On Saturday evening we headed out bags packed with food on our shoulders, our hands laden with flasks full of hot brew. As splashes of rain stared falling we became reluctant, pondering the idea of carrying out a shorter route. Only to be reminded of the reality that we were luck. With our big rain coats and dry socks on, the least we could do was give what we had to people who needed it, sitting alone on a dreary English night.
Quite early on, we began to recognise the increased presence of individuals sitting on the street. By the time we had reached the central library (about a ¼ of the way around the route) we were nearly out of cups. This trend continued all along the path we took. Arriving back empty handed; all we had to offer had been taken with grateful hands. We were able to help 41 people but it just makes you wonder how many we weren’t able to see. Who else was in need on this single evening in Manchester?
Something that particularly shook us was the vast contrasts. The bubbly groups dressed to impress, just heading out for an evening in town compared to the individuals alone, cold and wet after a day sitting at the side of the pavement. The smells of the rich variety of food on offer inside candle lit restaurants or our offering of the cold sandwiches, rejected from a café. The gentlemen who informed us of the hotel he was staying in for the night at a price of over £100 or the around £3 one man had collected during the day which he was planning to spend on a bus ticket to allow him to sleep somewhere undercover for part of the evening.
With all this in mind, you would expect us to be inundated with gloomy faces. However what we found was the stark opposite. The words of thanks were overwhelming. Several times our hands were grasped as they looked us in in the eye, desperate to insure we realised how genuinely grateful they were. Even with the weight of the world on their shoulders, so many were somehow able to muster up this positive attitude. “I’m just happy every morning I wake up alive” one young man told us as he explained how a holiday gone wrong had lead to where he was now. Not only did we witness some people’s positive outlook, but we really felt the interest toward our lives and the care shown toward us. “Stay safe” one lady sitting alone instructed us. This is a line I so often say myself, to be instructed it by her instead, was not what we were expecting. It’s when people are kindest that it feels the most worthwhile however, this is also the hardest. It makes you realise the injustice. If everyone was rude and drunk it would be less hard hitting, but it’s when people are so kind that you really think about what a disservice our society is doing them.
In conclusion, although the material objects we can provide are important, it’s also the human contact, the compassion and care we can show that can mean so much more.
For many of our contemporaries, the figure who most represents the relationship between science and religion is Galileo Galilei. They might imagine someone like in the illustration above, a courageous man of reason and progress single-handedly challenging the authorities with their backward views. (One of the figures above even has his face half-concealed by a hood, like some kind of medieval Sith Lord!) Religion is, and always has been, simply incompatible with science. In his opening talk at the upcoming Manchester Living Theology course (Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy, 25th-27th November 2016), Vatican astronomer Christopher Corbally S.J. reflects on the sometimes turbulent relationship between the Church and science.
Physicist and theologian Ian Barbour classified approaches to science and religion into four kinds: conflict, independence, dialogue, and integration (Barbour, 1990). The first approach, conflict, sees science and religion as irreconcilable enemies. It is like a fight between a boa constrictor and a wart-hog – the winner, whichever it is, swallows the loser. This approach is exemplified in the public talks and writings of the so-called “Four Horsemen” of Atheism – Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris (Timonen, 2007). In this view, the scientific method is the only reliable means of knowledge; further, the most fundamental reality in the universe is matter-energy. This view is called scientific materialism (also sometimes called scientism).
Scientific materialists have their counterparts on the religious side too – biblical literalists and fundamentalists. Some simply reject the findings of science and uphold the biblical account of creation in seven days (Genesis 1). Others, such as those in the Intelligent Design (ID) movement, advocate a ‘God of the gaps’ and hypothesise an intelligent designer when science fails to provide all the answers. (It might surprise some to know that Isaac Newton fell into this category as well!) Science educator Michael Smith S.J. examines biblical literalism and evolution in the context of the Genesis creation story in his Living Theology talk on Saturday morning (November 26th).
In recent decades, philosophers of science and religion have pointed out that both scientific materialism and biblical literalism suffer from the same drawback – they fail to appreciate the limitations of their own fields and beliefs. Scientific materialists fail to grasp that their basic assumptions are philosophical, and not scientific at all. It is not the only “right way” to do science. Likewise, biblical literalists fail to find a role for human reason and spirit of enquiry. St. Augustine pointed out that the purpose of Scripture is to aid us in salvation, not answering every little question about the world we live in.
