This morning was spiffing! (I’ll explain my use of that word later 😁.) We began, as usual, with morning prayer and an explanation that we were still in the ‘downloading’/exploring stage and would spend the morning discovering some French initiatives. Before that happened, the clowns appeared again, offering a message about accepting difference but in such a way that we were all laughing. Alan Harrison had emailed me after our last mention of the clowns: ‘It was the great mystic Meister Ekhart who said that laughter is the creative language of the Trinity, may it be so for the Assembly.’ It was great to receive his e-mail as we are missing him very much. And now we know at least one person is reading our posts!
The first session assigned to my group was to hear about the work CLC in France is doing in relation to a spirituality centre and to train group guides. It was fascinating and enjoyable. At the beginning of the session we were asked how many people are in our national community and it was interesting to note that France, which has 6,000 members, is quite unique. Portugal has 1,600 members and the Philippines 950, but the rest of us present in the group have far fewer with some national communities having less than 100. France has really risen to the challenge of forming its members but for the rest of us, I’m reminded that part of the discernment which turned the Sodalities of Our Lady into the Christian Life Community was a realisation that we are not meant to be a mass movement. From this session, however, I took away a renewed conviction that we must train group guides.
My second session was wonderful and I want to share the process with the forthcoming regional meetings so I won’t spill the beans here. We were told how CLC in France has established a CVX-LAB project not for young people but with young people: CVX is CLC in French (and, indeed, Spanish) and ‘lab’ indicates it’s a laboratory, a place to experiment and try things out. Young people don’t want to be talked at, to be at a conference where they are passively taking notes, so new approaches are necessary. (We pointed out that they are necessary too for those of us who have been ‘young for a long time’!) In our session we were offered one of the new ways of doing things, designed by young people for young people and enjoyed by all of us in the group. After lunch during the World ExCo report, we were told of a world working team reflecting on young people and it was very good to see our own Natalia Marsden there.
Both these sessions ran over and took chunks out of the coffee time and the brief space before lunch, but at that stage it didn’t matter. I went into lunch with Jakub Garčár sj, the Ecclesiastical Assistant (ie, national chaplain) for Slovakia who speaks absolutely perfect English without an accent. He explained that as a Jesuit he’d been expected to learn English, and other languages too, and had spent some time in Ireland. We chatted and laughed about everything and anything as we queued for lunch and at one point, with a twinkle in his eye, he described something as ‘spiffing’! ‘You know Enid Blyton?!’ I asked, astonished. Apparently his English teacher prescribed Enid Blyton as a way of learning English. I forgot to ask which books he had read…
This afternoon was harder. I’d expected to be bored as we had the ExCo report before the tea break and a financial report afterwards. (See page 28 of the report and pages 41 onwards.) To be honest (mea culpa…), I’d planned to start writing this post then, but it was very engaging. The presentations were fantastic and creative and funny so the time went quickly but they both ran over so we had a very short tea break and ran immediately into Mass without a break. We were very late for dinner too and by the time I got to my harbour group at 9.00 pm, I was wrung out and utterly exhausted.
The CLC visitors from England and Wales are already here and had a meal together this evening. Michelle and I are so looking forward to seeing them tomorrow. The timetable is a little opaque but we are expecting to have free time as part of the Open Day so though it’ll be an early start, I’m hoping to recharge my batteries. After all, it’s only the end of day 3!