Pope Francis’ address: Urbi et Orbi

Pope Francis meditated on the calming of the storm from the Gospel of Mark during the prayer service over which he presided on the steps of St Peter’s Basilica on Friday evening. Here is the full text.

“When evening had come” (Mk 4:35). The Gospel passage we have just heard begins like this. For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.

It is easy to recognize ourselves in this story. What is harder to understand is Jesus’ attitude. While his disciples are quite naturally alarmed and desperate, he stands in the stern, in the part of the boat that sinks first. And what does he do? In spite of the tempest, he sleeps on soundly, trusting in the Father; this is the only time in the Gospels we see Jesus sleeping. When he wakes up, after calming the wind and the waters, he turns to the disciples in a reproaching voice: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (v. 40).

Let us try to understand. In what does the lack of the disciples’ faith consist, as contrasted with Jesus’ trust? They had not stopped believing in him; in fact, they called on him. But we see how they call on him: “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” (v. 38). Do you not care: they think that Jesus is not interested in them, does not care about them. One of the things that hurts us and our families most when we hear it said is: “Do you not care about me?” It is a phrase that wounds and unleashes storms in our hearts. It would have shaken Jesus too. Because he, more than anyone, cares about us. Indeed, once they have called on him, he saves his disciples from their discouragement.

The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our pre-packaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.

In this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, you are calling to us, calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. This Lent your call reverberates urgently: “Be converted!”, “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others. We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives. This is the force of the Spirit poured out and fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial. It is the life in the Spirit that can redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people – often forgotten people – who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines nor on the grand catwalks of the latest show, but who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our time: doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves. In the face of so much suffering, where the authentic development of our peoples is assessed, we experience the priestly prayer of Jesus: “That they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”? Faith begins when we realise we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we flounder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.

The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side. The Lord asks us from his cross to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us. Let us not quench the wavering flame (cf. Is 42:3) that never falters, and let us allow hope to be rekindled.

Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity. By his cross we have been saved in order to embrace hope and let it strengthen and sustain all measures and all possible avenues for helping us protect ourselves and others. Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”? Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace. Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: “Do not be afraid” (Mt 28:5). And we, together with Peter, “cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us” (cf. 1 Pet 5:7). – www.vaticannews.va/en.html

Random Thoughts at Random Times

There is that old gag – “If priests went on strike…would anyone notice?” Now you don’t have to answer that…but it is now closer to being fact than being a funny.

The announcement this week by the Episcopal Conferences of both Scotland and England/Wales to suspend all public worship brought home, to those of the Catholic faith, the seriousness of this pandemic. The Eucharist, “source and summit” of all we are is now being denied to the faithful. We can’t go to Communion nor be in communion with each other. This is true also in the other Christian traditions when similar announcements were made and to other faiths when Mosques, Synagogues, Temples, Gurdwaras…also closed their doors to the faithful. It starkly brought home to us what we take for granted.

It is true that we don’t fully appreciate things until we are denied them. We only think of water when we are thirsty, we long for light when we are plunged into the dark, we crave food when we realise that we are hungry. As human beings we too easily take things for granted and it is sadly when we don’t have them that we learn to appreciate them. Or when we see someone worse off than ourselves… “I complained because I had no moccasins until I saw a man with no feet.” (Native American Proverb)

And so to social distancing or self-isolation. I am sure this has been met with… “How will I cope?” or “I can’t do that.” or “I need to see them” – if you are an extravert! For those of the introversion preference it may come as a welcome relief to the rigours of socialising or a chance to get ‘time to myself’ or the opportunity to work away quietly at completing all those things needing to be done. We suddenly realise we have taken our need for others for granted.

The last time I self-isolated was when I did an 8 Day Silent Retreat before my final vows. By day two I was talking to myself in the mirror whilst shaving! We all find our ways to cope.

And it is in our coping that we display who we are. Some have gone into selfish mode, stockpiling things they will never need nor use! Others in denial that this is nothing more than something from a Dan Brown novel and it’s all been exaggerated. Some others are convinced they are invincible and that ‘it will never affect me!’ I hope these are just from a faction of humanity. For most of us there is a breadth of emotions ranging from caution to fear, from anxiety to concern, from common sense to contrived non-sense.

