Clongowes Wood College Chapel, 9.30am 02.07.2022
It is a joy to join with you on this the first Saturday in July for the Concluding Mass for the week long Camp Veritas 2022. I thank Ryan and the team for the invitation to join with you this morning. A week of evangelisation, a week of faith, a week with friends and a week for God.
You, young people are more tech savvy than ever but all of you deeply desire moments of quietness, reflection and meditation. That is why Children’s Adoration is so popular in our schools, that is why Guided Meditation is in huge demand for younger groups. We seek quiet spaces to come to terms with ourselves and to meet our God.
The reading from the prophet Amos comes from the end of the book. Scripture scholars note the change of tone and style. It is like an upgrade in your phone, things aren’t where they were last time we swiped, even the apps look differently. Amos introduces a note of hope breaking the cycle of unrelieved negativity that pervades most of this Old Testament work. I love the image of a “tottering hut”, it shows you how reduced the royal house had become.
Matthews gospel concerns the question of fasting, the disciples of Jesus by all accounts didn’t look ascetic enough. It’s a great reading for a young person, to be a person of faith and to evangelise our peers, we must look like them but not be them. Look but not be!
Let’s take that moment of stillness and quietness as we call to mind our sins …
This very day last week I was preparing with the group who travelled with me to attend the final Conference Day of the World Meeting of Families in Rome. The day would end later in the evening with the Papal Mass. The theme for our days together was ‘Family love: a vocation and a path to holiness’.
During the morning we would hear testimonies from the USA on ‘Discernment in Family Life’, from Paraguay on ‘Spiritual Accompaniment for new unions’, from Indonesia on ‘When a spouse is a unbeliever’ and from Australia on ‘Forgiveness as the Way of Holiness’. All of us gave several standing ovations to that most moving account by Danny and Lelia from Australia. They described themselves as parents of seven children, naming them Antony, Angelina, Liana, Sienna, Alex, Michael and baby Selina.
They began “Today is Antony’s 16th birthday. In 2015 when he was nine years old, he had a dream of Jesus and Jesus asked him: ‘What do you want to be?’. In his dream Antony answered he wanted to be a Saint, and Jesus replied, ‘I will take you with me to heaven’”. Then they went on to speak of the tragedy that upended their lives completely on 1st February 2020, that perfect summers day, as the children took a walk to get some ice cream, celebrating their cousins birthday.
What should have been an innocent and enjoyable outing turned out for the kids into one of the worst road tragedies Australia has seen in recent times. A drunk and drug affected driver ploughed into that group of innocent children. Four of the group died, three of them – Antony, Angelina and Sienna – were from Danny and Lelia’s family, the fourth a cousin also died that day.
They spent more time in their presentation this time last week talking about forgiveness than recrimination. I remember the words of Danny: “This is bigger than me, I surrender this to you”. I recall Lelia telling us how she asked people to pray with her, with thousands showing up to pray each night, every night until the funeral. Media and others wondered how could she, as a mother, reconcile forgiveness and faith in the face of such a loss of life? The news reports were less about the crash and more about the deeper questions such a tragedy brings up.
For them forgiveness is their path to holiness. Forgiveness is more for the forgiver than the forgiven. When you forgive the other person, you start to heal. Forgiveness is not a single action in one moment in time. It is a daily challenge. Some wondered were they perfect? None of us are perfect. Their kinds weren’t perfect. The saints weren’t perfect either. The less perfect we are, the more opportunity to ask for forgiveness.
And no family is perfect either. I am always conscious that at this Mass parents are present, and often siblings witing to bring the young Camp Veritas attendees home. No family is dropped from heaven perfectly formed. Every family has a screechy door or a loose handle on a saucepan!
We are invited to fast on a couple of days of the year, but not every day. I find the fast days the hungriest. They are the days are always want some treat, some tart, some truffle – it’s the pain of temptation. The dilemma in Matthews gospel is around the question why aren’t the disciples more gaunt looking, more ascetic, because they, like us, must be people of our world. Saints who wear jeans, drink coca cola and enjoy computer coding, saints like Carlos Acutis. Saints who inspire young people. Saints are not alabaster figments on pedestals; they are all around us, in front, behind, beside us.
Together let us design family work rituals, family play rituals, family talk rituals and family prayer rituals that allow our family back home to be the domestic church that God invites all of us to be. Thousands of small gestures make up the liturgy of the domestic church; let us as we go home from Camp Veritas make our families more intentional places of faith, of encounter and of forgiveness.