St. Benedict (July 11th)

St. Benedict
“A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play!”

July 11th was the feast of St. Benedict, a 6th century Italian monk who became one of the most influential figures in the history of the Catholic Church. His “Rule” established both spiritual and material guidelines for day to day living in monastic communities and gave practical advice on managing inter-personal relationships within the community. It provided a template from which all religious order founders took inspiration thereafter. 
One of his intuitions was to split up a monastic community’s day into clear sections: precise times for prayer, work and study… so Nestlé’s marketing campaign for the Mars bar some years ago wasn’t saying anything new about how we need to find an appropriate work-life balance!
You don’t need me to tell you that this past year has provided more than its fair share of challenges. I know from my own experience that during the holidays I soon get bored if I’m just sitting around “relaxing” with noth…

The Mother Ship

Bro. Hervé, Superior General of the De La Mennais Brothers (far right) together with two other General Council members (Bro. Jean-Paul, 2nd left + Bro. Miguel, 2nd right) at the Town Hall with Ploërmel's Mayor.
An article in the local Breton press described how the 4 Brothers of our General Council were received by the Mayor of Ploërmel at the local Town Hall in early June in the context of our ongoing Bicentenary celebrations. The Mayor talks about our Ploërmel Mother House as being our "vaisseau amiral", the "admiral's ship" of the congregation. #TeamWingot there before him, as we've been calling it the "Mother Ship" since I began taking groups there from Liverpool nearly 20 yrs. ago.
Here's the article:
I actually prefer the image of a "Ship" to that of a "House" as it suggests a flotilla of ships journeying together, on pilgrimage together, with the Mother Ship in the vanguard, like a mother hen (o…

Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (Thurs. 27th)

A little bit late, but a couple of weeks ago I shared in our Staff Bulletin some brief notes from my staff training day (INSET) reflection with which we started the day:

Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (Thurs. 27th)

“Succour”  - “sub” (under/below) + “curro” (run) (Latin) = (self) run for cover, (another) run to someone’s aid, run to catch them 
Click below for information about this feast and the above icon:

Father Jean-Marie De La Mennais

He believed that we should educate “avec douceur et fermeté”, “gentleness and firmness”... at the same time!

Here’s the song (based on a Breton dance) with which I began the reflection, written by one of our French Brothers, asking Fr. Jean-Marie to inspire us to live out the values that he felt were important for educators back in the 19th century but which are still relevant for us today:

The building complex shown is our Mother House in Ploë…

St. Thomas More + St. John Fisher

We’ve got three significant Catholic celebrations coming up on consecutive days: two Solemnities (the highest rank of Catholic Church celebration) Sunday’s Corpus Christi (The Body and Blood of Christ) Monday’s Birthday of John the Baptist and today’s Feast (second rank celebration) of the Reformation martyrs St. John Fisher, a Bishop, and St. Thomas More, knighted, married layman, Lord High Chancellor of England, a close adviser of Henry VIII and an internationally-renowned philosopher and spiritual writer. Both were martyred for taking a stand against Henry’s separation from the Roman Catholic Church.
The famous Hans Holbein painting of St. Thomas More.
I have a particular interest in these two saints for differing reasons:
Bishop John Fisher Up until roughly the mid-20th century, members of religious orders would take a « religious name » which they would be known by within their religious order. One of my teachers (and my form teacher in Yr. 9) at the De La Mennais Brothers’ school in So…

De La Soul, Elton John and the 2 Andreis (Rublev + Tarkovsky) - a personal reflection on the Trinity for Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday - June 16th

“3, that’s the magic number (what does it all mean?)”
Or at least so said American 1980’s hip-hop/rap trio De La Soul (which makes me think the Brothers missed a trick back then not forming a hip-hop skiffle band called De La Mennais!).
But really, Trinity… what does it all mean?
I’d be lying if I told you there was an easy answer. During my 4 years of Theological studies in Paris back in the ‘90s, we didn’t study the question of the Trinity in the  history of the Church until the 3rd year, and spent a whole term (one 2 hour lecture per week) wrestling with this mysterious, but fundamental aspect of Christian belief. You could probably fill our school’s MUGA (Multi-Utility Games Area) from floor to ceiling with all the different written studies, commentaries, mystical reflections and works of art that over the past 2,000 years have sought to express, at least in part, the essence of what it means. It is interesting to note that at no point has the Catholic C…

Pentecost 2019

Staff Bulletin 10/6/19
My mind has recently gone back that glorious Olympic summer of 2012 and my experiences as a Games Maker volunteer Chaplain in the Olympic Sailing Village in Weymouth. In particular, the unforgettable Wednesday evening I spent in the Olympic stadium in London as one of the lucky volunteers invited to attend the final dress rehearsal of the unforgettable Danny Boyle and Frank Cottrell-Boyce-inspired Opening Ceremony. This pairing of an agnostic former seminarian (Boyle) and a practicing Catholic (Cottrell-Boyce) managed to create a spectacle that was, at the same time, intensely personal and deeply British, which nonetheless struck a chord with audiences and critics alike around the world.
Something that Cottrell-Boyce wrote in an article for the Jesuit websitea few weeks after the Games came back to mind the other day when thinking about the theme of Pentecost. He describes the time after that Weds. evening dress rehearsal:
“It must have been the same night, after m…

“The Shores of Normandy” - Jim Radford, D-Day commemoration

Some of you may remember me sharing videos/messages  for Remembrance Day 2015 relating to the 2WW naval veteran, Jim Radford, movingly singing a song, “Shores Of Normandy”, he wrote following his experiences at the D-Day landings. 
After the war he became a folk singer and still takes part in folk festivals and concerts now that he is into his late 80s.

The gentleman concerned, 90 year-old Jim Radford, has re-recorded his song and there is a campaign to get it to No.1 in the charts for Sunday. It is apparently provisional No.1 as things stand. Funds raised from the sale of the single will go towards the creation of a memorial garden in the fields over-looking Gold Beach, Normandy. 
There has been a great deal of media coverage about the song in the last few days. Here are a few links, including the new YouTube video of the song itself:
I contacted J…


SFX Staff Bulletin - Chaplain’s Page (03/06/19)“Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way!” (Mac Davis, 1980)A few of you will be old enough (sorry!) to remember this comedy song. For those who aren’t, here it is:As you may have guessed, the assembly and form period theme for the week after half-term is Humility. It’s a term that in the Christian context generally gets contrasted with the sin of pride. But, personally, I like the interpretation that refers back to the word’s etymology and the latin “humus” or earth. Someone who is humble is someone who is grounded, down to earth. One of my favourite Catholic folk hymns from the 1980s quotes in paraphrase form the Old Testament prophet Micah (chapter 6, verse 8) on this topic:“This is what Yahweh asks of you, only this, That you act justly, that you love tenderly, That you walk humbly with your God.”  Walking humbly with God, one’s feet “on the ground”... This makes me think of an image that I often come back to …

Vocation Sunday

Today is Vocation Sunday. May we each hear the voice of God in our hearts, calling us to follow him in a way that is unique to each individual: our personal path to “life in all its fullness”.
And may the Lord grant to religious orders and dioceses fresh vocations to the religious life and the priesthood, so that we might continue to make Jesus Christ "better known and loved" (Jean-Marie De La Mennais).

Good Friday 2019 - part 3

And finally, something very different, the aforementioned Eddie Kirkland cover of “How He Loves”.