The Nordic Catholic Church leaders in the UK organised a weekend that turned out to be an extraordinary and informative experience, quite unlike anything they had imagined. Moreover it revealed a huge demand that may be waiting for honest guidance leadership in the current predicament especially for young Christian people of conscience.
The chosen title of the weekend was “Christianity in the trenches.” A highly important but at first unlikely venue became available through the good offices of the Royal Signals regiment of the British army, who offered ideal facilities, including food, accommodation and a marvellous chapel in their camp at Blandford Forum. The camp had at one time been the WW1 training ground for trench warfare. The trenches still exist within the surrounding woodland, which added to the focus on the difficulties and battles Christians face when living in a culture that is becoming increasingly hostile territory.
The leader of the weekend was Father Franciscus Urban OPR. Father Franciscus is the NCC (Nordisk-katolska kyrkan) Priest and prior of the Cistercian monastery in Karlskrona in Sweden. He was at one time himself a professional marine in the Swedish armed services and was fully aware of the symbolism of the trenches as a means of digging into the spiritual recourses that are required in facing the politically correct ideologies that challenge Christians today. Assisting him were three other priests from the NCC and in attendance were a small group of five from the camp of which three were members of the Signal regiment. These young adults provided the stimulation to deal with their own journey of faith after becoming disillusioned with atheism and the secular agenda as a whole. These worn out ideologies they believed were not only insufficient for a coherent life but were leading into deeper madness and despair. It may be a happy coincidence or an act of God that brought this group together to explore so positively and to go forward together.
The subjects discussed were “Isolation” “Language and Symbolic Logic”, “Objective Reality” and “Truth”.
More and more people, and especially the young are feeling the pain of isolation and that pain is apparent everywhere. Loneliness brings with it a descent into despair, self harm, suicide and more. The group learned that for the young seeking wisdom from the past can also be an isolating situation and this is something that challenges orthodox Christians.
The task of communication is made more difficult when profound and important wisdom has been distorted by changes in language. Goodness, evil, sin, beauty, faith, family, gender, marriage are some examples of these changes. The present culture is driven less by logic and more by feelings, a party line to which everyone must sign up to or become marginalised. When everyone has their own truth and past wisdom is discarded and of no consequence, then certainty no longer exists and truth is obscured.
These were all messages that emerged especially vigorously from the groups young adults.
What then is truth? What a challenge to embrace the words “fill your minds with everything that is true!” The weekend concluded that these questions are at the centre of the struggle in the trenches for today. Can the popular belief in “mindfulness” lead to anything other than the reverse which is meaningless? Can the revisionism of today bring stability or just madness? The task will continue as the battle intensifies.
Also read the reflections on this retreat, written by Jason, one of the soldiers that attended during the weekend. His reflections is a “must-read” and would be an eye-opener to many: Reflections from the Christianity in the Trenches Retreat
Text originally written by Fr. Goffrey (NCC)
Picture: Toby / Road to Blandford Camp at Collingwood Corner / CC BY-SA 2.0