Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cistercian Alternative Experience Weekend

The Cistercian Community at Hyning
invite you to an alternative way of living the Christian life
Fri 25th January - Sunday 27th January

"What kind of person is God calling you to be?"
Pope Benedict XVI

For 18-35 year olds (male & female)
Cost by donation

For more information contact Sr Mary Bernard
Monastery of Our Lady of Hyning, Warton, nr Carnforth
Lancs. LA5 9SE

Friday, December 28, 2012


An email from a friend in America while I was away in Rome contained an unexpected observation: "I tried calling you but you don't seem to have an answer phone". I guess if you live in the US it is possible to imagine that there could be places in England without such basic equipment but as it happens we do have an answerphone and it should kick in if a called is not picked up. Having arrived home the telephone appeared to be working properly until one day I picked it up to make a call and found someone on the line trying to call in. After various tests it became apparent that I could dial out but that incoming calls did not ring. BT assured me it wasn't a fault on the line and that it was probably faulty equipment but that they would send an engineer. He came this morning. It turns out the problem is not uncommon and was with the exchange - not my equipment. It is now fixed and everything is working fine.
It does, however, leave me with some questions: what would have happened if I had spent a fortune on a new telephone - would BT have refunded me? There must be lots of people who do just that. The other question is that I wonder how many calls I have missed - especially from religious booking for the  course that begins in January.
If you tried calling I apologise for the inconvenience of not getting an answer. The best way to get me is by email. If you do call to book for one of the January courses please note that I will be away at a conference from 1st January and it would be best to get in contact before then.

Candidacy at the English College in Rome

Last week I was in Rome to attend the Candidacy of Matthew O'Gorman, one of our seminarians. Matthew was one of four men receiving Candidacy, there were also two men from Leeds and one from Clifton. The Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Arthur Roche, the new Secretary for the Congregation for Divine Worship who is currently living at the English College while an apartment is being prepared for him in Rome. The Archbishop preached a very thoughtful sermon inspired by the Book of Songs from which the first reading of the Mass was drawn. 
As the name suggests to receive Candidacy is to become a Candidate for Holy Orders and, in England and Wales at least, is usually the last formal step before ordination to the diaconate. Matthew continues his studies in Rome and is due to be ordained a deacon in July 2014.
It was nice to spend a few days in Rome meeting up with our students. The Rector of the English College, Mgr Nicholas Hudson, is a Southwark priest and it is always clear that link is very special to him. He is also outstanding in his hospitality and the warmth of his welcome.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Contemporary Developments in Vocations Ministry Insights for Religious

As part of its mission to promote the Culture of Vocation the Vocations Centre is offering a special seminar to members of Religious Congregations interested in promoting vocations to the consecrated life today. In recent years the Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors, which I chair, has developed a privileged understanding of the nature of Vocations Ministry today. Where it has been possible to translate this into action we have seen a remarkable increase in the numbers of young men coming forward to consider the priesthood. In many ways our insights are also applicable to religious vocations and this seminar seeks to share our insights with men and women religious so that together we can promote more effectively an awareness of the vocational dimension of Christian life in all our different apostolic activities with young people.

The Seminar takes place over four one-day sessions which will cover:
  I.  From Recruitment to Discernment: Developing Models of Vocations Ministry;
 II.  The New Evangelisation: Opportunities and Challenges;
III.  The Heart of the Matter: Discipleship Discerns Vocation;
IV.  Taking Things Forward: From Vision to Action.

Fr Christopher Jamison OSB, the Director of the National Office for Vocation, will be a guest speaker at the first session which will take place at the Vocations Centre in Whitstable on Tuesday 15th January.

The seminar costs £50 per session or £150 for those who book all four sessions.

For a booking form please contact me by email at the Vocations Office.

A Video from the Iona Institute

I m catching up on emails and was pleased to find someone had sent me a link to this video...

Discerning a Vocation to Marriage

Fr Richard Aladics will lead the weekend
A lot of people have asked whether the Vocations Centre can do anything to help young people understand better the marriage vocation. Having thought about it, I think it is certainly worthwhile offering a weekend on the Catholic understanding of marriage and the principles of Christian courtship and so I am pleased to announce that there will be a Discerning Marriage Weekend at the Vocations Centre in Whitstable from Friday 25th until Sunday 27th January.
To understand better what it is, it might be worth stating what it is not! It is not a marriage preparation weekend. In other words it is not for people who have already discerned what their vocation is and are already planning to get married. It is for people who either want to learn more about the vocation to marriage or who are hoping one day to get married. Having said that, however, I should stress that nor is it a weekend for someone looking for a future spouse.
The weekend will be led by Fr Richard Aladics who studied at the John Paul II Centre for Marriage and Family Life.
Places are very limited at the Vocations Centre. To be sure of yours please book early by sending us an email. We will then send you a booking form. This is a donation only weekend.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Another Special Delivery

Sorry to have been a bit quiet on this blog recently. I'm been quite tied up since the Advent Retreat at Wonersh. This included the diaconate ordinations on 15th December (I've been promised some photos by the Rector so I'm holding off posting on that wonderful occasions until they arrive) and then a flight to Rome on Sunday 16th where I was able to catch up with the seven Southwark men studying there and also be present for when one of them was admitted to Candidacy for the Priesthood by Bishop Arthur Roche. Again, I will post more about this once I have unpacked my camera!
I got home last night and was able to help with Confessions here in the parish this morning before driving to Bluewater for some Christmas shopping. Father Christmas, however, came early to the Vocations Centre where there were no fewer than two items from the Amazon Wishlist waiting for me on my return. This time one of them had a note telling me who sent it and perhaps the other one was from the same person. Either way I am extremely grateful to our Benefactors who are remembered twice a month in the Masses celebrated for their intentions.We now have a new toaster to replace the somewhat damaged one we've been using until now, and we also have a drainer for the kitchen sink.
Do take a look at the Wishlist if you get a moment. At present we are trying to foci primarily on things we need for the kitchen.