I think the underlying fear is of the unknown. Like the original sin of Genesis, we don’t like not knowing everything, we crave full knowledge. But, this is something we have never faced, it is new, it is unseen, it knows no boundaries. It also reminds us of the downside of globalisation, the adverse aspect of living in a global village. I believe our fear is compounded by our inability – our inability to give answers, to explain, to see the whole picture, to know what to do and, ultimately, our inability to be in control.

In the face of this, the last thing we can do is despair. Despair is the antithesis of being a Christian, the antagonist of or faith. There is never an opportune time for a pandemic but the trials of Lent leading to the triumph of Easter could indeed be deemed a fairly appropriate time. We are approaching the great feast of victory over evil, of the Divine authority over human frailty, of limitless over limited, of life over death. This is the feast where we acknowledge and celebrate that nothing can stand in the way of God’s all-powerful love, not even the tomb. However, before we get the balloons and the bubbly ready, we need to pass through the passion. The suffering of Jesus reminds us that our sins have consequences be it personal sin, social sin or ecological sin. Our present day sufferings may well be the result of our sins too, (and that demands due reflection and action) but we celebrate the fact that God’s love is omnipotent and it’s that belief that gets us through the “vale of tears.”

So, as we endure our present passion, let us not forget where it can lead us, if we but open our hearts to that transforming love of the Father. We can stand beating our breasts, tear-filled and petrified at the foot of the cross or run, hearts bursting, joy filled and glorified at the empty tomb.

The choice is ours.

I pray that as we live these uncertain times, we take certainty from the Easter message, and place our hope in God’s unfathomable love. The angel Gabriel told Mary at the annunciation “Do not be afraid…Nothing is impossible to God.” This is our faith and as we move through these times may we be comforted from that phrase uttered many times by Jesus “Do not be afraid…your faith has saved you.”

May the Passion give strength to us and Easter pour blessings on us.

Jim Clarke, s.x.

Oh what a Night!

Rabbie Burns walks into a bar and the Barman says “Am not serving you, you’re Bard!” (That’s poor!!)

Last Saturday, February 1st, more than 90 people came to the Xaverian Centre for the Annual Burns Supper. This was the first time we had hosted it here at our new place and it was a great success.

The tradition of Burns’ Supper go way back and it was an attempt to keep the songs, poems and writings of Scotland’s National Bard, alive, relevant and vivid.

As Xaverians in the UK, we have used this opportunity to generate funds but, more importantly, to have a little bit of a cultural night where we could bring people together and share laughter, friendship, joy and love.

The format of the evening is steeped in tradition. And we tried to adhere to it, if only loosely!

We began with the welcome, the Selkirk Grace and then proceeded to enjoy the first course of ‘Cock a Leekie’ soup with Scottish bread.

Next the Haggis was piped in by our two pipers, Justin Halpin, who never got a note wrong and Fr. Willie Hattie, who never got a note right! We all then recited “Address to the Haggis” before toasting the haggis with a wee dram of whisky – and as the knife stabbed the Haggis, so our rendition of Burns murdered his works!

Next up was the Fayre itself! Haggis, with whisky sauce, neeps, tatties, roasted stirk (square sausage) and then followed by Tipsy Laird and shortbread. The food was excellent and our thanks go to Alex and Kathy Possamai who worked tirelessly all day in its preparation. Thanks also to the servers, our volunteers who ensured the food arrived piping hot and on time to the tables, under the watchful eye of Tina McGrath, our maître d’.

The speeches then followed the usual pattern of “The Immortal Memory, the Toast tae the Lassies and The Lassies’ Reply.” And thanks to our speakers…but we will be looking for volunteers for next year!

The bar, staffed by the Belles from the Sun Hotel, ensured all present were well watered and then the “sangs and clatter” was led by two of the members of Celtic Fringe. All seemed to enjoy the evening which ended with a rendition of Auld Lang Syne, after which some went home, and some didn’t!

So you may ask, “Why celebrate the life of a notorious womanizer, a constant critic of the Church, a father of 13, mainly illegitimate children, and a mason?”

