Going down to breakfast with my teapot this morning, for all the world like the lady with the lamp, I occasioned another ‘Is that a teapot?!’ moment and became the first laugh of the day. This time two phones were whipped out and I fear my teapot is becoming notorious.
I wrote that yesterday just after breakfast and it turned out to be the only usable space I had all day! We welcomed 1,000 visitors yesterday, Sunday, not just from France but from all sorts of other places in Europe and possibly from further afield too. Michelle and I were delighted that seven visitors were from England.
We began with morning prayer (standing room only except for those who needed to sit) during which the visitors were invited to gather round each delegate. We had five cards for each of them, with our name and national community on the back and an intention we wanted them to pray for. The visitors were invited to pray for us for the rest of the assembly; a lovely idea.
Then, by a miracle of organisation, 1,200 people were sorted into groups of about 15 or so people, given a picnic lunch and sent around Amiens with a guide, each of us going a different route so that we didn’t get tangled up with each other. We all went to different inputs and the total list is impressive. My group went first to a church where French CLC people were waiting to tell us about their spirituality centre in the mountains, then to a small city spirituality centre in Amiens to hear about the work there and to have our picnic lunch (alongside another group) which turned out to be a delicious pasta salad. After that we walked to the cathedral to hear about a holiday project with families before heading into the cathedral itself for our Mass with Fr General.
Along the way I made friends with an American woman who lives in Europe. (I’m deliberately not being more specific.) She shared her experience of discovering CLC and of asking to join a group. Some were full or not possible and though she did join a group she didn’t feel comfortable there so didn’t stay. She then joined one of the online groups preparing for this World Assembly which worked well for her and it has continued to meet. She was sad that she hadn’t been able to find a suitable in-person group and also sad that no-one had followed up with her to ask how she was finding the group. It really made me think and wonder if we follow up similar enquiries and that’s something I shall take back to the NW regional team. We enjoyed each other’s company very much. I told her that the Ecclesiastical Assistants were meeting that evening with Fr Sosa, the Jesuit General who is CLC’s World Ecclesiastical Assistant. As Alan Harrison, our national chaplain, isn’t here, I was attending it in his stead. My new friend’s parting greeting was something like: ‘Be a good Jesuit tonight!’
We filled Amiens cathedral (though not the side aisles) and it was a glorious Mass. There was a special liturgy for the children who then took part in the offertory procession and also did actions to the final hymn. Fr Sosa’s homily was in Spanish so passed me by entirely, but here is the text. And here are some evocative photos.
I was totally shattered by the time we walked back to La Providence, where we are staying. (At the end of yesterday my watch told me that I’d done 19,283 steps and had walked 12.31 km!) I escaped to my room for about 20 minutes or so, just to recharge my batteries a bit. I’d expected a bit of space during the day so felt very stretched, even though it had been very good. Then I went down to discover that most of our visitors had arrived and there was a sort of fair going on in the grounds with music and dancing and food. We’d been asked to bring something typically English which had occasioned a lot of discussion, including at the National Assembly. In the end we brought rhubarb & custard boiled sweets and also a pack of Percy Pig Phizzy Pigtails. I’ve no idea if the latter are typically English or not but my app had offered me a free pack so I brought them here!
It was lovely to meet up with our visitors, though we didn’t manage to take a photo of all of us together. Some had been to world meetings before and we’d been asked by several people how they were. I found this couple of hours together very restorative, just gently chatting and not having to do anything particularly challenging. I suppose, on reflection, that it was also a rest to be speaking English with people who were not struggling to understand me. I am continually awed by the delegates here who are working with their second and third languages without any complaint.
Before coming to Amiens we’d heard that there was another visitor from England too, Catharine, who turned out to know some of the French people and to speak French fluently. Our e-mail correspondence didn’t happen but she found Michelle and me yesterday and, to our delight, turned up for Mass today so we quickly took a photo of her with us. She is a member of the Bristol CLC whose name I have forgotten. Sorry Catharine!
There’s a great composite video of the day which gives an excellent flavour of the day. Do watch it!
We went into supper leaving some visitors still dancing and at 9.00 pm I went into the meeting of Ecclesiastical Assistants (EAs) with Fr General. Although there was simultaneous translation, there was a bit of a hitch with the translators as their co-ordinator had slipped and broken her arm earlier in the day and the person who translates from Spanish to English had contracted Covid. So I rather struggled with the translation and look forward to the text which we are promised will be with us by the end of tomorrow. One bit I can be sure of as the question came in English from the Ethiopian Jesuit who was talking about how the young people with whom he worked found inspiration in the fact that Ignatius was a lay person (or, as one interpreter said a day or so ago, a ‘normal person’ 😂) at the start of his ministry. He asked Fr Sosa to comment and he said: ‘Jesus was a lay person and that’s why the clerics were so angry with him.’
I was utterly exhausted and brain dead when I returned to my room last night and apologise for the lack of a post yesterday. Today has been good, but we had a horribly early start so I’ll write it up tomorrow. We have just gone into silence for a day but I decided that the injunction to do what we needed to enter into the silence gave me permission to finish this for you today. Michelle and I will be praying for you tomorrow, Tuesday, in the silence as we shift from looking to see what the Spirit has been doing to reflecting on what the Spirit is calling us to. We have a session at 9.00 am and I’m going to set the alarm so I don’t miss it but if I don’t wake in time for breakfast, so be it! I am desperate for sleep now…