to Iona. The weather looks as though it is going to be reasonable.
The sun is shining already.
Iona? In the 6th Century
St Columba set up a monastery or Columkille there. He was a monk from a noble family in Northern Ireland.
He felt responsible for a war that had broken out over the copyright of a
book, and so had gone into exile. At
first ;he went to the island of Islay further south, but on a clear day he could
still see Ireland, so he moved further north to Iona to fulfil the terms of his
monastery was important for the spread of Christianity, not only in Scotland but
the north of England through foundations like Lindisfarne.
Irish monks of the same tradition eventually went as missionaries into
Europe and became patrons of places as far away as Italy.
Book of Kells, a famous illuminated copy of the Gospels which is displayed in
Trinity College, Dublin, was created on Iona.
It was taken to Kells in Ireland for safe keeping during the Viking
invasions. Kells, a town about
forty miles north-west of Dublin, is campaigning to get the book back.
Maybe they shouldn’t.
is only a small island. You could walk round it in an afternoon.
Despite its remoteness, many of the kings and queens of Scotland were
buried there, as was John Smith, the previous leader of the Labour Party almost
exactly ten years ago.
monastery fell into ruins, but it was still considered an important Christian
site. Leo Dehon, the founder of the
Sacred Heart Fathers, visited here in the 1860s. In the 1930s George MacLeod, a Church of Scotland minister,
set about restoring the abbey and set up an ecumenical community.
ten years ago a small Catholic house and chapel were built.
Much of the fund-raising was done by the mother of Princess Diana.
This caused quite a bit of controversy, even on the front pages of the
London broadsheets. Why are
Catholics spoiling the ecumenical spirit of the island, asked the Telegraph.
But they didn’t mention that there were a couple of Anglican retreat
houses here and a Church of Scotland parish.
start meeting from 11.00 at Coopers Bar in the Central Station, Glasgow.
A few people pulled out this week, and a couple at the last minute, so we
are down to 21. Martin has managed to borrow a 15 seater minibus and there
are two cars. We set off for Oban.
One of the cars diverts to Glasgow Airport to pick up Michael and Dave
who have just flown in from London.
sun is still shining as we cross the Erskine Bridge and someone tells everyone
to look left to see his birth place, Port Glasgow. Loch Lomond is looking its bonniest. Across the water we see the Youth Hostel at Rowardennar where
we’ll be staying the second night of the West Highland Way in July.
Duncan and Veronica who have been arranging the walk at a distance meet
today for the first time. We get the chance to plan when to say Mass on the Sunday.
a stop at Inverary we reach Oban in good time for the 4.00 ferry to Mull.
It is positively warm.
is less singing in the bus this year. There
is that phrase which implies that people can be ruined by wine, women and song.
My experience is that rarely do all three apply.
It is usually a choice of wine, women/men, or song.
I’m definitely song. Not
much ruination today. “You’re
on your own”, but it was Mary that started it.
the boat I get talking to a couple also going to Iona who turn out to live a few
hundred yards away from Dehon House where I lived until last summer. Did I hear
last week that Dehon House had finally been sold?
I hope the Youth Clubs Trust can put the money to good use.
I had hoped some of it could have been put towards Project 2030, but the
original deeds specify that the Trust is for a younger type of ‘youth’.
we get off the boat Duncan is anxious to hear how Manchester City got on, but
the radio reception is poor. Eventually
Radio 4 tells us that they won and should be safe. They also mention that York have gone down.
Poor Mark. No other scores,
so I don’t know if Morton are still hanging on to promotion.
At one time in the season they were 19 points clear.
My brothers will have been at the match, but I can wait.
the ticket office at Oban there is a BBC poster inviting people to ‘BLOGG’
on the smaller islands. No doubt
trying to create s community spirit, but also looking for good material from
their web diaries.
the scenery is beautiful as we take the single track across Mull.
Most of us are staying in the B and B at Fionnphort, just across the
sound from Iona. We can see the
monastery across the water. As we get out the vehicles, the sun has disappeared and the
sea breeze is beginning to have its vengeance.
Adam, Joseph and myself are staying at Caol-Ithe. Carol offers us a cup of tea and we sit looking out at the
rugged scenery. The powerful
telescope allows us to see people walking in the abbey grounds.
It is possible to stay in the centres on Iona, but they are booked up
more than a year in advance.
everyone gravitates towards the Keel Row for something to eat.
Some climb the hill nearby to catch the sunset, then into the bar next
door. There is a pool table.
Richard could rightly claim to be the champion, but my vote goes to
Veronica. She beat me, but that’s
the last time I give anyone advice on how to snooker me.
didn’t snore. Well, not a lot.
The telescope gives a better view of the island in the morning light.
The hymn to morning prayer in the shorter edition of the Office is “St
Patrick’s Breastplate”. To
think of the generations of monks inspired by those same words:
bind unto myself today
power of God to hold and lead,
eye to watch, his might to stay,
ear to hearken to my need.”
breakfast there is a film crew doing a programme for Channel 5 on the 10 best
natural wonders of Britain. They
are going out to Staffa as well today. Then
they are off to St Kilda. Their
ears jump up when I say that my sister-in-law’s father, was one of the last
people to live there before the island was evacuated in the 1930s.
They had been looking for someone who had lived there.
Unfortunately Mr McLean died a few years ago.
connection with St Kilda has made me fascinated by the island.
In 1996 I looked after a parish in South Uist for a couple of weeks.
The parish priest tried to fix me up with the army to fly out to the
island on one of their sorties, but it never came off.
But I was lucky enough on a clear day to have their high cliffs pointed
out to me as a speck 30 miles out in the Atlantic. The programme will be going out in August.
catch the 10.00 ferry and walk the few minutes up to the Catholic House of
Prayer for Mass. Today is Good
Shepherd Sunday. The field behind
me, outside the chapel, is full of sheep. I’m
trying to speak about the Gospel, but I can’t hear myself for the bleating of
the sheep. The farmer has just
arrived to feed them, and they all go running across the field.
I struggle on when I’d be better letting the scene speak for itself.
Mass we take the group photos and sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Dave.
Some of us climb the hill behind the Abbey.
On the way back I resist joining in the games of the more energetic ones.
There’s barely time to buy a snack in the Spar before catching the boat
for the hour long trip to Staffa.
sea is choppier than expected, especially when the small boat packed with 60
people stops outside Fingal’s Cave. We
moor further round the coast. Four
of us are first off and we decide to walk round to the cave while it is quiet.
The others dally at the wishing seat.
So I manage to get three minutes alone at Fingal’s Cave before anyone
else arrives. When Wordsworth visited here in 1830 the noise and jostling
just made him angry. Only in my
imagination can I hear the sounds of Mendelssohn’s famous overture as the
waves lap against rocks that are similar to the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland.
as interesting on Staffa are the puffins. On
the cliff tops they are happy to waddle up to the humans because they know
we’ll save them from being attacked by the seagulls.
People are surprised at how small they are.
We have over an hour on the island, so there is time to collect some
shells and feathers.
the way back the boat is thrown from side to side in the waves, and the water
almost laps over the sides. Some
feel sick. The sight of what looks
like a life-boat following us offers a little consolation. As we get off the boat I ask the man how he would rate the
ride, on a scale of 1 to 10. Only
2, he replied, or maybe 3. Nothing
late for our 5.30 evening prayer at the Chapel, but those who have gone
exploring the south of Iona are later still.
But we can’t wait too long as the last ferry to Mull is 6.15.
Only now does the rain come on. This
does not deter our friendly seal who pops his head up again in the harbour to
Keel Row is busy again. Not too
many people can stay in the 30 houses and the 6 B and Bs in Fionnphort, but
there are thousands come through to catch the short ferry across to the Isle of
Columba. After eats people meet in
the bar. No bagpipes this evening,
but a variety of games like draughts and cards going on.
snooker Veronica almost beats me again, then 10 of us play ‘killer’.
If you don’t pot a ball on three occasions you are out.
Liam pockets the cash. Last
night my £5 for the cues went to the locals who were last on the table.
Tonight it comes back to me.
everyone is together we present Martin with a thank you card and bronze plaque.
He’s already talking about organizing next year.
There’s not many ways you could improve a winning formula.
Some would like to stay longer. Maybe
we could have an earlier start from Glasgow.
We sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Dave again, and give him a piece of Iona
marble and picture of the Abbey.
11.00 someone suggests we go down to the pier and have a sing-song.
It’s far enough beyond the houses to disturb, but the wind is howling
in off the Atlantic. We discover that David has a champion Welsh tenor voice.
How many colds will there be in the morning?
– MISSING BOATS – FLAT TYRE - GLASGOW
last visit to Iona. We catch
the 8.45 ferry. No seal to be seen.
A rainbow is over the Abbey, but it heralds rain, and we get our only
real soaking of the weekend as we make our way up to the House of Prayer.
Gospel is about the Good Shepherd again and the sheep and the lambs keep up
their chorus of support. Last year
one of the readings on Iona had been about water and had fixed our attention
more on the view of the sea from the chapel windows.
John 10, the Good Shepherd proclaims that he has come so that we may have life
and have it to the full. After the
Gospel I invite people to reflect why did Jesus come. Non-Christians might find it strange that we claim to be
living life to the full. There are
certain things a Catholic is not supposed to do.
But, do these things bring life to others? Often they are the source of people’s unhappiness.
are so many voices encouraging us to live life as a fool rather than to the
full. Among all these voices can we
hear God leading us to life. He is
our creator. He knows what is best
for us. He alone knows what it is
Staffa yesterday someone had reflected on the wonders of creation, when you see
all the variety and beauty of life. This
led me to say then and reflect in the sermon that, while I find it easy to
understand the response of agnostics who say “I don’t know” to the
question of God, I find it more difficult to understand the atheist who believes
there is no God. Atheists are usually very rational people, yet they are
prepared to make that leap of faith to say they believe there is no superior
being behind creation. Theirs is a
much higher level of faith than ours. I
can only admire their confidence but I cannot share it when so much evidence
points to a loving and personal God.
my sermon over for the day. The
sheep continue to serenade us and the young ones come back in chorus just in
time for the ‘Lamb of God’. Afterwards
Sr Eileen invited those of us who were still around in for a cup of coffee.
She was interested in the group, and it turned out that she knew
we were leaving Sister I embarrassed Martin by saying that I thought this had to
be the best organised event we do. (I’m
actually writing this on the back of one of the many sheets he produced with not
only information, but history and humour as well).
“Don’t be saying that in your diary”, he pleads.
Then we come out the Chapel door to see the ferry pulling out at 10.15
when we expected it to go at 10.30. When
is the next ferry? Visions of
missing planes and trains in the evening. Fortunately
the ferry came back straight away and we made it across by 11.00. Humble as ever, Martin conceded: “Now you can put that in
before we left Iona I went down to the beach to think of the first monks,
spilling on to the sands. I throw a
few stones in the water for old times’ sake (for the sake of ould lang syne)
and come across a wonderful scallop/clam shell.
My excitement was diminished when it was pointed out that they are fairly
common – great for ash trays.
the boat I found a quiet spot and looked back at the Abbey, wondering at the
courage and commitment of the monks over a thousand years ago.
To the right is Martyrs’ Bay, where 60 had been killed by the Vikings,
and yet the monks came back to be slaughtered again and again.
I remembered the priest I knew as a boy who was one of 30 Sacred Heart
Fathers killed in the Congo in the 60s. And
how after that we sent out more missionaries to take their place, and when the
troubles broke out again in the 90s they stayed on with the people.
singing was better in the bus on the way back, though maybe not as good as the
singing in India. I still don’t
know the words to ‘The Fields of Atherry’, but I’ve learned how to do a
dramatic silence in the middle of ‘where in purple hue, the highland hills we
view’. The singing was brought to
a stop by a flat tyre in Patricia’s car.
We lost Duncan to the changing squad, as the van kept going in case we
missed the ferry from Mull. There
is a rumour that someone set about changing the wrong tyre.
They made it in time.
boat to Oban takes less than an hour. After
some steak pie I find a lounge seat. The sleep doesn’t come.
