Manchester Universities Catholic Chaplaincy
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.
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
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.
An article written by Ryan Khurana, President of the MUSCC SVP chapter and a University of Manchester student. In the article, Ryan details the lives of some of the people he has met on the streets of Manchester while doing homeless runs with the SVP 1833 group as well as his perspective on the causes/solutions of homelessness. A great read!
“It is possible for each one of us to meet the Son of God, experiencing all of his love and infinite mercy. We are able to recognize Him in the faces of our brothers and sisters, especially in the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the displaced: they are the living flesh of the suffering Christ and the visible image of the invisible God” – Pope Francis, Angelus 11/01/2015
Really?! What do homeless, alcoholic, drug addict can possibly have to do with Jesus? How could St Francis hug a leper, how could St Teresa live among the poorest of Calcutta? I mean, I can understand social workers – it’s their job after all. It’s good if someone does some street cleaning from time to time. Life on the street is dirty, smelly and desperate. Lock these wrecks somewhere we cannot see them! Right?
Then I joined the Chaplaincy SVP, beginning to go out for evening food runs once a week. And the unexpected happened. Instead of faceless tramps I met human beings, like me. With fears, wounds, hopes I can relate to only too well. In pain, scared, bitter, because the life they are living is painful, scary and though. But also capable of smiling with the sincerity of a child when somebody offers them a brew in a cold night.
I met people who refused that extra sandwich: “Cheers mate, but save it for somebody else who would need it tonight. I have enough food.” I talked with an old man, more than 30 years on the street, his short-term memory gone after an heart attack, whose way to say goodbye was a sincere “Oh man, I love life”. I felt a terrible pang of sadness in front of that kid crushed by his drug problems and sense of guilt. I didn’t know I could feel that way for total strangers, as if they were brothers.
You know, perhaps I’m beginning to understand what the Pope meant last year.
~ Luca (SVP Volunteer)
When I first signed up to be a Vincentian Volunteer, I must confess that I did not completely understand what it meant to be a Vincentian. I knew that it had to do with St. Vincent de Paul who spent his life serving the poor and less fortunate, and that was enough for me. I am now 4 months into the programme and have realized that the term “Vincentian” has different interpretations depending on the individual and the circumstances. So what does the term “Vincentian” mean to me at this point in my journey?
First off I believe there is a slight difference in what a Vincentian does vs what a Vincentian is. Many say a Vincentian is one that alleviates the suffering and addresses the needs of those living in poverty. That is true, but I feel that is more of what a Vincentian does. A Vincentian, to me, is almost more of a state of mind – a different way to see people and the world around us, particularly in regards to those suffering from poverty. Poverty can take many forms. It can mean a lack of money, but it can also refer to a suffering or lack of something crucial in life.
Here are some of my thoughts:
I strive every day to embrace and live up to these ideals, but I am still learning and transforming. It is a life-long journey and my 10 months as a Vincentian Volunteer in the UK is only one chapter in that journey and I am loving every minute of it. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me each and every day!
Our MUSCC SVP President (and Uni Student), Ryan Khurana, speaking about the issue of homelessness in Manchester.
I have participated in homeless runs three times, and each time they get better and better. It is not only the fact that you are doing something nice for someone else, but also the meaningful conversations you have with the different people you meet. These people are normally ignored by many with the excuse that looking at them may make them feel "bad". Through this experience I have learned that it is the contrary. While they are grateful for everyone's generosity, they are most grateful for a wave, a hello, or a conversation. Stopping and listening to their stories is amazing, a one of a kind experience. The first run was quite intimidating, as I was not confident in how I should approach anyone. But in the process I have learned to simply say "Hi, how was your day?"
During my three runs I have had the pleasure to meet Paul and Mr. McNeill - they both have unique stories. For example, Paul has already been featured in a few documentaries and has been on the street for over 32 years. The first time I met him he recited two poems to me. The next time I saw him he asked me to recite one for him. I did, but since I only know poems in Spanish, it was a Spanish poem. When we finished, each reciting one, he said that next time, thanks to his great memory, he would be able tell me this poem in a foreign language word for word. I am very excited to see him again. This is just one story from one run. There are so many we live every night and things I have learned about values, views and even the geography of China (a long story for another time).
~ Ana (SVP Student Volunteer)