I hope to catch up with some posts - and lots of emails - on St Stephen's Day...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Another Advent Retreat

I've just returned from St John's Seminary where I have spent the last few days preaching the Advent Retreat to the students. Although the retreat began on Sunday night and ended this morning there were only three days of meditations or spiritual conferences. On the first day we looked at the wonder of a priestly vocation and the need to draw strength from the One who calls. On the second day we looked at the society we are called to serve and what it needs. I also posed the twofold question: what sort of priest would you like to be and what sort of priest will you actually be? Yesterday we looked at celibacy as a way of loving and the Holy Eucharist. We finished this morning at Mass with a reflection on Our Lady who is invoked at Wonersh as Regina Cleri -or Queen of the Clergy.
I was very impressed by the students who entered the spirit of the retreat with great seriousness - even to the point of an almost universal observance of the silence. The motto of the seminary is Spes Messis in Semine - the hope of the harvest is to be found in the seed. It seems to me that there is currently very good seed germinating at St John's.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Advent Vocations Retreat

This weekend seven young men joined us for our Advent Vocations Retreat. The retreat coincided with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception which we were able to celebrate in both liturgical and culinary splendour thanks to the presence of a couple of seminarians from St John's, Wonersh.
It is not the first retreat we have had here in Whitstable but it is the first time it has been a retreat exclusively for men considering their vocation. Next year we have a number of retreats and "Discovering Priesthood Days" scheduled. You can get their dates by visiting the Vocations Centre page on this blog.
All our retreats, seminars and other courses need to be booked in advance as space is very limited here. For more information please send me an email.

As it happens, I move from this Retreat to another one as I will drive over to St John's this evening to preach the Advent retreat to the seminarians who study there. The retreat ends on Thursday morning. Please keep it in your prayers - both and the students will need them! Friday is a day of preparation for the diaconate ordinations that will take place on Saturday. Two Southwark men are among the ordinandi: Samuel Davey and Thomas Lynch. I am sure they and their companions would appreciate a decade of the Rosary offered that they make good and holy priests.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Prayers Please...

Tomorrow evening we start our Advent Vocations Retreat here at the Vocations Centre. So far we have seven, possibly eight, participants. Please pray that they all turn up and that they get a lot out of the retreat.

School of Faith

Liam Connolly from the Centre for Catholic Formation has been in contact with news of an exciting new study series on the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the Year of Faith.
It is called School of Faith and runs from Wednesday 9th January until Wednesday 23rd March and offers a chance to hear expert and dynamic speakers addressing different aspects of the faith. A light supper is included.

Guest speakers include: Archbishop Peter Smith, Bishop Philip Egan, Dr Petroc Willey, Mgr Keith Newton, Fr Tim Finigan, Sr Judith Russi, Fr Stephen Wang, Fr Kevin Hale, Mgr John Armitage, Fr David Gibbons, Dr Caroline Farey & Canon John Redford.

The link on the CCF website does not work for some reason so contact Liam directly for more information. You can email him here.

Prima Nix

It was a bit of a surprise to wake up yesterday morning to a clouds with that brown tinge that always denotes snow. More of a surprise still to leave a couple of hours later for the station only to find the trains had been cancelled - which meant I missed my dental appointment. It was only a check-up so no real inconvenience for me although I had to reschedule an appointment with someone in London later that afternoon to today. 

When I was at seminary the Gregorian University observed 'prima nix' - on the first day snow fell in Rome each year all lectures were cancelled. I didn't know this in my first year and, having spent New Year with a family in Padua, was on my way back to the College when the snow fell. The train moved at a snail's pace. An eight hour journey became seventeen with people getting more and more jittery until eventually the driver gave up and we were disgorged into buses at Settebagni for the last leg of the journey. I got in just before Morning Prayer on the Monday morning, the first day of term, and headed straight to the Chapel congratulating myself on not being late only to find it completely empty. Somewhat puzzled I waited for a while before heading up stairs where I found an announcement on the noticeboard: "Prima Nix - No School Tomorrow".

I was reminded of this today when I visited a diocesan school to help with confessions. There was a great concern to ensure we were all signed in. When I asked why I was told it was because the day before one of the pupils, upset at not being given the day off when it snowed, activated the fire alarm. While disapproving of what he did, I have to admit to being somewhat sympathetic to the expectation!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

A Kindly Mum...

The ink was barely dry on that last post when this came through the mailbox:

Dear Father Stephen,
I hope your arm is getting better. I noticed on the Vocations Blog that you had a photo of Luke with Pope Benedict .If you go to VA NEWS The Vatican Today on the right hand side there is a mention of the English College’s Visit. If you click on that and then on tv video news you will find a short video of the Papal Audience which will please a great many mothers !

Venerable English College Welcomed by the Holy Father

Southwark Seminarian Luke de Pulford meets the Holy Father
This year the English (& Welsh) College in Rome is celebrating its 650th anniversary taking it back to its origins as a hospice for pilgrims from England and Wales. All year there has been speculation among the students that the Holy Father has wanted to mark the anniversary in some way. I've occasionally had emails suggesting I venture out for a particular date because, nod nod, wink wink, the Pope is going to come to the College and that's when it will be!
In fact, in his inimitable style, the Holy Father did find a way of marking the anniversary by inviting the whole College to a private audience with the request they take with them the relics of the first of its forty four martyrs, Ralph Sherwin, so that he could venerate them. The audience took place yesterday morning, a couple of days after the feast day of the College martyrs.
In the photograph above one of our Southwark students, Luke de Pulford, meets Pope Benedict. I don't know whether the other students were presented in the same way and got similar pictures - I hope so or there will be a lot of upset mothers out there!

Monday, December 03, 2012

The Vocations Centre

Thanks to the generosity of the Catholic Printing Company of Farnworth, I've now had printed the term cards for the Vocations Centre. We have a pretty busy few months coming up. If you click onto the Vocations Centre tab at the top of this blog, you can see the wide variety of activities we will be offering down here in Whitstable. Wherever you find yourself on the map above, I hope you'll find your way down to the North Kent coast to taste our hospitality (and our oysters) before too long.

Because facilities are limited here, the courses need to be booked beforehand. If you would like more details about any of them please email me.

Year of Faith Initiative

While at Oscott I also caught up with Matt Roche Saunders a first year seminarian for the diocese of Menevia. Matt kindly passed on to me the newly approved Welsh version of the logo for the Year of Faith.
Dan Fitzpatrick, whose ordination I mentioned in the previous post, has been behind a special initiative for the Year of Faith, a series of Oscott videos on different aspects of the Catholic faith. Like the logo they deserve to be more widely known, so here's one which features Matt talking about the problem of evil.

