Canmore, the Catholic Society of the University of St Andrews, is thriving. Having travelled up with a revised version of my talk in response to Richard Dawkins, I was impressed to find myself speaking to a full house, including many atheists and non-Catholic Christians as well as the stalwarts of Canmore.
Student life changes in some externals but there are some basic constants. Food is one of them and we had an excellent dinner beforehand in the "Glasshouse" which offered a reasonable two course meal. There was no waste as one of the hearty Catholic students hoovered up whatever was left over.
Before the talk, I was taken to the pier and, I am proud to say, managed to do the "Pier Walk" which involves climbing a metal ladder and then walking along the top part of the pier which is only a metre and a half wide for the first 20 yards or so, with a sheer drop below. Apparently, if you fall off, you are posthumously awarded a first class degree!
After the talk, the students repair to "The Russell", one of the hotels looking over the famous Royal and Ancient golf course. After dutifully sampling some 18 year old Talisker, one visiting student from Charleston treated us to a rendition of "Dixie". English people in America are often told "I love your accent." I have to admit that in this case the roles were reversed and I really did enjoy hearing a genuine South Carolina accent redolent of the old South.
The Pro-Life Society at St Andrews has been very active recently. The Pro-Life Society is open to all but, as you would expect, many of the activists are Catholics. Recently, the Students' Association banned the Pro-Life Society from having a stall at the Freshers Fair on the absurd grounds that it has a "single viewpoint" (isn't that what an association or society is for?) The pro-lifers demonstrated outside the Student Association building and gathered many signatures for a petition against this unfair treatment. I understand that the protest was covered in the Daily Mail and would be grateful for a link to the story. Apparently it may be covered in the Catholic press this weekend.
The Catholic Society at St Andrews is a great sign of hope for the Church. The students are active, apostolic and prayerful. They attend Mass before their meetings, gather to say parts of the Divine Office and the Rosary at various times. They are also full of good old-fashioned student madness. One was explaining to me a jape in which two of them (one a medical student, naturally) were accustomed to run from St Salvator's hall down to the pier and then jump off - to the consternation of visiting golfers and other tourists. After climbing back out of the sea, they would run back to the Hall for a shower before spending the morning attending lectures, writing essays, studying anatomy or something...
In less than 24 hours, I was engaged in conversations about St John of the Cross, Liberation Theology, traditional liturgy, information theory, the uncertainty principle, the causality of the sacraments, the philosophy of education, and the role of government. Quite exhausting but most enjoyable and informative.
Do remember the students in your prayers. They have the potential to do so much good in the Church and in society.