Barbour’s second approach, independence, sees science and religion as offering answers to different kinds of questions about life. Science asks the “how” questions; religion the “why”. Science is concerned with the mechanisms of the visible and measurable universe; religion with what our attitude towards the Ultimate, life and each other should be. Evolutionary biologist and historian of science Stephen J. Gould called this distinction ‘non-overlapping magisteria’. Both science and religion have their own respective domains of authority and expertise.
However, many philosophers, scientists and theologians think that more is possible – dialogue. At the limits of scientific enquiry are found questions to which science itself cannot offer an answer –philosophical questions about the underlying assumptions of the whole scientific endeavour (e.g. the rationality of the universe) and questions of ethics. The scientist is not an automaton, working in his laboratory to a preset program. Rather, the scientist is, like anyone else, a flesh-and-blood human being who lives in the same world as the rest of humanity. He or she needs to make moral decisions, judgments about the adequacy of data; he or she must be creative in formulating new theories. (And, yes, even scientists need to apply for funding!)
Likewise, the theologian cannot isolate herself or himself away from the world of science. Science can challenge theology to explore previously unimagined questions – e.g. what would it mean for Christianity if intelligent life were discovered on another planet? Christopher Corbally examines this intriguing question in his Saturday afternoon Living Theology talk (November 26th).
The final approach to religion and science is that of integration. Here, one carefully listens to the evidence of both science and religion to develop a unified view of reality. Concepts from the sphere of religion, such as worship and transcendence, can illuminate the scientific endeavour; just as those from the scientific sphere, such as evolution, can influence theology. French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is a good example of this synthesis. Teilhard saw evolution as God’s way of working within the universe – through the evolution of life from inanimate matter to consciousness and society. Ultimately, he saw the universe as evolving towards an “Omega Point” where we encounter Christ. Michael Smith S.J.’s second talk on Saturday looks at the thought and legacy of Teilhard de Chardin (November 26th).
The Living Theology weekend ends on Sunday, 27th November with a contrasting trio of talks. Christopher Corbally S.J. looks at the physics behind the Star of Bethlehem. University of Manchester researcher Gabriel Fonseca gives his perspective as an active scientist and believer in reflecting on the brain, consciousness and the divine. Finally, Michael Smith S.J. explores the ‘science’ of God Himself – theology.
Theologians and scientists explore the same world. Conflict is not the only mode by which they can interact. In the words of physicist Freeman Dyson:
Science and religion are two windows that people look through, trying to understand the big universe outside, trying to understand why we are here. The two windows give different views, but they look out at the same universe. Both views are one-sided, neither is complete. Both leave out essential features of the real world. And both are worthy of respect. (Dyson, 2000)
- Kensy Joseph SJ
To find out more about Manchester Living Theology, or to reserve a place, visit http://manchesterlivingtheology2016.eventbrite.co.uk
ReferencesBarbour, I.G., 1990. Religion in an age of science. London : SCM Press, London.
Dyson, F., 2000. Progress in Religion.
Timonen, J., 2007. The Four Horsemen: Discussions with Richard Dawkins. London.
MASS WITH POPE FRANCIS ON THE FEAST OF ST IGNATIUS
Today we are about to head home after a wonderful pilgrimage. We will be travelling for four days by car before we reach England.
What can I say about the last week of my life?
Aside from my return to God after the death of John Paul II, this has been the most powerful experience of my life.
It has by no means been an easy pilgrimage though. In the last 48 hours, our group joined 3 million young people in walking 50km to Campus Misericordiae to camp out in an overnight vigil. There we gathered to listen to the teachings of our Holy Father, Pope Francis and to be spiritually fed for the mission of proclaiming the Gospel.
The walk itself was a little tiring. Some in our group began to feel physical pain on the journey, while others felt the burden of the heat (scorching hot weather) and tiredness setting in. We were blessed, however, to be at the roadside as Pope Francis unexpectedly passed by in his little car.
Well, most of our group saw him! I only managed to see his arm, as I had been looking to the back of the convoy to see him in a big popemobile. I didn't expect him to cruise by in such a small, ordinary looking car. This pope is truly undoing all of our expectations, and challenging us by doing so.
