Some of you will recall Poppy MacDonald running an adult catechesis course called Evangelium - a programme designed to unlock the riches of the Catholic Faith by instructing and informing the laity with an orthodox vision of the Catholic Faith. The co-founders (Frs Andrew Pinsent and Marcus Holden, pictured below with Archbishop Mennini) of said multimedia course run an annual conference. Held in the picturesque grounds of the Oratory School, near Reading, participants had a weekend of academic style conferences, reverent liturgy as well as an opportunity to meet many other young and inspirational Catholics.

Fr Marcus Holden, Archbishop Mennini, Fr Andrew Pinsent

Beginning with a discussion on the key challenges that the modern Church faces, we listed the issues of poor catechesis, apathy, difficulties in communicating the Church’s message over the mass media and many others, which helped focus our thoughts for the forthcoming weekend. Other talks surrounded the subjects of Orthodoxy, Contraception (and those erroneous moral theories surrounding it), Sacramental Theology, Religious freedom, sexual identities and a final call to follow Christ in the secularized culture in Britain. 

Alongside these main talks there were also various workshops giving people the chance to choose an area of particular interest to them – areas of ethics, philosophy, Christian Worship and communication were available to them. These discussions mainly approached the doctrines of the Church from an intellectual perspective, supported through the catechism alongside Sacred Scripture.

A very interesting workshop lead by Fr Andrew Pinsent on what he called ‘the second-person principle’ allowed us to look at the gifts of the Spirit in a new way. Contrasting the views on virtue of Aristotle - one of mere habituation - with that of Aquinas concerning the good qualities infused by God - he was able to explain the role of grace in our relationship with Him. Whilst Aristotle could say ‘God is good’ (3rd person), St. Augustine said ‘late have I loved you’ (2nd Person). Father described us as being born into a state of ‘spiritual autism,’ unable to enter into this personal second-person relationship with God, but that infused with the theological virtues (at Baptism) we can know God as a ‘you’. 

One of the highlights, for me, was the chance to serve with the Apostolic Nuncio on the Sunday. His Excellency, most gentle, gave a critical homily of the age in which we live and a call to deepen our faith. Many of the other participants commented on the reverent Liturgy over our stay, and I think this is an authentic response to the event; to the Catholic, the Liturgy is the Church’s primary means of communication – the rest of the conference can only ever be secondary. There was the opportunity to go to the extra-ordinary form…unfortunately I slept in beyond the early start! Take a look at the photo from the Mass with the Nuncio below, and yes, it is the current English Mass! 

One would be a fool to deny the community aspect of the Church, and at the conference, there was plenty of time to get to know each other. Some of the more energetic played football in the afternoon, while others simply opted to chat with others over delicious meals and then in the evening, we had a bar and some Jazz music performed for our entertainment.

Overall, I found the conference most helpful in giving a taste of the vast areas of moral philosophy and ethics, which I can begin to look into more over the coming years. I believe that, as modern Catholics, we must prepare ourselves for the spiritual battles of this age, following in the paths of the saints and martyrs, we are obligated to have a newfound zeal for souls. As Fr Ed Tomlinson pointed out, he fears for the world in which his three children grow up in, yet has optimism that the fidelity of the Gospel message, by even a couple of people in each parish, will surely lead to the revival of the Faith to both those within the Church and those without. 

The ordinary form, celebrated ad orientum, by the Papal Nuncio