Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Republic of Nice; the Jesuit Directors of Work Oxford Conference

Attending the Conference organised for Jesuit Directors of Work over a weekend timed to include the feast day of St Edmund Campion SJ,
the famous English Jesuit
Catholic Martyr (December 1st) was a great privilege. The Anglican Chaplain
of St Johns College Oxford, Edmund Campion's old College, kindly agreed
to Catholic Mass being celebrated in the College chapel; a wonderful Mass
and the hymns and prayers were interspersed by some personal thoughts (of mine)
about how those responsible for enacting the Statutes Of Superstitious Uses
which outlawed the celebration of Holy Mass in England, might have turned in their
graves only a couple of generations back, at the knowledge of such a celebration
taking place.

The conference seminars were full of fascinating stuff.
One Jesuit talked brilliantly about a massive multplayer online game (MMOG)
in which a virtual world - he called the Republic of Nice - was
created. One MMOG he mentioned is called "Second life". In this,
pretend lives largely mirroring the easy side of real life are
created by the players, of whom appararently there are millions.
His view I think, is that these
virtual nice lives, are filling voids left in people's
real lives by the absence of space for god, faith and the transcendental; ie
the absence of any inner, spiritual life; although he did
then also pose the question about whether the latter too might
be virtual - that is where faith and hope come in.

His view of internet and the world wide web then also seemed to be negative
so provoked much thought and discussion. Though many
including myself, disagreed with him, he deserves full marks for
holding attention and inspiring debate.

There was a talk from the Jesuit Refugee Service, whose work (largely unsung)
for refugees, is now so well thought of, that the JRS has been accredited with
observer NGO status at the UN.

One case study which struck a poignant chord with me was how Beaumont
College was closed down by the SJs in 1967. A point of that talk was
to illustrate the difference between the attitude of
Catholic religious orders towards lay collaborative ministry
in '60s, with that prevalent today at the begining of the 21st century;
opaquenss and transparency come to mind. But like one of
the long since deceased Jesuits named, the talk brought tears
to my eyes as I had been a boy at that College in those
difficult but amazing years between 1962 and 1967.

The conference was also a time for ordinary conversations.
A brief word with the Provincial on the coach enroute to St John's College,
a quick coffee with my parish priest; some chat with
local school heads and a chaplain. A very amusing after dinner speech
from an American Jesuit and exchanges of views with other lawyers
governors, heads and deputies of Jesuit schools in the UK,
made for a very fruitful and stimulating week end.
Two personal thoughts:

1. Though I would not wish the job on anyone, the current SJ Provincial
would make a great Archbishop of Westminster - a Cardinal for
the Church in England of today. His ability to switch from a personal,
one to one, conversation to an inspiring public talk; his ability to
be stern but compassionate; his knowledge of matters theological
and undoubted love of God, all surely make him a great Catholic leader.

I hope to look back at this blog
in the years ahead and be able to say "you saw it here first".

2. Quiet reflection at Sunday Mass this morning, back in the parish
reminded me that Faith is godcentric and that it is important
for men and women in the pews to avoid going down the cul de sac
of the cult of personality or celebrity, which is all too prevalent in the secular life - yes "Heat" magazine and the like, were discussed as
well during our all too brief times together at Oxford.

Thank you.

1 comment:

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    Virtual Worlds of Unparalleled Realism..."


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