Well, there is no denying the man was a genius who could see the big picture. He had a love for justice, a hatred for hypocrisy, a dream for a better world and voice for the equality and dignity of all humanity.

His poem/song “For a’ that and a’ that” should not only be Scotland’s National Anthem but the Anthem of all Nations. Universal brother/sisterhood is how we ought to live and what we ought to promote with our lives. And its final verse is indeed reason alone to raise a glass and raise our hopes.

Then let us pray that come it may, 
As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.

A Happy Missionary Christmas from the Xaverians

Heard the one of the wife on the eve of their wedding anniversary reminding her husband by stating “Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary and I want a lovely gift. Something shiny, metallic and goes from 0 to 100 in seconds.” … So he bought her some bathroom scales. (Ouch!)

This time of the year gifts abound. Be it socks, aftershave and boxers for the men or perfume, jewellery and chocs for the ladies … Christmas is the time when we show our love through gifts.

That’s exactly the meaning of this feast. God loved us so much that he gave us his beloved son. He loves us so passionately, unconditionally, overwhelmingly, that he becomes one of us. This is the total gift that love demands…becoming one of us. This in turn demands a response from us. When you receive a gift, you respond positively…even if it may end up in the Charity Shop later!

Our response is to show our love in return. God’s love, so immense that becomes incarnate, must be mirrored by our love so intense that it becomes our mandate. “Love the other as I have loved you.”

As God comes to share our broken condition, we are called to enter into humanity’s brokenness. Emmanuel means God with us, and indeed God is with us especially in the broken… the poor, the marginalised, the victims, the forgotten, and the voiceless. There is no point in singing “Emmanuel, God is with us” if we don’t reach out to touch the God who is with us every day. God comes to offer hope, to set out a new vision, to encourage us, to care, to show compassion, to heal, to take away our despair, to show there is a different way… and we are called to do the same.

Christmas is a missionary feast. The angel is sent to the hill country of Nazareth, the Word is sent to the Virgin, Mary goes to Elizabeth’s, the shepherds get up and go, the Kings travel afar… Jesus is sent into our world, into our reality, into our lives. Jesus is the Missionary of the Father.

The story is full of going, being sent, journeying… and we too, in turn are to be heralds of the Good News, messengers of the Word which brings life, bearers of the love of God incarnate. We are to make Jesus born anew in our hearts, in our lives, in our world. We are to make God’s love become flesh, to become real, to be present again in our world. How? Amongst the tinsel and trappings, the turkey and the TV, the merriment and mayhem… each of us must make the time to pause, to pray and to plan.

  • What does Jesus mean to me?
  • Where is his light needing to shine?
  • How can I be God’s love for others?
  • Who am I being sent to?
  • Why am I waiting???

We used to use the phrase to mock someone who thought they were it… “So you think your God’s gift?” Well we are God’s gifts and if we show love through gifts, then this season must be the time to make of ourselves a gift to others.

We cannot delay, we must hasten, we cannot stand still. Our world needs urgently to feel the love of God and we must birth him with speed … yes, as fast as 0 to 100 in seconds!

Happy Missionary Christmas from the Xaverians.

A Month That Was!

October was dedicated as the “extraordinary month of mission” by Pope Francis and for me it certainly was.

I left for Brazil at the end of September and returned the end of October. It had been 4 years since I was last there. I had worked in Brazil for 6 years and had been going back every two years, for a month at time, sometimes with a small group to “dip their toes” into the reality of that immense nation.

First stop was Rio and the city’s most iconic landmark, the Cristo Redentor – Christ the Redeemer statue reminds us of the importance of the Christian faith as it overlooks the city with outstretched arms. Rio is the city of contrasts which is home to all. From Favelas to Five star luxury apartments, from street vendors to streets flanked by designer shops, from the poor to the prosperous….Christ looks down on them all, and, I am sure praying that “thy Kingdom come and thy will be done.” For God’s Kingdom is a far cry from the Kingdoms we have built up on earth.