At the campus, the Pope had invited laypeople to get up and give testimonies. I was pleased to see that he'd allowed a Syrian woman to speak about the persecution and horrors her "beautiful country" had faced. Pope Francis went on to speak about the refugee crisis, and our duty to help immigrants in the name of mercy.
It has been refreshing to hear a leader speak so fearlessly, so truthfully and so humanely about the plight of refugees.
Even the less religious in the group could not fail to be impressed and inspired by the Pope's integrity and compassion.
The overnight vigil was an amazing experience. The Pope led us in a sung Divine Mercy chaplet, and in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. We joined him in veneration of an image of Our Lady which JP2 had had a devotion to.
Once the Pope bid us goodnight, we commenced with a huge party! 3 million young people gathered together in one place- it was always going to be exuberant! Some of our group went for a walk around the entire campus (it took us over an hour to get around). We joined in with groups from all over the world in dancing, singing, praying. The sights and sounds were indescribable. The joy we saw was immense- it was as though we all supported one football team and we had just won the World Cup. I guess in a spiritual sense that's exactly what has happened.
How blessed we are to be granted the gift of faith. None of us has earned this gift - it had been freely given. All we have done is said yes to it. I have felt so much gratitude over the last few months for this gift, and even more so this week.
Before going to sleep under the stars, we lit Chinese paper lanterns and prayed together.
Sunday was World Youth Day itself- and also the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. I don't think it's by accident that Pope Francis (himself a Jesuit) chose this day to be World Youth Day!
We celebrated Sunday Mass with the Pope. At first I was tired and groggy during the Mass (sleep doesn't come easy in a field!) The Pope spoke powerfully about mission and the joy that JP2 feels at seeing us gathered here. Once the Eucharistic Prayer began, I was moved very much. What a privelige to be present with our shepherd and to break bread together as a universal Church.
It was an emotional experience for me, as I really felt that I was part of the Body of Christ during that Mass. There we were, all gathered together. Such a beautiful Church. It also hit me that something -someone- greater than even the Pope was with us during the consecration. Christ Himself. I was filled with awe at being called to be part of such a beautiful Church, and wished that the whole world could know this joy! What a treasure it is to know Christ.
The Pope commissioned us to go out and be Missionaries of Mercy and gave us his blessing.
Utterly scorched by the sun, we began the trek back to Krakow. What should have been a three hour journey turned into an eight hour slog. As 3 million people all scrambled to leave the campus at once, we were going at a snail's pace.
We rested along the way to see if the crowd would peter out...it never did!
We were caught up in the most incredibly dramatic thunderstorm...we loved it! It seems that the weather itself was mourning the departure of the Pope from Krakow!
The adventures were not over! As we sought shelter from the torrents, a Polish/Brazilian couple named Giu and Magda took us into their flat for a cup of tea and a dry off. Yet another amazing example of Polish warmth and hospitality!
With them we discussed all of the things we had seen on the way. Magda spoke about how she had initially been anxious about the influx of pilgrims and how it would affect her commute to work (she's a lawyer), but how she had been moved by the joy of the pilgrims. She was now sad to see us all leave!
After the warm reception from this couple, our group faced a very long walk in the rain. We faced dead ends with public transport, and it was a real challenge to keep spirits up as we were all cold, tired, wet and hungry. We had already said goodbye to some of our group. Lucas, one of the leaders, left to go home to Brazil forever. (We were all in bits saying goodbye- this experience has been one of bonding.) Without Lucas leading the way, we really felt a difference...it just goes to show that one person changes everything! Some parts of the journey were a little disorienting, and patience was wearing thin after the first four hours. A couple of us said a thanksgiving rosary- it was important in the moments of trial to recall all of the many many blessings we had received this day, this week.
We also had to band together and really support one another. I was touched by the care which Jess showed to me. She had been very upset and feeling unwell for hours, but at the first sign of me shaking she forgot herself and worked to warm me up. The struggles actually brought us all closer together, even though there were temptations to argue. We realised that we had all struggled together and that we needed each other to survive: a picture of humanity, a picture of the Church. We could have gone it alone and split up, but we were stronger together. Without one another our reserves of strength would have depleted and we would have felt the burden so much more.