I reflect how Leo Dehon made the journey by rowing boat in 1863.
It was supposed to take a couple of hours, but the weather turned nasty
and they were seven hours battling against the waves through the night.
He was the only one of his friends to take a turn at the oars. When they made the nearest land they still had to walk two
hours to Oban.
stop at the Drovers’ Inn at the top of Loch Lomond for something to eat.
This is where the cattle men stopped on the way to market centuries ago.
It still looks the same inside, intentionally or not I’m not sure.
The place is too busy with Bank Holiday makers for us to get any grub.
Tourists! Veronica takes the
opportunity to pay the deposit for the night we will be spending here on the
West Highland Way in July.
press on. Just as well as the
traffic further south gets bad. We
make it to the airport in time. As
yet I don’t know if Richard and Michael made it for their train to London.
Michael R offers to do the email account of the weekend.
of us who are left go for something to eat.
It’s just a quick sponge pudding for me, before heading to where the
30s are having an introductory for the Echoes/Maryvale course they are going to
follow in Catechetics.
give Emma’s apologies for not managing after Iona. The Glasgow 30s started independently as the other 30s groups
were starting, but they still enjoy coming to Malpas and other main events.
There was talk about asking me to become chaplain when Fr Joe, their
founder, was made a parish priest, but he was there tonight to explain that he
can still keep his involvement with the group.
printed sheets for the group were very good, and made me think how we are called
to be witnesses and echoes of Christ. Ailish
does her bit and explains to me that Leo, her husband of a year, and who used to
do the newsletter for the North West 30s, hasn’t made it tonight because he
has to get a dissertation finished by tomorrow.
HOUSE – KILWINNING – LUNAR ECLIPSE
stayed overnight in our community’s house at Smithstone near Kilwinning, as
there is a meeting of some of our priests here today. My first year after ordination in 1976 was spent
here helping in the then small Junior House for teenagers who wanted to be
priests, and acting as chaplain to the local secondary school they attended.
I was here again for five years in the 80s as the place developed into a House
of Prayer. The last two years were
as Novice Master, looking after the spiritual year which candidates for the
Religious Life must do before they take their first vows.
always enjoy coming back. It’s
just outside the town, in its own grounds.
It can take small residential groups, up to 15 beds, and would be ideal
for the groups in Scotland, yet somehow our efforts to use the house have never
really worked. The groups in the
North West have benefited from Malpas, Dehon House and Stella Maris.
In Dublin we have used the houses in Inchicore and the parish in Artane.
Smithstone House would be ideal for having a place to call our own.
Maybe some day it will work.
August, some of the European visitors going to Malpas will come here the weekend
after. We’ll organise a barbecue
for them one evening. But will
people from the groups travel down to deepest Ayrshire, even though it is only
30 minutes by train from Glasgow?
meeting doesn’t start until the afternoon after Mass, so there is time to
reply to the emails, do yesterday’s diary and print out some of this web diary
to ask the advice of priests at the meeting before it is launched.
The web counter is up and running.
Soon will the truth be known. It
used to be money that kept the world going round, now it is hits.
I have a cunning plan. We’ll keep
mentioning how few hits we are getting on the web page.
People will pay it a visit just to see how bad things are, and then we
will get a hit every time they come on. Even Blackadder would be proud of that.
the afternoon I walk into town to the nearest post box.
I’m going to have to do more of this, much more, before the West
Highland Way in July. On the road
back I start thinking up silly limericks like we did in the bus yesterday.
Is there no escape? This is
the best I come up with:
was a group went to Iona.
them there wasn’t one moaner.
waves were high,
we kept ourselves dry,
of a time, unlike Jonah.
– a good ice breaker. Should I do
one a day? Maybe not.
the meeting there was time for a quick circuit of the kilometre long path that
goes round the edges of the grounds. I
can imagine how the school group that was here today must have enjoyed exploring
the woods. I forgot that there is
supposed to be a panther running wild in this area.
At least I didn’t get bombed by a crow like Fr Paul.
The bluebells were at their best.
the meeting there is Fr Con and Fr Paul from Smithstone and Fr John from Dublin.
The Provincial, Fr Michael, could not make it.
After we break up for the evening we have Adoration of the Blessed
Sacrament for half and hour, as is our custom.
Fr Stephen, who was not at the meeting, is a natural cook, so we enjoy
our tea. For an hour after the meal
we sit on at the table discussing the pros and cons of the film ‘The Passion
of Christ’. Strangely, the film
was one of the reasons behind starting this web diary.
A lot of people asked me what I thought about Mel Gibson’s production
and would I recommend it (which I would).
Should I write an email to the group?
But maybe there are too many emails being sent out already. If I kept a blog, those who wanted could check up to see what
I was thinking. And the rest
is…Grammar, if not Literature!
the end of the 10 0’clock news we are reminded that there is still a lunar
eclipse going on. From the window
the sky looks cloudy, but there are a few stars around, enough to entice me out
into the rain. If the sun has
disappeared to the north-west, the moon must be low to the south-east.
There are too many trees around, so I take the road towards the town.
Gradually the rain eases and the moon begins to penetrate the cloud.
Eventually it appears. At
this stage the eclipse is just partial, but enough to make the walk worthwhile.
working of the universe if eternally fascinating. Some people find it boring, and true, the merest yawn of
yours or mine is a trillion times more significant cosmologically in God’s
plan of evolution than simple shadows caused by the juxtaposition of a planet
and its moon. On the way back I
hear a rustling in the hedgerow. Is
that the panther on the loose? Is
that a howling on the horizon?
I get back to the house the moon has still got its hat on.
I cause consternation by going into the sitting room and switching off
the lights and the television. Ecce
luna. I don’t need to explain
myself. Our satellite is visible
outside the large bay window. And
I’m forgiven even though they miss the end of an interesting programme.
good spending some time with your brothers in the community.
Smithstone is home from home. In fact whenever I have visited the
Dehonian communities anywhere in the world I have always felt at home.
Although we might come from different cultures the same spirit binds us
together. Jesus says that if anyone
leaves father, mother, houses, etc for his sake they will be repaid a
hundredfold. It’s certainly true
when it comes to houses. And
that’s not forgetting my brothers and sisters.
That’s four homes I have in Scotland alone.
saying the Office of Readings I get distracted thinking that one of the emails
yesterday was from someone in the group looking for help to get copies of the
Divine Office, the full set with the Readings.
That would be a big commitment from anyone, though there are others in
the group who say the Prayer of the Church.
The Reading, from the Early Fathers of the Church, can be quite
challenging. Today St Hilary is
speaking about the Trinity – tough going, yet mind-blowing.
“If the Word was truly made flesh, and if we truly
receive the Word made flesh in the Lord’s food, why should we not hold that he
remains within us naturally….Accordingly we are all one, because the Father is
in Christ, and we are in Him, and being united with :Him, what we are is in
we really believed that Jesus lived within us, and therefore we lived in God, we
would want to run down the street and tell the first person we met about it.
It would produce a ‘total eclipse of the heart’.
It reminds me of when I was playing golf with my brother last year and a
lady came bursting through the trees bubbling: “I’ve just scored a
hole-in-one. It’s my first time. I’m
on my own. Who will believe me?”
My response was: “People will believe you.
You couldn’t act the kind of joy you are experiencing now.”
Why are we so good at hiding our joy?
Would people believe us? Do
we believe it ourselves?
order to lower the tone completely, here is another limerick, inspired by the
eclipse last night. Enjoy it.
It could be the last:
was a young man from Kilwinning.
heart was continually spinning.
saw an eclipse,
swears with his lips,
now he’s perpetually grinning.
meeting continues this morning. One
of the issues we look at is the Beatification of Leo Dehon next year.
How can we prepare for that here? How
to go about arranging for people who want to go to Rome for the ceremony.
John is going to arrange a programme for the younger age-groups who go
out, including people from Project 2030.
people asks whether the beatification of our Founder will encourage more people
to commit their lives to God within our community. Who knows. There
are still people out there who are thinking seriously about priesthood and
religious life. Last year on Iona
two of the women spoke openly about their thoughts of becoming nuns, and a good
few men have spoken along the same lines – not about becoming nuns of course.
We say there is a shortage of these kind of vocations today, and there is
in our countries, but the numbers of those studying for the priesthood has
doubled since John Paul II became Pope. There are now 128,000 preparing for the
priesthood throughout the world, the most there has ever been in the history of
the Church. There will be two novices next year at our house in Dublin
preparing to go to a country I cannot mention on a web page because the
Government there is trying to stop people studying for the priesthood.
meeting also discusses the idea of producing a prayer book for the
Beatification. This gets me
thinking about whether we could do with a small prayer booklet for the group,
produced by the group, or even just a prayer, or maybe a small card that fits
into your wallet besides your plastic. We’ve
heard that the prayer book I described on April 19 cannot be sold because of
copyright, but they have just sent us another pile from the States. So if anyone
sends a cheque for £10 made out to Project 2030 (India fund) to St Joseph’s,
Malpas, Cheshire, SY14 7DD, we will send you a copy.
If anyone wants a smaller booklet of Dehonian Prayers with a selection of
Oblations (Morning Offering Prayers), send four first class stamps to the same
When the meeting finishes at lunch time I beat a hasty retreat for the train back to Stockport. That’s eight days I’ve been on the road. On the journey my thoughts go back to Iona. I remember that I forgot to say that we (or some of the group) drank the wine that Matt and Michelle gave me at their wedding (see April 12) and we toasted their meeting on the way to Iona last year. Also, on Monday, at the Drovers Inn, the group gave me a Celtic cross as a souvenir of our visit to St Columba’s Isle. It will get place on the mantelpiece next to the map of Iona in the office.
off, so here’s the second part of the article on Leo John Dehon.
For Leo Dehon the open side and the pierced heart of
Jesus on the cross are the most eloquent signs of God’s love.
He summed up his and our vocation as imitating the willingness of the Son
of God to become human: “Here I am”, and of Mary who said, “Behold the
handmaid of the Lord.” Dehon might not stand out today like a Mother Teresa or a
Padre Pio, but he represents all of us who strive to live our life for God and
for others. He was known as someone
who was both practical and spiritual, sympathetic yet dynamic.
Before he died he wrote to his followers: “I leave
you the most wonderful of treasures, the Heart of Jesus.”
His last words were: “For Him I live, for Him I die.”
At his funeral the Bishop of Soissons said: “A page of great religious
history is about to conclude.” He
is buried in St Martin’s, a church he built near the centre of St Quentin.
When he died there were 600 members in his community.
Now there are 2,300 in 35 countries, as well as other religious
Congregations and lay organizations that follow his spirituality and consider
themselves Dehonians. The Sacred
Heart Fathers (Dehonians) came to England in 1936.
In 1970 we moved to Scotland and then in 1978 we set up our first
community in Ireland.
By his fruits you shall know him.
Now that he is to be beatified many others at home and abroad will come
to know his name, but above all will come to appreciate more the great love God
has for us, shown through his Son, Jesus Christ.
10.00 am and I’m sitting in the dentist’s.
It’s a bit like waiting to go to Confession, only worse.
So I feel I am justified in breaking my promise not to do any more
There was a young man from Leith
Who had problems enough with his teeth.
He went for a filling,
Collapsed at the drilling,
I can think of plenty of words to rhyme for the last
line, but not a good sentence, so you’re going to have to do that yourself.
Here’s some help: beef, belief, beneath, chief, deaf (Scottish
pronunciation), grief, heath, Keith, reef, relief, wreath.
If nobody emails me the final line then I will take it as a sign to stop
doing the limericks.
It’s only my second time at this dentist and he’s
calling me Father. How does he know
I’m a priest? I didn’t give my
name as Father and my address was just 1 Tatton St.
Fr Liam comes here aswell, and maybe the receptionist has put two and two
together,but I could be just a lodger.
Not that I have any problem with people calling me
Father, but I usually introduce myself as Hugh. In the early days of the groups more people called me Hugh.
In general I prefer that. It
can be a bit embarrassing in a pub if someone calls you Father, especially if
they are in their late 30s and me obviously (?) too young to be their Father.