Diaconate Ordination

Dan Fitzpatrick with me and Southwark Seminarian Sam Davey

On Saturday an early morning start from the Vocations Centre ensured I avoided the Christmas shopping traffic on the motorway network to arrive at Oscott College in good time for their diaconate ordinations. The trip was uneventful apart from the last couple of hundred yards when I passed a fellow dressed as an elf waving wildly to drivers to get them to turn off into a Christmas emporium. No matter how desperate I might be for Christmas tree lights, I thought, the sight of a scene from "Home alone' or some other cheesy Christmas movie was enough to ensure I would never call in there. Having arrived early at Oscott and met up with some seminarians we decided to pop out for a quick coffee - and just a few minutes later I found myself waling past said elf into his Winter Wonderland! The sight of such an array of Christmas baubles was too much for one of the seminarians who was moved to reveal the most traumatic event in his life - the year his father took down the Christmas decorations... Fortunately he made a swift recovery and no appointments were made with counsellors. A quick latte later we were back at Oscott where me met Dan Fitzpatrick, one of the day's ordinands, looking petrified but able to muster a smile for the photograph above.
Dan lived at the presbytery in Balham for a month while getting experience with the Bishops' Conference Communications department in London. He is from Hexham and Newcastle Diocese and spent a year working at the wonderful Youth Village they have up there. He initially started training for the priesthood at Ushaw where he and fellow seminarian Frankie Mulgrew started a series of Vocations Podcasts which have featured previously here on the Blog.
It was great to be there for Dan's ordination and to catch up with many seminarians who have attended Quo Vadis, Invocation and other events over the years. Please keep them in your prayers.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Vocation Directors Conference

Untitled by Southwark Vocations

Untitled, a photo by Southwark Vocations on Flickr.

As I mentioned in a post short while ago, we recently had our annual Vocation Directors Conference which was hosted this year by st John's Seminary, Wonersh. St John's is the seminary for the Southwark province but also welcomes students from other parts of the country and, this year, from Scotland as well.
During the Conference Fr William Massie gave a presentation of the document from the Holy See with pastoral guidelines for promoting priestly vocations and Mgr Paul Grogan spoke about the New Evangelisation - a talk that certainly produced some discussion. Later Fr Terry Martin, who lectures on spirituality at Wonersh, spoke about spiritual direction and the specific 'secular' spirituality of a diocesan priest. I gave a couple of presentations, one on the nature of the Conference as an association of diocesan vocation directors and on its future, and another on the importance of getting priests involved in the work of vocations promotion. 
Fr Christopher Jamison was there to receive feedback on the vocations resources offered by the National Office for Vocation and on our experiences of the launch of the National Vocations Framework. He and Judith Eydmann, the development officer at the National Office for Vocation, gave a presentation of their work over the last year to the assembly on the Friday morning.
This year's meeting coincided with the election of officers that takes place every three years. I was re-elected chair nem con, and Mgr Paul Grogan and Fr Terry Martin similarly retained their posts as Vice-Chairman and Treasurer respectively.
As a consequence of the renewed mandate and following discussion with the members of the Conference I have asked Chris Smith from Birmingham to help us develop the role of Executive Director for the conference. Basically, the idea is to establish a structure whereby all the good ideas as well as the thinking - blue sky or wishful - that takes place at the conference can be distilled into an achievable programme of action, developed further and, indeed, complemented in various ways.

Word Games

On Wednesday I attended the Wives and Clergy Night of the London South West Circle of the Catenians. Before leaving Balham we established a Catenian Circle which still seems to be going strong. This year the London South West Circle have adopted a special cause for their President's Charity. The Catenians have always been great supporters of vocations and nationally have the Catenian Vocations Initiative. Taking this down to a practical level, the President's Charity this year raises money to send seminarians to various events where they may be able to promote vocations among young people. This year the money raised is being used to send Joseph Ansah to World Youth Day in Rio next year. 
It is great to have this practical support from the Catenians. I know they would like other Circles to adopt a similar initiative - I also know that there are a number of dioceses who simply cannot afford to send their students out in this way so such help from the Catenians would be very welcome. Feel free to contact me if you have any ideas.
What does this have to do with the title of the post and the picture? Well, having accepted the cheque I sat down and we moved to the raffle (which is how they raise the money). The first ticket pulled out was mine - and so I have also come home with a new Scrabble set for the Vocations Centre!

Thank You Once Again

There have been more deliveries from the Amazon wish list. Many thanks to our generous benefactors. We had now nearly exhausted the list - so I've updated it with more kitchen equipment. It is a great way of helping our work here in Whitstable and I am really grateful for your kindness.
Don't forget I celebrate Mass twice a month for the intentions of our benefactors - including the anonymous ones!


Having gotten back to the Vocations Centre after the weekend in Plumstead, I was able to meet up with the new group of students who had come Whitstable for a retreat. They arrived on Sunday night and left late on Tuesday evening. The group included two Australian seminarians from Melbourne who were very impressed by our Southwark Vocations Surfboard - although perhaps not as tempted to make use of it on the North Kent Coast as they may have been back home.
The retreat was the first in a series I shall be preaching within the next couple of weeks including the Advent Retreat coming up at St John's Seminary.  Please keep them in your prayers.

St Patrick's, Plumstead

After the Vocations Directors Conference I went on retreat for a week and then came back to the Vocations Centre to catch u on a few things before heading off to Plumstead for a weekend at St Patrick's. Fr Michael Branch, the parish priest, had asked me to come to preach at all the Masses about vocations. As t happened, it was the Feast of Christ the King which coincides with National Youth Sunday. The various elements seemed to fit well with the underlying principle of the Vocations Centre which is that Discipleship Discerns Vocation
St Patrick's is one of the parishes in the diocese that has adopted enthusiastically Eucharistic Adoration for vocations and it was wonderful to discover that very many of the parishioners are already committed to praying for vocations in our diocese as well as for our seminarians. In September the parish welcomed David  Howell, one of our students who was there for over a month to get parish experience. I knew David loved his time there but it was great to realise how much the experience of having a student meant to the parishioners themselves.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Vocations Retreat With Friars of the Renewal

Fr Emmanuel from the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal has been in touch with news of a Vocations Retreat that will be taking place in the Friary in Canning Town from 7th-9th December. It's only a small Friary and space is limited so if you want to go please contact Fr Emmanuel beforehand. The telephone number of the Friary is 020 74740766. The Friars don't have a computer so you have to call rather than email. If there's no reply, or if the phone is engaged, please leave them a message with your telephone number so they can get back to you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Holy Father's Message for WYD

I will post the whole message over the next few days.

