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Friday, 17 September 2010

Holy Father gives preaching masterclass

I missed the meeting with Religious earlier as I was celebrating Mass in honour of St Robert Bellarmine. After seeing parishioners, I got in to fire everything up on the computer, especially the live coverage provided by the Papal Visit website (there is also a backup) and the Catholic Herald's excellent live blog.

Coming in a little late to things, I made an amusing gaffe which was speedily corrected by kind followers on Twitter. I was enthusing about the abilities of the young student who was introducing people and compering the "Big Assembly". I even suggested that he would probably get a job offer as a result. Someone had to tell me that he was one of the team from Blue Peter.

The event was well organised and put together. Schoolchildren presented some thoughtfully chosen gifts to the Holy Father: a copy of the Venerable Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, a book of poetry from Iona, and a history of the Catholic Martyrs of Wales by Thomas Ellis. Each of the volumes had the national symbol - the Welsh reminded us that the daffodil is called in Welsh cennin Pedr, a reference to St Peter. A nice touch was a video link-up with the St John Vianney Basic Cycle School in Gambia.

The Holy Father inaugurated the Pope John Paul II Institute for Sport and then spoke to all the children in Catholic schools in Britain via an internet link-up. His address was a masterclass in preaching: he was speaking to children and young people of a large age-range and pitched it superbly. He said that he hoped that among them would be some of the saints of the 21st century and went on to talk about holiness. He said "By far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness" and that "A good Catholic school should help all its students to become saints." He referred to the culture in which many children and young people experience pressure to conform:
We live in a celebrity culture and young people are often encouraged to model themselves on figures from the world of sport or entertainment. My question for you is this: What are the qualities you see in others that you would most like to have yourselves? What person would you most like to be?
In a comment that is important for education today, he put in a reference to a fundamental principle of a true liberal education: "Every subject you study is part of a bigger picture"

Another mistake I made on Twitter was to refer to one of the gifts to the Holy Father as a tie-dye stole. The Catholic Herald correctly referred to it as batik. I don't think there is a supply of these in Mgr Marini's papal vestment press.

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