First of all, I would like to thank all those excellent posts in response to my last blog about Tesco. Indeed, some of them put the case against this cynical and commercially-motivated move by the multinational company, in throwing its weight and influence behind next year’s London Pride march, much better than I did in what I wrote and I am most grateful for them. In particular, Paul Priest’s posts demonstrated the charity and truth towards the LGTB community that we who call ourselves Christian should always show.
To accuse Christians of ‘homophobia’ because they rightly question the wisdom and the motives behind Tesco’s decision is, as one post put it, just a cheap shot. My attitude towards my LGTB brothers and sisters (I am sure I have said this before) is that they are sinners, like me; they need grace to change their lives, as I do; and they require healing, like me. The revised wording of the prayer we make just before Communion at Mass – ‘Lord, I am not worthy…’ – says it all.
I have just picked up a recent CTS booklet about World Youth Day in Madrid (a cause that, as one post pointed out, Tesco would never consider sponsoring) entitled “Be Firm in your Faith”. It contains all the addresses and speeches made by the Holy Father to the young people in Madrid and there are some wonderful passages in it. I will quote two:
“The Cross often frightens us because it seems to be a denial of life. In fact, the opposite is true. It is God’s ‘yes’ to mankind, the supreme expression of his love and the source from which eternal life flows… I can only urge you then, to embrace the Cross of Jesus, the sign of God’s love, as the source of new life. Apart from Jesus Christ risen from the dead there can be no salvation. He alone can free the world from evil and bring about the Kingdom of justice, peace and love to which we all aspire.”
(Somehow this puts the whole debate arising from my last blog into its true perspective: of course the LGTB community have sorrows to bear, as do we all; I know several wives and mothers struggling heroically under heavy crosses, and also many disabled people who suffer formidable problems – but they do not try to draw attention to themselves, demand to become a privileged group or seek victim status.)
The second passage: “Ask [Christ] to let you imitate him in his perfect charity towards all, so that you do not shun the exclude and sinners, but help them convert and return to the right path. As him to teach you how to be close to the sick and the poor… Relying on his love, do not be intimidated by surrounding that would exclude God and in which power, wealth and pleasure are frequently the main criteria ruling people’s lives. You may be shunned along with others who propose higher goals or who unmask the false gods before whom many now bow down. That will be the moment when a life deeply rooted in Christ will clearly be seen as something new and it will powerfully attract those who truly search for God, truth and justice.”
All this too, is pertinent to my earlier blog. I must remember to read it before I compose my letter to the chief executive of Tesco, and not let annoyance or frustration with the company rule my pen.
My grandson, who wants to remain anonymous, has at long last responded to my appeal to give me his own memories of WYD in Madrid. He tells me they had a long, 8-hour journey “through an arid, desert-like landscape” to reach the city where they slept for several nights “on the hard floor of a college gym.” At the Catholic refugee camp, the vast campsite where the millions of young people were to meet the Holy Father, he held up the whole group “chatting to an official outside the gates about his employment prospects” (he is a friendly lad). “Waiting for the night vigil was a penitential test of endurance for all but the hardiest people” (allow for youthful exaggeration here).
More rigours were to come: “Quite unexpectedly the police turned up at our spot, accusing us of being in the wrong place and demanded we leave.” The day was only saved when “Father Daniel [Seward of the Oxford Oratory] dramatically donned his cassock to further the cause.”
All in all, my grandson found it “a very worthwhile experience in a convivial company of people”. He consolidated friendships with others of a shared faith and realised he was not alone. Even though the Pope spoke mainly in Spanish or Italian, “it didn’t matter; we all knew why we were there: to support each other in our Catholic lives.” He also mentioned the prayer tent and the singing, accompanied by the melodic strumming of a guitar, inside it – but, interestingly, nothing about Youthfests or orgies.
As I wrote in an earlier blog about WYD, my grandson’s experience was at the heart of the gathering, not the negative prophesies posted after that blog. It is his generation that will in the future have to take up the cudgels in the struggle to maintain the ancient Christian values in this country that we are in danger of losing – not least when Mammon, aka Tesco, seeks to replace God.