Though I have a classmate whose grandchild is in their 20s.
Do the maths yourself.
When I started the 20s in London I introduced myself
as Hugh Hanley from the Sacred Heart Fathers/Dehonians.
But people didn’t understand that I was ordained.
When we had our first retreat day in London the group were wondering who
was going to say Mass and were a bit surprised when it was me.
They only told me this about a year later when they had got to know me.
When I get called to the dentist’s inner sanctum,
the good news is that I don’t need to get that tooth removed.
The X ray looks okay, but the bad news is that the chipped one at the
back needs to be capped. It’s quite a strenuous process preparing the tooth, and I
ask myself why is it you don’t hear of many people having heart attacks at the
With going to the dentist I don’t seem to get very
much done in the morning. Also,
after my day off, it is harder getting going on a Friday. Yesterday was the first day off I’ve had in Stockport since
March, but if you have been reading the diary you will see that I have not been
doing too badly in between.
I got back from Scotland to find copies of the new
magazine. It looks as good as I had
hoped. Already Celia and Clare have
sent copies out to the parishes in London along with the details of the
newcomers’ meetings later in the month. We’ll
get them out to the other areas and groups as soon as possible.
I put a pile at the back of the church.
We can only send a limited amount to each parish, but it will be
interesting to see how they go here. There
must be almost 100 at the midday Mass. It’s
market day and also the First Friday when traditionally we have the Mass of the
After lunch I’m still tying up the details of the
Glasgow 20s newsletter which will go out tomorrow. Then I remember in time that the Dublin 30s will be doing
their programme for June tonight at their monthly gathering.
I have to get a new date for the evening on personal
growth from Fr John and fortunately I’ve got Caroline’s mobile to ring her
at work with the change.
This evening there are newcomers’ meetings in
Manchester, which fortunately is not too far away. Unfortunately the time that was sent to the parishes
for the 30s was 4.00 pm and not 8.00 pm (it’s at 4.00 tomorrow, Saturday, in
Liverpool). Quite a few parish
priests got in touch to query the time, so it shows they are interested, but it
was too late to tell them all about the mistake.
I head into Manchester early in case anyone turns up.
There is a very regular train service but I have to change and they are
taking longer than I expected. This
in only my third time coming into Manchester since September.
I ring ahead to the Friends Meeting House run by the Quakers to say I
will be late. And just as well
because someone has turned up at the earlier time and they wait on for me.
After a one-to-one explanation of the group we went
for a coffee. I’m now writing
this in the square across from Manchester’s Central Library. I’ll finish here and get this in the post and report on the
Liverpool and Manchester newcomers’ meetings tomorrow.
LIVERPOOL – NEWCOMERS’ MEETINGS – MANCHESTER,
In Stockport Station waiting for the 11.41 to
Liverpool for the newcomers’ meeting. Before
I came out almost managed to get on top of the emails, post and phone messages
that had been building up while I was away last weekend.
I’m glad I got the train last night as well to the
newcomers’ meetings in Manchester. People
were either complaining about how far away they had to park the car, popping out
to put more money in the meter, or at the end forgetting where they had parked
There wasn’t a big crowd at the meeting, but there
was a good spirit and plenty of interest. Some
of the people were well travelled or had just moved back to the area.
As always, people say how difficult it is to come along to something like
this for the first time, even if you are quite extraverted.
Four of us there had been to Iona, so there was quite
a bit of reminiscing about the experience. Michael’s report on the weekend arrived during the week.
I enjoyed reading it this morning. It
will be sent out soon to all the groups by email.
It’s a pity the postal people don’t get a chance to read these
reports and other emails that are sent around.
We might give the postal people the option of paying so much a year if
they want reports, talks,reflections, etc, sent to them every so often.
After the meeting we got the couch area at Café Uno.
This looks like the same chain of cafes we go to near More House in
London. We talk about various
events we have been on or are going to. I
get the feeling that the group is the kind of thing the newcomers are looking
for, but there is always quite a high percentage of people who do not come back.
Despite how brilliant we are, it is not what they are looking for.
A few of the old stagers have already booked for the
gathering at Malpas in August. They
are keen to get involved in the preparation of it, so we agree to call a meeting
to coincide with the day of retreat we are having at Shalom, Stockport on 11
July. That’s the next weekend I
definitely (God sparing) know that I will be in the North-West.
People are impressed by the new magazine – it looks
good, it’s easy to read, people will be attracted to it at the back of church,
are some of the comments. The
pictures are pored over to see who’s who.
And they come in handy for some to keep the rain off as we leave the café.
The attendances at Liverpool are not any better than
Manchester. One excuse here was
that it was raining most of the day. We
discuss time and venue, but agree that we couldn’t get much better.
The other positive is that others have seen the notice in their parish
newsletters and have been ringing and emailing, so there should be a flow of new
people to the groups.
Someone comes up the stairs who is obviously not in
his 20s or 30s. He’s seen the
advert and wants some information for his son.
This is not unusual, but it turns out that all the new people this
afternoon heard about us through a parent or parent’s friend.
We agree that maybe new posters should be directed not to people in their
20s and 30s but to ‘mums and dads’.
Somebody said that their mum kept leaving the
tear-off slip with our email and phone number lying around in strategic places
for months until they eventually capitulated and got in touch.
They had been on the mailing list for a while and took the chance of the
newcomers’ meeting to make a first appearance.
I mentioned the web diary and said how much I was
enjoying writing it. “So it’s
therapeutic”, someone knowingly said. I
had never looked at it that way. I
confessed to feeling energised by it and more connected to the work I’m doing,
but I’ll need to meditate a bit more on ‘therapeutic’.
Our meeting is on the top floor of the Pauline Books
and Media shop in Bold Street, near the Central Station.
It’s run by the Daughters of St Paul.
We’ve met and had talks here before.
The Sisters are very supportive and are happy to give out copies of the
magazine to people in their 20s and 30s. I
buy some prayer cards and a book, ‘Anam Cara, Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic
World’ by John O’Donohue. It
will be good to take to Knock with me next weekend.
On the way back on the train I take out the book, but
find I am reading the plastic bag first. The
Sisters provide media resources and promote Christian values in over 50
countries. That’s more than the
Sacred Heart Fathers (Dehonians) who are in almost 40.
They also have shops in London and Glasgow.
There’s a group of football supporters opposite.
Who is your team? They
apologise that it is Grimsby. I
don’t say I’m in a similar position with Morton.
I tell them I saw Grimsby once in 1978 when I was in the parish at Market
Rasen for a year. It was a Cup
game, against, I think, Spurs. They
confirm that they did lost to Greenock about that time.
I still don’t know how Morton have done today. Will they throw away promotion? Don’t tell me the Premiership scores. I’ll enjoy more watching Match of the Day if I don’t know how the games went. It’s later and teletext tells me that Morton have lost and are now out of the promotion spots with one game left. This season I think they lost their Scottish record of consecutive wins to Celtic. But it looks as though they are going to gain another record. Surely no other team has been 19 points ahead for promotion to throw it away.
SUNDAY IS SUNDAY – 3 DIOCESES – DRINK
They say that anticipation is often much better than
the actual event. I was really
looking forward to today because it is not often that I have a Sunday as a
Sunday with a chance to relax in a way that is more difficult on a weekday.
Even when I was in a parish and you were busy with Masses and baptisms
and seeing people, you could still relax better in the times that were quiet.
Reading the newspaper or watching the television, or just mooching around
can best and easiest be done on a Sunday.
And yet the day never quite worked out as I hoped,
there never was that feeling of “I’m enjoying myself”.
Maybe having breakfast at 7.00 was not such a good idea.
When I was younger I could sleep in for Scotland whenever I got the
chance, but not now. In those years
I also used to ask why it was that at college and in community we had less times
of prayer on a Sunday which was supposed to be the day of the Lord.
There never was an answer for it but I suppose for us ever day was a day
of the Lord, and on the Sabbath even the Lord allowed us to rest a bit from our
I hoped to get in a good walk in the morning, so I
looked in the Directory to see what Masses were on in the parishes round about.
Usually if I don’t have a Mass to say I go to a parish where I am not
known by the priests. I have spent
the last 13 years living in the Shrewsbury Diocese so I am known to quite a
number, but luckily here we are on the borders of the Salford and Nottingham
Dioceses, so that gives options. The
Nottingham Diocese includes Derbyshire, which comes within a few miles of
Stockport. It also stretches as far
as Grimsby on the east coast, so those supporters I met on the train yesterday
were almost home, ecclesiastically speaking. They
never told me they had lost in Tranmere, and so were relegated.
We have a retreat day in Stockport in July, so must do a publicity
campaign in the nearby Nottingham parishes to invite people to come across the
Sometimes I get the impression that diocese, a bit
like parish, is not so important to people today, but I once did a check with 30
newcomers in London, and they all knew which diocese they came from, and there
was a good representation of the four dioceses that come within the M25.
Recently Project 2030 has been invited to send
representatives along to a consultation or listening process in the Westminster
Archdiocese. Often I don’t know
which diocese people in the groups come from in London. We have a male representative for Westminster, but not a
female yet. So if you or someone
you know is able for this please get in touch.
I found a parish in a good walking area but it turned
out that the Mass times had been changed, so I only managed a couple of strolls
before and after Mass. I was
impressed that someone walking up to the church asked me if I was new in the
area. Often Catholic churches get
the reputation of not being as welcoming as other Churches, but this was done
quite naturally by someone whose ‘job’ it wasn’t.
Though I have also been put off when visiting Protestant churches and
people are all over you.
I had a drink before lunch, my first for ages.
As I say that I’m conscious of those who might think you can give away
too much personal information in a diary like this, but it is a question I often
get asked by the group when we go for a pub lunch or, after a meeting:
“Don’t you drink at all?”, meaning alcohol, and sometimes someone will
say: “But I thought priests were big drinkers”.
Fr Ted has a lot to answer for. My
reply to the first question is usually: “If I drink at lunch time it makes me
sleepy and if I drink in the evening it keeps me awake.
So I just drink at breakfast.”
Once at the doctor’s I was asked how much I drank.
When I said: “About 40
units” the nurse’s jaw dropped, before I could say “per year”.
It would be even less than that now.
As for priests generally, there will be some who make up for their more
abstemious colleagues, but they are likely to be remembered in a way that people
say: “It always rains on Bank Holidays”.
In my last community I was the biggest drinker, and it’s the same now. But myths are much more interesting.
HIT COUNTER – EMAILS – CARDINAL WINNING – JOURNALISTS
Last week we signed up this web page for a month’s free trial with one of those companies that does hit counters, etc. Basically it tells you how many people have visited the site, but it gives all kinds of other information, much more than we will ever need. It tells you how people came to the site – did they enter the full address or did they find it when looking for something else. It tells you what time the person visited. It doesn’t give you their email address, but records their servers, eg: aol or tiscali. The only thing it doesn’t give, which would be useful, is how long people stay on the site.
This morning I thought it was time to check and see how many visits we were getting. I was pleasantly surprised to see there had been over 100 hits. 58 of these were yesterday, of which 22 were visitors who had been on before. I presumed the big number of hits was because we had sent out the emails telling people about the site, but later discovered that the email did not go out until 9.15 pm last night, though some groups had already been informed of the diary beforehand.
this diary the kind of web page I would visit myself? The answer has to be a resounding no. This might sound a bit shocking, like someone on the
television admitting they would never use the product they advertise.
But see me, see web pages, I hate them.
Now he tells us. Until last year I was Chairman of the Enneagram Association,
and the Webmaster was continually disappointed that I had never looked at the
web pages. They do my head in.
time I spend in front of the computer seems to pickle my brain, and looking at
web pages more so. To counter
this the office checks all my emails first.
Many they can deal with themselves – new people, changes of address,
information about newsletters. If
there is anything urgent I give them an answer over the phone and the rest of
the emails they send on by post to Stockport or, for example last week, to
Kilwinning. I then hand write a
reply and send them back by post.
might not be the fastest system or the most economical, but writing things on
the computer takes me about three times as long and uses up three times as much
energy, even though I can touch type. When
I dealt with my own emails I was always falling miles behind, so in fact this
system can be quicker, especially as I am away so much of the time.
