Sorry to have been so slow to getting down to writing about the conference for English-speaking priests in Rome last week. I think it was only on Tuesday that I recovered from the 3am start we had to make on Monday 3rd January to get the 6am flight from Newcastle to Amsterdam and from there to Rome. (I went with another priest of this diocese who prefers not to be named.) There is only a direct flight from Newcastle in the summer nowadays. Although I slept most of the flight it never seems to make up for getting up in the middle of the night and once we got to the conference the pace was quite intense so I was mainly operating on adrenalin. However there was a lot going on to keep the adrenalin flowing.
After an introduction to the conference by Frs John Trigillio and John Walsh (chairmen of the CCC and ACCC respectively) we had Vespers in the Domus chapel at 5.30pm. I`ll be doing another post about the liturgies. This was OF Vespers in English celebrated with the Blessed Sacrament exposed. It was our first encounter with the Lassus Scholars who provided the music during the week and from the start we knew that we were in for a musical treat. They sang a Lassus Magnificat. However I`m trying to stay away from talking about the liturgy. The sermon was given by Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett of Lismore, Australia. What I enjoyed about this was that bishop Jarrett soon made it clear that he had suffered what we had suffered. It was encouraging to hear a bishop talk like this and I think it is the first time I`ve heard a diocesan bishop talk like this. Bishop Jarrett is a member of the ACCC so it should have come as no surprise but I`m so used to hearing how wonderful everything is from bishops that it was at the very least refreshing to hear a different point of view and one which reflected much of my and I`m sure most of the other particpiants` experience of life in the church as regards problems over catechesis and all the rest.
After dinner there was a talk by Mgr McDaid of the Congregation of Clergy which was probably the most stirring talk of the conference. He clearly had faced the same obstacles as many of us. He sounded the theme which was to be taken up by many talks during the week: that the priest is to be conformed to Christ. For couples who wanted to know how to be good parents his advice was that they love one another. For the priest his advice was to love God. I didn`t take notes but I think I remember him talking about a lady in a position of responsibility in the Church who made it known that she did not believe in the divinity of Christ. If anyone challenged this they were accused of having problems with relating to women! (I hope I have this right: if anyone can tell me if I`ve not, then do let me know.)
There was an oppprtunity to enjoy the first convivium of the conference after this but after such a long day I couldn`t wait to get to my bed.