...founded by John Henry Newman, stands in glorious countryside in the Thames Valley and welcomed a great crowd of young Catholics from across Britain for the third EVANGELIUM Conference this weekend. Outsanding speakers included Roy Schoeman with a gripping Jewish testimony, and Fathers Andrew Pinsent and Marcus Holden with a superb presentation of the Catholic Church's achievements in the sciences, the arts, education, care of the poor and sick, human dignity, and common life and culture...there were glorious Masses in the large school chapel where Gregorian chant and hymns were sung with enthusiasm, and a surge of young voices joined in prayers, there was Morning Prayer in the beautiful old chapel in the school grounds with the psalms going back and forth to welcome the day, there were excellent meals with a roar of talk, there was a lovely evening gathering with music and wine in a gracious drawing-room opening on to the lawns beneath brightly glittering stars. There was a great presentation by Jack Valero on Catholic Voices, and an excellent talk on the Papacy, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" by Father Nicholas Schofield. Auntie took part with a talk about women in the Church and English Catholic Heroines, and there was an evening discussion in which both Bogles, J and J, were part of a panel tackling questions on all sorts of topics - Jamie was v. good.
The Evangelium event - now clearly a part of the annual national Catholic calendar - is notable for bringing together people from a number of new groups within the Church, including the Neo-Catechumenate. It is sponsored by the Catholic Truth Society. There were people there linked to the FAITH Movement, to charismatic groups, to the Fraternity of St Peter, and to the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. I was interested to meet some young women from the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham, and plan to take them up on an invitation to visit them shortly.
Throughout the weekend, there were references to Newman, and it was wonderful to be in the school he founded, and looking ahead to the Papal visit and the beatification...a sense of things coming together.
On Sunday afternoon, things finished with a final Benediction, and then lots of goodbyes and a relay of minibus trips to Reading station...where some of us gathered for a final drink and chat, and were still there more than an hour later, still enjoying ourselves as the evening drew on - talking agreeably over a great range of things (theology, John Paul II,the Church, the nation...) not in the beautiful setting of Woodcote where we had been all weekend, but at a cheery pub with an ugly view of office blocks. We were still talking as we boarded the train for LOndon, and finally reluctantly shook hands and made our ways home at Paddington...