Mgr Paul Grogan

Mgr Paul Grogan
Mgr Paul Grogan

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Big crosses on students' foreheads

It was a good start to Lent. I made sure that I signed the students' foreheads with massive crosses at the lunchtime Ash Wednesday Mass so that they could be walking witnesses to Christ on campus for the rest of the day. We also had an evening Mass, in part because it catches other people and in part because it coincided with our monthly discernment group for men who are exploring the possibility of the priesthood. Five men from Leeds and one man from Middlesbrough Dioceses braved the snow. We had Stations of the Cross in our chapel and readings from the works of the extraordinary Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, a man who was on fire with a desire to live well (both Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have cited him as a key role model for young people in our time). Afterwards, I went to get fish and chips while the Middlesbrough VD, Fr Massie, made himself available for confessions. Eight of us then squashed around my modest dining room table, elbow to elbow. Here are some of us at the end:

During the course of the meal the key questions came up very naturally: how do I know?; what if I think God is calling me and I don't do anything about it?; when should I go to seminary? It's past midnight now and I've just returned after a drop-off run in the car. Car journeys after events such as these are usually the best moments: they are ideal opportunities for learning more about the men. There cannot be a better combination of jobs than this: university students in the morning and then prospective seminarians in the evening. It was lovely to see such seriousness of faith etched on the faces of the young men and women who received the ashes at today's Masses. "Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return," I intoned and these vital young people, who are immersed in a culture that denies death, mentally and spiritually embraced their mortality. They stepped out of the collective lie, generated by a climate of mass fearfulness, and perceived the truth about themselves before God. What power there is in this simple sacramental rite! The purpose of being young, as Blessed Pier Giorgio perceived, is to pour away our youth in service of others. Always, to be a Catholic means to be anticipating death. Indeed, Pope Benedict's recent decision is of a similar order: his resignation strikes me as complete self-abandonment, a conscious preparation for death. It is an eloquent symbol of the Christian life and in particular of the essence of priesthood.

Here's a picture of the cooks at our Shrove Tuesday party. A splendid time was had by all as we consumed multiple savoury and sweet pancakes (thank you to Chaplaincy Adminsitrator Dominica Richmond for getting everything organised).

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