Cardinal advises Christian men to 'swim against tide'

Cardinal with Fr Jack shares a joke with group

Cardinal with Fr Jack shares a joke with group

Harvesters, a nationwide Catholic network which welcomes men from all Christian denominations, gathered 150 men from 9 - 11 July at Woldingham Park School in Surrey, for a sunshine-filled  weekend. Speakers included Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and David Matthews, with Fr Jack Finnegan, a Salesian priest and professor of spirituality and psychology at the Milltown Institute, Dublin as the principal retreat giver.

Harvesters’ chairman, Charles Whitehead, interviewed Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor and asked him what advice he would you give to the group. “Be of good cheer.” replied the cardinal. “You are swimming against the tide... so deepen your understanding of the Christian faith.  Encourage six or seven likeminded men to get together and grow in faith with one another."

He went on to say: “we belong to each other through our prayer and community life. Wherever you are I encourage you as men to reach out to our society, knowing that you carry the Lord with you through His Spirit in your hearts. In your workplace, in your homes, wherever you are, you are able to give witness to Jesus Christ through your words and your example.”

“Some say these are anxious days for the Church,” the cardinal said, adding that he personally had found his time with the men to be “uplifting, a real encouragement."

Principal speaker, Fr Jack Finnegan SDB, shared on the theme of: 'Learning to fly in the wind of the Spirit'  and reflecting that “only one thing is necessary, that we open our hearts to God’s lavish love, manifest through the Holy Spirit.” “How can I be ‘rigid’ or ‘under law’,” he said, “if the Spirit of freedom lives within me?”  He called the men present to engage ever more deeply in contemplation, the place of “transforming grace” and to establish their identities in God and not in the wounds of their past.

Johann Appel, 42, a South African from a Dutch Reformed background who is married with two teenage children, registered at the last minute. This was his first ever men’s weekend – and his first Catholic run event.  The highlight for him was the times of engaging with other men in worship of God: “I felt the real presence of God.” he said. “I felt really free and able to be myself. It was really great being part of a men-only event in this way.  I would encourage other men to come along with an open mind and heart to see what it is all about.

“Initially, I was afraid to come into an all-Catholic environment, not knowing what to expect. In the end I didn’t find it strange at all. It wasn’t too different to what I had expected. In fact, I just felt at home.

"I just wish there were more opportunities like this.  All men need to get away for the weekend and to leave behind the responsibilities of home, of family and of work and to find themselves again.”
A series of workshops took place which included dealing with stress and work-life balance, the importance of Christian Unity, the Dark Night of the Senses, the Church and the 2012 Olympic Games, and Scriptures in prayer.

Harvesters began in 1998 and runs annual weekends away for men in both Scotland and the North of England, days for men, retreat weekends, and other social events such as golf days.  It will run a silent retreat at St Joseph’s, Freshfield 22 to 24 October 2010. It has regional men’s groups that meet regularly throughout the year across the UK.  Harvesters also has an ongoing outreach across Africa and Eastern Europe.

For more information see:

Share this story