Tag Archives: lay vocation

Are we in crisis?

I was interested to read one of the bishop’s homilies at the excellent Joshua Camp – the Catholic Church’s frontline evangelisation initiative during the Olympics. Here is some of what he said:

“it is easy to think that we live in a time of crisis. I don’t think it is true. I don’t think we are that privileged or special to live in a time of crisis, for the Church has been in crisis since the cock crowed the first time. But our society has lost its way.”

For the full homily, click here.

In other corners of the Church, you hear nothing but crisis-talk. At a recent conference, we listed all the challenges afflicting the Church as we face out into the world today.

This intrigues me. Either the time we currently live in is a crisis for humanity, or it is not.

In favour of “crisis”, we could cite the distorted anthropology exhibited in everything from the gay marriage debate to the catastrophic misunderstanding of the human body, epitomised by the skimpily-clad Jessie J at the Closing Ceremony. We could cite the attacks on the dignity of the human person, from abuse of the elderly in care homes to the (let’s be realistic) holocaust that is abortion. We could cite the social disintegration in our society, from the pressure on teenagers living in certain postcodes to join gangs, to the shocking acts of violence in the riots last summer. With all respect, I don’t think it is exactly a “privilege” to live in the midst of all this.

At the same time, let’s not be too hasty. Let’s not forget the many details we see of the beautiful and great in our society. This has been beamed into our lives over the last few weeks in the Olympics. We have seen an exquisitely beautiful vision of the human person achieving excellence by being pushed to the limits. We have seen the human body, created by God, giving him glory in achieving feats we don’t imagine are possible. We have seen a heart-warming spirit of charity and self-sacrifice in the volunteers and commuters patiently putting up with the chaos.

While I don’t think we should play down the extreme, horrifying attacks on goodness, truth, and beauty in our society, neither should we vilify secular society, keeping within the safe walls of our cosy little Church.

For example, we may speak of the horrors of medical care related to life issues, but coming from a family of nurses, I know that there is much that is taught and practised in hospitals, which upholds the dignity, truth and beauty of the human person. Whatever is good and true “belongs” to the Church in a sense. This is what St Irenaeus meant when he talked about seeing the “seeds of the Word” in the world.

I just want to encourage all Catholics that we need to be right at home in the world 🙂 Especially as lay people, there is a “secular character” to our vocation which means finding God in every aspect of our lives and of the world, not just at Mass or on a retreat.

Maybe we are in crisis. I agree that many disturbing aspects of our society suggest this. But, especially if this is true, Christians need to be right in the world, sanctifying it. Not accusing it, moaning about it, writing it off… But loving the world. Allowing the Holy Spirit to transform it from within, through us.


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.