Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Inaugural Newman Lecture

On a mild morning in late October, as leaves littered the pavements of Berkeley Square, the interns made their way to Farm Street for Mass and a thought provoking discussion with Fr James regarding the nature of the human person. This was a good opportunity to reflect on the week ending and discuss some areas of Catholic Social Teaching that are central to our daily work.

Following from these discussions the interns then prepared for the inaugural Newman Lecture, organised by the Catholic Bishops Conference. The evening promised to be an interesting and humorous affair, Frank Cottrell Boyce (who delivered the lecture) did not disappoint. The author, screen writer and co-organiser of the Olympic 2012 Opening Ceremony, was on fine form. In a well-attended Notre Dame Lecture Hall, Frank (author of “Millions”) had the audience captivated with witty quips about the nature of Saints and Sainthood, as well as providing an interesting glimpse into some of Newman’s life and work.  The lecture was followed by a brief question and answer session where Frank was asked about his life and work, as well as questions regarding Newman himself.

The reception after the lecture was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The interns mingled and met with many different people, as well as enjoying the refreshments which were all the more satisfying given the plague of food poisoning that was an unfortunate consequence of cold fish fingers the week previously.

The opportunity to listen to speakers such as Frank and to meet new people, both in the clergy and laity, was one which the interns found most rewarding. We will now look forward to the “Inter-Faith Day” which is due to be held in two weeks time.

Monday, 24 October 2011

This week has been another busy one for the interns. On Thursday night we attended the Tablet’s annual lecture, this year given by the Right Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster. The title of the lecture was 'Holiness Today: The Formation of the Human Heart'. The Archbishop spoke of how we are all on our own pathways to finding God and understanding His presence in our lives. Not only did he speak for over an hour but also answered a question and answer session on a variety of points people had picked up on his lecture. Having heard a lot of politicians speak over the past few weeks, we all admired how genuine and honest the Archbishop appeared to be when he spoke and told him so when we met him after the lecture.

After our meeting with Fr James the next day, we took a train to Oxford to attend the Anscombe Memorial Lecture. Professor Robert P George, from Princeton University, gave this year’s lecture, entitled "Science, Philosophy and Religion in the Embryo Debate.” Although none of us have a special interest in medical ethics, the lecture was very thought provoking.

We took advantage of the drinks reception after the lecture (some more so than others) and the opportunity it gave us to talk to other people who had attended the lecture. We then went for dinner at Oriel College, where Cardinal Henry Newman was a fellow, and is commemorated with beautiful stained glass windows in what was his personal Oratory.

As everyone has been so busy settling into their new jobs and routines, we haven’t been together as a group for a fortnight. It was great to catch up with everyone on Friday and hear about what we’ve all been up to. 
From left to right: Michaela, Daniel, Dominic, Stephen, Matthew, Lucy and Marie (and Edward Davies)

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Catholic Parliamentary Interns 2011/12: Retreat to Drumalis

As temperatures in London soared to record heights for this time of year, the 2011/12 Catholic Parliamentary Interns zipped up their jackets, grabbed their umbrellas and headed out for a bracing walk along the coast of East coast of Northern Ireland. Ignoring texts inviting us to bbq’s back home, we made (yet another) cup of tea and tried not to think about the last burst of summer we were missing out on.

It was easy not to dwell on this, however, as we navigated our way through Morning Prayer, informal discussions led by Fr James Hanvey, Mass, Adoration and, of course, meal times, during the first of our retreats this year.

We stayed at Drumalis, near Larne in Northern Ireland, which is a beautiful retreat centre with everything you need for a peaceful weekend including beautiful grounds, a small yet striking chapel and comfortable accommodation.

Having had an intense week of meetings and induction days, Drumalis allowed us to stop and take stock of the incredibly fortunate position we find ourselves in. The tranquillity experienced at Drumalis standing in stark contrast to the hectic lifestyles we’ve thrown ourselves into in London.

We shared personal experiences and opinions about prayer and faith, what we hoped for this year and how we feel about being young Catholics in today’s increasingly secular society.

We also shared a couple of cheeky Chinese take-aways and got to see people in different lights. As we will be spending a lot of time together this year it was important for us to find common ground, other than our faith.

The time we spent in Drumalis has given us a solid foundation for the journey we are all about to embark on as we take up our placements, a journey that is bound to be both professionally challenging and spiritually rewarding.