I guess that's what World Youth Day is about. Bringing us all together to realise that we are not alone. We may face struggles and temptations in life, in our secular world. We may want to throw in the towel of faith sometimes, we may want to break away from the Church that irritates or seemingly holds us back. We may sometimes feel it's better to go our own way, but these World Youth Days of solidarity and witness are there to strengthen and encourage us. They give us sustenance for the journey; they push us onwards in our pilgrimage to our eternal destination. They give us the will to keep walking the true way, with the family that is the Church.
Our host families have begun to say their goodbyes to us. I was touched that Andrzej, my host, said that he was sad see me go and that they had liked my warmth. I said it was the other way around!! We have now been invited back to come and visit, we now have family in Poland.
I will definitely take them up on that offer - being here has been an unforgettable gift from God. The Church is alive here, and in the young people of the world!
Now what? We go, we take the joy of these days in our hearts and we share it with those who have not felt it yet.
Peter said: "Lord, you know everything; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep." (John 21: 17)
Words not do this amazing experience any justice.
There is nothing I can say to adequately convey just how powerful and personal this is for all of us.
We just wrapped up our third evening in Krakow by having night prayer with some sharing. It seems that God has called us all here at times when we really needed to be here.
Pope Francis arrived in Krakow yesterday, and as should be expected, the crowds love him. Our singing and chants and general party atmosphere is continuing, but it somehow feels that we now have more of a focus and an intentional spirit about our celebrations now that our Holy Father is present with us. It is good to rest in the knowledge that our shepherd is close at hand in the city, and to hear him teaching us and witnessing to the living Church founded by Christ is an edifying experience.
As amazing as this party is, I however have found that God has been using the unplanned parts of our days (or at least the unofficial schedule) to touch us most deeply.
For example, this morning all of the buses to the Divine Mercy shrine were cancelled because of road closures for the Pope. We were all waiting despondently at the bus stop, unsure of what to do. Suddenly a 7 seater taxi ( the perfect number!) pulls up on the side of our road in the middle of nowhere...
We hopped in and got to the John Paul II shrine. Hundreds of people were queuing up to enter- when I spotted the Divine Mercy tower in the distance I broke out of the crowd and did a little dance of joy ( I've been doing lots of these). This outburst of delight attracted the attention of a beardy man in the crowd who came running towards me...I thought I'd attracted a lunatic (wouldn't be the first time).
As the man approached I saw it was our Jesuit novice, Patrick Corkery! !
We were all overjoyed to see him - of the hundreds of pilgrims gathered what were the chances of him seeing us?! (He said that he'd thought it was a lunatic dancing in the crowd until he realised it was me...then he KNEW it was a lunatic). The whole encounter seemed like a gift from God.
Meanwhile, Lucas just 'happened' to bump into an old friend he'd worked with at another world youth day. She was able to Similarly, we didn't gain access to the Matt Maher concert at the arena last night and were all a bit fed up when who should appear as we were walking away but our old Manchester student friend Jacinta?! Seeing her made missing the concert worth it, because to me God is in people more than anywhere else!
These little meetings would not have been possible if we had managed to get the bus earlier in the morning as we'd planned or if we'd got into the concert. Tonight Lucas remarked that, on this pilgrimage, things worked out better when we let go of our own plans and surrendered to God's plans for the day.
Clare was moved by the Pope's simple yet powerful words at the opening liturgy tonight about trusting in God, and knowing that He wants us to live life to the full. These words resonated with many of us, as some of us have been drawn here at difficult points or crossroads in our lives.
This year for me has been one of having to let go of my own plans and allowing God's mercy to shape my path. Being here at the capital of Divine Mercy is also a deeply personal experience for me, as I first encountered the greatest treasure of my life- Jesus Christ- through the death of John Paul II on the feast of Divine Mercy. It is too wonderful, too perfect to be here in this Year of Mercy, a year in which I have felt that God is calling me again to do some definite service for Him.
It seems to me that we have all been called here to Krakow for a purpose, not by chance at all, but that God is using memories, identities and encounters with new people and old friends to reignite our faith and to whisper words of love and encouragement to our hearts. It may seem strange to say that God is whispering in a sea of 1 million young and noisy pilgrims, but He is. He knows just how to get to each one of us in ways that make us stop in our tracks (sometimes quite literally!).
Yes, we are all hearing the voice of Christ here in the capital of Divine Mercy.