Though it was embarrassing recently when a batch of emails got lost in
the post for a couple of weeks and there were some that needed a reasonably
quick reply or acknowledgement. But
in the end it is better that I am freed to do things that only I can do for the
Adoration, then Mass at 12.00, my head was spinning and I was as high as a kite.
I thought I had taken caffeinated coffee instead of decaff by mistake,
until I remembered that I had been on the Internet pouring over all the
information we were getting with our web counter.
I even had a look at this web page and came up with a few changes for the
lunch I nipped to the library, which is only a few minutes’ walk away.
I had already renewed my four books three times and they were due today.
Two, I had just finished during the week.
One was ‘This Turbulent Priest’, a life of Cardinal Winning by
Stephen McGinty, a journalist who, like most journalists, writes first and
foremost for his journalistic audience. As
a first book it is very good, and gives a sharp insight into the life of the
Cardinal, even if it doesn’t capture his soul and his humour.
must admit that I am ambivalent towards journalists. I have to admire the way they can put together a newspaper
every day, but if you know anything about a story there are always mistakes.
As a point of honour (if that’s the word) they don’t go back to the
people in the story and check the accuracy.
In the book on the Cardinal, p246, it describes how he spent some time
with our community. There are at least four inaccuracies in this one sentence:
“The retreat took place at the House of the Sacred Heart, a retreat house
buried in the English countryside, a few miles from the little town of Malpass,
on the Welsh border”.
few years later the then Archbishop of Glasgow found one of our Indonesian
missionaries wandering around Heathrow, wondering how to get to Malpas.
He took him in hand (who would have known where Malpas was?), got on the
phone to us and sorted out his transport.
importance of journalists is the way they seek out the truth, but the only
people who do not come fully under their scrutiny is their fellow-journalists,
and they fall too easily into the temptation of twisting or exaggerating the
truth to make it more sensational and sell papers.
Cardinal Winning was a strong character who was not afraid to take on the Government and the establishment. He’ll likely be best remembered for putting the Archdiocese’s money behind a scheme supporting pregnant women who were tempted to have an abortion for financial reasons. I met him a couple of times, and preached before him at a Sister’s Final Vows. Afterwards I was half-waiting to fall victim to his sharp humour, but I got away ith it.
CONTRIBUTE TO DIARY – BRITNEY SPEARS – WANADOO
I asked people’s advice on the web diary before we launched it, a few people
mentioned it would be good to get others in the group involved in it some how,
for example, ask people to send in their own diaries, etc.
A good idea, but I couldn’t quite see how to organise that.
Except that I am due to go on holiday in June, and I wouldn’t want the
diary to run out of steam, so we’re asking people to send something in.
Do it now.
the diary in June, you can send in whatever you like, as long as it’s positive
and relevant to the group. Here are
. A day in the life of… Give us an idea how your usual day
goes, like at the back of the Sunday Times magazine;
reflection on something that’s important to you;
. How Project 2030 changed my life – or maybe just what the
group means to you;
hopes for the group; ideas for development and
. A poem or
a prayer, made up by you or someone else;
. A report
on some event you attended;
response to something you have read in the diary;
something important that happened in your life;
what your faith means to you.
Email your contributions for the June diary to email@example.com under the title ‘June Diary’. We need at least 14 days covered. Send it also as an attachment to make it easier to upload. Say how you want to be known – full name or initials, or just your group and whether you want your email on it. Remember, it is going on to the web. Send it by 25 May to give us time to sort things out. It can be as long or as short as you like.
In our community we can have three weeks’ holiday in the summer, as well as a week at Christmas. Usually I split them up, but last year for the first time in ages, I took three weeks together and I felt the benefit. Although I get plenty of busman’s holidays with the group, there is still the need to get away on my own. I’ll likely go to Manchester Airport and see what last minute bargains there are in the likes of Spain. Two years ago I got something on the day itself. Any suggestions welcome.
Yesterday when I was surfing the Web I put ‘project 2030’ into a couple of search engines and it came up with several mentions. I even googled my own name. How sad. There are a few other Hugh Hanleys out there. Is it true that it is important to get key words into the first sentence of the web page so that people who are looking for related pages will find you? Did I see or did I dream that there are 8 trillion pages of web material on the google search engine?
I’m told it is also good to mention other famous or important names, like Britney Spears, who is or who used to be the most searched-for name on the web. Yet how many Catholics in their 20s or 30s will be searching for Britney Spears? Don’t answer that. I even had a legitimate excuse to mention her 10 days ago on the way to Iona. Someone said she had just been in Glasgow for a concert and had gone bowling in Coatbridge. Our hit counter tells us if someone comes to our page while searching for another name. It even gives the name. We’ve had people looking for Malpas, or Castlerigg Manor, or the Sacred Heart. As far as Britney is concerned, I have my doubts, but we’ll let you know.
Our server for the web page is Freeserve, now Wanadoo. There was a letter about the change in the post. I gave the number a ring to say we’ve been having problems sending out attachments to the groups and was Wanadoo likely to make things any better. Calls to the Freeserve helpline have not been very helpful. The excuse was that they are trying to cut down on the number of viruses being sent around, which I’m all for, but I suspect they are either trying to get us to pay for the service – it’s still free – or they are just not interested in people who send out to big groups. Wanadoo were no more helpful and they couldn’t put me in touch with anyone who could give me an answer. No wanadoo, no wanaknow. So we might need to change our server. Suggestions welcome.
more importantly, send in your contributions for the diary in June by 25th
FENCES – LAUNDRY
days I spend in the office there is a danger I don’t go out at all, except
maybe a mad dash to catch the last post at 7.30 pm. Being in the centre of Stockport, we are very handy for
things. The main sorting office is
only a few minutes’ walk away. Sometimes
in the winter, when the sun is shining, I make myself go out to get some vitamin
whatever in my bones. Though with
all the travels you could hardly call me a shut-in.
we had work going on in the garden. What
is about guys that they like watching men at work.
If the gas board are digging a hole in the road there will always be a
few fellas looking on. Fr Liam and Adrian were putting up a fence.
Adrian is a local thirtysomething who decided recently to go into
gardening. When it was quiet over
the winter he spent a week at Malpas helping out.
We happened to be there for our Advent retreat, and he joined us for some
of the time.
called it a garden. There was a
bare-looking patio area in front of the house next to the car park.
About 10 years ago Fr Con liked to sit there in the summer for some fresh
air, but there was no privacy with people passing all the time going to the
school and the church. So he put in one of those fast-growing hedges.
Now the hedge is over six feet, but the gate is still low.
When I came here in September I would often go out there for a coffee
mid-morning and do some phone calls. But
you were still likely to get someone shouting over the gate: “Hello, Father. Catching the sun are we?
Glad to see you’ve got somewhere no-one will disturb you!”
job in the garden was to put in a higher gate and renew the fence on that side.
It was reasonably warm, so I took the chance to go out with a cup of cha
and inspect the work. Top marks.
All we need now is the good weather.
At Dehon House last year I was sitting out the back in the sun at the end
of March, and the previous year we were having lunch in the sun still at the
beginning of October.
is also a tiny enclosed yard outside the kitchen with a drying line (the house
will be over 100 years old). Usually
when doing my laundry I stick it in the dryer, but today, inspired by the better
weather, I decided it was time to be eco-friendly and use the outside line.
Except for my shirts. A few
minutes in the dryer and they don’t need ironing.
The rain stayed off. My
mother would have been proud of me, God rest her.
As kids we were always on weather watch on washing days, and if the rain
came on it was all hands on deck to bring the washing in.
One day when it’s quiet I might tell the story of my mum and dad and a
tells us that the new magazine is now up on our web page www.project2030.org.uk
- so check it out. It will be
posted to everyone, even those on the email list.
But be patient. The office
has been very busy recently. Celia
and Clare only work part-time for Project 2030.
They also do some days at Malpas, and other things.
At the moment there are quite a few emails and calls coming in with the
newcomers meetings being advertised in the North-West and London (22-23 May at
More House. See newsletter).
There have been big mailings going out to the parishes, and the London
20s and 30s newsletters are just being mailed this week after delays due to
uncertainty over certain dates.
also a newcomers for the Dublin 30s on 26 May.
We were hoping that there was a car doing over to Dublin that could take
the envelopes for posting, as they are quite heavy with the magazines enclosed.
The car offer fell through, but Fr Jim and Fr Bobby are at Malpas today
for a meeting and are going to take back some by plane.
The rest I can take when I go to Knock on Friday.
I phoned the Pilgrims’ Office in Knock to enquire about saying Mass
while we are there. They said post
only takes a couple of days to get to Dublin, so the posters will be in the
parishes for the Sunday before the meeting. They could do with longer, but most
parishes leave them up for a while after the meeting as well.
parishes in all our areas (except Scotland, that’s next month) will have
received a mailing from us in May. So
if you don’t see anything in your parish newsletter about the newcomers
meetings mention to the parish priest that you are involved in the group and
that you would like to see it promoted in your parish.
Priests get mailings from all kinds of groups, and things can easily get
overlooked. And if there is another
event coming up in your area, give the details to your priest and he will put it
in the newsletter. Somebody said last week that their PP still did not know what
the group was about. The magazines
Day off, so here’s a reflection I wrote earlier in the week.
got back to me about something that was in the diary last week.
I was talking about atheists and I said I had to admire their ‘higher
faith’. This might have given the
impression that the faith of atheists was better than ours.
Certainly not what I meant. To
some degree I was being ironic, but not entirely.
It’s just that you have to believe more intently to be an atheist, to
keep feeding the conclusion that there could not possibly be a God when there
are so many clear signs of God around.
will criticise and patronise us because our life seems to be based on a faith
which we cannot prove, while they believe that their life is based on fact and
scientific proof. In recent times
scientists have come to accept that many of their most basic theories cannot be
proved. They have to be accepted on
faith until a better theory arises. But
they will never be able to prove everything.
They don’t believe they will ever be able to go beyond or before the
big bang which is said to have
started the universe. Even the big
bang theory is now in doubt, even though for a long time most people accepted it
point is that it is not just religious people who base their life on faith.
Everybody has to do it to come degree.
You can’t actually prove that someone loves you, even if you are about
to commit your life to them. It has
to include a leap of faith, based on the positive signs that they show.
How can we know what is beautiful, true and right?
People can argue about it, and society and cultures can come to an
agreement about it, but in the end we cannot prove it.
It includes as element of faith.
go back to the atheists, they in general would not like to think that their life
also depends on faith, but there is no escaping it.
As Christians we look at the world and, despite some difficulties, we see
a creation of great beauty. We see
a humanity that, despite mistakes, can come to a consensus about what is good
and beautiful and true. Even before
we look at the revelation of God in the Bible, and in his son Jesus, we can see
that the most obvious explanation for the world is that there is a loving God, a
the obvious proofs, the atheist does not want to accept the possibility of a
God. If you were wandering through
the woods and came across a beautiful garden you would presume that there must
be a gardener who looks after all this. But
the atheist does not want to look at this.
They still want it to be proved that there is a gardener somewhere.
The atheist is keen to keep his autonomy and
independence which would be threatened if they accepted a God as Creator.
Although they are materialists they would still like to create a heaven
someone kept sending you flowers and chocolates anonymously (or even a season
ticket for your football team) most people would believe that there was someone
out there who loved you. But the
atheist is too pragmatic. They
still want proof that the chocolates mean anything.
They believe they are meaningless by themselves.
the end the average person of faith comes to the more obvious conclusion, while
the atheist clings to their firmer belief that there is no-one out there,
despite the various clear signs. That
is why the atheist’s faith is stronger, rather than higher.
They don’t want to accept that they have any faith at all, but in fact
it takes a higher (not better) level of faith to believe that there is no God.
this is not to make us smug and judgmental.
There can be a bit of the atheist in all of us.
As St Paul said: “Lord, I believe.
Help my unbelief”. And living in a society that has atheism as one of the most
powerful religions (religion seen by definition as something that binds people
together), then we are bound to be affected.