“Rio” means river and it wasn’t long before I was back on the rivers where I worked in the Amazon region of the state of Pará. I spent some time catching up with people in the Parish of Our Lady of Peace, where I had worked. It is a Parish in the Diocese of Abaetetuba made up of 72 islands, 60 base communities – the model of Church here, 700 square kilometres and 40,000 inhabitants. The Church survives because of the laity. Catechists, community coordinators, collaborators, all make sure the pastoral dimension of the community is alive and well. Through the various ministries, initiatives, projects, and activities the lay people ensure the community is responding to the directives of the Parish and of the larger Brazilian Church and addressing the needs of the people.

It was also a special moment as the Synod for the Amazon was taking place in Rome at the same time and so there was much hope and prayers around for the meeting and especially considering the environmental disaster currently engulfing the forest and its people due to short-sighted and selfish Government policies.

The second Sunday in October is the feast of our Lady of Nazareth, Patroness of the Amazon. Two million pilgrims take to the streets of Belém to walk behind the small image of Our Lady praying for favours or in gratitude for prayers answered. Our small group walked behind the image for nearly 6 hours as it made its way from the Cathedral to the Basilica. It possesses miraculous qualities and the faithful walk, some on their knees, in praise or in petition to the Virgin of Nazareth. This is another river – a river of pilgrims, families, young and old, able and disabled, all colours, classes, saints and sinners recognising the mother of the Saviour and seeking her help in bettering their lives, however that may be. Brazilians love marching be it in procession or in protest, and so it was a moving day and very humbling to see the faith of so many in their hearts… and in their feet!

From there I went to the arid North East of Brazil, to a place called Jericoacoara, a coastal village in the Ceará state and from there down to South Bahia around Porto Segura, the landing place of the Portuguese and of the first Jesuit missionaries to arrive in Brazil. I travelled to Coroa Vermelha to the place where the first Eucharist on Brazilian soil (519 years ago) was celebrated and again it was very special. I spent time reflecting on the positives and negatives of the arrival of the Europeans and of the Christian faith, and although we may criticise the methodology of those first missionaries, in their hearts they were obeying the mandate of Jesus “Go out to all the world and spread the Good News.” A mandate still as valid today as when first proclaimed.

I then headed back up north to my old stomping ground of Belém and Abaetetuba, via the capital Brasilia, where in the Cathedral I prayed for the a dramatic change in the corrupt Brazilian politics, a redistribution of wealth among the Brazilians, an end to the slash and burn policies in the Amazon, more respect and tolerance of those on the margins, especially the indigenous Brazilians, and that the faith of the Brazilian peoples bear fruits in the creation of a more just, equal and compassionate society. These prayers could be for our own country too and our world, but in Brazil, the country of stark contrasts, it is more obvious and just seems to be ongoing.

The theme of the extraordinary missionary month was “Baptised and Sent”. Being back in Brazil reminded me of our common call to be missionaries by virtue of our Baptism…wherever we may be. And so for me leaving the tropical rainforest at 33 degrees to return to the torrential rain of 6 degrees, reminded me that mission is where you are and it’s who you are!

The Kingdom envisaged by God is still a way off and so may the extraordinary mission month remind us of the extraordinary mission that we all share, at all times, wherever we find ourselves.

If you know your history…

There is a famous Celtic song sung with gusto by the legions of wonderful fans of this great club at every game (No prizes for guessing which team I support.) and it has the words…

“Sure it’s a grand old team to play for; sure it’s a grand old team to see. And if you know your history, it’s enough to make your hearts go oh, oh, oh, oh!” (I don’t think it will win any awards for it’s lyrics or tune or be the next Eurovision entry, but it grabs the sentiment and the importance of never forgetting where you have come from.)

Last Saturday we dipped into the history books as we gathered to have our first Xaverian Day. About 30 of us spent the day discovering the roots of the Xaverian Family, its charism, mission, spirituality and implications for us today.

In the morning Angela led us in a beautiful welcoming liturgy and then we explored the life of the Founder Saint Guido Maria Conforti, the birth of the Xaverians and the characteristics of this Missionary Family.

In the afternoon Phil presented Pope Francis’ “Evangelii Gaudium” – The Joy of the Gospel and facilitated input and discussion on the relevance of being missionaries today. Rose then helped bring the day to an end with a closing liturgy helping us to be reminded of what we had learned and what was shared.

Below is a part of the presentation I gave which hopefully might give readers a glimpse of who we are. We hope the day is the start of a journey where we can discover together our missionary vocation and how to live it.