It is a voice that speaks of joy and love. It speaks of hope and meaning. It speaks of mission and mercy.
Yes, His voice is very beautiful. This is the Good News. Let what is whispered in our ears be shouted from the rooftops. (Mt 10:27)
Here is one of the first places I heard the voice of Christ in 2005, through His servant St John Paul II:
“To all humanity, which today seems so lost and dominated by the power of evil, selfishness and fear, our resurrected Lord gives us His love which forgives, reconciles and reopens the soul to hope.” -John Paul II's last message to the Youth as he was dying
Its been 5 days since we set off from Manchester for World Youth Day celebrations in Poland. After a gruelling 15 hour wait for the ferry from Dover, we managed to get across Europe safely. We're now finally in Krakow after arriving last night.
Once we stepped off the ferry in Calais (already a detour from the original plan of Dunkirk), we thankfully had a fairly smooth journey. Our aim was to visit 7 Holy Doors on the way to Krakow, in what was being referred to as a 'Trail of Mercy'.
Due to the ferry setbacks, we sadly had to skip our visit to Antwerp and head straight for Cologne, where we had arranged accommodation with a parish. We descended on our hosts at Cologne cathedral just as they were holding a Nightfever event...something we're very familiar with as we host Nightfever at the Holy Name! Once I mentioned that to the priest organising it, we were asked to record a video message inviting the people of the world to take part in Nightfever in Krakow this Thursday! Delia recorded the message in Malay, Kika in Portuguese, Krystyna in Polish, and I did a piece in English.
The reception we received in Cologne was very warm. ..we were treated to a huge breakfast on the day of our departure and our hosts wanted to know all about us. Kika was very excited to learn that we just happened to be staying at a Schoenstatt house (she has a great devotion to Our Lady of Schoenstatt).
The warmth of the hosts has been a common trend during our pilgrimage. Aside from Cologne, we have also stayed overnight in a church hall in Dresden, made a pit stop in Erfurt and visited the shrine of the Black Madonna in Czestochowa - in all of these places the people have been genuinely interested in us and have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome.
Once we got to Krakow- the Promised Land after what felt like 40 years in the desert! - we were assigned to host families. We were split into groups of twos and threes (there are 12 of us at the moment, with more to join). At first, the prospect of staying with total strangers in a small village half an hour outside of the centre of Krakow was a little daunting. It seemed especially unappealing after 4 days of driving and feeling unwashed and grumpy. I thought perhaps it would be hard work to be 'on' for even longer, particularly with the language barrier.
I could not have been more wrong. The host family that Ola and I are staying with are some of the kindest and most open people I have ever met. They don't speak any English (although their 9 year old daughter speaks a little; I've been helping her with her homework!) Despite the language block, this family and all of our host families are genuinely excited to see us. Even though I can't have a fluent conversation, which can be a little frustrating, we communicate mostly in a combination of sign language and laughter. It's the things that we share in common, especially our faith, that overcome the language barrier.
It's clear to see that their faith means a lot to them. The Divine Mercy image and pictures of John Paul II are everywhere, and faith is taken as a matter of fact; a part of everyday life in all simplicity.
It seems to me that the great hospitality that these people are showing to us stems from a great love for the Gospel and a belief in welcoming the stranger as though he were Christ Himself. I have never been made to feel so important for doing so little! It's actually very humbling, and constantly reminds me of the scripture piece that says 'always show hospitality to the stranger, for you may be enterraining angels without realising it'. (Hebrews 13:2)
It occurred to me that these people are very trusting. The family I'm staying with has 2 young children, yet they have opened their doors to two total strangers for a week. I think we in Britain could learn a thing or two about hospitality from the Poles!
World Youth Day has now officially begun- we've just had the opening Mass of St John Paul II, celebrated by Cardinal Dsiwisz. The atmosphere here is electric. Young people from all nations are partying in the streets, smiling and open to meeting new people. That warmth and excitement is picking up pace as anticipation builds for the arrival of Pope Francis tomorrow. Today our group visited Krakow Cathedral and spent an hour queueing, but this time the queue felt like a moment because we spent the time singing with groups we'd just met from Australia and the USA. Kika is in her element, playing her guitar and leading songs. I taught our group some chants today and we treated the people on our tram to a few songs...they seemed to enjoy it! Everywhere we go the locals smile and wave enthusiastically at us. ..They seem happy to see the young Church alive and well. It truly is a powerful witness for both pilgrims and locals.
