Sunday, December 31, 2006

Feeding Body & Soul

The New Year Retreat is going really well. We have nearly two hundred people sleeping in the school with many more coming during the day but sleeping at home or at friends' houses. The talks have been great: simple, practical and challenging. So far we've looked at the Eucharist, Confession, and prayer. Last night we had a reconciliation service with fourteen priests hearing Confessions. It began at 8.00pm and ended after 10!
Today is the Feast of the Holy Family and I'm grateful to the parish for everyone's readiness to adapt to accommodate the Retreat. For example there was no 10am Mass today and so people had to come to one of the other Masses. Although a few forgot and turned up for the 10am they realised their mistake and there were no complaints!
With all this attention paid to our souls it's important to mention that a large part of the success of this year's retreat is due to the attention that is also being paid to our bodies. Whether it's attempting to unblock loos at midnight or sorting out heating systems so no one freezes to death on a school floor there's always been a smiling parishioner ready to help.
I couldn't finish this post without mentioning the food - because everyone else is talking about it endlessly. The basic theme: "It's never been so good"! Youth 2000 has been around since 1990 and today someone commented: "We've never had a cooked breakfast before". Yesterday someone said, "There's never been a choice of menu before". And the best comment of all, "This year instead of thinking, 'Oh, it's lunch time', I'm saying 'Oh great - it's lunch!". So thanks to everyone whose involved with looking after our bodies - especially all the many people and families helping with the catering. Here's a photo of just some of them.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

New Year Retreat - A Good Start

Since St John's day everything in the parish has been gearing up towards the New Year Retreat which started last night. This year our wonderful parishioners are doing the catering but since I am the one with the parish credit card I found myself spending the best part of the day in Bookers with a team of people to do the shopping. Catering for anything between three and five hundred people is no joke. Those who were thinking in terms of a big shop at Sainsbury's soon realised their mistake. Two trailer loads later we were back in the parish ready waiting for the arrival of the advance party - due at 10pm!
Yesterday the first people arrived at 9am (for 6pm registration) but were soon set to work. There's lots to be prepared for a retreat and the more people to help out the better, especially if they've had some previous experience. Seeing how confidently Maxine and her team were looking after the catering, we knew we had no worries there. Indeed, we were treated to some very tasty 'Shepherds Pie' yesterday evening. The choice of food reflected the fact that the Archbishop would be joining us for supper.
I picked up the Arch at 6.00pm and we made good time getting back here so he was able to meet lots of people before and during the evening meal. He enjoyed the first talk by Brother Martin CFR and then presided at Holy Mass.

This picture was taken in the sacristy after Mass. I've had to manipulate it a bit because there was so much incense in the sacristy that it originally came out as a milky haze. Smoke rises and, having done my best to clean it up, I'm amused that the floor area is fairly clear but there's still a lot at head height! We were fourteen concelebrants at the Mass. The Archbishop preached a lovely meditation on Christian Love.
There were over 160 people at Mass which was very good. I had been nervous that the New Year Retreat usually gets off to a slow start and didn't want the Arch preaching to an empty Church. As things were the Church looked full and we were all very happy we the whole occasion. I'm really grateful to all our parishioners who are involved in welcoming the young people to the parish and looking after them.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Day with the Archbishop

On Wednesday 27th Archbishop Kevin celebrated Mass in the Church for our vocations day. Later eighteen of us sat down for lunch together. We were a mixture of priests, seminarians and young men considering a call to the priesthood. In this photograph we see the Archbishop with some fo the forty servers who were at Mass for the occasion.
The Archbishop will be back in the parish tonight when he will celebrate the opening Mass of our New Year Retreat at 9.00pm.

Christmas Cribs

The parish Crib

Visual imagery is very important to us as Catholics. We men and women are body and soul. We might do bad things, but we are created 'very good' by God. What we perceive with our physical senses is an important aspect of our being and also, therefore, of our approach to God. In Catholic worship we make use of things like sight and sound, and even smell (think of incense).
So it's important that in our homes we make use of visual imagery that remind us of God's presence and of his love.

Children can be very proud of their Crib

At this time of year it's important to have a Nativity Scene or Crib in our home. We can encourage the children to pray before it. We can also get them to visit the Crib in our parish Churches and in the homes of our friends and neighbours.

Some Cribs are quite elaborate

Some Cribs can be quite simple. If we have small children it's probably a good idea to have fairly robust figures. Other Cribs can be quite elaborate and take several days to prepare. They're good to get older children involved.

Our image of the Baby Jesus

One tradition is not to put the Baby Jesus in the Crib until after Midnight Mass or Mass on Christmas Morning. It's good perhaps to lay the image of the Baby Jesus in the Manger as a family and then open our presents. Another tradition is to venerate the Baby Jesus with a kiss when we go to Mass during the Octave. We have a special image of the Baby Jesus for this. Another good family custom is to leave the Three Wise Men out of the Crib until the Feast of the Epiphany. Some families have them wandering all over the house so that the children have to spot where they've got to each morning.