackney cabs with a large seat for 3 and two spare fold down seats. The taxi also had no seatbelts whereas taxis here all have seatbelts for passengers. Due to UK law I found myself automatically searching for a non-existent seatbelt. Is this a sign that we have been so conditioned by our UK laws? I guess as yet Rome does not have a seatbelt law in existence.
Upon arrival at the Tres Stellas Hotel I discovered that the key to the lock of my suitcase was missing. It wasn’t in my handbag where I had expected it to be. I eventually forced the lock on my suitcase. Upon opening the suitcase I found the key. Yes there it was lying on top of my clothes inside my suitcase. I had only gone and locked my key in my suitcase when I was packing it back at home!!!
During my stay I soon began to realise that crossing roads in Rome is like playing a game of chance with your life – quite seriously. Italians don’t bother with Pelican crossings, they just walk out into the road in front of oncoming traffic as though they have a death wish!!! If a car is coming towards them they never run back, they just keep moving. Apparently to run back is more dangerous than to carry on forwards as it would be too confusing to the Italian drivers!!! It is alleged you are more likely to get run over if you try to run back the way you have just come!!! It seems the Italian drivers must have built in sensors and know exactly when to stop for pedestrians!!! Italian pedestrians seem to put their lives in the hands of Italians drivers quite literally. Personally I found crossing the roads in Rome quite a terrifying experience.
Like in many cities Rome has it’s share of poverty. This was evident by the amount of beggars on the streets and people sleeping in cardboard boxes on marble steps of Church buildings etc. On a couple of mornings I was up very early in order to travel to various places and would see the people sleeping in the cardboard boxes from the buses.
One evening I noticed a particular beggar who had very twisted and deformed limbs and his only form of mobility was to propel himself on a skateboard. He basically had the skateboard under his stomach and used his right arm on which he was wearing an old tatty brown boot to propel himself along the street. He looked a sorry sight and it broke my heart to see this poor bloke living his life in this way. This bloke will probably never get the help he needs to live a comfortable and reasonable life and will no doubt end his days on the skateboard in the street, it is so disheartening.
There are a lot of Police in the Rome. I never saw any of the Police in action though. I am sure they just pose in the street modelling their uniforms – well that’s my theory anyway!!! There are various types of Police. The airport in particular is guarded by the Military Police dressed in green combat style with very large guns. It almost feels intimidating to come face to face with Military Police with their large guns. But then I noticed that in Rome there are various types of Police. There was the Polizia in their navy jackets, grey trousers and white utility belts complete with handguns. Then there was the Carabinieri in their black jackets with white trims, black trousers with distinctive single red stripes down the outside of the legs and white or black utility belts. I think these also had handguns. The Vatican is guarded by the Swiss Guards in their splendid and very distinctive blue, yellow and red striped uniforms with navy berets which makes them look quite theatrical. By tradition the Swiss guards don’t have guns as the Vatican does not approved of the Pope being protected by guns and prefers that they should only be protected by the use of fists so to speak.
On the day I was returning to UK I thought I was being arrested by the Police at the airport. I had checked in my main bag at the check-in point and then proceeded to go through the Customs security checks and passport control etc. I removed my belt and jewellery and placed them in the plastic tray and placed that along with my small handbag and hand luggage bag onto the conveyor belt in order for them to pass through the scanner. After my bags passed through the scanner I noticed the Customs Officers faces seem to change and I just knew instinctively that they were going to question the contents of my luggage. I was asked buy these Officers to step to one side and my heart started beating like a djembe. These Officers seemed harsh, mean and severe in their attitudes, their expressions seemed to say don’t mess me or else!!! An Officer then spoke to me in broken English, “We think you have penknife in the bag.” I had genuinely and totally forgotten about a penknife I had bought when I visited the Vatican. I had bought it on the spur of the moment as I had something I needed to cut and then completely forgot all about it. When the Officer told me I had a penknife I then remembered about buying it and I rummaged through my luggage and found it. I started panicking then thinking that I was going to get arrested for carrying a knife at the Airport. I showed the Officer the knife and he said “You have 2 options, either put the knife in your hand luggage bag and return to the check-in point to check your bag in at the check-in or surrender the penknife to us. As I didn’t fancy missing my plane home for the sake of knife which cost about 50p I decided it was easier to surrender the knife to the Officers. At first the language barrier proved difficult because I kept saying “I will leave the knife” and I think they probably only understood the ‘leave the knife’ part of the sentence and assumed I was arguing that I wanted to keep my knife when in fact I was telling them to keep the knife. Eventually I said “I don’t want to keep the knife you may take the knife off me.” At last I was understood. They seized the knife from me and let me through Customs. That was one nasty horrible moment I that do not wish be subjected to ever again if possible!!! Although I know that these Officers were only doing their job they certainly put the fear of God up me!!!
