Towards Advent festival draws record crowds

 The Towards Advent Festival of Catholic Culture took place last Saturday at Westminster Cathedral hall. For the third year in a row, some 1,000 visitors came from far and wide to browse a variety of stalls, listen to music, attend talks and meet old and new friends. Visitors could buy new and second hand books, Christmas cards, monastic produce and meet apostolates providing Catholic welfare at home and abroad. Some of the New Movements in the Church were also represented. The festival was opened by His Excellency Dr George Bonello Du Puis, High Commissioner for Malta. The High Commissioner gave visitors a fascinating historical tour of the history of the Maltese islands. The Acts of the Apostles relate how Paul, when shipwrecked in Malta, was received by the islanders with "unusual kindness". This kindness was shown again by the High Commissioner and his wife, who then took time to meet stallholders and visitors. The Maltese flavour continued with the talented young harpist Cecilia Sultana De Maria, who is of Maltese parentage, accompanying the saying of the Rosary. Led by a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal, this was one of the first times that the new Mysteries of Light" were said publicly in the Cathedral, and in a most evocative way. The music for the opening ceremony was provided by the choir of the John Fisher School in Purley, and by the visitors themselves who joined in the singing of 'O Come, O Come, Emmanuel'. Cardinal Cormac Murpy-O'Connor made a visit, and took time to meet personally all those involved, and to chat with visitors. One of the major attractions were workshop events, given by experts in their respective fields. Anthony Delarue, architect spoke on: 'Sacred Space: the debate on church architecture'. Charles Whitehead gave a lecture on New Movements and Communities in the Church". American Marcus Grodi of the EWTN Catholic television network, himself a convert, gave a swashbuckling lecture on: 'Coming Home to the Church'. And Fr Mark Elvins, a Franciscan friar, and author of 'Catholic Trivia' gave a fascinating slide show on Catholic traditions and customs. The festival was a great opportunity to marvel at our cultural heritage, but also to learn about how the faith is being transmitted in new ways. One of the most poignant comments was made a visitor to the Rosary Mediations. "I heard my wife saying the Hail Mary. I never knew she came from a Catholic family." Towards Advent is sponsored by: CTS, Catholic Writers' Guild, Catholic Herald, Gracewing Publishing, Centre for Faith & Culture, Fisher Press, Association of Catholic Women.

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