I have just wrapped up the evening with my host family by drinking a beer with them and singing 'Barka', the most famous Polish hymn (JP2'S favourite). I have had the most wonderful first day of WYD- looking forward to the rest!
A road trip pilgrimage across Europe to World Youth Day in Poland may seem like a crazy idea. Perhaps you'd be right in thinking so. I never imagined it would be easy, but as I sit on the motorway at 1am, sleep deprived and wondering if we'll make the ferry, it occurs to me that I never expected hiccups so soon! As I write this we're stuck in traffic on the motorway. We're 3 miles outside Dover Port and have been on pretty much the same spot since 10.20pm. At first we thought there had been an accident, or that a barrier was being repaired. We later found out that the delays are due to tight security checks on the French borders after the recent terrorist attacks.
As I'm sitting in this car trying - and failing - to sleep, I've started reflecting a little. I began to pray to Jesus to ask Him to ensure that we actually get the ferry at 6am. Its important to trust Him and believe that He knows what He's doing - trust can be a challenge when the grumpiness sets in and defences are low. We had been planning on staying in a parish in Dover...The priests called and generously said they would wait up overnight when they heard of the delays, but their hospitality will sadly probably now go to waste.
Two thoughts have met me as I sit here in a car full of dozing pilgrims. The first thought is the old saying "if you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans". We had all been looking forward to reuniting our group for prayer, a meal and a rest but it now seems God has other plans. We just have to trust that all will be well!
The second thought I'm mulling over is that sin has a ripple effect. The horrific terrorist attacks in France haven't just affected the people of France. In much much smaller ways, they are now having a direct effect on us in the UK and on our pilgrimage. We now cannot sleep properly, we have to face rigid security checks (which is fair enough), and our hosts have lost the opportunity to meet us and practice hospitality. It's a shame, but sin does not happen in a vacuum. It affects us all, whether directly or indirectly. As St. Paul says, we are the body of Christ...if one part of the body is suffering, then we all suffer together.
As small as our sacrifices are in the grand scheme of things, it has struck me that without the sin of the attacks, our journey would have been very different. Perhaps God wants us to go another way, to meet other people...I trust that He will turn the situation to good. On a very personal level, I can say that if this Year of Mercy has taught me anything, it's that God writes straight with crooked lines. He uses the twists and turns of our lives, the unexpected u-turns and blockages, even the consequences of others' sins, to bring us to salvation. To teach us to trust Him.
The theme of this year's WYD is Mercy. We will be visiting the shrine of the Divine Mercy in Poland next week. The main tenet of devotion to the Divine Mercy is an emphasis on trust: 'Jesus I trust in You'. Or, as they say in Poland, 'Jesu Ufam Tobie!'
So now our group of pilgrims waits, prays, hopes and trusts that tomorrow's journey will lead us to our destination!
Pray for us- we'll return the favour in Poland!
On Sunday 1st May, 11 RCIA students received their first sacraments at a special Mass at Holy Name Church.
Bishop John Arnold presided at the Mass.
Prior to confirming the RCIA candidates before a packed congregation, Bishop Arnold addressed those receiving their first sacraments in an off-the-cuff homily. He emphasised that the gift of Faith is not something to be kept to oneself, but something which Christians must share with others.
“Pope Francis has said that we are Missionary Disciples, and so we are. There’s two aspects to that…mission and discipleship. To be a disciple is to listen to the Lord; to be a missionary is to take Him out into the world.
As St Paul says, ‘We are ambassadors for Christ’. What does that mean? What does it mean to be an ambassador? To be an ambassador means to be sent on behalf of a dignitary to act in their place, to represent them and speak on their authority. We are ambassadors for Christ on earth– quite a responsibility!”
He continued, “It’s not enough to receive this Faith and keep it to ourselves, to live in a community of Faith for our own benefit. It is not enough to say ‘this place gives me peace; we must say this place gives me purpose.’ In a world that is noisy, and so full of injustice, where wealth and crippling poverty are disproportionately imbalanced, we have to be ambassadors for Christ, to take His message out to other people.
To all those being received into the Church tonight, to all those being confirmed and receiving First Holy Communion, know that this is a point of arrival for you. It’s a point of arrival, but it’s also a point of departure. He is sending you to continue His work on earth.
