Happy (belated) Founder's Day!!

Happy Founder’s Day to all in the Mennaisien Network! (it was actually yesterday, the  26th) A day when we celebrate the life of our principal Founder, Fr. Jean-Marie De La Mennais (1780-1860). This morning we had a Founder’s Day Mass for Yr. 7. After our weekly Monday staff meeting at the end of the school day, we provided a “verre d’amitié” for all the staff and a chance for them to meet and chat with all the Brothers of our community, including former Head, Bro. Francis (see photo). Later in the week we’ll have an own clothes day to raise money for our mission in Indonesia and there’s an ongoing art competition to design a poster for our bicentenary as a religious order next year. Myself and Bro. Peter are giving the assemblies this week.

Dream Big - Bob Goff

"A bad day is not a day that you fail, it's a day that you didn't even try."

This guy, Bob Goff is an inspiration. He has a passion for helping people, all people, any people. "Love does!" He's a Christian but, as you can see in this clip, his initiatives (whether opening schools in war-torn N. Uganda or running workshops for the leaders of tomorrow in Afghanistan) are fully inclusive and non-denominational.

"They Shall Not Grow Old" (Peter Jackson, 2018)

I wrote this on my Facebook page a couple of weeks ago. I'm still seeing the faces of those soldiers in front me. Cannot speak highly enough of the work of Peter Jackson and his team. It will go down in history as one of the all-time greatest and most important documentaries.
"They Shall Not Grow Old" (Documentary, Peter Jackson 2018)

... This is a film that deserves to be seen by as large an audience as possible on the big screen. It is a truly remarkable technical and artistic achievement. The sequences that have been fully restored (that begin about 15 mins. into the film), slowing the film to a normal speed, filling in the necessary missing frames using high-powered computers so as to avoid jerky movement, the colorisation and the addition of sound (sound fx and archive interview audio), bring to life the young men on screen in a way that touched me to the core. It humanises them, which makes all the more moving the dehumanisation we see them undergo as the film (and t…

National Geographic: the Plant Kingdom's Hidden Microscopic Wonders

These photos of microscopic plant life are simply breathtaking. The hidden beauty of our natural world.

Religious orders still have a vital role to play in Catholic education.

Despite, or perhaps even because of the current environment in which teachers are having to work, the presence of religious orders in the education system in England seems to be potentially more important now than when I first joined our congregation 28 years ago. 

The Catholic hierarchy in this country has overseen a return to a more formal, catechetical approach to R.E., especially in the public exam syllabuses for G.C.S.E. and A-Level, and rightly so, in my opinion. Long gone are the wishy-washy platitudes of the "Weaving The Web" Key Stage 3 syllabus and its like that were all the rage in the 1990s. However, a new G.C.S.E. syllabus that involves delivering content relating to the topics of Creation, Incarnation, Trinity, Redemption, Kingdom of God and Eschatology to pupils of all ability (we still teach R.E. as a compulsory G.C.S.E. subject in most Catholic schools), as well as a detailed study of beliefs and practices in Judaism, could be daunting to some R.E. teachers w…

The stresses of modern-day teaching...

It’s been a while… put it down to an incredibly busy and stressful last 6 months since our General Chapter, partly because of having to catch up with nearly 4 weeks of school work once I'd come back from the Chapter whilst waiting for an overdue Ofsted inspection (I’d prepared nearly 60 hours of cover work for supply teachers to deliver in my absence, none of which got marked by the supply). 
The Ofsted inspection (followed a few days later, as is usual, by an Archdiocesan inspection, a double whammy for R.E. staff and school Chaplain - I’m both!) eventually came in May. By that stage - after having been on "red alert" since February - many of the staff were suffering from nervous exhaustion. The summer holidays couldn’t come soon enough.
In Sept. a new Head Teacher took over, our previous one having retired in July. Though the new incumbent has come in and changed many of our routines and structures, he has done so with a “glass half full” type attitude, seemingly boun…

The good dark

The following devotional from the PocketFuel team struck a chord with me when I first read it a few months ago:

I've spent so much of my life being afraid of the dark. Literally, and figuratively. Afraid of the night and the unknown. Afraid of hard times. I've pursued light and ease and fortune, and every time I was met with darkness, I fought it, struggled it, preached at it, quoted scripture, denied its power…

And missed out on its glory and beauty and gifts each and every time.

A favourite quote of mine by Thomas Merton has changed my life: "The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek."

It is in facing our darkness, entering into it, even embracing it - the covering of bandages for healing; the dark cold pressure of earth that forges gold; the dark place of conception - that we find what we're truly seeking: strength, clarity, meaning, change, purpose, compassion, connection, and more.

Mary Oliver wrote:

"Someone I loved once gave me a box full of…

Religious life in Europe? “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it!”

During the month of March I attended our General Chapter in Rome (nearly four weeks long) and it was a wonderfully positive, fraternal, hope-filled experience. Like with many congregations, our worldwide profile is shifting towards a "southern hemisphere" emphasis, but that does not mean there isn't life left in the north. Quite the opposite, in fact. "It's life, Jim, but not as we know it!!" We are responding to Pope Francis' call to "go to the peripheries" seeking ways to serve the poorest, most disadvantaged, most vulnerable young people, looking to respond to the needs of today's youth in the way that our Founders did 200 years ago (yes, we've got anniversary celebrations coming up).
Recently-founded missions in war-torn South Sudan (a community + school - Ugandan Brothers), Mexico (Canadian Brothers, a French Brother for 6 months every year and a lay woman living in community together and serving the poor together), a new educati…

The writing of our “new page” has begun!!

We have a NEW SUPERIOR GENERAL!! Bro. Hervé Zamor from Haiti (aged 51, since 2010 the Haitian Provincial). Our first ever southern hemisphere Superior General. There’s a real sense of excitement among us about how this could indeed be the start of a “new page” in the story of our congregation.

With the Spanish having given him a “La Mennais - We’ll Never Walk Alone” scarf to wear for the photo shoot and it being both Paddy’s Day + our Liverpool community being today’s prayer intention in our Congregation Calendar, I think I might be singing “You’ll (or rather We’ll) Never Walk Alone” either at lunch or this evening :-)
An Irish Picpus/Sacred Heart Father celebrated Mass for us this morning (his 2nd of the Chapter). Fr. David Reid, their Postulator General, a real character (a Dubliner who’s been in exile in the US most of his religious life). I think he’ll be with us for lunch. The craic’ll be mighty!!!
***** UPDATE:
Indeed I did sing “You’ll/We’ll Never Walk Alone”. Managed to squeeze…

God You don't need me, but somehow You want me - Tenth Avenue North, “Control”

I sent the below message to my teaching colleagues in school the evening, braced as we are for the arrival of “those-who-shall-not-be-named” (i.e. OFSTED, national school inspectors) sometime between now and Easter. For those of you who live outside of Britain their job is to monitor and ensure high standards in all schools… the problem is that they keep moving the goalposts. Anyway, enough of that. Here’s what I said:I think that the attached video teaching is for us right now, to help us not lose sight of who we are and why we are here in a Catholic school. It's too late for the weekend just gone, but try to take on board it's message of "wasting time for God" over the coming weeks, despite the pressures that we are all under. 

Even if you are not a believer yourself, give yourself some time alone with your thoughts, if you can… even just a few minutes. The video teaching is by one of my favourite bands, Tenth Avenue North, and it accompanies a song of theirs that h…