Thursday 30 August 2007

Friends with Christ: the new season

The "Friends with Christ" initiative is holding two events this October - let the graces of the summertime flow! Perhaps you were at Walsingham "Youth2000" or "New Dawn", perhaps you joined the World Youth Alliance for their "Viviamo" in Romania, perhaps you took part in a local prayer festival, or maybe you were waiting for your results to come through or for a reply for your job applications. Perhaps you are steeling yourself to burn for Christ at the beginning of a new term. Look out for what is on offer and embrace every opportunity of grace that God gives you.

Fr Julian and myself have timetabled two events which go to the heart of our Faith and which we offer to you:

Friends with Christ Retreat in Birmingham, Fri 19th- 21st October. A retreat led by Fr Julian and myself for young people and University students aged 18 - 25. The Retreat will begin on Friday evening with supper at 6.oopm.
There will be help on how to pray, Holy Mass, Adoration, talks, Spiritual Exercises, good food and relaxation, and individual guidance for deepening your relationship with Christ. The retreat will end after lunch on Sunday at about 2.00pm. No charge - donation please.
Come and stay or come each day! Floor space available for those who wish to stay - please bring sleeping bag/ground mat. Otherwise come in and take part in the sessions each day. Contact either of us for a booking form.

A Friends with Christ Day of Recollection for dating couples, led by Fr Richard Aladics and Alan and Anne Morton. Saturday 13th October near Gainsborough in Lincolnshire. This day is for young people, aged 18 to 25, who are beginning a relationship or who are already thinking about marriage, and who are looking for a time to pray and discern together - hearing the call to marriage and putting Christ first. No charge - donation please. If you are coming by train we can offer lifts from Retford and Newark stations. Contact Fr Richard for a booking form.

Credible witnesses

Following the pilgrimage to Craiglodge I drove south to Walsingham in order to take part in the Youth2000 International Prayer Festival. There at England's National Shrine to the Blessed Mother, Our Lady helped both priests and a thousand young people to celebrate and adore the Eucharist.

During four days this great company of young people, priests and religious took part in an experience of the life of the Church. Christ was at the centre of this experience and His presence drew from us all our own witness to His action in our lives, in prayer, in desiring anew His life, in celebrating the Sacarments, in sharing and in testimony. It was an experience of grace; of being built up together to be his witnesses, credible witnesses.

Wednesday 29 August 2007

A pilgrimage of grace

Last week I led a group of young people, most of them from Leeds, on a pilgrimage to CraigLodge in Scotland (my first visit there). Our intention was to spend three days together in prayer and friendship, and we chose The Family House of Prayer as our place of pilgrimage (as so many young people before us have done). It was a superb three days of grace.

We were welcomed at Craiglodge by the Community and given extensive freedom in taking part in the life of the Community and preparing our our framework of prayer and adventure. Fr Stefan joined us from his Augustinian community in Edinburgh and we were indebted to him for his lack of local knowledge during the first day's adventure - wading across a Highland river was, in fact, a source of grace for our company.

On the second full day after a morning of adoration and reflection we climbed into the Lost Valley in Glen Coe, arriving in Oban in the evening sunlight for a meal by the harbour.

I gather that during the three days we spent there, Scotland had its best weather so far this year. This pilgrimage, made together by young people and priests, was a great blessing for us this summertime. We were able to pray together in a way which would not have been possible otherwise, and we were able to share together so much of our life in Christ. We were another company of builders for the Civilisation of Love.

Tuesday 14 August 2007

A feast of Grace

We've got a 12-Star General. She's leading us into Eternity!
Her story, which has been 'gathered' by the Church is extraordinary. We hear about so many people, in magazines, on the radio, on the television, who have absolutely nothing to tell us. Very occasionally we hear a person speaking to us (in the media) who shines a ray of light, this rare ocurrance is a great blessing.
But this person is quite different from the mindless mass-media "personality"; her life is utterly informed and transformed by grace. She can tell us about the whole of her life, about the meaning of the most simple event in her life. She introduces us to the whole panarama of life. Her story is the most accesible story, because it is cherished and preserved by God himself, and because she is our Mother.
She is the first, among many (saints), who can tell us the truth!

Sunday 12 August 2007

A priestly movement in the heart of Europe

During the past ten days the "Societe Jean-Marie Vianney" has been holding its annual general summer Session; first in Ars (near Lyons) and then in Lisieux (in Normandy). About sixty priests together with some seminarians from Europe and Canada took part in this gathering.