And the worst kind of atheism is when people who have no faith in God use
theistic religions as a cover for their own personal or political ends.
the bus to Knock. Well, not quite,
but to Manchester Airport to catch the flight.
The bus station is just a short walk down the hill and it’s first stop
the airport in 20 minutes. The
flight is delayed, but this gives me the opportunity to do you know what.
It’s easier writing on the hoof than when I have a day in the office.
Knock? At the end of the nineteenth
century a large group of people had a vision in this small town in Co. Mayo in
the West of Ireland. What they saw
was a vision of the Lamb of God, possibly the only time such a vision has been
reported. To the side were Mary,
Joseph, and the Apostle John.
quickly became a place of pilgrimage. A
large basilica was built in the 60s, and in the 80s a glass covering was put
over the gable end of the parish church where the vision had been seen.
The Pope was here in 1979. the
then Director of the Shrine was a Canon Horan, who pushed and pushed to get the
airport built, a seeming white elephant in a quiet part of the country but which
has become a boon to the West.
irreverent joke is told about the opening of the airport.
The Canon wanted to have the best person possible to open it.
The President and the Pope were discounted.
He wanted to go for the Virgin Mary.
She agreed to come and gave a speech: “I’m so happy to be here in
Knock for the first time…”
last time I was in Knock was for Liam’s ordination in 2002, which reminds me
that he was going to ask me to take something over from him.
He comes from Swinford, just down the road.
Just as well he didn’t give me anything, as I’m carrying a load of
envelopes with magazines for the parishes in Dublin to post in Knock, as well as
copies for the 20s. We still
haven’t been able to get the 30s updated list formatted into our label sizes,
so they’ll just need to wait a little while longer.
idea for this weekend came at the
30s monthly gathering in February. There
was just time to put in the main events. There’s
not a big crowd coming, but I’m sure those who do will enjoy it.
likely put too many things into this year’s main events.
But the theory is that if someone comes up with a good idea then let’s
try it. The same applies to area
programmes. If it works it works.
If it doesn’t, we’ve learned. The
first time we planned to go to Iona we had to cancel because of numbers, yet
it’s proved a winner since.
week we’ve also had to cancel Poland in July.
Only six had signed up by now. That
usually means you can double the numbers, but a couple of those booked were
having difficulties in going. Typically,
when you cancel, other bookings come in straight away, but we’ll leave it for
main problem was the three days camping when we were to join a big Dehonian
youth gathering. Quite a few people
asked if they could miss the time under tents, but that was the whole point in
going. When we were in Germany last
year the Poles invited us to join them this summer. Quite a few were keen on the idea in the bus on the way home,
but none of those who went to Germany had booked up for it.
That’s the way it goes.
have to balance their priorities, and the thought of taking a week’s holiday
to go camping in a language you don’t understand can lose its appeal.
Last year over the summer 40 went to Germany and 20 went to Rome, but
that was different.
easy enough to write in a corner of Costa Coffee in the airport, with the buzz
of people chatting nearby. But then
someone starts talking on his mobile. Not
that I have any objection to that in principle, but it’s noticeable how loud
people speak on the phone. It dins
into me and I can’t concentrate. It
must be because when we phone we block out one ear with the handset and don’t
realise we are compensating, or because the person we are listening to sounds so
faint. Sometimes I speak very low
into the mobile and check that others can hear me.
Yes, someone said, but you sound like David Attenborough whispering in
the Serengeti on one of his nature programmes.
KNOCK. IRISH ANCESTRY. SERVICES. CAMERA. EUROVISION
I’m in Knock ahead of the others. They are catching the 8.00 am bus from Dublin this morning. It’s good to have some time of quiet in a place of pilgrimage. Our community used to have the tradition of doing a day’s retreat every month. Even when you spend a lot of time with someone it is still good to have some time away with them if you want to get to know them better. I’m the same with God.
We can take people for granted, and God as well. We can talk a lot without communicating at a deeper level. There can be issues that we are avoiding, or are just not aware of. It can be the same in our relationship with God.
Any time spent in Ireland is enjoyable and resonates with my Irish genes. My great grandparents were all Irish. My mother’s older sisters were born in Ireland. The year before I was born my parents went to Dublin for a holiday to see if they would like to settle back in Ireland for the sake of the children. But they didn’t find it that much different from Scotland. Maybe if they’d gone down the country.
One of my cousins married a real Scotsman from the Western Isles where they had remained Catholic. He complained that at family gatherings all we ever sang was Irish songs. People are more Scottish now, but whenever I have mentioned my Irish roots to people from the group they look at me as if to say we’ve heard that from thousands of others. It is surprising how many from the groups in Britain have Irish connections.
The bus from Dublin arrives on time at 12.27. People are ready for something to eat after the journey. We then sort out the Bed and Breakfasts and head for the Shrine. We are staying just across the road from it. Knock could be described as a mini Lourdes, but it has kept its rural character. There are horses grazing in the fields, and the bypass means there’s little traffic on the road.
The sun comes out as we join the crowd for Stations of the Cross, followed by a Rosary Procession which leads us to the Basilica in time for the 3.00 pm Mass. The Salesian Community have their pilgrimage today, so the singing and ceremonial are extra special. There is also anointing of the sick. Some of the group go forward.
Last week I was able to borrow a digital camera. When the groups started I used to take a lot of photographs. Gradually the camera got left behind as you realised that hardly anyone was seeing the photographs. Panoramic pictures of us up Bray Head and Ben Lomond stayed on the web page well past their sell-by-date.
Confidentiality in the diary has not been the issue I feared it might be, though I have cut down on mentioning even first names. When it comes to taking photographs I’m going to have to warn people, “This could be on the web page”, and wait for the exodus from the group pose. It looks as though people are going to be safe this weekend. Having spent much of the morning getting the hang of all the gadgets and buttons, the battery has gone flat.
Some of the ladies are staying in the nearby town of Castlebar. Mary gives them a lift over. The men are showing an interest in seeing the 7.00 pm showing of the Premiership on RTE. After that we go for something to eat. The only place open is where we were earlier. Some people were not impressed with a harassed lunch, but they are pleasantly surprised over a more leisurely soiree.
We’re just in time to go to the pub next door and catch the voting of the Eurovision Song Contest, always the best bit, and mercifully we’ve missed the singing. Ireland won four years out of five in the 90s. Last year it was on when we had the open weekend and party in Dublin. A screen was showing it in the hall, silently – just as well as the UK ended up with ‘nul point’. I had thought it might have been a slap on the wrist for going to war, but the song was a pancake.
Tonight Britain and Ireland are hugging the last places and at one stage the only points they have they’ve received from each other. With the tele-voting system, the only way we’ll do well in the future is if we move geographically to have more neighbours around us who feel obliged to give us some votes. Still, you can’t win them all.
WHO’S THERE? THE PILGRIMAGE CONTINUES. BASILICAS. CARDINALS.
The beauty about staying in a B & B above a restaurant is that, if they do an all-day breakfast, you can come down for eats as late as you like in the morning. This was the case here at Beirne’s, which meant that we were occupying a table continuously for a couple of hours. How else can the problems of the world be solved (and a few others created) then around a table? If you are looking for a B & B in Knock ring Beirne’s on 094 93 88161.
We had arranged with the people who had gone to Castlebar to meet before the 12.00 Mass. Maybe I could find a battery for the camera. All credit to the spirit of Knock that the shopkeepers were quick to advise what other shops to try. But no luck in finding the kind of battery I had never seen before.
The Mass at 12.00 was for the local people. It was held in the Basilica as opposed to the smaller parish church. The name ‘basilica’ caused a few questions among the group. A basilica is usually a larger, more important church which is given that title by the Pope. In Rome last September we visited the four main Basilicas. I don’t know of any other church in Ireland or Britain that has that status. Built in the round, it could hold about 5,000, but because of its design it does not look empty when there are fewer people in.
After Mass there wasn’t that much time to get something to eat, visit the souvenir shops, and pay a last visit to the Shrine, before some had to catch the service bus to Dublin. We bought a Ring of Clodagh and a card to thank Caroline for arranging the weekend. Over lunch we had some ideas for coming back next year. There is a bus on the Friday evening from Dublin. This would give us more time and the chance to go and climb Croagh Patrick, a mountain of pilgrimage, or take a bus into Castlebar on the Saturday afternoon.
People agreed it was great to get away from the big smoke and feel the peace. If anyone was disappointed that no-one came from the groups in Britain, they didn’t show it. We were confident that more people would come next year, and with reasonable flights from London, Manchester and Glasgow to Knock International we could see it catching on.
Richard volunteered to do a report on the weekend. I hope he puts some of his jokes in. I doubt he will be to able to communicate the way he mimics me so well: “Yiv goat toe find oot what God waaants”. He was particularly pleased at the present for Caroline as he is organising Lough Derg in July.
Those of us who stayed on after the bus left for Dublin went back to the Basilica to join the Mass of the Diocesan pilgrimage from Dublin. There weren’t many seats left. Cardinal O’Connell was presiding. I thought his recent retirement would have meant retirement, but he was taking another chance to express his appreciation to the people and receive their thanks. He had a hard time as Archbishop with all the public problems. He alluded to it in his sermon, but, as someone said, it was not as though he had set out to do anything wrong. In the book I was reading recently on Cardinal Winning, a politician noted the difference when the Church got into difficulties with the media: “It was a public relations shambles, but an honest shambles”.
After the procession at the end of Mass, we met up with Theresa who had come for the day with her parish and went for a cup of tea, to Beirne’s of course.
KNOCK CONCLUDED – THE BUREAU – THE MONASTERY
Writing in Knock Airport waiting for the 12.10 to Manchester. It’s only a small affair. There are seven flights out today – a total of 250,000 passengers a year.
The weekend was a good experience, but I’m puzzled about the balance at the shrine between the emphasis on the Lamb of God and Mary. At the gable end of the church where the vision took place the Lamb on the altar is given central place and it is used as a symbol in various parts of the grounds. But at the various Masses the emphasis was put on Mary and there was no special mention of the Lamb of God. At one of the Masses before communion the phrase: “This is the Lamb of God”, was left out.
Knock shrine has other facilities to offer which have not been mentioned. There are various offices, including a Youth Office. Confessions and counselling are available 40 hours a week. There is guidance given in prayer, various facilities for the sick, and a Folk Museum giving a flavour of the history of the Shrine and the area.
Surprisingly perhaps there is a long-established marriage
bureau. Finding a life partner in
the country areas of Ireland has long been recognised as a problem for many
people, and various festivals are arranged to help.
I mention that because a few of the emails I’ve had in response to the
diary have stressed the importance of the group not becoming a dating agency.
At the first meeting of the 30s in Dublin I asked why people had come along. Someone honestly answered: “I’m looking for a man”. In different groups we’ve had talks from members on the Christian vocation as a single person. Usually they have said that they do not see their singleness as a lifelong calling, but as a temporary state, waiting to see where God leads them, or what the Lord provides.
But most people don’t use the group as a dating club. You can’t make these things happen. And the few who have got married have met through events that have been more religious. Above all people are looking to the group for that sense of togetherness and community in a Catholic context.
The British Airways plane is one of the smallest I’ve travelled in for a long time. The advantage is that it flies lower and slower so you get a better view of the countryside. There can’t be too many left with propellers. The tyres are right outside the window as we land.
I’m trying to remember some of Richard’s jokes. There’s the one about the man who joins a very strict monastery where you are only allowed to speak once a year to the Abbot. At the end of the first year the Abbot asks him how he is doing. He replies: “Okay, but it can be cold in the winter. Can I have another blanket?” The second year he says: “My light bulb is broken. Can I have another?” The third year when the Abbot asks him how he is doing he says: “I’ve decided to leave”. The Abbot replies: “I’m not surprised. You’ve done nothing but complain since you got here”.
PHONE CALLS – EMAILS – DIARY
Out of office for the weekend means these are the kinds of phone messages and emails that are waiting to be dealt with.
- A few new people to be put on the mailing list, though for Britain most of these now go to the mobile held by Celia and Clare, while the 20s and 30s in Dublin have a mobile contact
- number for the groups.
