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 education…

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 in …

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…

Bowie, authenticity in the creative act and leaving your comfort zone

Have just seen this thanks to Bowie's film-maker son Duncan Jones' Twitter feed.

He practically quotes what I have always said about the moment I realised I needed to/was meant to/was being called to study Music further, i.e. at university. The feeling was very sudden and very compelling. I was 15 yrs. old, sitting on my bed with my grade 5 clarinet certificate in my hands. "There is something inside of me that one day I will find a way to express through music and I HAVE to find it." There were no two ways about it. I had to do this.

I'm still searching for that perfect expression of what's inside of me, but there are moments... when I'm leading the music (singing + guitar) with our staff worship band in a school Mass, for example, (most often during communion) or playing clarinet during communion in a Mass in a large church in France... when I forget where I am and the song or piece becomes an extension of myself, of my faith and love of God, of my than…

You Do All Things Well

Here's a wonderful devotional from Mike Donehey, lead singer of Tenth Avenue North. It's a very moving account of a real incident that involved a personal revelation for the singer as regards supplicatory prayer to God.
The following passage, in particular, struck me :
"I was suddenly struck with the thought, Father, you can heal him now, or heal him by taking him home, but whatever you decide to do, you do all things well. So I feebly picked up my guitar and began to clumsily strum and sing that simple thought. "You do all things, you do all things, you do all things well." And out of the corner of my eye, I see Travis' mom stand to her feet, lift her hands up in the air, up above her tear stained cheeks, up above the despair crushing down on her heart, and impossibly begin to sing those words with me."
The devotional also reminded me of the video to Aaron Shust's wonderful "My Hope Is In You ". I'll add this video at the end of the p…

Lord, lead me

O Lord, I pray that this year I will let you lead me by the belt and take me where I would rather not go. Help me to discern your path for me and to have the courage to follow it, step by step, even though I won't see in advance where it will lead me...
In the below photo (taken yesterday at Montreuil-sur-mer - what link with "Les Misérables"?), for example, are friends that I made thanks to a series of "chance" encounters on the Camino de Santiago in N. Spain in 2006.

A few years afterwards I discovered from Christian (next to me) and Marie-Brigitte (far right) that they'd had a son who died when he was 16. Like me, he was born in 1968. He died on Oct. 10th 1984. My birthday is Oct. 9th. Christian's surname is Frère. His name therefore means "Christian Brother". Factor in the laugh out loud coincidences that led to us meeting 6 times in the space of 7 days and we're left with an example of what I mean by the Lord leading me by the belt. B…

Some of my songs of the year 2017 - part 1

When I listen to so much music (mainly Christian songs… for myself and for use in school) and end up with 3 iTunes playlists of favourite songs of the year, containing about 110 songs in total, it’s hard to choose my favourites, but here I go....Lyric Of The Year and Song Of the Year:

“I Won’t Let You Go” - Switchfoot"When your fear is currency
And you feel that urgency
You want peace but there's war in your head
Maybe that's where life is born
When our façades are torn
Pain gives birth to the promise ahead"See previous posts about Switchfoot. They take me from darkness to light...
Bridge Section Of The Year + Pre-Chorus Of The Year:“Hypnotised” - ColdplayThis band is my guilty pleasure. Their first album, “Parachutes”, won me over, and although they have at times frustrated me over the years, they’ve always been capable of songs that somehow defy cynicism and touch the heart in a way that very few “secular” bands manage to do to me nowadays. When such songs do touch my…

“The Shape Of Water” - Guillermo Del Toro

What a beautifully written review of the much-anticipated new film by one of my favourite directors, Guillermo del Toro (click here). Not for everyone perhaps, but it's going straight on my "must see" list. The wonderful Sally Hawkins will be worth the admission price alone.

Brain Pickings

I love the website (+ its newsletter) for its fascinating reflections at the intersection of the arts (visual, literary, musical...), science and spirituality and for the way it distils the essential ideas from a wide range of books that I would otherwise not have the time to read. Its founder and sole contributor, Maria Popova relies on voluntary donations to keep the service afloat. The reflection that can be found here, which makes reference to the highly influential writings of the great cosmologist and communicator Carl Sagan, encourages us all to take a step back as we approach the end of this tumultuous year so as to better reflect on our lives, our purpose and then continue to "do the work which our time asks of us".
Here's an explanation of exactly what "Brain Pickings" is:"Brain Pickings is my one-woman labor of love — a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why. Mostly, it’s a record of my own becoming as a person — i…

“Thorns In The Straw” - Graham Kendrick

I sung this at our school Carol Service on Tues. with our pupil worship band: a 6th former on bass + sharing vocals, 2 Yr. 9s on kit (brushes) + assorted percussion. Sent tingles down my spine as we did it. It offers a beautiful reflection on Mary’s persepective, not only of the birth of her child, but of the events of his life thereafter. Prayerful and moving.