The "Societe Jean-Marie Vianney" is a priestly fraternity of Pontifical Right whose purpose is the development and exercise of the interior life of the diocesan priest for his apostolic and missionary life. This fraternal and spiritual endeavour is inspired by the witness to priestly holiness of the Cure d'Ars, St John Vianney.
At the heart of this movement is the Holy Eucharist, celebrated and adored, by the priest. A second dimension is built upon priests sharing together their own experience of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A third aspect of this movement is the study of the Teaching of the Church undertaken as a shared responsibility.

It is unusual to see priests in public, and large numbers of priests at that, especially in the UK. Perhaps Europe is unaware at this stage, that its true heart is still beating. Europe certainly possesses the material wealth to develop itself; it also possesses spiritual wealth and the John Vianney Society is called to be at the forefront of of this mission.

A very poignant moment for me was the singing of Midday Prayer of the Church on the cliffs by the Batterie de Longues which overlooks both "Gold" and "Juno" beaches (D-Day landings). Here in view of many tourists we prayed together for the unity of Europe. For, as the Moderator of the Society said as he opened the prayer: "A Europe without God will be a disaster!"

We were graced throughout the Session with the spiritual company of St Therese; in fact we stayed in Lisieux just over the river from the Carmel wall where she was perfected in holiness. We visited the Noman coast and Bayeux with its thousand year-old Tapistry, ending that day with a splendid Norman BBQ.

This society, still so new - it was given Pontifical Right in 2002 - is a flower at the heart of the Church. Please pray for the Society, that it may lead to the holiness of priests, that it be a strong platform of the New Evangelisation and that promote and guide many, many priestly vocations; it is already at the heart of the renewal of the Diocesan Priesthood.

Saturday 4 August 2007

Revisiting a Rising

Recently I visited Lincolnshire and some of the sites associated with the Lincolnshire Rising - the precursor to the Pilgrimage of Grace. The Rising occured in response to the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the taxing of the Church and Governmental involvement in clerical life. It began because of a sermon given by the Parish Priest of Louth, Fr Thomas Kendall, on 1st October 1536, who called upon the people of Louth to defend their rights against the King. This photo shows the interior of St James Church in Louth - the original pulpit replaced by this Victorian piece.

The Rising gained great momentum throughout Lincolnshire, bringing together a great army which mustered first on Hamilton Hill (pictured) just outside Market Rasen in the first week of October. It was here that Robert Aske first made a public appearence; he was to become the principal Captain of the later Pilgrimage of Grace.

The Host finally made its way to Lincoln where they met with Henry VIII's envoys who managed to suppress the rebellion and then to execute many of its leaders.

Lincolnshire had much to lose - principally its faith and its numerous religious houses. Newstead Priory, pictured here, is situated on the banks of the River Ancholme. It was a Gilbertine House - the Gilbertines were a uniquely English Foundation. The "Priory" is now a venue for civil weddings and civil partnerships.

Finally I visited the site, which for me, is the most evocative remnant of the Dissolution of the Monasteries: Thornton Abbey. Only the Gatehouse of this Augustinian House remains, but as you approach the Gatehouse you can begin to imagine the "city" built for the honour of God which lay beyond. Thornton Abbey (just the Gatehouse) is well worth a visit; it is on the south bank of the Humber close to Immingham.

All that took place in Lincolnshire during October 1536 prepared the way for the Pilgrimage of Grace (I'll post about this later), and for the hardening of attitudes in Government against the "old religion". The Dissolution of the Monasteries continued, a new "church" was established, and as we know, the country has become more and more spiritually impoverished.

Friday 3 August 2007

What a plan!

Cardinal Pell of Australia is envisaging a comprehensive renewal of his Diocese in the light of the blueprint letter of JPII: "Tertio Milennio Ineunte". At last there is a clear response from the Church of the Anglo-Saxon world to the New Evangelisation. Here is one "local Church" to keep your eye on - there will be many lessons for us to learn in the UK about how to become the Church of the New Evangelisation.
Take a look at the Home page of the Archdiocese of Sydney here and click on the Logo on the right hand side titled "Draft Pastoral Plan".
It is great to see what the plan heralds for young people: a local concrete response to next year's World Youth Day and for every parish to have the resources to lead young people in the Christian Life!
Let's remember Cardinal Pell, his Diocese and its renewal, and the plans for World Youth Day in our prayer.