Its been a busy couple of days at the Manchester Chaplaincy. Traditionally we sell pancakes to fund the excellent work that our student SVP group do, particularly with the poor homeless (4 soup runs a week) and the breakfast club that they fund and run in Moss Side which ensures that the kids start the school day with a full stomach. Foolishly I challenged them to beat the record of 300 pancakes – with a meal on me promised as the prize ….. they sold 600 pancakes this year. A great effort and busy day at the chaplaincy – we reckon with the foodbank open in the morning we possibly had close to 800 coming in and out of the building in one day …which is probably a record!
Next day, Ash Weds, it was the church’s turn to be full – with 400 at each mass. as well as welcoming all who came – I challenged the irregular mass-goers to make it a regular habit during Lent. I also asked them to do something I never thought I would find myself doing ….. to take a ‘selfie’ of them wearing there ashes with pride…. and to post them on Twitter / Facebook / Instagram etc…. as a way of witnessing. We even had #ashtag trending, albeit it briefly, in Manchester…. here is our collage below. Sorry for all those we have left out ……
And one of my favourite Tweets!
2 of our students with a representative of the myriad foundation
One of the beautiful things to see emerging the last few months is how students of different faiths are helping us with the foodbank. Every few weeks or so a couple of Muslim lads drop by with a car full of food that they have collected from various mosques. The same day when they paid their last visit we received a cheque for £250 from the local synagogue. Neither donations had been solicited from either faith community and they were gladly received. The Muslims run an excellent charity called the Myriad Foundation which aims ‘ To make a positive impact on society and a significant contribution to the community’.
Another story which was heart-warming was when two young ladies turned up with two boxes of cakes. I gratefully received them and asked them what had motivated them to donate them. It turned out that their mother had recently used the foodbank. She was so grateful that now that she had got out of her temporary crisis, she had held a cake sale to raise money for our foodbank, and so the next week a cheque arrived for a few hundred pounds.
At the recent National Conference of the Trussel Trust – I attended a workshop on how to receive the stories of our clients. At first we were reluctant to ‘pry’ into the reasons why people were coming for the foodbank. However we have since learnt that we actually have a duty to give people the option to tell their stories. It seems that about 80% of the users are all to keen to tell their stories (we have had been able to help over 1,300 people so far). The Trussel Trust are keen to get their stories’out there’ in order to challenge the negative stereotypes and myths of ‘scroungers’ that seems to poison the public debate about poverty in this country. The stories initially are taken anonymously and will be posted up on our blog (link), and then the majority of clients give permission to use them with media outlets / or journalists who get in touch – this time with some independent verification.
Apologies to those who have been sending messages asking me what’s happened to the Blog. Now that the University Semester has ended I think I have the time and energy to pull it out of the deep freeze….. This year happens to be a special anniversary for the Jesuits, it is 200 years since the universal restoration of the Society. Somehow I found myself agreeing to design a website and a blog to commemorate this – at the request of the General Curia in Rome. By Feb I realised that I didn’t have the time / energy to keep the two blogs running so I focused on the Restoration Blog.
Pombal expelling the Jesuit from Portugal
Cutting a long story short, in the 18th Century, the Jesuits found themselves inside a perfect storm – as the world moved out of the medieval world, with the authority of church and king being challenged, Tradition and faith were often portrayed as being opposed to reason, individual enquiry and the scientific method, The old order was being challenged – some monarchs tried to respond by creating a political system ‘enlightened absolutism’ or ‘enlightened despots’ which seems to be a bit of an oxymoron. In religious terms, many thinkers, sick of the wars between Catholics and Protestantism that had torn Europe apart, There was a backlash against the political influence of organised religion, and new ideas were suddenly debated including deism and atheism.
In this climate, the Jesuits were under serious pressure, Their influence was seen as to great, their thriving missions were too successful and often a thorn in the side of Colonialists, and an emerging trading class who were making a lot of money. So starting with Portugal they were expelled from a succession of European Countries and their colonies. This political expulsion was followed by a canonical suppression, as Pope Clement XIV universally suppressed the Society of Jesus in 1773. The Empress of Russia refused to promulgate the papal bull – so the Society of Jesus was left in limbo until their universal restoration in 1814, hence the anniversary this year. If you want to read more, the blog is at www.sj2014.net