Especially for those receiving First Holy Communion tonight, the Body of Christ is our spiritual food. It is what sustains us in our mission. I also encourage you to take that daily prayer ‘Stay With Us Lord On Our Journey’ and make it your own.”
Hundreds of family and friends joined the RCIA students and the Jesuit community at the Holy Name to welcome the new candidates into the Church. The occasion was one of great joy, and was followed by a celebration in Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy next door.
View our photo gallery of the Confirmations
This summer promises to be an exciting one. On June 13th, I will be boarding a flight to Nairobi, Kenya with 4 of my friends from the chaplaincy. Together we'll start the long-awaited African phase of our journey, where we'll be volunteering at St Ignatius Prep and Primary School with the Jesuit Missions.
We're all very excited to get there and get stuck in with the good work. However, in many ways Mission Africa has already begun.
Our friends hear us talking about it, we spend late nights discussing our fundraising options, writing grant proposals, each bringing forth our own ideas and enthusiasm.
The question 'Why are you going to Africa this summer?' may warrant a different response from each person. Whether it be to teach children science, set up a sports league, record a musical choir, and discuss faith, God plants mysterious seeds in our hearts.
The responsibility of organising the trip has been largely with us, the students. This involves booking flights, deciding on a vision, and engaging with our local community to support us by fundraising. Through this process we have learned that despite having conviction towards the cause, we come across obstacles in our path, which may sometimes be ourselves.
Mission Africa has been a character developing process; one that will no doubt benefit us as well as those we visit in Tanzania. So far we have had pancake sales, a Malaysian food stall, a Lithuanian art exhibition, and African jewellery sales to raise money.
This Saturday Kevin and I are doing a sponsored hitch-hike from a mystery location in the UK back to Manchester. Rokas is doing another art exhibition. Steph and Ladislav will be leading our first car wash at St Bernard's Church in Burnage (where we've been warmly welcomed by Mgr Michael Kujacz and his parishioners.
All this in the name of Mission Africa.
To encourage us on this student-led initiative to make a difference through our faith, please sponsor us - thank you so much for your support!
Ed Potter is a second year Physics with Astrophysics student at the University of Manchester. He loves playing basketball and is member of the chaplaincy committee
Recently a friend of mine shared one of his favourite poems with me. It's 'The Theologian's Tale: Legend Beautiful' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
I have come to share in my friend's love of this poem because it speaks about finding Christ in other people. Sometimes we might forget the reality that Christ walks among us in our fellow human beings. The monk in this poem sees a vision of Christ, but immediately faces a dilemma when the bell rings for him to go and help the poor at his door. Should he stay with the Christ who has visited him in his cell or leave Christ to go and help the poor?
He chooses to help the poor at the gate, and returns to find Christ waiting for him in his cell. Christ is pleased with the monk's decision to help the poor and tells him, "Hads't thou stayed, I must have fled!"
This is a stark reminder of Christ's words about the final judgement in the Parable of the Sheep and Goats: "truly I tell you, whatever you did to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to Me". (Mt 25:31 - 46)
Sometimes, it can be easy to become frustrated if someone interrupts us in prayer, or asks for help when it seems inconvenient to us. However, Christ asks that we make time for each person as if we were meeting Him personally. By doing this, we can also make each encounter with every person a prayer.
This message is particularly apt as we are still in the depths of the Year of Mercy. In a university chaplaincy environment, many people are far from their own countries and homes, and so an act of mercy could be for us to welcome them as though we were welcoming Christ Himself. The work of our SVP group at the chaplaincy and the Foodbank that operates here encounters Christ daily in the poorest of our city. By simply acknowledging the basic needs of others for food, financial help, and so often just some kindness and human contact, our students work to recognise the dignity of all. "Do not forget to show hospitality to the stranger, for by doing so some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." (Heb 13:2)
Here's the poem:
The Theologian's Tale: The Legend Beautiful by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"Hads't thou stayed, I must have fled!"
That is what the Vision said.
In his chamber all alone,
Kneeling on the floor of stone,
Prayed the Monk in deep contrition
For his sins of indecision,
Prayed for greater self-denial
In temptation and in trial;
It was noonday by the dial,
And the Monk was all alone.
