We began today with morning prayer in the auditorium, a lovely, gentle way to start the day. I sat with some of the Maltese delegation who have sort-of annexed Michelle and me. Michelle, of course, is properly Maltese and Cristina, one of the delegates is her cousin-in-law, knows my Maltese cousins and went to school with Chiara, my Maltese friend in Manchester. It’s a small world! More of Malta later.
After a brief orientation to the day (we’re still in the ‘downloading’ phase, as in the image above) we went into Apostolic groups to which we had been assigned. My first one was ‘spirituality’. We were organised into ‘spiritual conversation’ groups and watched a video together before, in silence, going round the room to read various accounts of initiatives national CLCs had made in the realm of spirituality. After that we shared in our spiritual conversation groups. My initial reaction was one of joy that to the four CLC apostolic frontiers which had been identified at Buenos Aires, the field of spirituality has been added. That’s where my own mission seems to be focused.
I was struck by the fact that in England and Wales we tend to collaborate with the Jesuits and others, eg at St Beuno’s, rather than doing our own thing. I think that’s good. I also noticed that, like us, some national communities are promoting weeks of guided prayer, both as something good in itself, and also something which may lead to new members. But I also spotted two initiatives which may be inspirations for us in England and Wales. First, CLC in Flanders organised a day on 12 March for whoever wanted to come with the theme of ‘Prayer, how to get started? Let yourself be surprised by new and familiar forms of prayer‘. It occurs to me that this could well be something which can be organised very locally for our parishes and deaneries. Swinton CLC, be warned, I may just suggest we do that ourselves!
The second initiative which struck me was from CLC in Egypt who organised an Eco-spiritual retreat, the goal of which, they say, is to deepen our daily environmental practices. It was open to all, Christian and Muslim alike, and included some practical workshops like composting, paper recycling, planting and mindful eating. I noticed that it’s the weakest of the five apostolic frontiers at world level, as there were only four initiatives on the ecology wall, though it didn’t include the Egypt initiative, which had been popped into the spirituality apostolic group.
After a coffee break, we were moved into the youth apostolic group. The pattern was the same, except that the video showcased two national initiatives. I was particularly struck by the wonderful video from Malta which described how they are working with university students. The most notable point of interest for me was that they do regular courses for group guides. I was also very moved by the account of a youth project in Kenya which said that the discerned call which led to the development of the project was ‘The realisation that parents were dying leaving children who were not going to school. Education was thought as an equaliser and the best help for those orphans who would in turn help their siblings.’
Prayer and spiritual conversation
After lunch we had about an hour of prayer together using Ignatius’ Contemplation on the Incarnation. I found that a bit difficult as we stayed in the auditorium and I don’t find it easy to pray when I’m that close to other people. Then, after coffee, we went back into our spiritual conversation groups for deeper sharing, with both a second and third round. Part of our orientation this morning was a very inspiring explanation of the process. Here’s a printable version of the handout we were given.
The photo here is of one of the volunteers. There are many of them and one of their key tasks is to help us find our way around the school which is unexpectedly confusing to navigate. They are amazing and I don’t know what we’d do without them.
Today our Eucharist was before supper and again it was very good. A particular delight for me came immediately afterwards when the woman in the row in front of me caught sight of my badge and said, with great delight, ‘Oh, you’re Jenny!’ It was Daphne Ho, one of the Consulters on the ExCo and one of the candidates for the post of Vice-President. (Tell me why I’m wind-swept in the photo and she isn’t?!) She was instrumental in helping the Hong Kong CLCers who had recently come to England to get in touch with us as they’d failed to do so via the website. She told me that they had appreciated the National Assembly very much and I was able to tell her how much we had loved having them with us and how much we look forward to their further involvement in our national community.
We had a free evening after supper tonight. It’s noticeable how everyone has jelled at the end of our second day here. People lingered longer over supper, chatting and laughing, and this time I joined Michelle and others carousing in the social area! There’s a great atmosphere here and I’m looking forward to Sunday when we will share this atmosphere with over 1000 visitors, including six or seven from England and Wales.
Here’s a video of today from Malta. I’ve not had a chance to watch it yet but I’m told it’s all in English so do have a look.
The second Assembly newsletter was published today and Igny includes in her diary a wonderful interview with the amazing woman, Françoise, who coped so patiently with my questions about swimming costumes, pegs and pillows!