The Xaverian Family.

The Origin and Charism

“The Spirit of the Lord animates the Church and constantly renews her awareness of her mission in the world. The same spirit inspired Bishop Guido Maria Conforti to dedicate himself to the evangelization of non-Christian, and to gather into one missionary community those called to consecrate their lives to God for the same ideal. Following our Founder, and reliving the same charism, we Xaverians respond to the Lord’s mandate “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.” The life and the words of the Founder are a singular source of inspiration for our apostolic life.” (Constit.#1)

Who are we?

Presently we are a small family of priests, brothers, (700) sisters (200) and lay members/collaborators/ associates working in 20 countries throughout the world, founded in 1895.

Conforti’s Testament Letter, which he wrote in 1921 whilst presenting the new Constitutions for approval, is clear on the vocation of the Xaverian.

The Xaverian is to be apostolic.

“Our vocation draws us closer to Christ and to the Apostles, who leaving behind everything pledged themselves entirely to following Christ.”

So that dimension of Christ rooted but sent is essential for us.

The Xaverian is to be Religious.

Conforti saw that the Apostolic Life must be inseparably untied to the Religious Life. He said, “The Apostolic Life combined with the Religious life is the most is in itself the most perfect life possible according to the Gospel.”

His Institute was to be a religious-missionary one or none at all. Which was quite different from other Orders and Congregations emerging at that time.

Conforti saw the purpose of the vows was to focus the Xaverian completely on the proclamation of the Gospel.

The vows.

 “Poverty is the first sacrifice Christ demands of those who aspire to perfection or of following him more closely” characterised by Moderate Lifestyles.

Chastity is the vow which is seen as the total gift of self and gives a better witness in announcing the Good News.

Obedience, Conforti saw as the sacrifice to God of the greatest gift of freedom. It is there to make the missionary become solely an instrument in proclamation of the Gospel.

Mission and Community.

For Conforti there was also another dimension to the Religious-Apostolic Life and it was that of Mission. It was a fourth vow where the Xaverian must be prepared to commit to going to others (ad gentes) outside of his own culture (ad extra) for life (ad vitam) to “win as many as possible for Christ.”

Also Conforti wished that the religious community be the agent of mission. This would be a much better sign and a model of mission. Community is where the Xaverian tries to model the very Kingdom that is being announced. Harmony and fraternal love are indispensible…

“Let each one carefully protect the bonds of this sacred unity and avoid anything that could weaken it …Everything should be generously offered on the altar of fraternal harmony which makes the communal life of any institution strong and prosperous.” (TL)

He constantly insisted on this and one of his well known phrases was; “Love one another as brothers, but respect each other as Princes.”

Xaverian Spirituality.

Xaverian Spirituality derives from the spiritual experience of its founder, Saint Guido Maria Conforti. As the founder of it, he passed on his spiritual life to his “children” as the spirituality they should follow. At least, there are three main elements of his spirituality that are very remarkable in the Constitutions;

  • Christ-centered spirituality,
  • the love of the community/family,
  • the spirit of mission towards the poor, the marginalized and especially those who have not known Jesus yet.

Recent happenings.

April 2018, we celebrated our XIII Regional Chapter.

We set ourselves these objectives for those 4 years.

  1. Develop a mission spirituality
  2. Mission on the margins (Particularly interfaith dialogue.)
  3. Lay Participation and Formation

In October 2018 we took part in the first European Study Forum where for the first time we accepted that now Europe is a mission territory and the non-Christians are on our doorsteps.

We are in the process of developing how we respond to this paradigm shift in mission and may St Guido bless us with wisdom and courage.

Fr Jim calls on the Church to lead on climate change

Our very own Fr Jim was interviewed recently by the Scottish Catholic Observer. They published an article based on the interview on the 6th September. You can read the article here.

Jim spoke out both for the indigenous population and for mankind in general. The wanton destruction of the rainforest affects us all. We may be distant but we are complicit by our carelessness. A quote from the article shows our connection to the problem “Fr Clarke said deforestation was taking place in the region when he worked there in 1987, as large companies such as McDonald’s were ‘using the land to farm cattle for their burgers.’” Even taking our children or grandchildren to McDonalds has consequences.

