Each Advent and Lent, we offer short workshops to all our students, in preparation for a silent personal reflection in the Church, or with a priest should students feel the urge to speak and ask for a blessing. For Roman Catholics, of course, it is an opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There are many things that impress me about these days – the reverence of our students in workshop and Church, the excitement at seeing an old face (Frs Ted, Denis and Simon are oft-named favourites), and the willingness of students to examine their conscience and sometimes take action to help “re-direct”.
This year, however, the most impressive aspect of the day is that sixth form students have been leading the workshops. Having planned the workshop with Miles Dunne of Year 12, I led one workshop, then handed over to Alicia Boothroyd for the following four. She blissfully went “off piste”, though kept well within the spirit (and the time allowed) of the day. It was great to hear her personal stories, and encouraging to see the response of the Year 7s present. Miles took even greater liberty (and time, by the way), but again, a great response from students and staff. Liv Delargy, Sarah Astill and Louis Massarella all followed suit.
I list these students and their contribution, for I was so impressed by their demeanour and the significance of students speaking to students on matters spiritual. It’s one of the aims of Chaplaincy to enhance the student voice, participation end enjoyment of our activities, and I believe this Lenten Reconciliation Day was an example of that.
So what was their message?
Lent is a time of reflection and re-direction. A short clip of an American gangster turned preacher brought to attention the familiar downward spiral: reacting to a hurt, we sometimes make choices hurt ourselves or others, and such choices can lead to the formation of habits. When these habits become ingrained, it is sometimes difficult to see a different path. When confronted by a different way, however, we have the opportunity to compare our behaviour, think again and redirect our attitudes and behaviours. Lent gives us this opportunity. To make it “real” for our students, they were asked to nominate someone they admire, and to list their admirable qualities. When done, they were to envisage integrating such qualities in their own lives. It was lovely to see them reflecting on their “heroes”, and to hear some of the responses offered. Some mentioned friends, some family members, some Jesus or the saints.
Let’s pray for all those in need of constructive challenge, to jolt them from destructive habits and into a fuller sense of themselves in their dignity and value as children of God.
Have a happy and holy Easter!
Mr Michel, Lay Chaplain