Full text of Pope Benedict XVI's message to young people
“Go and make disciples of all nations!” (cf. Mt 28:19)

Dear young friends,
I greet all of you with great joy and affection. I am sure that many of you returned from World Youth Day in Madrid all the more “planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (cf. Col 2:7). This year in our Dioceses we celebrated the joy of being Christians, taking as our theme: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4). And now we are preparing for the next World Youth Day, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in July 2013.
Before all else, I invite you once more to take part in this important event. The celebrated statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooking that beautiful Brazilian city will be an eloquent symbol for us. Christ’s open arms are a sign of his willingness to embrace all those who come to him, and his heart represents his immense love for everyone and for each of you. Let yourselves be drawn to Christ! Experience this encounter along with all the other young people who will converge on Rio for the next World Youth Day! Accept Christ’s love and you will be the witnesses so needed by our world.
I invite you to prepare for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro by meditating even now on the theme of the meeting: “Go and make disciples of all nations!” (cf. Mt 28:19). This is the great missionary mandate that Christ gave the whole Church, and today, two thousand years later, it remains as urgent as ever. This mandate should resound powerfully in your hearts. The year of preparation for the gathering in Rio coincides with the Year of Faith, which began with the Synod of Bishops devoted to “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”. I am happy that you too, dear young people, are involved in this missionary outreach on the part of the whole Church. To make Christ known is the most precious gift that you can give to others.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Chilling Street,,United Kingdom

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Going on Retreat

I am going on Retreat tomorrow and won't be back until Friday. I will remember all the readers of this blog in my prayers and ask an Ave from you in return.

Una Messa in Italiano

IMG_0495 by Southwark Vocations
The willing cooks for our Italian lunch!

Today I joined Fr Peter Geldard at the Canterbury Chaplaincy to celebrate Mass in Italian. The Chaplaincy has occasional Masses in different languages to reflect the varied backgrounds of its students. We celebrated in Italian today because two young members of staff from the university, both Italian, were to be confirmed during the Mass.
Afterwards we retired to St John Stone House, the chaplaincy building, for a delicious lunch of antipasto followed by spaghetti alla carbonara, spied ini and tiramisu - all cooked by the students themselves. There can't be many places where students get such a hearty lunch these days for a mere £3.50!

Another Thank You!

I got back on Friday evening from St John's Seminary, Wonersh, where the Vocations Directors' of England and Wales had gathered for their week-long annual conference. This year we welcomed Mgr Andrew Burnham from the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham who presented to us Fr Paul Burch, the new Vocations Director for the Ordinariate. We also welcomed Fr Christopher Jamison from the National Office for Vocation who was with us for part of the week and who gave an account of the work of the National Office over the last year. This included the recent launch of the the National Vocations Framework an initial draft of which he had presented to us last year and which we were able to help recast to be more of a 'framework' than a series of action points.
More about the Conference later, for now I just want to acknowledge gratitude to the benefactors who have sent us things from the Amazon wish list on the side bar. We now have new bedside lamps for nearly all our bedrooms as well as a smart new dustbin for the kitchen. I am really grateful to everyone for their help and want to remind you that, by way of thanks, I celebrate Mass twice a month in the Vocations Centre for our benefactors.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

On Remembrance Sunday

On this Remembrance Sunday I want to pay a tribute to Military Chaplains. Here's an extract from a letter of Fr William Doyle SJ, an heroic WWI chaplain. It describes a Mass he celebrated for the dead at the Somme on Saturday 9th September 1916:

"By cutting a piece out of the side of the trench, I was just able to stand in front of my tiny altar, a biscuit box supported on two German bayonets. God's angels, no doubt, were hovering overhead, but so were the shells, hundreds of them, and I was a little afraid that when the earth shook with the crash of the guns, the chalice might be overturned.
Round about me on every side was the biggest congregation I ever had: behind the altar, on either side, and in front, row after row, sometimes crowding one upon the other, but all quiet and silent, as if they were straining their ears to catch every syllable of that tremendous act of Sacrifice... but every man was dead!
Some had lain there for a week and were foul and horrible to look at, with faces black and green. Others had only just fallen, and seemed rather sleeping than dead, but there they lay, for none had time to bury them, brave fellows, every one, friend and foe alike, while I held in my unworthy hands the God of Battles, their Creator and their Judge, and prayed Him to give rest to their souls.
Surely that Mass for the Dead, in the midst of, and surrounded by the dead, was an experience not easily to be forgotten".

Feel free to re-tweet this post. Fr Doyle's comments deserve to be read and re-read. If you are preparing for ordination, take them with you on your ordination retreat. Amidst all the hardship, suffering and tragedy of the Somme, he dug an altar into the side of the trench so that he could celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. And when you are ordained, if ever you are tempted not to celebrate Holy Mass one day, quod Deus avertet, remember Fr Doyle scraping at the side of his trench to make an altar and offer it for the repose of the soul of a faithful priest who was killed at Ypres on 15th August 1917. His body was never found.

A few days later a remarkable tribute was paid to him in the English newspapers:

"The Orangemen will not forget a certain Roman Catholic chaplain who lies in a soldier's grave in that sinister plain beyond Ypres. He went forward and back over the battlefield with bullets whining about him, seeking out the dying and kneeling in the mud beside them to give them Absolution, walking with death with a smile on his face, watched by his men with reverence and a kind of awe until a shell burst near him and he was killed. His familiar figure was seen and welcomed by hundreds of Irishmen who lay in that bloody place. Each time he came back across the field he was begged to remain in comparative safety. Smiling he shook his head and went again into the storm. He had been with his boys at Glinchy and through other times of stress, and he would not desert them in their agony. They remember him as a saint - they speak his name with tears".

Requiescat in Pace.

Vocations Directors Conference

Over the last few weeks I've been working on preparations for our forthcoming Vocation Directors Conference which starts tomorrow at St John's Seminary, Wonersh. Every diocese will be represented except, sadly, Menevia where the Vocations Director can't get away because he has three funerals in the course of the week. Very few dioceses in England and Wales have full-time Vocations Directors and so most have to combine the role with at least one other major responsibility. Given the importance of our work in matters to do with the selection of candidates and safeguarding procedures, it may be sensible for bishops to consider appointing an assistant to the Vocations Director. Both Nottingham and Salford diocese have two priests sharing the role which ensures that at least one can usually get to the Conference. This year we will also be welcoming two delegates from the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. The Ordinariate is in the enviable position of having, in a sense, a surfeit of priests and many dioceses are benefitting from the help they can offer in parishes and chaplaincies. It will be interesting to hear from Mgr Burnham whether he regards this as temporary in that many of the Ordinariate priests are also nearing retirement. It will also be interesting to hear what plans, if any, there may be for the establishment of an Ordinariate seminary.

