Friday, 16 March 2012
Disappointing spiritual Dads
We had an Irish Evening in the Chaplaincy this evening - we brought it forward because we'll be away on retreat at the weekend for St Patrick's Night. Some of the students made a very good Irish stew, with lamb, barley, carrots and beer and Carol, the lady who cleans the Chaplaincy area uncomplainingly every day - "they're just young" she says - made four delicious soda breads, which the students, all 35 of them, wolfed down. I read out St Patrick's Breastplate to start proceedings off and then Seamus Heaney's "Digging," in which he contrasts his own life as a poet with that of his father who worked hard on the land, and asked for five comments: they came thick and fast. "Our parents have done notable things and we in our turn are called on to do the same," said one student. Next Jake and Jess, brother and sister, played Irish songs using a guitar, a flute and an Irish whistle: their encore was a medley of Oasis songs - "the Gallagher brothers are of Irish extraction," it was explained. After all was cleared away some of the students suggested that we say Evening Prayer and one of them urged me to propose it to everybody present, some of whom were there for the party but have not as yet exhibited a desire to worship. "Go on, be proactive for once," one of them said. "Some of us are going to say Evening Prayer now and you would be most welcome to join us," I said. "Or not; entirely up to you." They thanked me politely and, with just a moment's hesitation, resumed their conversation and their drinking. Ultimately the new evangelisation always comes down to a face-to-face encounter, an offer which the other is free to accept or reject - it's an uncomfortable territory on which to stand, though the experience is exciting too. As six of us went into the chapel, I could sense both a certain frustration within the group that I had not been more forthright in inviting the others to join us, but also a readiness to forgive: after all it would be a bit unsettling for the young if spiritual fathers, like blood fathers, ceased to disappoint!