Tag Archives: Catholicism series

Another 5 Quick Takes

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One of the highlights last week was our session on relationships and chastity with our Confirmation group. We were really blessed to have two wonderful youth evangelists with us who are very gifted at inspiring young people in these issues. For most of the session, we split into separate girls’ and boys’ groups and were able to have some honest and open conversations and teaching. It was deeply encouraging to see the thoughtful and engaged maturity of our young people, especially encouraging as they will be confirmed next Sunday. One change I would make? We need to address these topics earlier. One session is not really enough. I think next year we may introduce the topic more generally earlier in the year (around the earlier session on human dignity) in order to lay groundwork for a more specific focus later on.

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On the topic of Confirmation preparation, how impressed was I to read this heart-warming account of another Confirmation programme, in Kansas City. I especially love the time at the end where the candidates shared why they are excited about receiving this sacrament. It got me thinking: Oooh, I wonder what our candidates would say? I tentatively raised the question with a group of girls before the session started last Tuesday: “So, girls, who’s excited?” “Oooh, I am!” came one reply as I nodded expectantly. “I have the nicest dress!” “Well, that’s lovely,” I murmured, moving on swiftly. OK, so Kansas City has the holier Confirmation candidates, and I am excited about being there this summer 🙂 But, I did like the idea of asking the young people to share their excitement for the sacrament in a more structured session.

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Speaking of the summer, a good friend of mine is involved in promoting this theology summer school in Knockadoon, Ireland, this summer. It runs in the last week of August and looks GREAT: and I would be there in a flash if it weren’t for a minor youth festival at Walsingham on at the same time 😉 Designed for students of theology, this is a week of in-depth study of St Thomas’ Summa, particularly Questions 1-13 (existence of God, how we can speak about God, etc). Check it out!

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After feeling like I know him like an old friend from watching the DVD series again and again, it was super-exciting to see Fr Robert Barron in real life on Friday evening at St Patrick’s, Soho. He is an extremely engaging speaker, I could have listened to him all night. Sadly all our plans to ambush him for a lunch meeting failed (he had far more important people to see like Nicky Gumbel) but still, I felt very inspired afterwards. His passion for evangelising the culture is infectious, and I wonder what more we can do in this country to evangelise our culture. Unless we seize hold of the moment, our society is slipping further and further away from Christian values, and therefore from human values, every single day. And unless we do something more, who will?

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And finally, speaking of evangelisation, we had the lovely students from St Patrick’s Evangelisation School with us all day on Friday in the parish. We spent the morning looking at the topic of vocation (I focussed on the lay vocation, in particular Christifidelis Laici, while Fr James focussed on the priestly vocation, and how as lay people we can encourage priestly vocations), and after lunch we enjoyed the countryside (Wandsworth Common is pretty rural when you live in Soho) and suitably finished up having a drink in a pub called The Hope! An excellent group of young people who are coming close to the end of their year of formation… To find out more about them, see here.

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This Week’s Top Five… Catechetical Highlights

1. Giving catechesis on the Our Father to the catechumens. In the Fifth Week of Lent, they are presented with the Lord’s Prayer as a ‘foretaste’ and reminder of the Father who will be theirs after their Baptism. What I love about our catechumens is – they really know they will become children of God the Father 🙂

2. A great Confirmation catch-up class: two brilliant, bright girls with some fantastic questions about Genesis, the historicity of the Gospels, the meaning of evil… More teenagers like this please!

3. A brilliant Catholicism session on prayer: small groups shared about their own experience of prayer, and we talked about the ‘fasting of the senses’ as a means to deepen our prayer.

4. Showing the first half of the Human Experience to our Confirmation class – a powerful film to get them thinking about the dignity of the human person and the real meaning of happiness.

5. Adoration with our First Communion children. Every term they have half-an-hour of led prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament.


Catholicism

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We are into week four of the Catholicism series, and I wanted to share with you how it’s going. In the week leading up to the first session on January 12th, each day brought new surprises. The phone was ringing off the hook and the emails were going mad. At the beginning of the week we had around 30 wanting to take part in the course; by the end of Thursday we had 94! The number continued to rise – we now have just under 100. We had to send to the States for more study binders which thankfully have arrived now which gives our photocopier a breather. In this last week before we started, not only was I trying to stay afloat of the admin involved, I also needed to rope in more small group leaders and give them last minute training. Thankfully God provided: we have some wonderful leaders.

I’m happy to say the course is being hugely blessed. The first night there was quite a bit of excitement around buying Catechisms and, for many, delving in for the first time. The DVDs are an all-round hit, although I would say that for most people the content needs some unpacking. We do this in a ten-minute catechesis after the episode either given by myself or Deacon James Bradley. The small groups have been working well too, with everyone benefitting a lot from the discussion but in agreement that there simply isn’t enough time to discuss as much as they’d like. We have given this thought, and decided it’s better for people to come away wanting more than make the evening unmanageably long.

What has struck me most is the desire in people to know their faith. This has not been taken seriously enough in our Church. A young woman told me in the pub afterwards that her eyes had been opened to how much she simply didn’t know. People speak of how nourishing the material is and how it makes them hungry for more. We had to start a blog in order to answer all the questions being asked each week. One man has already decided he would like to become a Catholic.

I don’t want to detract from these good fruits; I would just like to make an observation: If these are the fruits one course can reap in one small corner of London, why are we not making more of a priority of adult formation in our Church? I admit it – I am angry when I see the budgets given for disability awareness or for social justice when the work done in the sphere of adult catechesis is negligible. Adult catechesis is treated as a luxury when it should be a normal part of every adult lay Catholic’s life. Courses like this should not be a novelty, they should be very ordinary. The Church’s task is to teach and sanctify her members, but when I teach after the episode each week, I know that the only teaching most of these people have ever received in their faith is the homily at Mass each week, since they were a teenager. That is why they don’t know the basics of their faith: let’s not sweep this under the carpet – it is a scandal.

To end on a positive note: this is a wonderful course, and a great gift to the barren desert of adult catechesis in our country.