Cardinal hosts evening for young people - first posted 7 March 2002

 LONDON - first posted 7 March 2002 - 758 words

Around 580 young Londoners accepted an invitation to meet Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor last night. There was standing room only in the Cathedral Hall, Westminster, for the gathering which opened with rousing hymns and a reading of the story of Jesus meeting the woman at the well.

Looking relaxed and affable, the Cardinal began by speaking of a mystery play he'd been to recently about Adam, Moses and Noah and ending with the life of Jesus. The audience had clapped enthusiastically, he said. It wasn't just that it had been good...It was because it was an old story, told in a new and fresh way..."and that is what we are called to do ... to sing a new song."

"I've asked you to come to say hello and to meet you and to listen, in the context of what I feel deepest about, my belief in God and Jesus Christ, " the Cardinal said. "That is why I picked the first reading.. What attracts me is the way God speaks to us - in the simplest way - not a dramatic conversion of St Paul on the road to Damascus. All Jesus says to the woman is: 'would you give me a drink of water' .. and he tells her he can offer her the water of life.

"God gave us his body and blood and spirit .... and he is present with us to the end of time."

The Cardinal recalled a number of moments that had deepened his own faith. One year, when he attended the World Youth Day in Paris, the Pope baptised ten people from the five continents. Going through the Creed, he asked them 'do you believe?' They answered: 'I do'. Then suddenly he turned round to the crowd and asked them 'do you believe?' At first the responses were hesitant - as we all are sometimes - but at the end people responded very loudly, with a shout: 'I believe.' "It was very dramatic moment," he said ..."The great thing about the Catholic Church is that we are not alone."

Speaking of prayer, and the need to be still and listen to God, Cardinal Cormac quoted Pascal: "All the misery of the world is a result of humankind not being able to sit still in his or her room."

"It is great to be here," he said. We have work to do. To share what we believe in a world that has lost God. We have the answers to those questions why am I here? What am I here for? And we must live out our faith with our head, our hands and our heart. We should never be discouraged."

For the next part of the evening there had been plans to divide people into discussion groups. But numbers were so great that after a short break, the last half hour was devoted to questions to the Cardinal. One person asked: "How can we spread the good news of Jesus when most people aren't interested in religion? The Cardinal advised him not to worry if he wasn't able to directly talk about the Gospels. He said: "It's the example you set by your life and the integrity of your relationships that matters."

Several times the Cardinal affirmed the need to live out faith in community as well as individually.The Cardinal agreed with some young people who said they felt it would be helpful if there were more opportunities for Catholics to study the Bible and church teaching. Some complained that they did not find their churches friendly.

One person asked what the Cardinal thought about the New Movements. He said: "I am in favour of many. I think they will find their place. They have a lot to offer. But I want the whole of our church to become a movement. I want the spiritual renewal of all our diocese."

One person complained of the shortage of activities for young people in the church. The Cardinal said he was considering the issue and it was being suggested that deaneries might organise Masses for young people.

At the end of the evening the Cardinal asked people to write down their thoughts and suggestions and said it was likely there would be further gatherings. Some attended Evening Prayers in the Cathedral Crypt - but there wasn't room to accomodate the entire group.

Karen North, 28, pastoral worker at Ealing Abbey, said she thought the evening was a marvellous initiative. She said: "I think this event has drawn such a large crowd because young people are really searching for community, for validation and relationship. It's just like that first reading. There was an invitation and this was the response. "

Share this story