Sunday, 10 August 2008

Out of Great Silence. Again!

It seems ridiculous to keep restarting this thing but I'd hate for us to give it up completely!

The four of us (soon to be five with the arrival of Tony White) are fairly occupied at the moment - Padraig and Michael are in the Holy Land doing a bit of a parish placement, Luke is in Taize after having been with me and 80 kids in World Youth Day Australia, and I'm now well into my parish placement in Peterborough. All Soul's is a busy parish, with a significant number of Poles, Lithuanians, Indians, etc. Lots of baptisms, weddings and funerals here as well! I've been in both the local prison and the local district hospital, which features as a regular part of the priest's life.

A few days ago we experienced a typical call to the hospital: a woman had just died and the family asked to have her body blessed. So a nurse bleeped the priest I was with, and we went out there. When we got there, the priest asked to go to the lady's bed, and the nurse on duty asked hesitantly, 'Has the family requested you?' The priest said of course, otherwise he wouldn't be there. As we found out just afterwards, the family had already left, hence the nurse's question. The family had asked for a blessing because their mother was Catholic, but they weren't going to stick around for it, so we ended up being the only two present. That same day we had a graveside service for a Slovakian man who had died aged 44, with no family or friends in England. The only people at the cemetary were the priest and some of the parishioners who he had invited to pray at this man's grave. I begin to think that the priest must learn a lot about human loneliness in his ministry - that of others as well as his own!

World Youth Day was a great experience, and I really hope the young people will come away from it with a greater sense of the Church's universality. Also, Cardinal Pell spoke very eloquently and directly of the need for young people to make choices in their life, rather than 'sit on the fence' as our culture encourages us to do, be it intellectually, emotionally or spiritually. In particular he said we need to learn that being a disciple of Jesus requires commitment and self-discipline. In the final Mass he made the succinct observation that 'one mission is better than a thousand options.' Luke and I also went to the Pope's Mass in Sydney Cathedral, in which he spent some time in the homily addressing seminarians and young religious about staying faithful to their calling through prayer and the Scriptures. He encouraged us to become 'living altars' in which the sacrificial love of Christ is made present and gives inspiration to those around us. I took much from the time in Sydney, and I hope that Luke has recovered from having to share a room with me (tidying up the room on the last day was not a quick job)!

Please keep us in your prayers, especially Michael and Padraig, that they may have a safe trip back from the Holy Land.

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