Suddenly, as if it lightened,
An unwonted splendor brightened
All within him and without him
In that narrow cell of stone;
And he saw the Blessed Vision
Of our Lord, with light Elysian
Like a vesture wrapped about him,
Like a garment round him thrown.
Not as crucified and slain,
Not in agonies of pain,
Not with bleeding hands and feet,
Did the Monk his Master see;
But as in the village street,
In the house or harvest-field,
Halt and lame and blind he healed,
When he walked in Galilee.
In an attitude imploring,
Hands upon his bosom crossed,
Wondering, worshipping, adoring,
Knelt the Monk in rapture lost.
Lord, he thought, in heaven that reignest,
Who am I, that thus thou deignest
To reveal thyself to me?
Who am I, that from the centre
Of thy glory thou shouldst enter
This poor cell, my guest to be?
Then amid his exaltation,
Loud the convent bell appalling,
From its belfry calling, calling,
Rang through court and corridor
With persistent iteration
He had never heard before.
It was now the appointed hour
When alike in shine or shower,
Winter's cold or summer's heat,
To the convent portals came
All the blind and halt and lame,
All the beggars of the street,
For their daily dole of food
Dealt them by the brotherhood;
And their almoner was he
Who upon his bended knee,
Rapt in silent ecstasy
Of divinest self-surrender,
Saw the Vision and the Splendor.
Deep distress and hesitation
Mingled with his adoration;_
Should he go, or should he stay?
Should he leave the poor to wait
Hungry at the convent gate,
Till the Vision passed away?
Should he slight his radiant guest,
Slight this visitant celestial,
For a crowd of ragged, bestial
Beggars at the convent gate?
Would the Vision there remain?
Would the Vision come again?
Then a voice within his breast
Whispered, audible and clear
As if to the outward ear:
"Do thy duty; that is best;
Leave unto thy Lord the rest!"
Straightway to his feet he started,
And with longing look intent
On the Blessed Vision bent,
Slowly from his cell departed,
Slowly on his errand went.
At the gate the poor were waiting,
Looking through the iron grating,_
With that terror in the eye
That is only seen in those
Who amid their wants and woes
Hear the sound of doors that close,
And of feet that pass them by;
Grown familiar with disfavor,
Grown familiar with the savor
Of the bread by which men die!
But to-day, they knew not why,
Like the gate of Paradise
Seemed the convent gate to rise,
Like a sacrament divine
Seemed to them the bread and wine.
In his heart the Monk was praying,
Thinking of the homeless poor,
What they suffer and endure;
What we see not, what we see;
And the inward voice was saying:
"Whatsoever thing thou doest
To the least of mine and lowest,
That thou doest unto me!"
Unto me! but had the Vision
Come to him in beggar's clothing,
Come a mendicant imploring,
Would he then have knelt adoring,
Or have listened with derision,
And have turned away with loathing.
Thus his conscience put the question,
Full of troublesome suggestion,
As at length, with hurried pace,
Towards his cell he turned his face,
And beheld the convent bright
With a supernatural light,
Like a luminous cloud expanding
Over floor and wall and ceiling.
But he paused with awe-struck feeling
At the threshold of his door,
For the Vision still was standing
As he left it there before,
When the convent bell appalling,
From its belfry calling, calling,
Summoned him to feed the poor.
Through the long hour intervening
It had waited his return,
And he felt his bosom burn,
Comprehending all the meaning,
When the Blessed Vision said,
"Hadst thou stayed, I must have fled!"
Lisa Burns is a History and English Literature graduate from MMU. She coordinates the 7pm Music Group at MUSCC..
God's not dead.
I remember around this time last year we were passing this message around. It was all over Whatsapp and Facebook. It was amazing.
Today, I can feel that once-secure faith now in doubt. But seeing someone else write "God's not dead" resurrected me. It reminded me of that moment a year ago, sitting in a hall with other kids my age, all sending out the same message that I'm reading today. At that moment, we were sending out blessings, and today that blessing came back. It was like receiving a refreshing cup of water when you're thirsty; I was rejuvenated.
I love this song. I love the man who showed this to us. I love the One who that man believed in.
God's not dead.
Words by Delia Rosanne
Delia is in her first year studying BSc Biology at the University of Manchester. She co-ordinates the MUSCC Readers Group and sings in the MUSCC Contemporary Music Group.