REPORT ON WEEK'S RETREAT
Apologies to regular readers and those who get the diary by email. There was quite a bit of a gap there. Normally we are very good at orchestrating the posting of this web page, but with my comings and goings on retreat and holiday we didn't twig to the significance of the person who types the diary going away for a ten day break the day I finished my retreat, and coming back the day I go on holiday. But we're catching up, and they added on a few contributions that had been sent in to take us up to yesterday.
My retreat went well. We'll publish a few bits and pieces from it over the holidays. Usually on the first day of a retreat you think how lucky you are to have to do a week's retreat each year. You could almost be embarrassed at the luxury of it, but there is no such thing as a free lunch. After a few days the issues start to rise and you have to face up to yourself. The first day we are usually advised to relax a bit and unwind, to let things get out of your system. But after that it can be quite challenging and tiring because you are opening parts of your brain and yourself which normally don't get used as much.
My director was Renate, a Dominican Sister from Germany who was a missionary in Zimbabwe. The idea is that you see your director once a day for about 40 minutes to talk about how you've got on, especially what has surfaced when you have been praying or meditating on the Bible, or just going along. Normally the times I see the director have not been my favourite times in retreat. I want to share, but I'm not sure that the other person is interested. I've realised much of that is because 'one-to-one' is my least instinct. I am more of a group person and will open up more easily the more people there are around, or tell the world in a web page. But I found Sr Renate easy to talk to and she was very good at picking up what was significant in what I had said without following her own agenda.
Renate got more excited than me and saw more significance for me in my seeing a falcon in similar circumstances to what inspired Gerard Manley Hopkins to write one of his most famous poems. GMH was a Jesuit priest who was a student at St Beuno's in the 1870s. His poems were not published until after his death when he became very famous for his daring and innovative style. The poem was called 'The Windhover'. He marvelled at how the falcon hovered in the wind then fought against it. For him it was an image of Christ. When I saw the falcon it was mostly annoying the rooks and running away from them, using all its skills of ducking and diving. The poem, which can be found in the Breviary, starts:
"I caught this morning morning's minion, king -
dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-down-drawn Falcon in his riding
of the rolling level underneath him steady air...."
MASS IN LONDON - WHAT NEXT?
On my way back up from London. Last night said Mass for a group of those who did the Alpha course earlier in the year and who have decided to meet up every Tuesday evening at More House. Usually someone gives a short talk/input, there's a discussion plus prayer and a few hymns (Sr Francoise even lets Colin play the grand piano that is normally reserved for students at the Academy, as Mariano once found out the hard way).
We were just about to start the Mass when my mobile alarm went off as a reminder about the 8.30 pm prayer, so we prayed for everyone in the group, especially those who were with us in spirit at 20.30. Beatrix was there, so I said the Mass for her brother who had died in France a few weeks ago, and for herself and the family.
I spoke about some of the history of the group, how I didn't begin with any spiritual programme but was happy to wait and see what if anything would develop from the grass roots. At first people just wanted to do the walks and meals and evenings out, etc, but then eventually people suggested a Mass or retreat. We are grateful to Michael for all his spiritual and practical initiatives. It's important that others feel they can come forward with other ideas to help us in our life and faith. There was plenty of interest in the idea of having a day on "Where do we go from here?" in London and inviting Martin from Glasgow to speak on the topics that came up at the "Growing in Community" weekend in February. We are also likely to run another Alpha course in London and advertise in the parishes.
