Saturday, November 24, 2007

Meditation from Cardinal Newman: Jesus, the Eternal King

On the Solemnity of Christ the King
OUR Lord was called Jesus, when He took flesh of the Blessed Virgin. The Angel Gabriel said to her, "Behold, thou shalt bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His Name Jesus." But, though He then gained a new name, He had existed from eternity; He never was not—He never had a beginning—and His true name, therefore, is the Eternal King. He ever reigned with His Father and the Holy Ghost, three Persons, one God. And hence, shortly before His crucifixion, He said, "Glorify Thou Me, O Father, with Thyself, with the glory which I had, before the world was, with Thee" (John xvii. 5). He Who was the Eternal King in heaven, came to be King, and Lord, and Lawgiver, and Judge upon earth. Hence the prophet Isaias says, foretelling His coming, A child is born to us, and a Son is given to us, and the government is upon His shoulder; and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace" (Isaias ix. 6). And when He left the world, He left His power behind Him, and divided it among His followers. He gave one portion of His power to one, another to another. He gave the fulness of His power to St. Peter, and to his successors, who, in consequence, are His vicars and representatives—so that, as the Father sent the {191} Son, so the Son has sent St. Peter. But not only St. Peter and the other Apostles, but all bishops and prelates in Holy Church, all pastors of souls, all Christian kings have power from Him, and stand to us in His place.

Who is my religious neighbour? Islamic Cultural Centre Part I

At the end of October, a group of students, accompanied by Sister Mary and Sister Margarida, had paid a visit to a Shi’a Islamic Centre in Kilburn, North London.

Housed in a converted, grade II listed bingo hall, the Centre is a place of study and active worship serving the local Islamic community. Whilst the main hall serves as a mosque, there is also a library, seminar rooms, baths and dining area. In front of the building, one finds a fountain, symbolical of cleanliness and life. The idea of purity is a reoccurring theme in Islam, hence it was asked of us to take off our shoes. The interior of the praying area was lavishly decorated, with oriental carpets covering the floor, contrasting geometrical designs, tiles and woodwork. Simultaneously, there had been clear signs of the past uses of this venue. At the centre, there had been the pulpit, which in the past hosted served as the stage. Above which hung a turquoise title mosaic, verses from the Quran and the names of seven most prominent prophets.
The word ‘Islam’ derives from the verb to ‘submit, accept’ in Arabic; it literally means compliance to the volition of God. The Muslim faith puts a stronger emphasis on the unitary figure of God, a just protector, whose greatness reaches beyond human comprehension. The complete devotion to God is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, the foundations on which Muslims rest their beliefs in righteous worship.
Greeted by the Imam, we were given a talk on the principles of Islam - some excerpts from which will appear over the next week or so.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Community Life: An Alumnus Reflects

My name is Jerome Santamaria. I lived at Newman House during the 2004/5 academic year, while studying for a Masters of Law at UCL. I have many fond memories of my time there and, more importantly, many dear friends from that time. What I want to write about are a few things I learned about community and about oneself in community. I experienced these things at Newman House in various ways and I hope that, in sharing them, I can contribute to them continuing through others. The ideas are pretty basic; however, the challenge is not in understanding them, but in consistently applying them.

First: make others feel at home. When I came to London, I was in the fortunate position of having relatives who lived there. One cousin, in particular, made sure always to include me in activities. And since I did not desperately need to make other friends, I ended up making heaps more. This sense of security – the fact that I already had a friend – allowed me to be myself at Newman house and so the friendships I formed were lasting ones because they were based on the real me. So, give people the space and attention to be themselves and you will be rewarded with rich friendships.

Second, and related to the first: if you have something nice to say, say it. Everyone has heard their mother say: if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. Well, the opposite is true, too. If something good about someone else occurs to you, make sure you tell them, even if…especially if you normally cannot stand them. Too many times, people keep such thoughts to themselves, afraid that in complimenting someone else, they make themselves look less cool. Forget it – you will make their day. Moreover, in many cases, you will open that person’s eyes to something about themselves that they never guessed. It is amazing how we can often see things in others that they cannot see in themselves. For example, on my first day at Newman House, in my interview, Fr Peter asked me if I had ever thought about becoming a priest. It had not occurred to me. I am now in my second year at the seminary. Of course, it does not need to be this drastic – a simple congratulations after a presentation, or an interested question following a comment in the tv room can brighten someone’s day. That person then realises that someone else thinks they have something to offer. Their world will grow a little more.

Third, and again related to the previous two: use your struggles as information about others. The first time I went overseas as a student, my dad gave me a great piece of advice. He said, “You will feel homesick at some stage. The best thing you can do is to let it remind you that the person next to you is probably feeling the same. So, look after them.” If you follow this advice and turn to help others when you are in need of help yourself, then you will find many times that your vulnerabilities in fact become strengths. You will know how to help people because you know what it feels like. Of course, it is hard to do this, but it is amazing how it helps in all sorts of ways – in making friends, in realising more about yourself and in deepening existing friendships. Also, never assume someone does not need help. If you think they might or you are not sure, volunteer yourself: the worst that can happen is that they will realise you care about them and that’s not a bad result.

Finally, I wanted to say something about why I found Newman House such a great community. Not only were people supportive in the ways described above, but there were so many different ways to learn about yourself through others. There are any number of different cultures to explore, interests to share, discussion groups to join, parties to attend, extended lunches (and their accompanying conversations – I recommend SOAS coffee and pasties) to enjoy and dance-offs to win (game over, Liz!). Most importantly, there were countless people to get to know.

And don’t underestimate the Catholic culture – the vigils, the Mass, morning and evening prayer, coffee after Mass, societies – behind this atmosphere. You may think that it can happen anywhere and theoretically it should be possible anywhere. But it does not seem to be that way.

If you allow it to do so, Newman House can teach you what a community should feel like. And for that, I will always be grateful.

The Houses Compete!

A week before mutiny broke out amongst the residents of Newman House, there arrived in our pigeon holes a Newman House scroll (Hogwart's style) dropped off by our house elf, Dave. We had all been invited to a party where Bourne, Manning, Wiseman and Heenan Houses were to go head to head in a battle of wits, physical stamina and.... musical chairs. It was a retro party taking students back to their pre-school years, however the immature nature of the games certainly didn't affect our competitive streak (especially among the boys)! We all had a great time. A big thanks to all the organisers!

The Old Masters Revisited

Keith treated us all to some classical pieces of art work that he and his father had produced. The evening kicked off at 8:30pm, and with the kind help of students from Manning House, wine tasting and dilectable nibbles were on offer. Both Newman House residents and others gathered in the dining room where Keith had hung the paintings and sketches on the walls for everyone to enjoy. There was a strong turnout and we all had a very cultured evening, especially the wine tasting!

The Last Supper followed by the Good News

Senior students on wednesday spent hours toiling over hot stoves to prepare a three course meal for the students of Newman House. The students took their seats and were waited on throughout the evening. After the starters, Fr peter gave us all some good news. We were all delighted to hear that the kitchens would not be completly closed down as had been originally feared. After the main course we had the opportunity to take part in adoration and benediction in the chapel before continuing our meal. We regrouped in the dining room for our deserts and enjoyed a lively evening of fun, feasting and frolics!