This year we will be looking at the new Pastoral Guidelines for Fostering Vocations to Priestly Ministry. If you haven't read them yet you really should. They are available on this blog by going to the relevant page tab at the top. It is the Year of Faith and we have just had the Synod on Evangelisation so we will also be looking at some of the Vocational Challenges of the New Evangelisation. A major theme of our conference will be how we might get more priests involved in the work of promoting and supporting vocations. In addition to the talks already mentioned, another key presentation will look at spiritual direction and the spirituality of diocesan priesthood.

Oftentimes it is simply a question of giving priests confidence. Please pray that our Conference this year will be a great experience for us all.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Thank You

Many thanks to the benefactor who bought me an item from the Amazon Wish List (see side bar). We offer Mass twice a month in the Vocation Centre for all our benefactors.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Launch of the National Framework

Today saw a remarkable event take place at the Amigo Hall by St George's Cathedral, Southwark. It was the fourth and final gathering to mark the launch of the National Vocation Framework, the three principle aims that will direct the work of the National Office for Vocation over the next few years. These are: (1) to promote an understanding of vocation; (2) to communicate vocation; and (3) to foster the discernment of vocation.

Over a hundred people gathered for the event. In my discussion group one of the sisters made an interesting comment: she said she was impressed by the fact that there were so many men present because in her experience it was usually sisters who gathered to talk about vocations. A good number of the participants said the day gave them hope and others said they appreciated the fact that there was no sense of competition. One very interesting observation came from a Novice Mistress who said her three most recent vocations were all former atheists.

The day began with a welcome from Archbishop Peter followed by an address by Fr Christopher Jamison in which he spoke of the disappearance of a 'total Catholic culture' which had, in the past, been the seedbed of vocations and how John Paul II had spoken of the need to promote a vocation culture as a response to this. In the afternoon there were presentations on the various sorts of discernment groups operative in England and Wales today. Sr Cathy Jones did a very good job of presenting these in a systematic way. I had the opportunity to speak a little bit about the challenge of the New Evangelisation and possible responses to them.

All in all, I think everyone has been given the chance to reflect on what they might do to promote a general culture of vocation within their communities, parishes and places of work.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Posture & Carriage

The Handbook on the Social Behaviour of Seminarians doesn't have much time for those who confuse contortion with piety...

"Slumped, crooked, or slovenly posture in church could easily be interpreted as an indication of your mental attitude towards the recitation of prayers... A man with any degree of self-control kneels squarely on both knees. The position is not a natural one and is not meant for comfort, but it looks very disedifying to see a seminarian or cleric continually squirming during divine services to obtain a more comfortable position.  Letting the head roll to one side during prayer gives a pietistic or idiotic appearance, and letting the entire weight of the body rest on the elbows which are dropped on the pew in front is very slovenly".

Oh dear, I'm not sure what they would have said about me using a cushion to support my arm...

Saturday, November 03, 2012

The Social Behaviour of Seminarians

Recently someone was telling me about a former seminarian who was complaining about the lax regime at his seminary. Since it is a place I know quite well, I was able to suggest to my interlocutor that perhaps the account he had received had undergone a certain transformation as it passed through the disgruntled mind of a young man who never really wanted to be in seminary anyway. I often wonder how long those who complain about their seminary formation would have lasted in a former regime - where, for example, you could be instantly dismissed for a misdemeanour such as forgetting to wear the ferraiola when you went out for a walk. I recently came across an interesting little guide to the social behaviour of seminarians.

Today let's consider Clothing:

"Care of shoes demands that they be polished. One of the last duties of every seminarian or cleric before retiring at night should be to shine his shoes for the next day. In the rush for morning prayers they are liable to be overlooked. And he should give them a swipe of the brush again during the day. Well-polished shoes, like well-ironed trousers, may be a small item but it has a big influence on one's appearance".
"To sum up: Slovenliness in dress, either in the seminary, in the classroom, or on the street, is a mark of carelessness unbecoming of a gentleman. At the other extreme is fastidiousness - the soft, unmanly type. This too is unbecoming. The seminarians or cleric isn't an actor, nor a fashion plate. He is a neatly dressed gentleman".
I am going to have such fun quoting this book to some seminarians...

Spare a Prayer for our Friends in New York

I received an email today from Rosemary Sullivan, the Executive Director of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocations Directors in the US which has its headquarters in the diocesan seminary in Huntingdon on Long Island. I was supposed to have stayed there in September but had to make do with NHS hospitality instead. I'm copying the email here to encourage you to remember to pray for all those suffering in the wake of hurricane Sandy. Over here in England we rarely get affected by events of such magnitude and it is perhaps hard for us to imagine what it is really like for people on the ground. Also, there is a great resilience to the American spirit. My Facebook friends seem galvanised to help each other and sort things out and we have a lot to learn from that but at the same time there is also another side to tragedy - Rose catches it in the young priest sitting on the beach not knowing what to do. Before long the news stories over here will move on to other things but let's not forget to pray for our brothers and sisters in New York...