This week I should really be at Malpas for the "What Next?" designed for university leavers, but that was cancelled due to lack of interest. Was it the wrong idea, or the right idea at the wrong time? Maybe graduates, having spent three years in the hothouse of the university don't want to spend precious days sitting around reflecting on their navels when they could be out there on holiday, getting a job or just recovering from their finals. We publicised twice through 83 university chaplaincies. We'll get back on to the Chaplains and see where we went wrong. We'll likely try something again next year. Failures have turned to success before. The first time we tried to go to Iona and the first Holy Week at Malpas had to be cancelled due to lack of interest, and they are now two of the highlights of the main events.
A PAINTING BY KIEGER SODEL
During my retreat last week Sr Renate asked me to meditate on a work of art that I had to pick myself. I chose a painting by Kieger Sodel, a German priest, whose paintings have become famous and can now be found in posters in Catholic bookshops. The painting shows Jesus having a "Meal with Sinners" which is styled like the Last Supper. It made me identify with Christ in terms of priesthood. This is what I wrote the next day as I tried to get back in touch with the image of the people at table and what is said about my life now.
"Here is my body", I try to say,
but have I the courage to struggle on?
How do I know your will,
how do I know this is what you want?
Your children wander in desolate wastes
looking for the water of life.
How can I bring it to them
when I have so little energy and insight,
when my mission is unclear and misunderstood?
Our time is short in this passing world,
we can do but little, less on our own.
With you I can move mountains,
restore your people to a former faith,
help them rediscover the beauty of your love.
"Take my yoke upon your shoulders", you say.
"Learn to be meek and gentle of heart,
innocent as a dove, yet cunning like vipers.
Think in eternity, one day at a time,
each beating moment of hearts that love.
Be not afraid to speak for what is right,
be not too great to think you could be wrong.
Do not stand back as people lose their way,
do not jump in to pull the weeds astray.
This is my creation you are wandering through,
these are my people searching for the true.
Know that I would walk among their hearts
to spread forgiveness and its fresher starts.
Do you want to come and share my way
or wait you for another and a different day?"
MORE ON "THE MEAL WITH SINNERS"
In an Ignatian retreat if something touches you then you are encouraged to go back and spend more time praying over it. This happened to me with the picture by Kieger Sodel. This is what I wrote about it the following day. This time I was not identifying with Jesus as the priest saying mass, but I was one of the sinners around the table looking at Jesus as he "broke the bread".
"I am here for you" he said
as he looked at me with loving tender eyes.
In that moment I knew I was healed
of all my hurt and pain and sin.
You asked me to come here for bread and wine.
Again I expected cold stones and old vinegar
like you always get.
But you gave me more, you gave me of yourself.
The others too, they brought their brokenness
and I can feel it in their hearts, their peace.
They are no longer here. It's just as if
there are only two of us in the wide world
and you invite me closer to your dearest heart
to be one in total union and possession,
the blurring of edges, the melding of memories,
the ecstacy of losing self and falling deeper
where blood and water flow and blend as one.
I wake from my dream as I hear you say
"Eat the bread. Drink the wine. This is me,
this is my way to be one with you
to rule your life with love and love
and bring you to your deepest self
where my spirit and your spirit live as one.
Share your food, your hearts with one another.
May you be one as we are one and I am one with all
and with my Father, God, and all that lives.
We came from one, to one we shall return,
when everything is taken up in glory
and God is all in all,
yet you are you
and all shall live
PRAYING WITH AN ART IMAGE
If you like the idea of praying with an art image, why not try it? You must have something in the house. What, you have no religious images around? It doesn't need to be something obviously spiritual. God can touch our spirit in all kinds of ways with all kinds of things. Let's know how you get on. The instructions are below. You don't need to follow them too closely. What matters is opening your heart to the presence of God.
Allow yourself to be drawn into this experience with an open heart. Find a space where you can be alone and find a 'chair' to sit on. Find a place for the postcard image within your space. Allow yourself to be invited into the mystery it might 'hold' for you - at this time.
Look at the image. Let go of other images in and around you. See the image and reverence the artist who made it. Listen to colours, lines, forms, and possible texture. Watch the movement, the stillness, the opposites and the contrasts. Find resting places in it. Commit the image to memory, 'learn it off by heart' - as it were. Whenever your attention strays, quietly return to the image.
