Friday, 29 October 2010

Frassati Mass (and ramblings, theological and geological)

Last month, the residential community here were fortunate enough to have Mass said for us - our first in the House, and altogether - at one of our weekly community nights, followed by a very nice shepherd's pie cooked by two of the girls.  It was a special occasion, and in many ways confirmed and solidified the foundations of our life at Benny House.

Last night was the second Mass to be held here: this time, for a meeting of the Frassati Society. All six House members were present for this too, along with a priest and fourteen more St Mary's students. Most of these have, at one time or another, come out with us on a Monday night, though a pleasing number were completely new to the House, completely new to the Frassati Society, and - in one instance, I believe - completely new to a Catholic Mass.

The latter is an important point, and central to the gradually forming charism of Benedict XVI House. For the House is, in fact, by no means an excusively Catholic community. All St Mary's students interested in a life of prayer, community and service are very welcome to apply to live here. One of our current residents is an Anglican, and a fair proportion of Frassati members, and those who are involved with the House through other ventures (more on these in a later post), are not Catholics. One Monday night Frassati regular couldn't be at Mass last night as she had a Christian Union meeting. Fortunately though, was able to join us for the tail-end of dinner (vodka pasta, homemade focaccia, and a couple of homemade cakes) and drinks afterwards. Benedict XVI House is open to, and enriched, by all.

But importantly, none of this stops the House being named after the Holy Father, the Oratory being in honour of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, our prayer life being centred around the Divine Office, our regarding our faltering attempts at charity as 'the corporal works of mercy', or our having (hopefully more) regular Mass. Based as we are in what will hopefully soon be this country's first Catholic university since the Reformation, we see no point in building some lowest-common-denominator, for-everyone-and-therefore-for-noone sandpit to play in. We're striving instead to build our House upon the rock - and indeed, that same rock whose current 'alias' that House is named after.

Fortunately (stretching the metaphor a bit here) it's a big rock, and, if presented correctly, an attractive one. There's plenty of room on it for others to come, visit us, and stay awhile. The trouble with big rocks, such as mountains, is that from a distance they can look daunting and austere. But once you're on them - even for a brief while - the view can be exhilarating.  Perhaps, in one or two cases, our friends might spend enough time on our tiny part of what is built on the rock, and enjoy their time here sufficiently, that it might just come to feel like home (as indeed it did, much to our surprise, to several of us). Then again, perhaps not - but having come to visit once, they'll hopefully always feel welcome back to visit again.

Two more pictures from last night below (note the delightfully overfull oratory and dining tables!):

Thanks to Shaun and Lucy for taking the pictures! (More here.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Frassati Society

Once again, it's been a couple of weeks since the last update... but that doesn't really matter. Catholic with Attitude is doing sterling work on updating the blogosphere on some of our goings on. His appeal for the Oratory of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati has born remarkable fruits. No doubt he'll post some photos to confirm that in due course. (Update: so he has!) But put it this way... we pray for our benefactors at lauds and vespers every weekday, and post-appeal that means we're now praying for a lot of people.

On the subject of Bl. Pier Giorgio, the university college's Frassati Society - founded earlier this year, and in many ways the soil out of which Benny House ultimately grew - has grown rapidly over the past few weeks. The House itself was set up not just for the residential community, but also to attract others into our life of prayer and service. In providing the Frassati Society a chapel for prayer (14 for Vespers and the Angelus on Monday! Also, rosary every Thursday), and a base from which we can  head out to try to practice the works of mercy (and having done so, end up in the pub), Benedict XVI House is, slowly but surely, fulfilling this role.

(In other news, an interesting blog post appeared on the Guardian website last week, the last paragraph of which was inspired by several of the FrassSoc members and Benny House residents...)

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Settling in and future plans

Following the excitement of the Papal visit, the community has started to establish a routine of community life and some plans for our future activities. The life of the community centres around prayer - currently we are praying Lauds and Vespers every day at 8am and 6.30pm. In addition one evening a week is community night, an opportunity to eat and socialise together. Plans are afoot to celebrate Mass 'in house' once a month, at which non-community members of the student body would also be welcome. Our hope here would be that the community would support visiting priests in providing the music, readings etc. Community members have begun looking at plainchant for this purpose. We hope that these meetings may also incorporate other activities such as talks, film nights or discussion groups, as long as, by general community agreement, The Greatest Story Ever Told is not one of the films shown. With the occasional cake mornings these will, we hope, provide opportunities for other students to, variously, worship, find out about the community or discuss a range of issues in informal settings.