Friday, 30 November 2007

Advent Mission



MON 10th - SUN 16th DECEMBER 2007

Preparation for our big Advent Mission has been progressing and is taking up much of our time right now with the start a little over one week away. The mission is a joint one shared between SPES and the Emmanuel School of Mission from Rome. Twenty students will be flying over to help us bring Christ and the true meaning of Christmas to the streets of Soho.

We will be engaged in street evangelisation throughout and encouraging busy shoppers to take a break and step into the Church for a moment of prayer or at the very least some silence. We'll also have talks, prayers, praise and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament throughout.

We hope many of you will be able to come and join us! We need as much support as we can get, and there will be plenty for us to receive from the experience as well as what we are able to give. There is a timetable of events and more info at the top right of the blog.

If you can't join us in person then please support us with your prayers. Tomorrow (Sat 1st December) would be the day to start a novena for the mission. In the meantime, perhaps you could say this prayer for us:

Almighty God, we ask for Your blessing on the Advent Mission in Soho and on all the preparation by the students and staff of the Schools of Mission. We pray for all the parishioners of St. Patrick's and all those in London who may be helped by this mission. May your Holy Spirit guide the works and message going out to the busy streets of London and bring the true, Christ-centered Christmas spirit to the heart of the city. We make this our prayer through Jesus Christ, the Word sent to save us, and with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Amen.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Thanksgiving Day Celebration

It has been a real eye-opener to realize how unknown this American holiday is to other countries. I guess I just never stopped to think about it, but this was a great opportunity to share a bit of my culture with my classmates. So Saturday, I prepared a traditional Thanksgiving feast to be enjoyed by my classmates, Jeanine and our special guest, Bishop Bernard Longley!

I had spent the week leading up to this dinner scavenging St. Patrick’s and the local Sainsbury store to find the closest equivalents to my mom’s American foods (I did have some help by post with my parents sending me the pumpkin pie filling and some other essentials from home). I relied on all my classmates to pitch in with a rather impressive menu consisting of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, coslaw, and finally pumpkin and mincemeat pies served for dessert. I was amused to watch everyone try egg nog, a common American holiday drink, for the first time. In the end it was a very special meal to celebrate our gratitude to God for all that he has given us this year. I know it meant a lot to me to have this tradition carried on even while I’m so far from home.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

The Centre of Time and Space

Saturdays are set aside as a day spent together as a community to take a bit of a break from the basement of St Patrick's! The other week we went to Greenwich where we visited the Royal Observatory - 'The Centre of Time and Space'. It can make this boast because it is the home of both Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian - which is the line of longitude at which longitude is defined to be 0 degrees.

We had a great time at Greenwich - the museum there was well worth seeing. However, it occurred to me that we actually encountered the true Centre of Time and Space a little bit earlier during the same day...

... as indeed we do every time that we go to Mass!

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Roles & Responsibilities

Washing up at Hare Street

It isn't until you try living community life that you realise how much careful thinking and planning is involved in making sure things happen.

One of our activities at Hare Street last week helped hammer this point home. Vron split us into two groups and gave us the task of 'designing' a community from scratch and drawing up plans for how the roles and responsibilities would be shared out.

I'll leave the description of our plans for a community of traveling musician evangelists for another day – it suffices to say that it was a real challenge to try and create and plan from scratch something that would be able to function harmoniously.

Here at SPES each student is given a particular role that is their own specific duty and very much a part of keeping the community working smoothly. For example, Mirela is housekeeper and gets to give the orders of who does the cleaning and when they do it. Allen is sacristan and makes sure everything is prepared for daily Mass and Adoration. Marcus is in charge of organising our weekly community outings; Jenny takes care of the Music, and so on.

You might say that the community is very much a living body where we rely on each others' different gifts in order to get things done - like a microcosm of the Church. But we also have to accept and respect each others roles even when we have our own ideas about better ways of doing things.

At the start of our next term in January we'll all rotate responsibilities - then will come the time for putting our own slant on things. At the moment we've been given jobs that we're fairly well suited too, but we know that being given a job we find challenging (or boring!) could be on the cards in the future and that this can be a real area of growth.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Holiday at Hare Street

We spent most of last week on 'Study Holiday' at Hare Street in Hertfordshire. This is the Country house of the Archbishop of Westminster and also was once the home of Mgr Robert Hugh Benson who was a famous convert to the Catholic faith from Anglicanism, preacher and author of books such as 'Lord of the World'.

The picture on the left was taken in the chapel in which Mgr Benson is buried which is also within the grounds.

We're most grateful to the Cardinal for letting us use his house - what a marvelous place to be staying! You can read a bit more about it here.

The focus of the week was to grow as a community by learning about communication and what sorts of things can go wrong... for this we were led through varied and entertaining activities by Vron, a friend and colleague of Fr Alex from his previous parish.

There were many highlights, but some of the communication games we played were particularly enlightening (and amusing!) In one such game, we were split into pairs sitting with our backs to each other. One of us had the outline of a map, while the other had the full version. We had about ten minutes to try and communicate with each other to complete all the roads and landmarks on the incomplete map. One of the difficulties was competing with the rival descriptions of the other groups in order to make yourself heard! Our neck-straining attempts to hear and listen to the words of our partner really brought home our usual reliance on non-verbal communication. With this taken away, the results were quite entertaining!

In another favourite we were split into two groups, given a huge sheet of paper and a pen each and told to draw a house - with absolutely no communication allowed. Again the results were amusing - and we had to deal with the frustration of someone else doodling all over your bit of the picture - or even someone changing the whole theme half-way through by introducing some Christmas decorations (oops!)

The evenings were a chance to chill out, chat, and play whatever games came to mind - such as Catholic Charades. On Thursday evening Fr Alex joined us again and we squashed into the pub across the road for a drink:

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Music with Miko

Once a fortnight, on a Friday morning Miko comes to sing Morning prayer with us and to lead us in one of our hilariously entertaining music lessons. We were thinking of doing a recording some time so that we can let you in on the secrets of what goes on! SPES offers us a wide-ranging and inspiring formation, but I must admit I was surprised to learn that we'd be learning to sing too! For me at least, it's proved to be a real highlight. It provides a safe environment to make as many mistakes as you want in the name of good fun. But we learn a lot too... So far we've nailed five of the nine hymns given in the Office for Compline (Night Prayer). Our Salve Regina is much improved - Mirela helps us to get the pronunciation right - but it's proving hard to shake off the bad lessons some of us have learned. And Miko composed a nice setting of the Nunc Dimitus for us which we're getting quite good at. Allen has a beautiful voice and a good ear, so bouyed by his talent and enthusiasm we hope to tackle some Taize chants next so that we can evangelise at the bus stop with our four-part harmonies!

Edna's Arrival

Edna has been with us for over a week now. While awaiting her arrival we felt a bit like an excited family waiting for a new baby to be born!

Edna has already been living in London and she already knows a lot about St Patrick's and all the people here - in fact she had to exercise considerable patience in her first week as we all kept telling her things that she knew all about and introducing her to people she's known for years!

I think now we feel like we've all adjusted to our new, improved, larger family. We've already had Edna cooking omelettes for us, and her ipod and speakers have brought some music to the kitchen too!