Children pack Westminster Cathedral for Good Shepherd Mass

Bishop John greets children

Bishop John greets children

1,260 schoolchildren from Catholic schools from all over the diocese joined Celebrant Bishop John Arnold in Westminster Cathedral for the annual Catholic Children's Society Good Shepherd Mass on Tuesday.

The special Mass is the Catholic Children's Society’s (Westminster) annual thank you to staff, pupils and parents who have supported the Society’s Lenten Appeal. The theme the Society chose for the Lent campaign was ‘journey.’ The activities suggested for pupils to use during Lent invited them to think about the physical and emotional journeys they had been on, and, in particular, the kind of ‘luggage’ they took with them. What was important, it was made clear, was that the most important things they could take wherever they went was a positive attitude and a spirit of concern for others, expressed in an action they would undertake during Lent.

Schools were asked to bring a large luggage tag to Mass, on which they had written where they were going (their destination) and how they would ensure they arrived there (their action). The tags brought to Mass showed a wonderful variety of responses. Most tags, though, focussed on the present. A lot said that the most important journey any of us would make was to ourselves and to being the best person we could be. Companions on that journey were said to include treating others with respect, being a good friend, listening to others, taking care of ourselves, sharing what we have with others who have less. Some pupils named things to avoid on the road: a bad temper; being untruthful; being a bad example.

Chief Executive Dr Rosemary Keenan opened the service by thanking everyone who had raised funds for the Society, which supports children and families in every deanery of the Westminster Diocese. Bishop John Arnold began the Mass by recalling the work schools had done and by saying that the Mass would take them a little further in their thinking. He began his homily by naming different sorts of journeys and the different kinds of things we pack to take. Using his own suitcase and a small one labelled with some of the school labels to make his point, Bishop John reminded us that while journeys–such as going into the Cathedral, to holiday destinations, or to visit friends–were important, the most important journey we would take would be our life journey.

What we should never forget was that the invitation to make that journey in the company of Jesus was always open to us. Moreover, it was, he said, an invitation well worth taking up. ‘Following’ required bringing nothing at all except trust and faith in God and a willingness to grow into the sort of person Jesus was.

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