- Liam wants some extra copies of the magazine to do a campaign in his parish. Anyone else wanting to publicise us in this way or with another group just get in touch.
- Most people get in touch directly with the event organisers, but not always. This weekend someone has discovered they’ve lost their main events sheet. Someone else wants to know when the Prayer group will be on in Manchester next, and an organiser can’t ring someone back because they did not leave their number clearly enough.
- A message from the dim and distant. Last week I left a message for the chaplain at Norwich University, looking for the addresses of the University Chaplains to do a publicity campaign among students finishing their degrees. The Chaplain turns out to have played centre-back with me at college. He was better then me, having had a trial for Ipswich.
- Andy is looking for final details of the Dublin weekend 28 – 30 May for those going from the North-West. Send copies to him and to Joseph for the group from Scotland. There is no contact from London this year so don’t know how many are going from there
- Dominic has helped redesign the North-West 20s newsletter with a feed-back page, a questions and answers page, and a list of past events. Now he emails with ideas for a brochure, a postcard and business card to advertise the group, and a revised “Welcome to Project 2030” letter, as well as a proposed new questionnaire. Wow!
- Somebody wants to know what I’m going to say about Greenock Morton not getting promotion from the Scottish Second Division. Nothing.
- There is an enquiry about the Enneagram which I mentioned in passing last week.
- A new person already wants to organise an event. Why not?
- Someone is looking for prayers.
- More interest in the trip to Lourdes in September.
- The office are dealing with quite a few enquiries for the newcomers in London this Saturday and Sunday.
- A few people send in brief updates on events they have or are organising.
- Tony is helping to organise the Europe for Family cycle ride to Brussels, late August to early September. James Mawdsley also writes to say if anyone is interested in joining them on this to visit www.europe4family.net - James is also standing as a candidate in the North West of England for the European elections in June.
Various responses to the diary. In general the reactions continue to be positive, but some people are beginning to worry about the length and content of it. Some people are reading it all and enjoying it. Others don’t want to miss anything important about the group but feel they have to plough through other material that is not so interesting to them. I imagine most people scroll through pretty quickly to see what catches their attention.
A few have suggested just writing the diary once a week or when there is something important. Would people be more or less inclined to log on if there was less to read? We need to make a choice whether it is the group’s diary or Hugh’s diary. In the end it is deciding what is best for the group and for getting the message across to the greater number of people.
For example, today’s diary entry has important information that you won’t get elsewhere. How is the best way to publicise this:
You can get extra copies of the magazine if you want to do a campaign in your parish.
The 20s and 30s in Dublin have their own mobile phones for the group for newcomers to ring,etc.
That we are thinking of doing a publicity campaign among university leavers.
That the North-West 20s have a feed-back and Question and Answers in their newsletter.
That Morton didn’t get promoted. You could find that elsewhere, but who would check it up?
–DONATION – MONEY – REACH FOR THE SUN
I gave an outline of some of the emails and phone calls that come in.
I didn’t say anything about post, because most people today prefer to
phone or email, so there’s not much of interest usually in the mail.
was an exception to that. A cheque
arrived from someone in the group for…. I’m
not going to tell you, but it was a lot of money.
The person had already told me a while back that they had done well for
themselves and would like to make such a contribution to the running of Project
2030. It is not someone who has
been to many events, but they wanted to make a donation to something and decided
to send it in our direction. I rang
them this evening but they were not in. On
all of our behalves I say thank you very much.
I would like to make it public who it was and how much, but would
obviously respect them if they wanted anonymity.
If you know someone else who would like to make a donation to a good
cause, don’t be afraid to point them in our direction.
is not something I talk about much. The
group is funded by my community, the Sacred Heart Fathers (Dehonians).
And to be honest, I’m not sure how much it costs exactly each year.
That might sound strange, but the grant also covers my personal expenses.
I have to hand in a detailed account every six months, but I should
really make a tally of what is spent directly on the group: advertising,
mailings, office, travel, etc.
I said that Dominic wanted to do another questionnaire for the North-West 20s.
He asked me for the results of the questionnaire we did in February 2003.
I dug them out today and was surprised at the high percentage who said
they would be prepared to make some kind of contribution to the running of the
group. Ideas welcome on how to do
this. Even though the Dublin 30s have an annual fee, I’ve never been very keen
on the idea as it can make the group too formal and enclosed, and people who
only come to things occasionally are more likely to opt out.
One last joke in memory of Knock. A man comes into the sacristy. “Father, can I have a reference. I would like to be an astronaut. I want to be the first man to go to the sun”. “Go to the sun?” replied the priest. “You’ll be burned alive”. “No, I’ll be alright, Father, I’ll go at night”.
Last week I mentioned in passing the Enneagram. Someone wrote asking whether I would advise doing a course on it. In the 90s I gave workshops on the Enneagram regularly at Malpas and elsewhere. I got a lot out of it myself and saw the benefit for others. I would advise certain individuals to do it, but I don’t think it would be good for us to do it as a group. It has to be initially a very personal journey, and if people came along for the group experience who didn’t know what they were letting themselves in for then they could get hurt by it.
What is the Enneagram? The word means in Greek ‘9 points’. It looks at personality from 9 different but interconnected angles. Usually one of these personality types is strongest in us, but on average we have 3 or 4 which are quite strong, 3 or 4 which we don’t usually display, and 2 or 3 which are average. It’s usually easier to spot other people’s characteristics than our own, but we have to be careful about pigeon-holing anyone. The following characters are obviously shortened caricatures:
1. THE PERFECTIONIST: An upright person, but can get very angry at small things.
2. THE GIVER: who is generous in helping others, but can be too proud of this and the way they avoid their own needs.
3. THE ACHIEVER: who thrives on doing things successfully, but is tempted to lie for the sake of image.
4. THE ARTIST: who can do things in a unique way, but dislikes things that are ordinary and can be envious.
5. THE OBSERVER: Likes to study things but still feels empty. Can be greedy for knowledge, etc.
6. THE SUPPORTER: Very loyal, yet questions everything. Can live in fear.
7. THE OPTIMIST: Full of ideas and good cheer, but tempted to gluttony.
8. THE BOSS: A good leader, but has to be in control. Problems with lust.
9. THE MEDIATOR: A peaceful character who avoids conflict, but struggles with laziness.
All these characteristics say something about all of us, but they show themselves depending on whether we are our usual selves, whether we are under pressure, have less pressure than usual or get out of the wrong side of bed in the morning. The Enneagram tells us mostly what we knew or already suspected about ourselves. It helps us to understand better our own patterns and the patterns of others.
often we expect others and God to see and do things like us, but they don’t.
They are different. We are
all made in God’s image and likeness, but we only reflect one small aspect of
God. God is not made in our own
image and likeness. The Enneagram can help us to accept the differences and the
giftedness in God, ourselves and others.
If you want more information on Enneagram weekend workshops, visit www.theenneagram.co.uk - I would only advise it if you like self-development courses and you have not been under any unusual pressures in the past year. If you are looking for a book to read, the best of the Americans is anything by Helen Palmer. Nearer to home there is ‘The Enneagram’ by Karen Webb who runs the association now and ‘The Full Face of God’ by David Mahon who is the editor of the Catholic Pictorial.
GROUP IN BRISTOL - EMAIL ADDRESSES- BOOK FOR AUGUST GATHERING
Occasionally there's an email of the "Come across to Macedonia" type (St Paul in the Acts of the Apostles). Today someone writes from Bristol. They have a prayer group for Catholics in their 20s. They would like to branch out and reach other Catholics who are not looking for a prayer group but who would like to get together. Can Project 2030 help?
Office could send posters about an Information Meeting to the parishes as well
as helping with address lists. I
would be prepared to go down for initial meetings, but how much regular support
could we give? It can be hard
enough keeping on top of the groups already.
There are not enough weekends, when most things take place.
people in Bristol and other parts of our countries can get involved in the
bigger events. Some people in our
areas already prefer just to go on main events.
Maybe they already have enough going on socially and spiritually at home,
but are glad of the chance to go away with the group on weekends, retreats, etc.
That’s fine by us. The basic idea of Project 2030 is to be of service
to Catholics in their 20s and 30s in whatever way we can, wherever they are.
Just remembered that Ian, who comes from North Wales and is going to
Malpas in August, now lives near Bristol. He
could be a good contact if we start up there.
now set up a second email address to overcome the problems we’ve been having
with Freeserve/Wanadoo, especially sending group emails.
The new one is under V21.me.uk, but keep sending to the old address: firstname.lastname@example.org
- the new one has some problems receiving emails.
problems with the emails has meant that we’ve only just sent out the
invitation to people to write something for the diary in June while I’m on
holiday. That doesn’t give people
much time to send stuff in by the end of May.
So get writing. Surely you
can do something better than this. Never
let it be said that you were never asked. We’ve
had over 300 hits in the past couple of weeks and we don’t want to run out of
steam in June. See May 11 for
further details. Send contributions
the new email address means we can also send out a reminder to all the groups
about our gathering at Malpas 9 – 13 August.
The Sacred Heart Fathers (Dehonians) are subsidising the cost because we
are inviting people from 2030 type groups linked to our communities in Europe.
This has meant that people here have not felt any pressure to book up for
now we are asking you to send in a deposit of £20 (cheques made out to Project
2030) to St Joseph’s Centre, Malpas, Cheshire, SY14 7DD as soon as possible,
and no later than the end of June. The
deposit is all you will need to pay, but if any of the big earners out there
want to give an extra donation, we’ll have an anonymous system in place at
Malpas that will avoid anyone being embarrassed.
small group coming from Italy, Spain and Portugal also want to know if they can
bring more people. Book up early to
avoid disappointment. This could be
the best week of your life so far. We’re
looking especially for musicians, good hosts, discussion group leaders and those
who have experience of previous joint weekends, holidays and pilgrimages.
who book late might need to sleep in sleeping bags. There will also be the chance to stay (donation only) at the
Stella Maris Centre, Bootle, near Liverpool from 7 – 9 August.
There will be a Mass and party there with the North-West groups on the
Heading off this morning to London for the Newcomers meetings for 20s and 30s today and tomorrow. Realised late last night that the poster and the letter for the Glasgow 20s Information Evening (the new name) has to be done before Tuesday. As I likely won’t fancy doing it on Monday when I get back I’d better do it now.
We had a newcomers’ meeting in Glasgow at Easter, but it turned out to be the same evening Celtic played their last European game. So we decided to have another in June, and also reap the advantage of sending out the magazine to the parishes at the same time. Someone from London emailed to say she sees the magazines wherever she goes. Must go to a lot of churches. Why not.
to miss the Cup Finals today, but not too worried as the Cups do not mean as
much now with all the other football on TV, even though I have soft spots for
Celtic and Manchester Utd. Maybe I
shouldn’t say that on my way to Milwall country, though I’m sure there are
more in London who support Man U than worship at the Lion’s Den.
Someone claimed on the radio this morning that 82% of Manchester Utd
season-ticket holders come from within 15 miles of the ground.
Fact is stranger than fiction.
don’t suppose Milwall supporters are as fierce as they used to be.
Most of the neutrals will be on their side today.
Usually they are not very popular. Walking
up the hill to the retreat in Wimbledon in March I was amused to see an Anglican
church with a big banner outside proclaiming the Milwall theme tune: “Nobody
likes us. We don’t care”. I’m sure they didn’t mean Anglicans in particular, but
Christians in general. Do we care?
I do, but there isn’t much you can do about the tides of history.
Just keep swimming in the right direction.
train is not going in the right direction.
Despite two calls to 08457 48 49 50, the first part of my journey has to
be by bus. We lose an hour and a
half. I make it just on time for
the 30s meeting at 4.00 at More House, opposite the Natural History Museum.
look so young I even begin to think this must be the 20s meeting.
There are about a dozen newcomers and five from the group.
There are about the same numbers for the 20s meeting at 7.00, but the
majority this time are old stagers. That
must be a first, to get so many people from the group turning out for an
information meeting, but it makes it so much easier for me as I sit back and let
the people from the group explain what we are about and what they get out of it.
And in that way the new people get a better impression.