Invite the 'memorised' image to a place deep within you. Stay with what most 'affects' you or invites you. Let it deeply enter your awareness. Let what draws you most in the image be 'laid bare' for God to enter. Let God visit you. let your 'real self'' make conversation with the 'real God'.
Then let go of the inner image. See the postcard image in front of you. What do you notice? What is 'lit up'? Reverence that space. Let is suggest a mantra - perhaps like: "Silence is passionate", or "The ordinary is translucent with God", or "You have laid your hand upon me".
Gently withdraw from the image. Consciously step out of this experience and choose whichever ritual might be helpful.
What has become visible? What do you need to revisit?
An Opportunity to Explore the Meaning of Life - Mary Darby (London 30s)
"Looking for answers? The Alpha course is an
opportunity for anyone to explore the Christian faith”.
Towards the beginning of the year a number of us from the London group
took this opportunity. Alpha explores questions many of us have, or have had at some
stage in lives about Jesus, our faith and its relevance.
Questions such as ‘How?’, ‘Why’ and ‘How do you know?’,
‘What proof do we have?’ and ‘Where can I find out more?’.
As a course, Alpha has had world wide success.
I first attended an Alpha course when it was reaching widespread
popularity in the UK. I was
intrigued as I had never heard of a course before which promised to offer
anything quite like it. I wasn’t
disappointed. I was surprised by
how many fundamental things about the Christian Faith really struck me.
Alpha provides an opportunity to think about basic Christian values and
their relevance in modern life.
The Alpha course which Michael Carson ran for the
London group followed the usual format of Alpha courses worldwide.
There was a social element, talk and group discussion.
The course was held on a Sunday afternoon.
Each week we brought along food to share.
This was an opportunity to catch up with one another on the week’s
events. It was also a great way to
meet new people.
Each week there was a different question such as
‘Who is Jesus?’, ‘Why did Jesus die?’ and ‘Why and How Do I Pray?’.
These questions formed the basis of the talk and group discussion. One
Sunday a whole day was devoted to the ‘Holy Spirit’ which Father Hugh came
down to London for and said Mass. We
had a number of talks and discussions that day.
I certainly left with a greater understanding of the work and power of
the Holy Spirit.
Each week someone gave a talk. Alpha talks generally
follow an existing style and structure. Our group talks typically followed this.
They drew on the relevance of Christianity to today’s world,
individual’s life experiences and were delivered with sensitivity and at
times, humour. They were also
really interesting and very well prepared by all the individuals concerned.
The group discussions were very relaxed and
informal. These weekly discussions
gave the course a very personal element as people shared their thoughts and
experiences on the questions raised in the talks. Each Alpha course is unique
due to the people who attend it. As
you listen to others you really can learn more about your faith.
Someone can offer a new perspective on an existing situation or give
their thought on a topic which can suddenly make a familiar situation appear
The London Project2030 Alpha course was extremely
enjoyable. Thanks to Michael,
Father Hugh and all those who put in the hard work and effort in organising.
There is an Alpha course website http://alphacourse.org/.
Nicky Gumbel’s book ‘Questions of Life’ covers a lot of the Alpha course material. I can recommend it and believe it is written in a very readable style.
COMMUNITY EMAIL GROUP
This is the first email from Martin to the 13 of us
on the new community email group.
Finally have got ‘round to kicking off the
e-mail discussion on community. Thanks to everyone for expressing an interest.
As things stand, there are fourteen of us who want to be included in the
discussion. I think that most are drawn from the Glasgow, London and North West
groups and include those of us who are really keen on the possibility of living
together in community and also a few who perhaps are curious and/or
who want to be part of the discussion. If people know of others who wish to be
included, do let me know. The more the merrier.
The idea I guess is to share ideas and begin
to plot a way forward. Hopefully we should get a good exchange of ideas through
people sending their contributions to the 14 addresses above.
Thus far, I've spoken to a handful of people
from the Glasgow and North West groups who have shown an interest in the idea
and there is some agreement as to what it might involve and how it might best
work. Hugh is also very keen to support the idea and has offered to approach the
Archbishop in Glasgow to enquire into the possibility of accessing a property
(perhaps a vacant presbytery) for us to use. He has also, however, indicated
that we perhaps need to be clearer about how it would work before he makes this
approach (Hugh, I hear St Columba’s presbytery in Maryhill is lying vacant!)