“Go and ask your Dad.”

My Dad has many wise sayings… usually around drink. When someone bought him a drink it was either; “Your face I may forget. Your kindness, never!” or “May your giving hand never wither!” What a philosopher the old man is! One other which he quoted frequently to us, usually around exam times, was “If you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail.”

On Monday and Tuesday (12/13th of August) we will be meeting in Coatbridge, looking at our plans for the next three years as a Region. As well as the Xaverians actively involved in our centres in Preston, Coatbridge and the Parish in Glasgow, Hugh Foy, the UK programmes director and our new recruit Phil Callaghan, Deputy Director of Programmes, will meet to pray, reflect and strategise the priorities and our activities until the next Regional Chapter in 2022. Hopefully in the next few weeks we will highlight the way ahead for us as the UK Region and give more direction and focus to our presences in Scotland and England.

Coupled with these meetings, here in Preston, we will be preparing for our Xaverian Charism Day on September 14th. On that day we hope to understand better the vision of Conforti, the history of the Xaverian Family, the lived out Xaverian Vocation and develop our mission spirituality too. In this exploration day we hope that we all emerge better prepared to make mission happen in the here and now. This will be a chance for us to take seriously Pope Francis’ invite to become missionary disciples!

We also are putting on hold the proposed Open Day which was scheduled for 7th of September. Why we meet, what we do, how we fundraise, socialise, bring people together, use our resources, reach out… will hopefully creatively come forth when we have a better handle on what being a missionary is today.

“Every day is a school day!” – another one of Dad’s pearls of wisdom – reminds us that we learn, grow, better ourselves… if prepared to do so. So let’s seize the moment and allow God to speak to us, through us and among us, so that the idea of failing might never be an option.

Jim

New wine, new wineskins…

Sometimes reality hits us hard. A few years ago, in my home Parish in Scotland, one of the Altar Servers asked if I was Father Clarke. When I replied that I was, she then continued… “Yes, you were at school with my Grandad. ”After the initial shock, I have since invested heavily on anti-wrinkle cream and anti-depressants, but the numbers don’t lie. And so it is great to announce that we are having an injection of youth to the old skins at 169.

On July the 1st we welcomed to our Regional and Preston Centre staff, Phil Callaghan who will be beefing up the team (as if I need beefing up) and will be jointly responsible for the Administration at the Xaverian Centre and as Deputy Director of Programmes for the UK Region.

Phil is from Manchester (but don’t hold that against him) and a big United fan (bless him). He has extensive experience as a lay person working in the Church. He has worked as a hospitality worker at the Quaker Meeting House, worked freelance in adult formation and in preparing and managing an event for Catholic young adults in the lead up to the Synod of Bishops’ on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment. He has been a Development Worker for the Young Christian Workers (YCW) and was also the National President between 2011 and 2017 as well as being involved in the Salford Diocese Lourdes Pilgrimage.

Phil studied at Heythrop College, London where he obtained a BA in Theology. It was there where Phil first encountered the Xaverians, as our confrere Rocco Viviano was studying and teaching there.

Phil came and did some YCW training in Coatbridge a few years ago and myself and Hugh took part in a YCW weekend at that time. We were both impressed by Phil’s deep faith, his love of the Gospel, his sense of justice and general desire to reach out as a missionary disciple.

Our Region felt the need to give Preston a real go and Phil’s presence with us, along with his youth, enthusiasm, energy and experience, will aid that greatly. We will also have a few changes in the make up of the Xaverian Community, which will see three Xaverians and Phil actively dedicated to programmes and projects at the Preston Centre (Watch this space).

To this end we are also having a day of Formation on Mission Spirituality and the Xaverian Charism on September 14th, where hopefully together we can look at being missionaries, here and now and plan meaningful activities. Also on September 7th we will have an Open Day to allow people to come and meet us.

The summer has been mixed, in terms of weather. As I write this it is raining heavily whereas two days ago it was tropical. From speedos and sandals to Wellies and waterproofs… such is life. We hope too that as we move on in the next few months, things will get heated up in terms of our activities and our initiatives and that our wine will be bubbly, refreshing and energising.

Please join us in these exciting times!