In between meetings we have a Mass at 6.00. The house here is a University Chaplaincy. The first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, is about Stephen, the deacon and first martyr. In the early days of the Church the Apostles spent much of their time feeding the poor. Then it hit them that they could spend the rest of their lives running the best café in Jerusalem when they should be out there telling people about Jesus and spending time in prayer. So they chose seven deacons to wait on the tables. But when they laid their hands on the head of Stephen he was filled with the Holy Spirit and became the best preacher about Jesus. So successful was he that the Jewish authorities condemned him to death by stoning.
draw parallels within the group that at first I was doing everything.
Now others are doing more – newsletters, magazines, organising events,
etc, and doing much of it better than I could.
Also there’s the way individuals can volunteer or be asked to do
something, and it can grow and develop into something bigger and better, as
happened with Stephen. This
doesn’t apply just within the group. In
our life of faith we need to listen to what God and others are asking of us. As we grow into our 20s and 30s we develop the confidence to
think less about ourselves and receive the strength to think more about others.
But be careful about saying yes to God about anything.
You never know where it might lead.
ECUMENISM – NEWCOMERS – INDIA ALBUM
was a question raised at one of the newcomers meetings, and not for the first
time. What links do we have with
groups of younger adults in other Churches?
Do we welcome people of other denominations to Project 2030?
There are just a few from other Churches in the group, and I know they
feel as much part of the set-up as anyone else and make their own practical
contribution. Anyone is welcome to
join as long as they don’t mind the Catholic ethos of the group.
We wouldn’t want to get to the situation where someone would say we
can’t have a Mass because there are non-Catholics in the group.
couple of times people have suggested a joint event with Anglican groups, but
nothing has come of it. If you have
any contacts in this direction let us know, because there is so much more that
we share with other Christians than divides us.
Next month the 20s in Glasgow have a talk from a young trainee Minister.
House, where the meetings are and where I’m staying, is quite near Kensington
Park. I decide to go for a walk
there, and on the way pass an Anglican church which is having a Solemn High
Mass. I catch the middle of it.
It looks High Church and they are using our Eucharistic Prayer and even
giving the Pope and the Orthodox Archbishop a mention.
It’s only later I read in the newsletter that I could have gone up for
a blessing. The parish is affiliated to Forward in Faith, a group that is
concerned about the lack of catholic direction in the Anglican communion.
There are only 20+ in the congregation, but the small choir is exquisite.
Can you enjoy singing too much?
park is very busy with strollers, sunbathers and picnickers.
The London picnic is now fixed for August 7th in Regents Park.
It will be a proper “do” with caterers and marquee with a bit extra
added on to raise funds for India. There
will also be games. I won’t be
able to make it as that’s the day people will start arriving in Liverpool for
the Malpas gathering, 9 – 13 August.
newcomers meetings followed the same pattern as yesterday.
The numbers were a bit higher for both groups.
A few speak of a sense of isolation in their own parish because there are
not many or no others their own age. An
emailer last week said that for some the group was their Church.
That panicked me a bit, as we can never be separated from the Church in
general. I’m often encouraging
people to get involved in their own parish.
That was partly my response when someone this afternoon asked why the
group was not doing anything to celebrate the great Feast of Pentecost next
weekend. But I stressed as always
that the group is not the group. You
are the group. Why not make sure
there is something for Pentecost next year.
I wouldn’t be surprised if that person takes up my challenge. But also get involved locally.
Be a Reader or a Eucharistic Minister.
Some are, but not many. I
suppose we are still a floating population in search of community, and that’s
why the group is so important and necessary.
usual the main motivation is to meet up with other Catholics your own age.
People are impressed by the range of activities on offer, and the eyes
open wider when Matt talks about the weekend he arranged in Barcelona, or Chris
and Hans talk about the visit to India.
London ‘Indians’ also panicked me last week when they emailed to say we want
to meet you in between the meetings on Sunday.
It sounded so formal and lack-of-informationish that I felt they must
have come to some dire conclusion at the India reunion I missed the other week,
that they didn’t want to say it in advance.
needn’t have worried. It turned
out that Teresa had contacted everyone and put together an album of over 100
photographs and other snippets from our time in India.
I’m quite touched by it to the point of shivering.
TO THE DIARY:
ARE LOOKING FOR CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE DIARY WHILE HUGH IS ON HOLIDAY IN JUNE.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO WRITE ON ANY TOPIC OF INTEREST SEND IT TO email@example.com
MAY 11 FOR FURTHER DETAILS.
INDIA - UNIVERSITIES – DARREN BROWN
on the train and purring over the photograph album I received yesterday from the
group that went to India in February. Memories
come filtering back – and the photograph selection is kind to me – none of
the ones while I’m dozing, trying to catch up on the lack of sleep.
Now I’m feeling guilty at the times I moaned because no-one had sent me
would advise anyone to go to India. The
only real drawback for me was the heat at night. We expected things to be fairly rough and ready out there,
sleeping on the floor of one of our seminaries in Kerala.
But in the end they rented us a villa by the lake, got people to take us
around by minibus every day, and fed us often at the best of restaurants by our
standards for £200 for two weeks. (The
flight etc cost nearer £700).
from the group are seriously thinking about going back out to India to teach
English. Soon we’ll have some
dates tied down for next year. There’ll
likely be two trips in January, March, July or November.
If you are interested in any of these months let us know.
The end of July is particularly with teachers in mind.
had hoped to go for an earlier train, but then remembered that you have to pay a
supplement before 10.00. This gives
me a chance to have breakfast with the students in the Chaplaincy.
People are doing their final exams at the moment, so that means we are
too late this year to send out posters and magazines to Universities to tell
people who are finishing their degrees about the group.
Would these guys be looking for our kind of group at this stage in their
life? Looking round, I’m beginning to have my doubts.
When travelling I often look around and wonder if people would be looking for a group like 2030, or what is it that people would want. The group is essentially for Catholics, but there is a big wide world out there of people searching for answers, and we have something to offer. Occasionally at newcomers meetings people will express almost anger because they have only just found out about the group, even though they’ve been looking for something like it for a while. “I was desperate for this kind of group a few years ago. Where were you when I needed you?” someone once said.
The train is filling up. You’re hoping that someone doesn’t sit down beside you. Darren Brown, the illusionist who gets people to do things they don’t want to do, says it’s also possible to stop people doing things. If you don’t want anyone to sit down beside you, he says, smile at them as they come along and pat the seat invitingly. No-one will take up your offer. If you wear a clerical collar you can be sure that all the other seats will be taken before anyone sits beside you. Unless of course a drunk comes on. Then, even if all the other seats are empty, they will still sit down beside you.
TIRED OR LAZY – ST IGNATIUS – LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL
Some days I don’t know whether I am tired or just being lazy. Other days I’m not sure if I’m too angry or not angry enough. I say this because others had said that at times they can’t decide whether they are being deceitful or too honest, or distinguish between bravery and recklessness. This kind of dilemma applies to all the other deadly sins: pride, envy, avarice, lust, gluttony. That’s why they are deadly, because they can creep up on us unawares. We can mistakenly think there is nothing wrong with them sometimes, and lead ourselves up the garden path. Other times we can be too scared of them and our own shadow, and not allow ourselves to feel, for example, justifiably proud or angry.
I write this because the one thing that has received the most response in the diary is the paragraph I wrote on St Ignatius’ method of deciding right from wrong, on what is best, is something from God or not (see April 2 – or does that mean that people only got as far as Day 2 in reading the Diary?). Sometimes we have to go ahead and make a decision even though we are not sure. Then it’s important to reflect back afterwards and be honest with ourselves. Often the thing we were almost sure was wrong turn out great, whereas the decision we were pretty confident about can be a bit of a disaster. I’ll write more on the Ignatian method of discernment in the future.
I’m also writing this because today I felt pretty
whacked. I didn’t think I was too
bad when I came back from London yesterday, but when I spoke to the office about
the emails that had come in over the weekend, it was difficult to concentrate
and decide on even simple issues. Today
part of the problem might have been that I knew I wasn’t going to get a day
off this week, but I felt there was too much to do before going to Dublin
In the end I didn’t do very much, and it feels okay
now. I also had to go to the
dentist in the afternoon. That’s
never an inviting prospect, though last week I was too keen.
I woke up and thought: “Tuesday. Dentist”,
without even checking the diary. In the afternoon I got ready, brushed my teeth again, etc,
and unusually got there nice and early only to discover that I wasn’t due till
In the evening I watched a video of Beningni’s
“It’s a Beautiful Life”, which won Oscars about six years ago.
I had never seen it before and was intrigued why the Pope had wanted to
see it. And yet the video had lain
around for a while. Maybe it was
the subtitles that were putting me off, though my Italian is pretty good.
Or perhaps I needed a more relaxed day.
The story is about an Italian Jew, a bit of a joker,
who ends up in prison with his family in World War II.
His young son survives because he manages to persuade him that it is all
a game. Life certainly isn’t a
game, but if we looked at things more positively we might have a better chance
of surviving its ups and downs. Even
doing nothing for the day can turn out to be a positive decision
PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES – POETRY
On my way to the Dublin 20s newcomers meeting this evening.
Recently we have had a few enquiries about how the group welcomes people with disabilities or special needs. We usually explain how we operate and leave it to the individual or carer to decide if our group is for them. Given the informal nature of the group – those who turn up, turn up – we don’t have anything in place to cater for people with disabilities on a regular basis, but whenever someone comes along who needs a different kind of care and attention the group has been very good at welcoming them and looking out for them.
On Saturday John came to the newcomers meeting. He can only get about with two crutches. He’s about the first person I’ve asked if it was okay to mention him in the diary because he was keen to make people aware of the Disability Discrimination Act which will become law in England in October. He had done a course on it and was aware that many Churches did not have proper facilities in place – access, ramps, etc, and were liable to be fined after October.
John had parked the car round the corner from More House. We went for a drink after the meeting about 5 minutes away. So he went back to the car, assembled his wheelchair, and joined us. It was while walking back with him that he told me about his course. As a non-wheelchair person you don’t realise the importance of low pavement kerbs at junctions, though some of them were quite steep, but John didn’t want any help. He plays basketball and needed the exercise.
On Sunday, Luke, who is blind, came to the 20s meeting. His mum brought him along. He wouldn’t be able to come to things without someone to accompany him. He wanted to find out what it was all about. When he went home he was keen enough to take a pile of magazines back to his parish to do some publicity there.
If anyone feels called to be a buddy to someone with a disability then let us know. You could do as much or as little as you want, but it would mean on occasions accompanying an individual to events who needed someone to be with them. I wouldn’t want to push this idea too hard as I’m aware that many people come along to events because they have identified a special need in themselves, i.e. as a young Catholic, to spend quality time with other young Catholics. Project 2030 is, at least so far, unashamedly ‘something for me’. We need that support in our busy, challenging lives, but, if you have spare capacity at the moment, it could be good to look to the needs of others.
At the beginning of May during the pilgrimage to Iona I included some Limericks in the Diary. On the final day I left the Limerick incomplete saying that I wouldn’t write any more unless someone sent in a fifth line. Someone just has. It goes:
There was a young man from Leith
Who had problems enough with his teeth.
He went for a filling,
Collapsed at the drilling,
And vowed never more to eat beef.
I don’t know if more Limericks will appear in the
Diary, but if they do we will know who to blame, and I will not hesitate to
publicly name and shame the individual concerned.
Today is the first birthday of one of my
great-nephews. I can’t see myself sending cards regularly to the next
generation – how many cards did you get from great-uncles?
But the first birthday is a very special one for the parents.
Sometimes I make up poems for family birthday cards.
On the way to buy a card on Monday I got a first line. I don’t know whether the rest is ‘poetry’ but you’re
going to get it anyway.
Being one is wonderful
Having two that care,
Gives you three that’s funderful
Makes a four with Bear.
Five your toes and fingers
Six when all are home.
Seven nights you have a bath
Eight you hate the comb.
Nine you’re sleeping sound.
Tentative they creep,
A living loving all around,
Doesn’t it strike you deep?
back, Wordsworth, all is forgiven.
