Tag Archives: Bible study

Great Adventure

jeff cavins

 

Earlier this week we began ‘A Quick Journey through the Bible‘, the Great Adventure eight-session course, and were maxed out with around 70 participants showing up. I was excited to get this comment from someone during the week:

I think I learnt more about the Bible in three hours than I have done in the last 30 years!

Amazing‚Ķ well, amazing that a Catholic can go through 30 years of life with no Bible teaching, but also amazing for the prospects of this course. Someone else said they never thought they’d see the day when a long line of Catholics would be queuing up for Bible study on a Monday night. Adult formation just has to be one of the most richly satisfying tasks when it works, and having programmes such as this from Ascension Press make it easy. If your parish has not done this course yet – go out and buy it! There are some great webinars from Ascension Press telling you exactly what to do to set it up in your parish, how to facilitate a small group – really, everything you could need. If your parish does not have a strong history of adult catechesis, the Bible seems to be a fascinating topic for just about anyone, so it is a great place to start. My advice, for what it’s worth, don’t hesitate – get cracking ūüôā


Quick Takes…

Praising God - Youth 2000

Praising God – Youth 2000

~1~

Wow – I have a whole new empathy with all who volunteer in the Church. In catechesis, evangelisation projects, outreach, or whatever. It is one thing when it is your job, and you have all day to work at it, but quite another when you’re drafting an email late at night, or snatching a few moments in your lunch hour to sort some arrangements. This is what life is like now, as I am beginning to help out with a few things in my parish. I now realise what a luxury it was to do this work full-time! I am wondering how on earth the mums with full-time jobs in my last parish also helped with catechesis – I suspected they were super-women and I was probably right…

~2~

One of my projects at the moment is writing a chapter on Bl John Paul II and catechesis, in a book for young people (18-25). Although it is not an academic chapter, and there won’t be much space to discuss foundations of his thought, it has been really interesting to research this a little bit. I would be fascinated to know what you think: what do you think was Bl John Paul II’s greatest impact on the catechetical world?¬†I am still working out how I would respond to this question, but would love to hear your thoughts.

~3~

In a week’s time, we will begin ‘A Quick Journey through the Bible’, the introduction to the Bible Timeline from Ascension Press. At the moment, we have around half the number of people registered that I am hoping for, but you always find that most people sign up last minute. I always think it is a good idea to begin an adult formation session with a proper time of prayer. By ‘proper’ I mean not a quick, rushed prayer concluded with an Our Father. I think it’s good to have music if possible, a Scripture passage, a short time of silence. I really like this guide that Joe Paprocki has put together – a helpful resource.

~4~

Finally, I leave you with the video message of our wonderful bishop’s Pastoral Letter, issued today. It’s great stuff. On the written version there are plenty of footnotes to reflect on at home.


Encouragement for the Mission…

southsea storm

Right now, we all seem to be “battening down the hatches” in the face of this bad weather that’s hit. The storm raging outside makes me want to go back a week or so ago, to cosy Christmas family time around the fire‚Ķ But I can’t seem to get Bert from Mary Poppins out of my head,¬†“Winds in the east, mist coming in. / Like somethin’ is brewin’ and bout to begin.” Haha! So, to take our minds away from sandbags and continuously refreshing the weather warning page (people, I do live right on the coast‚Ķ) now might be a great time to reflect on the year ahead, what encourages us in the mission right now, what excites us about what God is doing, what hopes we have for the months ahead‚Ķ¬†Please share your thoughts in the comments! Let’s encourage and inspire each other, and glorify God in what he is doing…

For me, there are two particular aspects of the mission where I am really encouraged. When I arrived in Portsmouth last February, I struggled to find other young adults, let alone ‘intentional disciples’. Nine months later, shortly before Christmas, we had the launch event of a Frassati Society. (And here’s the Frassati Society we started in Balham three years ago, which I also wrote about here…) Frassati is a fantastic model for young adult ministry (twenties and thirties) as it is rooted in fellowship (including hiking and service of the poor) and yet combines other dimensions of Christian life, too (formation, liturgy and prayer). The idea behind Frassati is to be super relaxed and friendly, so that people can invite their non-Catholic friends. In Balham, there were many fruits: deepening conversions, a culture of evangelisation, and even a marriage! At the first event here in Portsmouth, we were absolutely blown away when nearly thirty young people showed up, many of them students. Much prayer and apostolic work is now needed to fan into a flame this little spark that’s been ignited…

The second thing I am excited about here in Portsmouth is The Great Adventure Bible Timeline. Following Jeff Cavins’ visit, we are delighted to be running ‘A Quick Journey through the Bible’ eight-session course beginning on 20th January. My mission over the next few weeks is to pray for the Lord to gather many, many people to this Bible Study, that it may be a place where people meet Him.

What I would add about both of these apostolates, is that they are not being launched out of the blue. Maybe this is something for another post, but what I have learnt being here for nearly a year, is that a large foundation of prayer, sacrifice, careful discernment and personal one-to-one apostolate is needed before any event or group can begin. In some sense, these always flow organically. We have to work with the Holy Spirit, not ahead of him.

Please pray for these apostolic intentions – and share yours below!


