Friday, October 10, 2008

Faith evening 1

I posted a fortnight or so ago that there were to be weekly "faith evenings" in the parish (not actually our parish - the next one over, where the children go to school). The first full session was two nights ago, and now they'll be every Wednesday for five more weeks. I had been in two minds about blogging about it at all, but a query from a fellow blogger prompts me to say something more about them.


I do so still with some reservations. One reason for reticence is the confidentiality. It's not exactly the seal of the confessional, but these things are a little like how I imagine AA meetings to be (although as my acquaintance with these goes no further than American police serials and an Elmore Leonard novella, I could be way off on that one). Another thing is that I'm not sure I can hit the tone to do justice to the thing, partly because everything is in Dutch, and I feel a little out of place for other reasons too. At the beginning of the introductory evening, two weeks ago, I heard the voice of one of the organizers behind me saying "Oh, at least fifty." She was doing a rough headcount (the final figure must be closer to seventy), but for a moment I thought she was talking about the average age of the room, and falling about a decade short. And then only about a quarter of the participants are the same sex as me, and none of them are in the subgroup I landed in by dint of being a couple of minutes late and taking the only seat left. It's odd, as a thirty-something father of four, to be told how refreshing it is to see a "youngster" at such a gathering, and realize they mean you.

As I mentioned before, we're using a handbook, the German original of which was written by a Swiss-German duo called Leo Tanner and Klemens Armbruster. The Dutch adaptation, pictured, has the imprimatur (in the form of a foreword, rather than anything old-fashioned like a nihil obstat) of the bishops of Roermond and Hasselt. There's a description of the programme (in Dutch) here.

The first exercise was to think (or rather, free-associate) about our "image of God", in order to identify and neutralize unhelpful or impeding mental images that we might not even be aware of (such as a sympathetic but ineffectual grandpa, or an emotionally distant father, or a demanding mother, or a vindictive judge). God as an abstraction of pure logic or as an impersonal cosmic force didn't get a look-in, but I'd have thought they were easily as widespread, and as nefarious. They just don't fit the psychologizing paradigm of the programme, as I guess. Which isn't necessarily a bad paradigm (I'd think in light of what I've read of Karl Stern) but this is definitely about feelings rather than ideas.

In "group work" we were supposed to be sharing our own experiences. I couldn't help wondering if this "mutual sharing" format was the most fruitful way of spending the time allotted (rather than, say, getting a Redemptorist in). Still, it beats vegetating in front of the laptop.

The handbook for the course has daily exercises, and the first, a meditation on Psalm 138 (139 in the Hebrew numbering) had me in tears. Anything that gets you reading Psalm 138 with due attention has to be good. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a meditation on John 1:35-39 to attend to:
The next day again John stood and two of his disciples. And beholding Jesus walking, he saith: Behold the Lamb of God. And the two disciples heard him speak: and they followed Jesus. And Jesus turning and seeing them following him, saith to them: What seek you? Who said to him: Rabbi (which is to say, being interpreted, Master), where dwellest thou? He saith to them: Come and see. They came and saw where he abode: and they stayed with him that day. Now it was about the tenth hour.

8 comments:

Paul said...

Now I just need to work out how to leave the first paragraph visible, with a link to the rest ...

puellapaschalis said...

You mean like a "read more" link? I'm not sure if you can do that in Blogger, but then it's been a while since I've used it so who knows.

Paul said...

The help page says it's possible, but the instructions aren't detailed enough: the whole page goes haywire, and I can't find a clue as to what I'm doing wrong.

Paul said...

Cracked it! And it only took me, what, an hour and twenty minutes of trial and error and google, to put three sets of ready-made html tags in the right positions?

Blogger.com help pages are no help at all!

puellapaschalis said...

Welcome to why I switched to wordpress! Glad to see you got it figured out :)

barblaster said...

Psalm 138 is very good, reading it left me in tears as well, amazed at God's love despite intimate knowledge of even those of my motivations that I try to hide from myself.

Paul said...

Ben, have you ever read any P. J. Kavanagh?

barblaster said...

I'm afraid I've never even heard of Kavanagh. I just looked him up on wikipedia but the entry was very short and unenlightening as to why you would ask.