Saturday, 4 August 2007

This Year's Faith Summer Session

Each year I return from the Summer Session feeling uplifted and invigorated. In his inaugural Mass the Holy Father said, "The Church is alive, the Church is young..." and certainly, looking round the auditorium for the conference talks, the truth of that statement really hits home.

This year, the theme of the talks was "Jesus Christ, the Hope of the World: The Only Answer to Sin and Death" and I think it really was one of the most coherent themes. Each talk seemed to blend in pretty smoothly with the previous one without being too repetitive.

I think that my favourites this year were "The Resurrection - The Evidence and the Meaning" by Fr. Paul Brooks, and Sr. Roseann Reddy's talk on the tenth anniversary of the Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative. Sr. Roseann is in the picture on the right, alongside Fr. David Barratt... he's only in the picture because he walked right in front of me when I was trying to take the photo, and when Sister Roseann said "Mac wants to take a picture for the blog," he replied, "Oh, of course you can" and moved round... (He did cotton on when she retorted "Of me, you great ninny!")

I particularly liked Fr. Paul's talk because the truth of the Resurrection is one of the sticking points for many of the students I have taught in the past. They have been so conditioned by GCSE exam questions to think that everything is just another point of view that they don't actually understand that there is such a thing as Truth. Fr. Paul's talk was very much the "Devil's Advocate" approach: he basically outlined the possibilities that the Resurrection was either a hoax or a mistake (and variations thereof) and pointed out why they don't stand up to examination.

Sr. Roseann held the whole auditorium totally spellbound as she spoke about the start of her own involvement with the pro-life movement and Faith, and then went on to speak about the work of the Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative. At several points I came close to tears. Not all the women who are helped by the Initiative are actually persuaded not to have abortions (many admit that they considered an abortion, but couldn't go through with it, but the Sisters help any woman who is experiencing a crisis pregnancy) but Sister Roseann estimated that there were about 80 babies alive today who would have been aborted if it were not for the work of the Pro-Life Initiative. You can check out more over at the website for the Sisters of the Gospel of Life.

Another of the highlights this year had to be the Seminar - this is the opportunity for three young people to witness to the way Christ has affected their lives. The three speakers were really excellent, all of them in their early twenties, and all of them totally faithful to the teachings of the Church. One in the eye for the aging, sock-and-sandle-wearing, muesli-munching hippies who maintain that the Church has to change her teaching, because the standards are impossible to live up to in this day and age, and young people won't go along with it. Reality-check, people... if you present young people with the full beauty and majesty of the Truth instead of insulting their intelligence and integrity by watering down the Faith, then they will respond with generosity and enthusiasm !!

It was the largest conference ever: 238 people attended, and I don't think we can get much bigger while remaining at the same venue: the chapel was completely packed out for Mass, and at Morning and Night Prayer, when the 27 priests weren't seated on the sanctuary, it was standing room only!

The Summer Session wouldn't be the same without the opportunity to relax, chat with friends and make a complete fool of oneself intellectually (the Quiz night) and physically (the ceilidh... I can legitimately avoid the perils of this one by virtue of having a dodgy knee on one leg and a crook ankle on the other... my excuse, and I'm sticking to it!) Here you can see a few of my Quiz team (we really bombed, but at least we weren't right at the bottom!)

I also encountered two of my ex-students (I taught them RE two years ago, and they didn't run and hide... hmmmn, I'm not being scary enough!)

This year's Winter Conference is being held (slightly confusingly) next year - January 2nd - 4th at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire. I can't recommend it highly enough...

2 comments:

Philip Andrews said...

Thanks for blogging about the conference - it sound wonderful! I'm glad it was so well attended.

Fr John Boyle said...

Super post - now linked to in my post (having been wrapped over the knuckles my mulier's mantilla for not refering to it in mine!)

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