Friday, January 02, 2009

A Great Way to Welcome in the New Year

Now that everyone has left the presbytery seems strangely quiet today. Since Monday it has been not just the centre of operations for the New Year Retreat but also home to anything between eleven and fifteen people kipping down on any piece of available floor space. In the middle of the retreat our boiler broke down so mornings were particularly bracing. There's nothing like stepping out of a cold shower into a freezing room to sharpen the senses even if you did only get about three hours' sleep the night before!
We had over two hundred young adults on the retreat, many of them here for the first time. It was impressive to see them praying in the Church before the Blessed Sacrament, and humbling to see how much they desired the Sacrament of Reconciliation. On New Year's Eve Fr Julian Greene, chaplain at Birmingham Univesity, gave a particulalry powerful homily in which he spoke of young people's desire for salvation. It was really well received - I know because people say we look like brothers and I kept getting youngsters coming up to me telling me how much they liked my sermon!
On New Year's Day Bishop Patrick Lynch came to celebrate the Mass at midday. By then many of the young people had already left - some had long distances to travel - but I was pleased to see that the Bishop was happy to stay around for lunch and meet many of those who remained. I know it meant a lot to the young people themselves and I am sure it was encouraging for the bishop.
By late afternoon yesterday everyone had gone and the school and Church were back in order. As they left two seminarians from the North American College in Rome turned up. They will be staying until Monday but they have their itinerary worked out and don't require any special looking after. Today therefore, after a Requiem Mass this morning, I was able to begin the task of putting some order back into the house. I could do so confident that the Retreat had been worthwhile in that it had been a moment of grace fo9r many of the participants, and happy to have a few extra names to add to my prayer list of potential vocations.
What a good way to start the year!

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