Some Quick Takes: Holiday Edition

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Fantastic view across rolling hills near Dunfermline


Somehow, I always preface my “holiday posts” with an apology – not wanting to be the tiresome holiday photo enthusiast. However, encouraged by a number of comments from readers saying they enjoy the holiday posts, here is an unashamed “holiday post”. I just love these words from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI – they are great to remember around this time of year:

In this summer period many have left the city and find themselves at tourist sites or in their homeland for their vacations. My wish for them is that this awaited rest serve to strengthen their mind and body, which, given the hectic course of modern existence, daily undergoes a continuous fatigue and strain. The holidays also afford a precious opportunity to spend more time with relatives, to visit family and friends, in a word, to give more space to those human contacts whose desired cultivation is impeded by the rhythm of daily duties. For many, vacation time becomes a profitable occasion for cultural contacts, for prolonged moments of prayer and of contemplation in contact with nature or in monasteries and religious structures. Having more free time, one can dedicate oneself more easily to conversation with God, meditation on Sacred Scripture, and reading some useful, formative book. Those who experience this spiritual repose know how useful it is not to reduce vacations to mere relaxation and amusement.

So, as the rest of the UK experienced the beginning of some sunny weather last week, my family headed north to the somewhat cooler climes of Scotland, just north of Edinburgh. It wasn’t the soaring temperatures and swimming in the lake of last year, but it was a wonderful relaxing break in some stunning scenery. We stayed in a picturesque Georgian farmhouse, set in 20 acres of land, etched with many a woodland walk. To be honest, the house and gardens were so gorgeous, we could have hung out there quite happily all week. But we did venture out to Loch Lomond, Edinburgh and a nearby castle.

Holidays like this, when we all live so far apart, are really treasure-filled… I find myself cherishing the moments of being together, in the words of Pope Benedict, “to give more space to those human contacts whose desired cultivation is impeded by the rhythm of daily duties”… Here are some pics (mostly thanks to Instagram of family members – thanks guys!)

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The farmhouse

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Loch Lomond – where we whiled away an afternoon in hideaway coves

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The kitchen – heart of the house. And yes, the verandah saw an excessive number of afternoon teas…

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Loved cooking on an Aga (and it doubles as a great place to dry toddlers’ shoes…)


I came back from Edinburgh and headed straight to the annual Day for Catechists run by the Archdiocese of Southwark. How lovely to be back in south London 🙂 Over 200 catechists came to the cathedral for a day of workshops and a keynote on “Jesus Christ as Catechist” given by Sr Hyacinthe Defos du Rau, OP, a good friend (Portsmouth was well represented!). Catechesi Tradendae leads us to contemplate Jesus himself as the One from whom we can learn how to teach. (Read paras 7-9 to reflect on this more deeply.) Sr Hyacinthe reflected that, in the Gospels, Jesus addresses three different types of people – the Pharisees, the crowds, and the disciples. He spoke very differently to each group, depending on what they needed to hear and how they needed to hear it. I think this can be a wonderful and deep meditation for us as catechists.

I gave an hour-long presentation to a large group of catechists on the Transformed in Christ Confirmation programme. Almost none of them had come across the programme before, so it was a miracle they even stumbled into the room (!) and showed me how much publicity could still be done. Whenever I spend short lengths of time like this with catechists, I realise just how much more practical help and support catechists could be given. They truly are the unsung heroes of the Church. Don’t forget that upcoming training events are listed here.


Finally, I am all too aware that the first intrepid parishes that purchased Transformed in Christ last autumn and used it this year, have mostly reached the end of their programmes at this stage. I would love to hear from the parishes who have used it, and in the next few days, I will be encouraging catechists who have been involved in the programme to fill out a short survey. I want to understand how you have used the programme this year, what has been effective, and what further support you need. Thanks in advance for taking the time to fill this out when it comes! Watch this space…


Screenshot 2015-06-28 13.42.42I leave you with a Scottish piper…! This one was outside Edinburgh Castle, where I just loved visiting the tiny 1124 chapel of St Margaret of Scotland, built in honour of his mother by King David I. Only a few of St Margaret’s relics remain (and we prayed in front of them in a Catholic church in Dunfermline) but for many centuries, her head was honoured as a sacred relic. In fact, Mary Queen of Scots requested for the relic to be present as she gave birth to King James I! Just one of the little factoids we learnt while exploring Edinburgh Castle…



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