The New Evangelisation and the Desert

Death Valley

Death Valley

Well, readers, I’m aware I’ve been ‘missing in action’ for a while now, without any blogging. To tell you the truth, I’ve been working on an exciting project that I hope to tell you all about before long. It has been taking up my every spare moment. But for now, I wanted just to break the silence with some thoughts on evangelisation…

1452470_10153461630680007_337421432_n

But, first! Just to keep you up to speed – a couple of things I’ve been up to‚Ķ I graduated! Here I am with three truly amazing ladies, all working in different fields for the new evangelisation, on our graduation day‚Ķ

And here I am with a certain Jeff Cavins, who gave a wonderful talk at Portsmouth Cathedral last week, which was exciting for so many reasons. He gave us a pot of his own ‘Cavins’ Blend’ English Breakfast tea!

1452291_10100720163892950_1821420146_n

So – back to the topic. ‘The New Evangelisation and the Desert’. It is something I’ve reflected on a lot recently. I believe it is also the experience of many, many ‘intentional disciple’ Catholics living in the UK. We are hearing, reading, talking a lot about the new evangelisation. But our daily reality, the communities we are living in, are more like a spiritual desert.

As many of you know, I used to belong to a parish where there was a ‘higher-proportion-than-usual’ of truly intentional disciples – people who had ‘dropped their nets’, who were intentionally living for the Lord and raising their families that way. Many people moved to live in the parish precisely because of this vibrant, community life. There was also a high proportion of young adults living real discipleship. Shortly after I moved to Portsmouth, I discovered that I’d been living in some kind of ‘Catholic Disney World’ (or Rivendell, as we used to joke). I guess I already ‘knew’ the reality of other ordinary parishes in this country. But now, I really knew it. And I admit it has been a struggle. I feel I can now really empathise with the majority of lay Catholic real disciples who struggle on in their parishes.

The reality in most of our parishes – let’s be honest – is that “personal discipleship” – where we earnestly try to commit our whole lives, our decisions, our will, to Jesus – ¬†is treated as a kind of “optional accessory” (in the words of Sherry Weddell, Forming Intentional Disciples). You’re looked on as slightly eccentric if you express a passion for the Lord, or for evangelisation. Being a ‘good Catholic’ means going to Mass on Sundays, Confession once a year, being involved with a charity, making a lasagne for the parish social. It rarely means ‘discipleship’. It’s why increasing numbers of young, committed Catholics are – understandably – finding more formation for discipleship in evangelical churches.

There are many issues here, but what I wanted to focus on in this post, is ‘survival tactics’ – how we cope with being in this desert, and how God can use us to make it a place which is eventually life-giving. These are just some thoughts from my experience over the last nine months:

  1. Open your heart more attentively in prayer: In Scripture, the desert is repeatedly the symbol of where God leads us to (indeed, seduces us) in order to “speak to our heart”. Just because no one arounds us seems to be committed to prayer doesn’t mean we should not be – in fact, all the more reason to be deeply committed to daily prayer! Only with a solid foundation of prayer and sacrifice can God begin to grow new life. There will be many more reasons to surrender ourselves completely to God in the desert – discouragements, setbacks, disappointment‚Ķ As we give ourselves more completely to God in all of this, he is actually using the situation to help us grow in holiness, so that we can be more effective evangelists for him.
  2. Pray for ‘kindred spirits’, like-minded friends:¬†Three or four intentional disciples can be so much more effective than one. For one thing, you can encourage each other – your stamina will be far greater in a small group than alone. Discern together where you can start. Remember you need no one’s “permission” to start a prayer group or a Bible study in your own homes. I truly believe, if we ask God earnestly enough, he will never leave one of his ‘intentional disciples’ alone‚Ķ he is good, and will always gather two or three together in the same place – even if in a way we don’t expect.
  3. Evangelists go out in search of the lost:¬†Have an open heart in all your encounters and conversations with people. Even in the places you’re least likely to expect. You’ll be amazed at the people he will bring into your path. Be proactive in inviting people to things, keeping in touch. Before long, you’ll realise the large numbers of people the Lord has ‘gathered’.
  4. Disciples need formation:¬†Ensure you’re receiving regular formation, nourishment of your mind and heart. In the desert analogy, we need continually to return to the ‘springs’ of water that refresh us and set us on our way again. Perhaps we might need to travel a long distance for this. But it’s vital if we’re going to keep on track.
  5. Discouragement does not come from the Lord:¬†If you’re feeling you’re losing hope in your particular situation, this cannot be “of God”. This is why regular Confession, spiritual direction, and formation helps – it helps us dispel discouragement quite quickly. The worst thing we can do is let it weaken our focus and determination.
  6. Discern the initial plans God has for your area:¬†For me, it seemed quite simple when a friend phoned up and asked if we wanted to host Jeff Cavins at the cathedral. “YES!” was the clear answer. This event will now (with God’s grace) kick-start some adult formation in our parish.
  7. Nurturing new disciples:¬†Emerging disciples and new, growing communities of people seeking to be fed require wise pastoral leadership. Sooner or later, you will need the help of a priest to cultivate the initial work you’ve been doing. The parish (or a new movement) will need to offer opportunities for ongoing deeper formation, for works of service and charity, opportunities for more evangelisation and outreach. Pastoral guidance is needed to cultivate the initial signs of growth, help this new life grow strong, and then equip these new disciples to go out to evangelise others.

A few thoughts. Do you have any ideas to add? How do you survive in the ‘new evangelisation desert’?¬†