I think there’s a certain degree of
consensus among some of those I’ve chatted to around things that might
be important in a community setting – opportunities for communal prayer, ops
to share a meal together, that those living in community be fairly independent
individuals and so on. There are of course lots of other thoughts and ideas
around how it might go and there are lots of questions too – what’s the
criteria for joining? Would it be like flat sharing or is there a form of
commitment to each other required? Would the community take on any work? Would
praying together / eating together etc. be optional or obligatory/expected?
Hopefully you will share some of your own thoughts about these kind of issues in
using this e-mail group.
Just to kick off with one of mine, I chatted
to Hugh a few weeks ago in Dublin about the possibility of using the Lodge down
at Smithstone House (the Dehonians’ Scottish House of Prayer and Spirituality)
for a weekend or week for the interested Scots to experience living together
albeit briefly. It might throw up some issues to look at like the importance of
me not leaving my socks lying around and other stuff. Hugh seems to be very
agreeable to this kind of idea. What do you guys think? Where should we go from
Do take part and let us know yer thoughts.
Look forward to hearing from you all,
MY EXPERIENCES IN ROME - BY ELAINE TESTO (NW 30S)
This is the second part of Elaine's article.
While walking through the streets in Rome I was approached by many street hawkers. These street hawkers were very persistent and did not seem to comprehend the word ‘NO.’ They were so determined to sell merchandise to tourists that they would actually harass people to such an extent that they would buy something just to get shut of them. You could not walk down the street without having street hawkers jumping at you from all angles. These ladies would brush up against you with these scarves in a bid to make you feel the fabric as a tactic to try and sell them to you. I am not a scarf wearing person so I wouldn’t buy a scarf anyway. I overhead one girl was approached by one of these ladies who came up to her to try and sell scarves to her. The lady said “How much will you pay me for this scarf?” or words to that effect. The girl promptly replied “How much would you pay me to wear the scarf?” The lady then walked away. There were men selling bubble blowing toys, rubber/jelly style stress balls, roses etc. On the bridge over the river there were many men selling gold coloured watches, jewellery and bags in the street. One man in particular was trying to sell a fake Gucci bag to Bernie. Bernie clearly didn’t want the bag but this guy was determined to try and sell this bag to her. Bernie kept saying ‘No, I don’t want the bag.” The guy even put the bag in a carrier bag in front of her and asked for the money for the bag. She continually kept saying “I don’t wish to buy the bag, I don’t want the bag.” Fr. Hugh intervened and spoke to the man but even he had difficulty in getting this man off our backs. The man was getting quite agitated and eventually we just walked away as we felt he was not going to back down as he clearly wouldn’t take ‘NO’ for an answer.
The street hawkers swarmed around the streets. I soon learnt to avoid catching their attention/eye contact by continually keeping my sunglasses on. I also discovered this if I had my camera on view the street hawkers would attract to me like moths to a light bulb!!! I began to realise that my camera immediately signalled the green light to the street hawkers that I was a tourist. It was quite amusing when at one point I had four street hawkers approach me all at the same time. Obviously I didn’t want to make eye contact with any of them and as I couldn’t look ahead, behind, left or right I found myself looking up at the sky as there was literally nowhere else left to look!!!
One enterprising street hawker, an elderly chap came up to our table in a restaurant one night selling roses. At first we said no as we didn’t particularly want to buy any roses. He handed my friends and I a rose each and said the following which I now realise was a sales yarn that he obviously uses to make his money “You can have these roses as you English are lovely people. I lived in England a long time and the English people are lovely.” At this point you think the bloke is being friendly and is giving the roses away for free. He then produces a £1 sterling coin from his pocket and says, “Can anyone change this?” I immediately think £1 is equal to about €1.40 cents or there about. So instantly you start thinking I will see if I have got that amount of € and cents to swap him to keep him happy. However, everyone has started getting the purses/wallets out looking for the money to change this pound. Then the bloke’s attitude then changed from being pleasant to asking in quite demanding manner for the money off us for the roses. Although we didn’t particularly want to buy any roses we ended up buying some off this bloke because he wouldn’t stop hovering around our table and the only way to get him off our backs was to physically buy the roses. I must say the red rose I bought came in useful for St. Georges Day, the next morning! I wore my red rose for St. Georges Day even if did look a bit strange walking the streets wearing a rose in Rome!