Not sure when this will go through – The hot spot Fr. Henning has is very weak so Internet has really been nonexistent for us the last two days.
All continues to be well here at the seminary.  Our generator is holding, so we have power, but we no longer have heat so the building is cold at night, hopefully it will be fixed today - but absolutely no complaint we just pile on another blanket. Still no phones. We did get a food delivery yesterday - only non-perishable items, but again no complaint; all things considered we are in good shape.
Things are tough outside the walls of this house of Mary. Long, sometimes violent lines for gas.  Gary was on line with my sister yesterday for 2 ½ hours to get gas for the car. People are stealing generators from each other and Thursday night in downtown Huntington (where the restaurants are) there was looting; thankfully the police chief seems to feel he has that under control now.
The seminary has been open for people to take hot showers, charge their phones, get some hot coffee, etc. We have not seen many people but as the days continue without power we are prepared for the numbers to increase. The new estimate is that some places on Long Island may not see power until after November 11th or longer.  We were also contacted yesterday by the State Police who are looking to house 100 troopers here at the seminary who are coming in from across the country to help with the relief efforts.  Bishop Murphy is also looking to possibly use the seminary as temporary housing for those who have lost their homes. We are ready to welcome and help wherever we can, but decisions on what is happening when, and where, seems to change by the minute. Its frustrating as we want to help and are ready to and yet need to wait. Trusting the Lord is something I am being reminded of everyday in prayer. But honestly it is all keeping my mind off, if only momentarily, the conditions on the South Shore where my home, my friends and neighbors are.
With each sunrise there is hope that things will begin to level out and we can take a breath and begin to move forward.  It is just so hard to see the photos and hear from friends who have lost so much.
I have attached two photos.  One is the seminary with the damage on the main driveway.  We lost trees all over the property but again, no damage to the building.  Also, attached is a photo of the beach - Robert Moses, Fire Island - which some of you may remember.  The beach is about a 5 minute drive from my home. The lighthouse is still standing, be I am not sure if it was damaged, but as you can see from the photo the beach itself is gone. But it WILL come back.

My focus has been on helping Fr. Rich and reaching out to my recently ordained.  The fellows who are only ordained 1, 3, 5 years are finding this very tough.  Some of them were still in high school/college for 9/11 so this is the first real test for them.  Some are finding it harder than others.  I ask them to focus on how their presence, and if nothing else, their willingness to just listen to the people of their parishes/communities will make all the difference.  Duffy told me a story today about how the people were banging on the church doors looking for food and there was nothing left to give them.  The parish has no power - nothing.  But they have been saying masses by candlelight and doing all they can. Sean was just assigned to Breezy Point, which is where the major fires were. 111 homes were lost and what the fire didn’t claim the ocean did.  The first floor of the rectory was completely flooded out.  He called me, sitting on the beach not even knowing where to start. It was the first time he was allowing himself to take it all in. My heart just broke for him but I refuse to be soft and had to give him some tough “Mama Rose love”  – which was in fact what he was looking for.
What can we do? The question that so many from outside the path of Sandy ask and is in fact comforting to hear, but truth is, the best thing you can all do is what you do best – pray.  Ask your parishioners to pray, ask the seminarians to pray. Pray for patience, pray for calm, pray that so many can keep their spirits up, pray that in the coming days as the shock of it begins to wear off and the scarring reality sets in for so many people, that they will remember Christ is here among us.



Thursday, November 01, 2012

Samuel Group in SE London

Sr Anne Griffiths has been in touch with news that plans are afoot to start a Samuel Group in South East London. 
Samuel Groups are for single young adults (18-30s), who are wondering what God is calling them to do with their lives. The aim is to help participants discern their direction in life, whether this is to marriage or dedicated single life, to priesthood or consecrated life. It would also suit those who are making decisions about their career, or about spending time as a missionary or volunteer. 
All those who take part grow in their understanding of what it is to make decisions as a Christian; the main aim is that participants will end the programme with a clearer view of God's will for their life.
Participants take time to listen to God and to His Word speaking to their life. They commit to attending monthly meetings with the group, and to meeting individually with a spiritual guide.

Samuel Groups are one example of what we call a "discernment group". Others models of discernment groups are the Quo Vadis Groups in Southwark and Birmingham and the St John Vianney Group in Arundel & Brighton. They are all very different but if you can find the right one to suit your personality you may well find it a great help in recognising and responding to your vocation.

For more information about the SE Samuel Group or to find one near you contact: .

Benefactors' Masses

So many people have been so generous in supporting the establishment of the new Vocations Centre that I have thought it appropriate to establish two monthly Masses for our benefactors' intentions. They will start this month and continue as long as I am Vocations Director - obviously it will be up to my eventual successor to decide what to do in the future.

Many thanks...

A big "Thank You" to our benefactor who bought three items from the Amazon wish-list (see side bar) for the Vocations Centre. Every little helps - and three bedside lamps is much more than a little!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pastoral Guidelines for the Promotion of Vocations to the Priestly Minitry

I have mentioned this new document before and you can read a copy of it yourself by simply clicking the relevant page at the top of this blog. It is important that it not be a document once published and then forgotten and we shall certainly be considering it during our forthcoming Vocation Directors' Conference. Today I would like to give something of the background to the document. The easiest, and most authoritative, way of doing this is simply to translate for you some paragraphs of a talk given by Mgr Diego Coletti.

In January 2005, the Plenary Congregation of the Dicastery for Catholic Education, declared itself in favour of an elaboration and publication of a new document for the promotion of a pastoral ministry for vocations to the ministerial priesthood. It indicated five characteristics the new document would have to try to meet:
  • to invite the whole ecclesial community, and not just one or other of its components, to a renewed awareness of its responsibility to promote vocations in both its educative and in its pastoral roles;
  • to offer a clear and unified idea of the spiritual nature of ministerial priesthood, of its necessity and of its role in the Church;
  • to encourage all the members of the Church, and particularly those groups and movements that are trying to foster and sustain vocations;
  • to make available a practical vademecum which would be as concrete, clear and effective as possible;
  • to produce a document which would be both brief and incisive.
The Plenary Congregation of January 2008 put into motion an initiative to carry out a wide consultation which would involve the offices of the national Episcopal Conferences dedicated to vocations ministry. It gave its support once again, as well as some updated ideas, for the elaboration of the document.

Finally in February 2011 the Plenary meeting of the Congregation, having carried out a wide-ranging reflection on the synthesised results of that consultation, put together in thirty propositions of the material it had received, and encouraged the redaction of the new document following the classical threefold structure: analysis of the situation; re-statement of the priestly identity; and practical suggestions for promoting vocations.

A Cautionary Tale...

I have been going through some old papers which I had managed to accumulate after nearly seventeen years in a parish. I've managed to shred or bin quite a lot but every now and then I come across a gem that deserves wider recognition. I don't recall who sent me the following Memorandum, but I though it worth publishing here. I imagine it probably first appeared in Not The Church Times or some such publication...

MEMORANDUMTo: Jesus, Son of Joseph, Nazareth.
From: The Advisory Board for the Church's Ministry.
Subject: Selection of Candidates for Ministry
Thank you for submitting details of the 12 men you think suitable for Ministry. All of them have now attended a Selection Conference.
It is the board's opinion that most of the Candidates are lacking in the background, education and vocational aptitude necessary for full-time ministry.
Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above vocational commitment. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude and he needs to be more sure of his own faith before being involved in Ministry to others. A bad business reference has been forwarded for Matthew. James, son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus have unhelpful political opinions and they both appear to be manic-depressives. One of the Candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen financial mind (so necessary in today's Church), and has good contacts in government. He is highly motivated and innovative. We can recommend Judas Iscariot without hesitation as being an outstanding and successful Candidate.
We have written to all the Candidates accordingly.

