Thursday Jan 18th
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX....
Last night an excellent meeting of The Keys, the Catholic Writers' Guild. We meet at St Mary Moorfields - a beatifull, almost hidden church - nearest tube is Moorgate or Liverpool Street. The church's history goes right back to the days when Catholicism was forbidden in England - it lies technically just outside the boundaries of the City of London. It is now extremely popular for lunchtime Masses on weekdays - lots of young people attend.
Speaker was Iain Duncan Smith, former leader of the Conservative Party, and now founder and chairman of the Social Justice unit....he spoke powerfully about their latest report, which shows how the breakdown of the family unit based on marriage is at the heart of so many social woes. The statistics are relevant: very high break-up rate of cohabiting couples within 3-5 years of starting a relationship, many children never have any sort of father-figure, etc etc. Where there is no proper home life, truanting from school also becomes a problem - the street becomes the children's home and the place wehere bonds arte forged and idenmtity affirmed.
Iain also spoke about how various local groups - notably those run by Evangelical Christians - are making a difference to people's lives, especially on some of the big dreary housing estates where drug-addiction and crime are rife. It was challenging stuff: one of the main things to emerge was that the offer of Governemtn funding can often be a killer to useful initiatives - they get stifled by paperwork and/or by the obligations of meeting "targets" or of feeling obliged to operate under a code of politically-correct jargon which bears no relation to the real needs of the community of which they are a part and the people they seek to serve.
Lots of lively questions and good discussion. Iain is a good speaker and conveys a sense of dedication and realism. His style still owes something to his years of soldiering (Scots Guards - served in N. Ireland etc).
Our meetings always start with Mass, sais by our chaplain Fr Peter Newby, then drinks and dinner - I sat opposite Iain and alongside were Jeremy de Satge who runs The Music Makers which is helping to build up the revival of good music in Catholic parishes, and there was Annabel Spencer-Silver of St Paul publishing, and William Griffiths who among other things runs the Confraternity of St James (pilgrimages to Compostella etc), and in the centre was the current Master of the Guild, Sean O'Connor who is doing an excellent job. We have our annual meeting next week: it's always near the feast of St Francis de Sales, our Patron.
William Griffiths raised perhaps the most unusual question of the evening: the Belgium section of the Confraternity of St James has been involved with a project in which young convicted criminals are given the option of walking the ancient pilgrim route to Santiago in place of a custodial sentence......might this work for Britain too? The notion goes back to Medieval times.....well, it's an intriguing one, isn't it? Apparently it involves quite a lot of manpower....er....presumably they have to ensure that the youngsters don't abscond? How on earth is this all policed? I would love to know more. Iain said, well, it was worth exploring....but one would have to ensure that the pilgrims didn't, on arrival, decide that the statue of St James might be worth stealing.....
NEED FOR HELP!!
All right, I've more or less got the idea about links on a blog. Look, I got it right, above, with St Mary Moorfields!! (Am v. excited, cavorted about the room feeling v. pleased w. myself). But what about a website that doesn't show the htmlwww.thingummy - I mean the set of letters and numbers and things? Sometimes on my computer the website itself fills the whole page, as it were, with no little html note at the top. So I can't click on it and make a link.
Readers of this blog have been v. kind eg in the matter of explaining about how to deal withAmerican DVDs. Can a reader now help me with this?