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Taize Retreat Day

On Saturday 29th April, Anna O’Driscoll (lay chaplain) and myself attended St Martin’s Church in the Bullring. There was a momentous gathering of Christian Young People participating in the Taize community’s ‘Hidden Treasure’ retreat. The day was punctuated with collective Morning and Evening prayer and the opportunity to hear Catholic Mass.

The presence of large numbers of young people engaged and confident in their faith gave testament to Pope Benedict when he said: “Dear Young People, the Church depends on you! She needs your lively faith, your creative charity and the energy of your hope. Your presence renews, rejuvenates and gives new energy to the Church”

The Hidden Treasure title given to the day was taken from Mathew 13:44: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field.” The gathering provided the chance to explore and celebrate some of the hidden treasures of our shared faith, those found in scripture and prayer, and those found in the many concrete acts of solidarity being taken by Christians on behalf of those around them, often the most disadvantaged.

After a delicious hot lunch, and in diverse groups inclusive of students from as far as Finland and Scotland to London and Bristol, we took part in Lectio Divinia, which is a traditional practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to increase the knowledge of God's Word. In hearing the well-known passage from Mathew 25: 34-40, we contemplated in small groups how we find Christ in all things. Afterwards, there was a session exploring the ways in which Christians are called to live in the midst of the discarded in society. It soon became apparent how easily we discard what is valuable: food, friendships and most strikingly of all, people.

Then we heard from Sam, a community pastor, who is involved in prison ministry inside HMP Birmingham, working to reintegrate former prisoners after their release. He commented that HMP Birmingham “is a very visible symbol of this wider culture of discarding people.” The message of solidarity for prisoners was reinforced in listening to a former female prisoner, who after gracing us with a rendition of a Paul Weller song, spoke passionately about how music has transformed her life and what we can do help those in less fortunate circumstances than our own. She explained the stigma attached to being sent to prison and emphasised the need for changing attitudes that should be shown towards the imprisoned.

We also had a representative from the Real Junk Food Project, who informed us of their work in rescuing discarded surplus food from large companies going to landfill. It was remarkable to hear of the excessive amounts of useable food wasted by some of our favourite and best known shops and supermarkets. Leaving St Martin’s with the option of fruit and a sweet treat, groups of young people departed off to a variety of workshops ranging from an introduction to Icons, hearing the stories of refugees, or a talk on faith and science with a professor of physics.

After Holy Mass was offered for all of the Catholic participants, we then re-joined the other Christian communities for Evening Prayer. Br Alois, Prior of Taize, left us with some powerful words on how we can be open to God’s love and His ‘Hidden Treasures’. He reminded us that we must root our lives with Christ at the centre and be loving towards our neighbour – especially those fleeing from their native homeland and seeking refuge in this country.

The retreat reaffirmed the Christian responsibility and moral obligation we have to be charitable to others and show care for the afflicted. We were left able to put our own Hidden Treasure into practice through some new action of friendship or solidarity, and to bring this experience to others.

Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted – pray for us

Our Lady Help of Christians – pray for us

Our Lady of the Atonement – pray for us

Luke Doherty
Year 13

 

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