Preparing for Flame 2017

I went to Flame in 2013 and it still sits with me as a wonderful time. One day, I will make my way back, but at the moment, I cannot afford the time or money to go. I would definitely recommend for any Catholic looking to share their faith with young people.

CAFOD blog

Leah and Ryan in Lebanon last year. Leah and Ryan in Lebanon last year.

We caught up with CAFOD volunteer Ryan who is getting ready to speak to over 8,000 people at the Catholic youth event, Flame 2017, at the SSE Arena, Wembley on March 11. Read on to find out more.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with CAFOD.

Currently, I am a volunteer at Savio House, the Salesian residential retreat centre. I really enjoy working with young people and helping them to build relationships with each other as well as with God. When I was in Y12 I joined the Cafod Young Leaders program in my school and as a part of this, I went to the Houses of Parliament to speak to my MP about climate change. From this, I continued to volunteer for a second year on the program with different people.

Buy your ticket to Flame…

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Fire, Not Fireworks

There is nothing like an evening Mass to perk up the spirits. I am blessed to be able to attend the UCL student masses with Father Stephen (I might even reblog the audio of the homily if it goes online), the topic of which somewhat thought about keeping the faith, keeping being a practising Christian, including keeping a circle of Christian friends.

I am lucky to have many Christian friends and Catholic friends who support me and share my faith, which is a great feeling. One part of the homily that resonated with me was this idea. The spirit as a fire, an effort to maintain yes, yet warming and persistent, not a firework, a once-off flash*. Of course, it’s easy to say that one has support, but harder to really use that support to be a good Christian.

Fire, Flame, Burn, Hot, Brand, Inferno, Light, Torch
I have never been a great at praying. It is my human failing. In the Thursday Sycamore (think Alpha but for Catholics) group I am helping to facilitate, we discussed prayer. It’s easy to forget that phrase ‘pray as you can, not as you can’t’ or to have it lost in translation, but it is essentially suggesting that the best prayer is not that of structure and length and monotony, but of heart. Don’t like the repetition of the Hail Mary? Pray by voicing your own thoughts, or pray in silence. Don’t like to sit and pray at once? Go for a walk. Find God in nature, praise him through your eyes and your feet. Pray by verbally punching the air! Even witnessing to God by recognising His role in our lives is prayer.

For me, I like to notice God during the day because it reinforces His presence in my past, present, future. He’s done so much for me already, but it’s easy to get swept in the worries of materialism that I forget to remember his good deeds.

For instance, I have always been one for spotting the times of providence and God’s work, and this weekend was no different. I was with the girls, doing some wedding dress shopping and one appointment down and midday having past I’d seen lots of lovely dresses, but none The One. The thing is, I’d been looking for a certain type, not realising that the dress was right in front of me, just waiting to be found. Isn’t it funny how some things just catch our eye at the right moment, where we might have missed them if it were not for some blink of a moment?

Anyway, to tie my two points together, and without all the fluff an explanation would give, I prayed and God answered my prayer, just as He has always been doing, regardless of whether I’ve been paying Him any attention and grace or not. I was worried and he soothed me.

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*Coincidentally, this is what I’d have at my wedding: a nice hearth welcoming and no dark skies with loud explosions in them.

How Can the Catholic Church Offer Pastoral Help?

With World Mental Health Day yesterday, I wanted to share this appropriate post from the Catholic blog Jericho Tree, about dignity and how Catholics can help those with mental health issues. (Though, I seem unable to reblog this post, but I still want to share.)

A particularly striking thought: “I think it’s due to this silence that I’ve sometimes found myself thinking that if someone has a strong faith they’re somehow immune from mental suffering. This is a misconception.”

It’s true. It’s so easy to think that we Christians are always happy and bolstered by our faith and the thought that God’s plan keeps us trusting in the present – whatever happens, everything will work out; when he closes a door, he opens a window, etc – but actually, mental illness is not that black and white. I have many friends who suffer with anxiety, depression, or a combination of the two, and a lot of their issues are of not being able to feel what their brain is reasoning. One knows it will be alright, but the reasoning does not halt the emotions.

Even if we Believe and Trust, the pain and the devil can still reach past our time-built defences and knock us back to square one full of nothingness and self-hate.

It’s not as easy as giving one’s self to God’s care.

We also need human care.

ann

World Mental Health Day: how can the Catholic Church offer pastoral support to those who need it?

Keep Calm and Know That I Am God.

1catholicsalmon

A fabric poster I put up next to my desk. It makes a difference to my attitude when the going gets tough. A fabric poster I put up next to my desk. It makes a difference to my attitude when the going gets tough.

Psalm 46:10 RSVCE

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.

I am exalted among the nations,

I am exalted in the earth!”

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Theology of the Body in a Nutshell

It is Natural Family Planning (NFP) awareness week, and writer (and NFP coach) Ellen Gable gives some information about the theology of the body and NFP marriage.

Plot Line and Sinker (Ellen Gable, Author)

NFP Awareness WeekI’ll be posting articles and cartoons this week to celebrate NFP Week!

So why NFP (or Natural Family Planning)? NFP is safe, healthy and effective. Most importantly, it is a morally acceptable way to avoid and achieve pregnancy.

If we look at the four components of God’s love for us (free, total, faithful, fruitful) and compare God’s love to marital love, we can discover how to live the Sacrament of marriage as the ultimate expression of spousal love.

Free: We need to be able love our spouse freely. If we ask for conditions, that’s not love. If we force our spouse to do something, that’s not love. If we cannot say no to our sexual urges, then we are not free.

Total: The love for our spouse must be total. We can’t say, “Well, I’ll give you everything, honey, except for my fertility.” Total means total. (Re: CCC 1643).

Faithful:

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I Finished My Catechism Challenge…Now What?

Around the end of 2013, as I really entered my catechesis stage and began to inject faith not only into my life but to be my life, I decided I was going to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church from beginning to end, one or more paragraphs a day, no matter how long it would take. I’ve had some blips along the way (as have we all!), but I strove on reading when I could…and I stumbled on the Amen almost-prematurely.

I’ve given myself a few days for the inevitable to sink in around my academic work and blog planning (and the Tea Incident of destroying my laptop): I have no more Catechism challenge. No more daily routine. No more set plan through which to experience God.

Eep.

Firstly: Hooray! I completed what I set out to do! 

But I’m left with something of a hole in my plans.

It would be easy for me to say that I should present myself with a new challenge, something based around reading The Bible every day, perhaps, or going through the Sunday missal. To add something into the space where my Catechism challenge was. But I don’t think these as challenges would be beneficial.

Let me expound. Reading the Catechism on an (almost) daily basis massively strengthened my relationship with God. It’s not something that I’d want to revert to the way it was, even in the few years before I was confirmed. Yet, I don’t want to set myself a challenge; I don’t want to use that label when it comes to The Bible, the Most Sacred book, I still see the importance of daily prayer and time for God alone, but I don’t want to feel so guilty if I miss a day through not-remembering or a change of location. I think that is reducing it to a task-and-reward relationship— if one could even call that a relationship at all.

It’s not a question of what I should do, but how I should be living my life in a more Christian fashion. Only reading something would no longer be helpful to the way I live my life as a Christian; now I must further put into practise what I have been taught.