Reflecting on last night’s Dublin 20s newcomers
meeting. Groups, especially 20s
groups, go through different cycles. When
we started four years ago the Dublin 20s got off to a good start, even if the
numbers were small. In the winter
fewer people in general come to things, and in the second year it was mostly
those going to the World Youth Day in Toronto that were involved and kept things
Two years ago we had almost thirty at a newcomers
meeting. It was chaotic.
The room we had booked in the Earl of Kildare Hotel was not available
till later, it was too small when we got it, and there was a fire alarm.
Somehow all the chaos was fun, and from that evening a strong group
Last year quite a number from Dublin 20s went to the
Dehonian Gathering in Germany, but the week didn’t turn out to be the holiday
some people hoped for. The
travelling by bus took very long. The
temperatures were hitting 40, and the gathering was more intense than people
expected. When we moved on from our
Centre in the south of Germany to meet up with 400 other younger people in the
north of Germany some felt that the only way they could survive was by opting
out and continuing to holiday in Germany on their own.
There were no hard feelings, and when people got back
to Dublin the group continued as before, but maybe something had been lost.
Our last newcomers meeting did not produce much new blood, and
increasingly there were more people who needed care and attention.
Even a large group can struggle with assimilating needier people, but
when the numbers are smaller it becomes more difficult.
Last night only 8 new people turned up, and some of
those did not stay around for the meeting.
Maybe a Wednesday in May is not the ideal time.
What is the best way forward? We’ll
have what we will now call an Information Evening in September when people are
looking at what to do for the year after the summer holidays.
We’ll advertise in the Catholic newspapers – The Irish Catholic and
Alive. This time the poster in the
parishes advertised the meeting. Next
time we’ll take the chance that people will read about the meeting in the
parish newsletter, so the poster will be a general one about the group with
tear-off slips, so that people can find out about us over the following months.
That will help to give a more gradual flow of new people.
Some find the newcomers meetings easier, but it can also give a false
picture of the group. Individuals
coming to a normal event can get a better and truer impression.
I wrote last month how the groups in Scotland,
England and Ireland are quite different because of the relative number of
Catholics in each area. In Dublin
nearly everyone is nominally Catholic, but in recent years the impact of new
wealth, secularism and the scandals in the Church have had a big impact.
Many are afraid even to admit to going to Church.
On the other hand there are strong groups for younger Catholics, but
these tend to be more intense, trying to hold back the tide or campaigning on
important moral issues. A while
back someone in Dublin who is quite spiritual said that they were put off
certain groups by the way people misused prayer, either as a crutch or a
battering ram against others (my words). St
Thomas Aquinas warned against ‘prayer abuse’ (like substance abuse).
Anything can be misused. That is why the groups in Dublin are wary of the
spiritual side, even though there was good enthusiasm last night for the
pilgrimage climb of Croagh Patrick next year.
At the last review meeting for the Dublin 20s it was
explained to me and I began to understand that for younger Mass-going Catholics
to want to get together for social activities was already quite an achievement.
Maybe that is as much as we can expect in the present climate, though
there is a Mass at Rathmines in the new programme.
VIEWS AT COMMUNITY AND INTER-GROUP LEVEL – DAVINA
Most people are aware that the funding for Project
2030 comes from my community, the Sacred Heart Fathers (Dehonians).
It is also a big investment allowing me to do this work full-time.
Most of yesterday was spent at a meeting in Malpas with some of our
priests, which included initiating a review of Project 2030.
Not that our commitment is under threat, but we have an Assembly coming
up in the Autumn which will work out our community’s plan for the next three
years, and that will include 2030.
We also have our own review for all the groups at
Malpas 17 – 19 September. That
will allow us to have some input into the community’s assessment.
If you have any suggestions for nominations of people who should
represent your group in September let us know.
You can also send in any suggestions or comments about the group to Fr
Chris Jenkins who is chairing our committee on firstname.lastname@example.org
or even if you just want to express your appreciation.
You can send me a copy or not.
Our priests in general are very happy with how the
group has gone and want to encourage it. The
magazine was a good symbol of progress. I explained that all was not rosy, that groups have their ups
and downs, but in general progress was being made.
One significant aspect was the acceptance of the group in many different
dioceses and the willingness of priests to promote us.
There is obviously a need for 2030 and potential for growth.
Those who get involved regularly express their gratitude for the group.
What were the possibilities of groups in other areas?
Could the idea be franchised out? What
about individuals who do not live near a group, can they get involved?
Just some of the questions that were raised. What about people who are looking to develop their faith
more? How should we react if other
groups developed that were independent of Project 2030?
When I spoke about University leavers, someone had
the good suggestion of asking people to go back to their old university and
speak about the group, especially if they had been involved in the chaplaincy.
Any volunteers? If the group
grows, how much more can the community give financially?
Are members prepared to make a voluntary contribution so that others can
share the benefits they have received. I
thanked the community for the support I/we receive in other ways – when I stay
in our houses, using photocopiers, borrowing cars, etc. And when the group visit our places they appreciate the
hospitality and feel at home.
Do I need more help, office support, etc?
Should we look at taking on a lay assistant to ensure continuity and
development? What happens if I am
unable to continue the work, can we find someone else to keep it going?
There will come a day when inevitably Big Brother/Big Father votes me out
in one way or other. Meanwhile we
can only do our best to keep the show on the road.
Changing the subject slightly, because I know people will ask me this, I
suggest we vote off Davina first, before she loses all credibility.
PARTY – PORTUGAL – BARBADOS
This evening is the 4th Birthday Party of
Project 2030 in Ireland. Three
years ago the 30s in Dublin were looking around for an excuse to have a party
(not that you need an excuse here) and came up with the idea of making it a
birthday for the group, and the tradition has continued. On average about 15 have come over each year from Britain for
it. People were arriving yesterday
and meeting up in the Central Hotel. Today
the plan was to do the open-top bus tour of Dublin with stops at the Guinness
Factory, and many other sights.
My community at Stockport have lost track of where I’ve been and where I’m going. There was a kind of: “You’ve just been to Dublin. Do you need to go back again?” but in a good sense of do you have to do more travelling. Couldn’t they manage without you? I’m sure they could, and for a moment I hesitate and think how I could have a free weekend. But how could I miss the party? The joint events are always the best, and you have more time to get to know people. I keep saying how I’m a group person as opposed to one-to-one or needing my own space kind of person. The more people there are around the bigger the buzz for me.
There’s still the Dublin 20s newsletter to be tweaked and printed off for posting in Ireland. There’s an email from the South Italian group coming to Malpas in August. Can they bring nine, more than I expected. I swallow hard and reply: “Sure, bring them all over.” There’ll be plenty of room at Malpas, even if some of the late bookers have to use sleeping bags, but it could be a squeeze at Smithstone House in Scotland the following weekend.
On recent visits to Manchester Airport, thinking about my holidays next week, I’ve been asking at various desks about cheap last-minute flights. Two years ago I booked on the day itself. This week they have been advertising £74 return to Faro in the south of Portugal, so I decided to take it for £86, bottom line, 14 days starting Thursday. I was in Albufeira along the coast a few years ago. You can always find a cheap but reasonable B and B. Ideally some kind of group holiday would be best, but I can be too hooked on groups and something like that would be expensive. The last time I was pretty bored at the end of my time in Portugal, but its good to have that time on my own and I come back more refreshed. I like the heat and the sea. I also enjoy trying some of the language. There’s still an unfinished Harry Potter book from the last time and there isn’t the same sense of wasting time when you are watching the Portuguese TV. Another advantage is that it will be fun being in Portugal during the European Nations Cup football.
The party is in Wynn’s Hotel, just off O’Connell St in the centre of Dublin. It goes with a swing. We have a room upstairs with buffet, bar and disco for 20 euros per head. There are a dozen over from the groups in Scotland, London and the North-West. Some arrived on Thursday to make the best of their break. People meet up with others they have known in Germany, India, or other joint events.
It’s a chance to do some business as well with those who are involved in doing things for the groups. Joseph has more ideas for the web page. Andy is happy for the Taize service in the North West to be advertised round the parishes when we send out the magazines. Nick and Dominic have good ideas for the North West 20s. A few also ‘volunteer’ to be contacts for other joint events in London and Glasgow or to write something for the June diary.
Our thanks to Thomas and everyone else who organised the party and the weekend. The trip he was organising to Cuba in the summer has been changed to Barbados. We await the report with interest
– CATHEDRALS – DUN LAOGHAIRE
The party didn’t finish until 1.00 am and for some the night was still young. That’s why we arranged to meet today at 12.30pm at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral for the last Mass of the morning. Strangely, yet understandably, there is no Catholic Cathedral in Dublin. There were two cathedrals at the time of the Reformation, but they both still remain in the hands of the Anglican Church of Ireland. The Catholic Church has never built a cathedral. Maybe it is waiting for one back. That’s why the Church we attended is called the Pro-Cathedral.
Last year some people couldn’t believe how quick
this Mass was. There are various
sung Masses earlier in the morning. In
fact we were stung for raffle tickets for one of the choirs to go on tour.
Today it was still quick but Pentecost Sunday was celebrated with
dignity, though we won’t reveal whose mobile went off.
There is something special about attending Mass together like this, even
though I wouldn’t normally choose to sit on the front rows as a crowd.
But why not?
We negotiated our way through the showers to
Gogarty’s Pub in Temple Bar for lunch, just too late for the live Irish music.
Our hope had been to do the walk around Howth Head, where the path along
the sea cliffs makes you feel you are far from any habitation, never mind just
being a few miles from the city. Instead,
because of the showers, we decided to go to Dun Laoghaire, a place most of the
visitors thought they had never heard of until they realised it was pronounced
The trains were off for the day so we took the bus.
This gave Declan the chance to point out various tourist attractions.
The bus system in Dublin is very good, so much so that the company has
the confidence to have an advert on its shelters for Jaffa Cakes: “None for
ages, then twelve all at once.” There
was plenty of humour over the weekend, not easy to put into words.
Two of the guys were told to meet at the new spire in O’Connell St.
They were found later waiting outside the Spar.
Less funny was the fact that some of the earlier publicity for the
weekend still had the party at the Banker’s Club.
A few of the visitors turned up there, wondering at the lack of craic.
The sun came out when we reached Dun Laoghaire.
We walked out the long harbour wall and sat for ages looking out at the
sea, watching the boats come in and even catching a glimpse of a seal.
On every journey there is always a furthest point from which you head
back home. It was 8.00 pm before we
got back to Dublin. We had arranged
to meet up with more of the Dubliners at 9.00 pm at Gogarty’s though some went
off to do the twilight Ghost Tour. Oooih!
At the end of the 4th Birthday Party
weekend for Project 2030 reflecting on what it is like to be 4.
Can we make any comparisons with the four-year old human child?
David Attenborough says that the most fascinating of all creatures is the
three-year old human. What is a
four-year old like: gaining in confidence, starting to explore, asking the
difficult questions, ready for school, making new friends, a certain
independence. Are there any lessons
here for Project 2030 after four years?
On the way to Dublin airport called in to the main
post office on O’Connell St to get stamps to post the Dublin 20s newsletter.
The Post Office is where the 1916 Easter Rising took place that would be
the final catalyst leading to Irish independence.
People are usually surprised to discover that many if not most of the
leading patriots over the centuries were Protestant and not Catholic.
My only disappointment with the weekend in Dublin was
that we didn’t get a chance to sing ‘The Fields of Athenry’.
Brother Francis at the community in Inchicore where I was staying said it
was a rebel song. Looking at the
words, it can hardly come under that definition.
Michael is in prison, for stealing Trevelyn’s corn “so the young
might see the morn”. We hear his
thought and those of his true love outside the prison wall and as she watches
his prison ship sail for Botany Bay in Australia:
“Low lie the fields of Athenry
Where once we watched the small free birds fly.
Our love was on the wing. We had dreams and songs to sing.
It’s so lonely ‘round the fields of
I still haven’t learned the words for the next time I go to see Celtic or Liverpool, but this evening I wallowed in my memories of Ireland and worked out the chords for the guitar.