One day we went to get the notorious 64 bus at the Termini. The 64 is notorious for pickpockets and sadly Catherine had had her purse taken on one of the buses. I was targeted by a pickpocket. I was sat down and Maria was stood next to me with her back against a metal bar that was next to my seat. I noticed that a scruffy elderly looking white guy with whitish hair wearing a light coloured mac got onto the bus. He was short and slight in build. I noticed in particular his hands were very small and wrinkly. My attention was immediately drawn to this bloke because he looked quite shifty. He seemed to stand out from the rest of the passengers. As I was sat down I noticed this bloke’s hand seemed to move in a sliding/slithering type of way towards where I was sitting. He appeared to look as though he was trying to grab for a metal bar to hold onto which was situated next to me but then I noticed his hand began to slide behind Maria’s back towards my bag which I was holding on to on my lap. I realised at this point that this guy was quite obviously a pickpocket and I immediately pulled my bag closer to me and tightened my grasp on the bag and placed my hand over the end of the zip. I then looked the man straight in the eyes and gave him a knowing look that I had seen him and knew exactly what he was up to. He realised then that he had been seen and immediately made his way down to the other end of the bus to get out of the way and stood by some doors ready to for a quick exit. Once he was out of earshot I told the others I about my suspicions and told them to be on their guard. This was not the same day that Catherine’s purse was unfortunately pinched.
One day we went for a bus and a bloke came up to us and said “there is a bus strike and there are no buses” and then proceeded to try and sell us some tickets for about €30 to go on his tour bus. There were no signs or anything indicating a bus strike so I was very suspicious at this point. He was trying to sell the tickets to us. I said to the others “I don’t believe there is any strike, he is simply trying to con us into buying tickets for his tour bus.” The bloke was actually quite aggressive and I didn’t like the way he approached us and the way he was speaking to us. I just said something like “Go away” and waved my arms in a clear-off type of fashion. I didn’t swear or anything. Anyway this guy told me quite clearly to get lost using very strong expletives. We all just walked away and went and got our bus. I could hear the bloke continuing to shout these expletives at us as we walked away.
Apparently buses are never considered full in Rome. People just continue to squash onto buses no matter how packed they are. I used to think the London Tube was packed but the London Tube is empty in comparison to the buses in Rome. You could actually feel the weight of people crushing your ribs as the buses were so packed. In fact at one point a lady collapsed on the bus and had to be removed by the emergency services. I assume she must have overheated with the crush on the bus. It’s a wonder that Italians don’t die of asphyxiation on their buses!
On the Saturday we did the greatest tour-de-mobile shops in search of a top-up for Fr Hugh’s phone which unfortunately had run out of credit. I lost count of the amount of mobile phone shops we visited that day but we should apply for a place in the Guinness Book of Records…!!! Eventually with no luck on finding any shop that could do a top-up Fr Hugh succumbed to buying a new mobile phone.
On the Saturday morning we went to Mass in the Crypt at the Vatican. We shared the chapel with a group of Americans. In fact on the way to Mass I somehow took a wrong turning and found myself going past all the tombs including Pope John Paul’s II tomb. I ended up outside and had to make my way back inside again. Once the Mass was over I did the tour of the tombs all over again so I ended up seeing the tombs twice!!!
On the Sunday we attended the Inauguration of Pope Benedict XIV. I think we arrived at St. Peter’s Square at 6am or thereabouts so it felt like a very long day. It was a lovely Mass but it was quite difficult seeing the television screens due to peoples banners blocking my view which was a shame really.
On the Saturday night we went to a posh restaurant near the Trevi fountain. I ordered a Feta Cheese Salad which arrived in what I can only describe as a very big mixing bowl. It was the biggest salad I had ever seen. It was so big I thought it was for sharing with everyone else on the table. For dessert I had pistachio icecream which was simply divine. I would say that the Italian cuisine all in all is very nice.
