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Friday, 22 December 2006

Blackfen Youth Vigil

A few weeks ago, a sixth-former from my parish asked me after 10.30am Mass one Sunday, "Father, can we have a vigil of adoration for young people?" There is only one answer to that: "Yes!" I volunteered to provide pizza and a film afterwards. This was entirely my own initiative: the young lady concerned would have settled simply for the vigil of adoration but I felt that it would be good to offer some recreation afterwards.

Tonight we met at 6pm, exposed the Blessed Sacrament with the O Salutaris and a short opening prayer of adoration. I then went into the confessional and stayed there to hear confessions while the youngsters said the Rosary, taking it in turns to lead the decades, then had some periods of silent prayer interspersed with various set prayers taken from different sources. (Fr Stephen Langridge will be pleased to hear that they prayed for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.)

We finished with the Tantum Ergo, versicle and Corpus Christi Collect, Benediction and Divine Praises. The young leader included the Divine Praises in the booklet (which she produced and copied herself) with a mention of their original purpose of reparation for blasphemy. I often make this explicit, (and did this evening) mentioning especially blasphemies in the mass media. Afterwards, Domino's Pizza supplied the refreshments. (The local branch know me well via the internet.) It was a great evening and we are planning our next youth vigil for sometime end-January, early February.

The film we watched was Molokai, the story of Fr Damien (1840-1889) and his priestly work on the Hawaiian island where those with leprosy were exiled. He eventually contracted the disease himself and died of it. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995.

Molokai is a moving film with some glorious scenes. The classic is the one where the Bishop finally goes to hear Fr Damien's confession - this is the one thing that he sadly misses on the mission. Fr Damien makes his confession in French from a boat. In fact, he used to make his confession in Latin from the quayside to any priest who was on a ship visiting the island.

Then there is a moment when your heart sinks; a young lady comes in to see him and tells him how special he is. You think that there is going to be one of those "Hollywood moments" with the priest giving in to temptation, but Fr Damien says to the young woman "No, I mean it, please leave!"

At another point, he is subjected to an intimate medical examination by an arrogant doctor who believes that leprosy is the final stage of syphillis, the result of immoral behaviour (nothing unpleasant is shown on screen). As Fr Damien leaves the doctor's surgery, he shoves the chair violently against the desk in legitmate anger at this slur on his virtue. The closing scene where a radiant sister finally comes to minister to him in his last illness (she has previously been prohibited from any contact with him) is absolutely beautiful. I heartily recommend this film.

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