Makes yer think, dunnit?

Monday, October 29, 2012

When parallel lines create triangles...

A number of people have asked me to comment on the Holy Father's announcement towards the end of the Synod on Evangelisation concerning some adjustments to responsibilities within the various Vatican dicasteries. In particular, responsibility for seminaries is to be moved from the Congregation for Education to the Congregation for Clergy. It is an interesting move and not an altogether straightforward one. For example, in addition to having charge of seminaries, the Congregation for Education for more than seventy years has also been home to the "Pontificia Opera per le Vocazioni Sacerdotali", known by its acronym POVS: an organisation dedicated to the promotion of priestly vocations. Presumably this organisation and its dedicated staff may also find themselves moving to the other side of the Via Conciliazione.

Should we read anything into the move, other than a desire to make space at the Congregation for Education for the impetus given by the Synod to the New Evangelisation. I am sure conspiracies will abound but I don't think we should read to much into the reorganisation. That is not to say, however, that I don't regard it as a significant move. I think it is a very important one with potentially far reaching consequences. It could open up the question of priestly formation in many new and important ways.

Already under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II the Congregation for Education published a series of important instructions concerning various aspects of formation in seminaries. Although not exclusively so, they were mostly concerned with academic subjects. Sadly in some places many of them have yet to be implemented but there is no point re-writing them. The Congregation has given us these documents and so, in some sense, has done its job.

Although there are four aspects of seminary formation (spiritual, human, academic and pastoral), it is often the case that a disproportionate emphasis is placed on the academic side. It is not just seminary lecturers who do this: seminarians themselves can often give the impression that they are moving from one round of examinations to another. I have known theology graduates (not UK students) ordained after a couple of years studying for an STL in Rome simply because they had "completed their studies". Every Vocations Director gets regular emails from African and Indian students proudly announcing the completion of their theological formation and requesting to be ordained into their dioceses. The great strength of intellectual formation is also its great weakness: the fact that it is quantifiable means that it can easily fall prey to a 'tick box' mentality. Intellectual formation should be more than passing exams. And it is only one element of formation.

To understand how the four aspects of formation fit together think of a triangle. The base of the triangle, which supports the other two sides, represents human formation. Those who think human formation is unimportant forget that grace perfects nature. Grace will have a far greater effect on a virtuous person than on a 'vicious' (= given over to vice) one. A solid human formation is the bedrock for everything else.

The other two sides of the triangle represent intellectual and pastoral formation. They lean towards each other and hold each other up. The intellectual informs the pastoral and the pastoral feeds the desire to know and understand more deeply. Without one the other would fall flat on its face. It would be unsupported and aimless.

The spiritual dimension of formation is represented by the space inside the triangle: it touches everything and is touched by everything. Questions to do with human maturity, studies and pastoral experiences feed into the individual's life of prayer and that prayer has its consequences for each of the other areas of formation.

To my mind this is the only model that makes sense of the four areas of formation. It is important to have a clear understanding of it in order to ensure the four areas are not like flags or streamers flapping in the wind. Personally I think we still have some way to go to ensure this coherence becomes a shared vision on the part of formators in seminaries across the world.

This leads me back to the move to the Congregation for Clergy. One of the things about that Congregation is that it has published a number of documents on priestly life and ministry. These documents betray an understanding of human formation that goes beyond the pop-psychology approach that some people mean when they use the expression. Human formation begins above all with a schooling in virtue rather than a sharing of feelings. 

I think the move means we can expect a new clarification and impetus to be given to the other aspects of formation. I also think a lot of bishops, rectors and seminary staff will welcome that sense of direction.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

University Chaplaincies Day

I had the privilege of spending the day with the CathSoc from Canterbury where Fr Peter Geldard is doing great work as the Catholic Chaplain. We were picked up by coach from outside St John Stone House, the chaplaincy building, and taken to Aylesford where we were able to join chaplaincy groups from all over the south of England and from as far away as Cambridge and Manchester. 
The day began by praying the Rosary as we walked along the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary Way behind the main shrine. I was leading the Mysteries and found it a bit hard combining Rosary, booklet and microphone in my good hand - but fortunately one of the students came to my rescue! I was very impressed to see that almost all the students had a Rosary.
We then gathered in the Relic Chapel where Fr Brendan welcomed us before one of the Chaplains gave us a reflection on the Year of Faith. This was followed by discussion groups up until lunch time. I took the opportunity to catch up with Sam Burke who recently joined the Dominicans - he is second from the left in the photograph above - you can easily make out the elegant Dominican habit.
In the afternoon Archbishop Peter Smith was the main celebrant at Mass which was had been carefully prepared. The music included a sung Kyrie, using the traditional Greek, with most other parts in sung in English. The Archbishop preached an encouraging sermon to the young people present and, at the end, I was asked to say a few words about vocation.
I was very pleased to meet familiar and new chaplains. One of the themes of our Vocations Centre is "Discipleship Discerns Vocation". It is important for us to foster good relations with our university chaplains: we are not in competition with each other. Without good chaplaincies our work is harder and Christian discipleship would be impoverished. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

No Ordinary Calling - Reprinted

Our book of stories of priestly vocations has just been reprinted by St Paul's. Because the second edition is the same as the first one - which sold out - it has been possible to republish it at a much reduced cost. You can order your copy from Southwark Vocations at £5.50 (excluding postage and packing). Just send me an email.
The book has been mentioned a number of times by Bishop Mark Davies in his homilies and I know a number of Vocations Directors have used it with their discernment groups.
No Ordinary Calling tries to answer the question about what sort of man Jesus calls to become priests by looking at the call as experienced by priests themselves. In it we meet, among others, a Communist Party activist; a lapsed student; an agnostic graduate and a scientist working on the Hadron Collider in Switzerland. None of them fits a neat profile. They are ordinary men who have happened to have received an extraordinary call. 
To choose to become a priest is indeed no ordinary calling: it requires faith, trust and confidence in response to God's call. Yet today more than ever the Catholic Church needs holy men to be priests to her people. In this book priests tell their own stories of how they were able joyfully to answer that call. It shows that young men are still becoming priests today, and will be helpful to anyone interested in knowing more about the priesthood.
As Archbishop Vincent Nichols says in the introduction: "The ordained priesthood is 'no ordinary calling'. It is not an easy way of life. But it is immensely enriching and rewarding. How else could it be for it is indeed a call from the Lord who wants for each of us only what is truly best".

