It seems a long time since I sent you a letter. It has been a full and eventful summer beginning with a most enjoyable Festival weekend at the beginning of July. Thanks to everyone who came, thanks to everyone who helped. Then for the rest of the month a good and eventful Chapter supported in the middle by a much needed and refreshing retreat.
By the time it was over I was ready for a holiday and in August I went back to Belfast for the longest holiday that I have had in forty years. It was spent doing very ordinary things seeing my brother and my lovely family which extends to four generations. In Ireland you don’t need to do anything exciting to enjoy yourself, but… The Olympics? Forget them! The World Cup? – child’s play! The sporting event of the year was the Irish Athletic Master’s Association Championships, Tullamore, Co. Offaly (it’s Offaly nice). The town is famous for a popular brand of whiskey and it is where my brother and I travelled 200 miles to in order to participate in this veteran’s sports competition. Modesty forbids me going into details but I came home with gold and silver medals.
When the holiday was ended I came home in order to give the retreat on the Defence against the Dark Arts – based on the Harry Potter stories and a comparison with the Christian Gospel. Then off immediately to do a Mission in Liscard (nr. Birkenhead). This was an event we were looking forward to and working for all summer and it was a very enjoyable event. The Mirfield team apart from myself were Marc CR and students Marianne Hayward and Matteo Zambon. They were a great team and each contributed a lot from their particular talents.
I returned from the Mission to prepare for my next retreat – From Here to Eternity – a meditation on matters of life, death and the hereafter. This was a film retreat and I got a great deal of enjoyment in the preparation. It also marked the end of a long very busy period and since when I have been enjoying life at a normal pace. So I have actually managed to get to the cinema several times – Tolkien, Judy and Downton Abbey are all worth seeing.
So what comes next? Before Christmas I will be conducting the pre-Advent retreat for clergy. This will be looking at the Joyful Mystery of the Incarnation via works of art and poetry. Then of course we will be at the great celebration after which we welcome 2020 by having another General Chapter. In that year I will have the usual round of retreats and quit days but I expect the pace and rhythm to be gentle rather than frantic.
So, in a tone devoid of all excitement, I open the 2020 campaign for another auction. Our sights are set on September the 5th. I have considered this and given a lot of thought to it. I have pondered whether or not it would be possible to do it in a year such as 2019 has been. Actually none of the auctions I have done to date have given me much extra work or caused any difficulties for the other works that I have been called on to do. Of course the week of the auction is always frantic but that was the same for Commem. Day and is still the same for the Festival Weekend but after a day’s rest we all recover from them.
My view of a CR auction is that it has a threefold function. It has a practical function – the raising of money to help the Community to fulfil its mission. It is also a way in which the wider family of CR can work together in a common task. Fundamentally I see it as an evangelical opportunity. When people come to us and see our organisation and our sense of purpose it is an opportunity for us to say ‘this is not just about money, this is our response to God’s love. We are working to carry out his purpose and serve him in his world.
So I am asking your help once again. Search your cellars, attack your attics, burgle your box room. Tell your neighbours. First, I need your prayers, next I would welcome offers of saleable items and in time I will value your help. Please give me your support to make this one the biggest.
I finish this letter on All Hallow’s Eve as we prepare for the great feast of All Saints and the more solemn celebration of All Souls. At this time it is marvellous to think that we are surrounded by the great cloud of heavenly witnesses and of great comfort to know that our departed loved ones are not lost to us, we can still pray for them and trust that in Christ they love us still.
Then it is next stop Advent on the way to Christmas.
May the Lord bless you all.