On the Friday night we went to a Chinese Restaurant by the Marco Polo. The food at the Chinese was lovely but as with all Chinese Restaurants there was too much food. At this restaurant I went to the toilet and when I came to wash my hands the taps appeared to be broken and so I went back to the table and started to say to the others that the toilets didn’t seem very hygienic as I couldn’t wash my hands. It was then I discovered the sinks are foot operated. Well how on earth was I supposed to know that? Thankfully I always carry a packet of wipes in my handbag just in case.
OFF ON HOLIDAY TO MADEIRA
Off on holiday. The past few years I have booked flights at the last minute, even on the day itself. This year I googled a week early and the cheapest I came up with by far was a £64 return to Funchal, Madeira. In the end I paid £91 with taxes and late booking fee. The beauty of these flights as well is that they are in the "middle" of the day from Manchester, no early dash or midnight delays.
When I get out there I'll find a cheap bed and breakfast. It will be interesting to see if I can do the two weeks holiday cheaper than my recent week's retreat. Someone said Greece or Turkey would likely be cheaper, but one of the attractions of Madeira is that I can try and improve my Portuguese. It's an island off Africa on the way down to the Canaries, if you're wondering.
For our summer holidays we have three weeks and a day. I get back in time from Madeira for a community meeting at Malpas on 12 July. Then I'll take my other 8 days, likely "walking" in North Wales.
Hope you manage to get away yourself. I realise it is not always possible for everyone to take a break. If you are not sure what to do yet then there's always the holiday retreat at Malpas from 25 - 29 July. Go at your own pace. Relax with others and with God. What better company could you want?
WEEKEND IN MANCHESTER: 24TH - 26TH JUNE
Last Sunday saw the end of our first Manchester weekend. More than 50 came to something over the weekend. The organisers were a bit disappointed that more did not travel from the other groups, though there were some from Dublin, London and Glasgow (and there have been a lot of other main events on recently). Next year we will put it on over the August Bank Holiday. Here are some of the things we got up to.
Friday 24th - met at 8 pm, Waterhouse pub, Princess Street, opposite Manchester Town Hall.
Our hosts were Kevin, Christine and Ian (30s Manchester). We discussed the plans and activities for the following day.
Saturday 25th - Met 12 noon St Peter's Square, outside Central Library.
Tour 1 - Salford: Guides were Kevin and Christine. Went by tram to the Lowry Centre to view the Lowry exhibition and other exhibitions on at the time. Visited the Lowry outlet, had lunch, then on to the Imperial War Museum. All free of charge. Some went to visit the Manchester United shop and museum. The tour finished at 5 pm.
Tour 2 - Manchester City Centre: Guides were Ian and Catherine. Visited Castlefield basin and then went onto the Science, Industry and Air Museums, all free of charge. Later walked along Deansgate and Kings Street, Manchester's designer shopping area. Visited the Triangle and Exchange Square, and the Urbis Museum. Also visited the 'Hidden Gem' Catholic Church with its famous Stations of the Cross. Ian sent people in with the mission to pick their 'favourite' Station. How different people were.
Evening - Manchester Party Night at the 32 Club (which trebles as an Irish Club and the Henrik Lorsson Celtic Supporters Club), Ardwick Green, near the Apollo Theatre, 8 pm to 1 pm. Buffet and disco. Cost was £10 inclusive.
Visitors to the city coming for the evening event were met by Ian and Kevin outside the Brunswick pub, London Road, which is a few minutes walk from Piccadilly Gardens, and were directed to the venue. Caroline and Donna met and greeted people arriving at the 32 Club. We had the place virtually to ourselves except for a rogue disco dancer who belonged to the seventy somethings.
Sunday 26th - Met at 11.30 am at Cafe Uno Albert Square for coffee. Mass was at St Augustine's Church at 1.00 pm, said by Hugh. Pub lunch followed at 2.00 pm at the Kro Bar. There had been talk all weekend about having a game of football sometime, even during our Sunday lunch (the talk that is), but once the roasts sank in people thought the better of it, and we didn't want to ruin our good shoes.
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