Bye Bye Dusty Peach - Hello Bengal Tiger

Bengal Tiger White & Dusty Peach as seen in nature....

This last week has been half-term for the seminarians at St John's Seminary, Wonersh, and I am immensely grateful to three of them who came down to help paint some of the corridors at the Vocations Centre. We inherited a "dusty peach" labyrinth with a glossy finish which presumably was to make the walls easier to clean but actually simply accentuated every blemish.
The main corridors have now been repainted in Bengal Tiger. Did you know some Bengal Tigers have a gene that gives their coats an off-white colour? Well now you don't have to go to Bengal to see it - you can come to Whitstable instead. 
The paint was bought by a very generous benefactor. We have had so many benefactors for the Vocations Centre project that I will be celebrating a regular Mass for all your intentions.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Helping the Vocations Centre

Lots of people have been incredibly generous in helping us establish the new Vocations Centre. We have been able to re-carpet all the bedrooms and to buy new beds, duvets and pillows for them as well. The Conference Room has been totally transformed and now has a comfortable, yet modern and snazzy feel. This week we hope to decorate the corridors (bye-bye 'dusty peach'!) and before long I hope to have a volunteer who will paint the bedrooms.
Many more people have asked how they can help and someone suggested I should establish an "Amazon wish list". The idea is that I list the sort of things we need (like bedside tables and lamps) so that anyone wanting to support our work to promote vocations can do so through their Amazon account. I've taken up the idea and will be interested to see how it works.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Young Apostles Visit the Vocations Centre

Evangelical, vocational, and missionary - three words which aptly describe my visitors today. After a Holy Hour in the chapel with Br Angelo from the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal we celebrated Mass together and then had a good look round the new centre before a delightful lunch of pasta and Spanish meatballs. After lunch we spent some time moving furniture, unpacking the new luxury duvets and pillows bought by a benefactor, and tidying the bedrooms before going for a leisurely walk through the harbour and along the seafront. We got back to the Vocations Centre in time for a cup of tea and some prayer together in the chapel before lighting a great bonfire. During the day we spoke of forthcoming events at the Centre, including the catechists' week towards the end of this month (we still have a couple of places because two people have had to drop out -  let me know if you're interested). We also discussed the possibility of a weekend Frassati retreat for young adults.

Not everyone is called to priesthood or religious life. Indeed not everyone is called marriage either because some people are called to apostolic celibacy, that is to live unmarried in the middle of the world. Everyone however is called to be an apostle. We cannot be indifferent to the spiritual needs of our friends and colleagues. We cannot allow ourselves to treat the faith as if it were a sort of spiritual “comfort blanket". The church has a great need of committed young men and women, married and single, who take seriously their call to be saints in the middle of the world. There they are called to be apostles and there they will encourage others to value priestly and religious vocations and in that way help support young men and women to whom the Lord has entrusted a special call.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Handing on the Faith - A Course for Young Catechists

The Vatican Guidelines for Promoting Priestly Vocations speak of the importance of living and passing on the faith in order to promote vocations:

In particular, [the Church] tries to set before boys and young men the life-challenging faith that responds to the thirst for happiness residing in the human heart. This means offering the experience of faith as a personal, profound relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who reveals the Mystery of God. The discovery of a vocation is born from a response of faith, especially when it is lived within Christian communities where the beauty of the Gospel is lived and where leaders and educators are capable of perceiving the signs of a vocation. In order to make real what the Christian faith proposes, which then leads to a response in terms of a vocation, genuine human relationships need to be encouraged. This should be done by educators and adult mentors in the faith, in the context of communities that have an attractive and exciting Christian life. It is advisable to be open in offering the possibility of priestly life to boys and young men and, at the same time, it is necessary to invite Christian communities to pray more intensely to ‘the Lord of the harvest’ (Mt 9:38) that he may raise up new ministers and new consecrated people. To do this, it is useful to support a general pastoral ministry in the local Churches, which is characterized by evangelical, vocational and missionary enthusiasm. 

I very much like that phrase: "evangelical, vocational and missionary enthusiasm"!

In order to support 'a general pastoral ministry in the local Churches', the Vocations Centre is offering a special training week to young Catholics who would like to get involved in parish based catechesis. The idea is to spend some time together in prayer and reflecting on the essential content of the faith and its transmission in a parish context.
The course begins on the evening of Sunday 28th October and finishes on Friday 2nd November. If you would like to join us for this young catechists' study week, and you fit the description of having 'evangelical, vocational and missionary enthusiasm' please contact us for more details.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

'Calm the Soul: A Book of Simple Wisdom and Prayer'

The Poor Clare Sisters in Galway have a book of simple meditations to lead people from the business of ordinary life to an inner dialogue with God in prayer. It has been recommended to me and I am happy to pass the information on to you. What's more WH Smith is doing a special discounted offer for those who place the orders. You can see the full details here. What follows are a few lines from the introduction:

'Prayer is the life of the soul. Just as our bodies need nourishment so too, do our souls' The Poor Clare, Galway. We spend our lives searching for happiness and fulfilment from external sources: work, material wealth, status, appearance. We can forget that to find peace and contentment we also need to focus on our souls and our spiritual well-being. In Calm the Soul The Poor Clares, an enclosed order of nuns based on Nuns' Island Galway, draw on the fruit of their monastic lives to show us simple prayer ideas and meditations to help nourish our souls and find a sense of calm in today's world. With practical advice in preparing for prayer, the Poor Clares look at ways we can incorporate prayer into our day-to-day lives, slowly building up the amount of time spent in prayer and meditation to achieve a sense of peace and well-being. They combine reflections on familiar prayers such as the Our Father and Hail Mary with meditations on Scripture and prayers for specific needs such as depression, self-esteem, and sickness to bring us an inspiring spiritual book which offers faith and hope to anyone seeking solace in today's world. 'Prayer and holiness is for everyone in every situation. It is having our whole being in harmony with God's plan for us. We will never achieve true happiness if we continue to search for it outside the very source of love, which we know is God Himself.'