ワルディンガムです! (or, musings on the Faith Summer Conference)

In the same fashion as I wrote the Stonyhurst post, I begin my musings on my time in Surrey with an exuberant Warudingamu desu!*. I looked forward to those five days and four nights that I would spend in Woldingham School, especially because it was my first Faith Summer Conference ever. The Faith Conference is held twice each year, once during the summer and once in winter. The focus of the Faith Movement is to point out how scientific discovery has indeed gone in line with, and not against, faith.  And thus far, they're succeeding. I must point out that a number of the chaplains who attended this conference are or were science graduates and/or teachers.

This story shall be told in visuals from several points of view, including those of Fr Tim Finigan, Emma Findlay-Wilson and myself. I hope that the little that I have gathered together may give you a glimpse of what I've been through over those five days.

The theme of this conference was "The Vocation to Love". I found the need to go and listen for myself, because I knew of a number of friends who had mentioned to me that they were devoid of love, and I could not find the right words to address them, even with what I felt deep inside. And I will reflect on these as I go along.

To set the mood: a song by KOKIA.


Day 1

This was the picture to begin it all: a humble minibus. Twelve of us were to depart from Hatfield, and so the bus was borrowed from St Bartholomew's. Our chaplain, Fr Mark Vickers, drove. All the luggage had to be placed at the back, and there was just about enough legroom for us all.

The journey took us some two hours — Surrey isn't as far from Hertfordshire as Lancashire is.

One of my friends, who saw this video upon my return, worded it perfectly: trips always have to wear you out when you've just begun. And true enough, it did wear me out. My PC bag was quite heavy, my clothes weren't too heavy, but I felt beaten down by the sun. And worse, we had a long walk to the Millenium Centre in the school, where we were going to be registered.

Since I was the only girl above the age of 18 in the group which departed from Hatfield, I was separated from the rest. They got the cool-looking Mansion, where the lights came on without people having to turn on switches — YOU CAN JUST WALK IN THE CORRIDORS AND THE LIGHTS WILL COME ON AUTOMATICALLY. Seriously. How cool is that? I got the Marian Wing, which was the "normal"-looking wing. But now that I think about it, the Marian Wing reminds me of my room in Stonyhurst to an extent. I will soon show you why.

You probably would be able to see the room in Stonyhurst if you clicked on that link at the very top of the article — this room reminds me a lot of my previous room.

One of the priests, whose name I do not remember, getting to know the attendees of the conference.

The auditorium, where all the talks were to take place. With the lights off, it was still pretty.

The first of our sessions was about to begin. We had the organisers introduced and the rules spoken out to us that afternoon, shortly after our arrival. After dinner, we had our first talk, "Human Beings and their Vocation to Love", given by Fr Kevin Douglas.

The Marian anthem, Salve Regina, sung at the end of night prayer.

A picture taken during social time at night, from outside the Main Building.


That we truly want to feel encouraged and appreciated, and that we truly want to bring out the best in others, at least sometimes, even though it hurts, is a sign that we are capable of loving and being loved. But the word "love" itself is difficult to describe on its own.

That we had to abide by a set of rules in order to maintain decorum and the sanity of others only goes to show that love follows a set of rules. Go past these rules and it isn't love anymore. Screaming and kicking up a fuss in the corridors at crazy o'clock in the morning during the conference period, for example, would be akin to hitting below the belt in boxing — you're putting others in a position where you wouldn't want to be. I wouldn't want to be rolling about on the bed in disgust when someone kicks up a fuss in the wee hours of the morning. And love is about taking the extra mile for the other, caring for the other unconditionally, treating him as you would treat yourself, making sure he does the right thing, making sure he brings out the best in himself.

Just like in the Winter Conference, mass and prayer sessions were at the heart of our activity during the conference. Tired though I was, I looked forward to them. I especially find night prayer with many friends in the chapel at sundown, before either going for social time or calling it a day, to be one of the most rewarding experiences ever. For, as I thought, not only would the day find its beginning and its climax in God — the day would find its perfect end in God, and that thought is simply beautiful.


Day 2

Tuesday, 2 August was our first full day out of three in Woldingham School. I woke up really early — at about 6:15 in the morning, freshened up and sat on the PC to work on a little project on FL Studio 10. At 7:45, I went down to breakfast. And so began my day.

This picture, which I captured that morning, has a prototype logo for the university's chaplaincy, which I designed. I will have to make a separate post for this soon. I ultimately showed this to Fr Mark on Wednesday night.

Morning prayer (lauds) being celebrated in the chapel.

The second talk began in the morning after our prayers, and was given by Fr Dominic Rolls. It was centred on Jesus Christ, the Template of Love.

Mass was celebrated at noon.

After mass was lunch and leisure time. We had a good three hours before the next talk.

Some went to the sports centre, either to swim, play football or toy around with the foosball table.

Some simply went to bed.

I, however, wound up in the recital room. This pic has the computer on with Audacity on it; for the most part, I would either use the sequencer (FL Studio 10) or record myself playing the piano. But here's something...

I had some access to drums, even though they were just snares and toms. (Yes, people in the CathSoc whom I have not told at all, I am an aspiring drummer. T_T) I really needed a full drum kit to be able to express myself, though. I don't know... at that point I just didn't feel at all confident. I remember when I first came into the recital room and saw I could use the drums, I went about searching in cardboard boxes and shelves for a pair of drumsticks I could use, but to no avail. I tapped using my fingers for the most part, and I'll admit, I wanted to go further than that. I wanted to learn a lot more. It only went to show how vulnerable, how insecure I was without almost a single ounce of guidance.

But back to the timeline we go.

Our second talk was on the Christian vision of love and sex, by probably one of the most vibrant speakers around.............. whose name I forgot. -__-" OTL. As usual. But seriously, he spoke with so much fervour that we could either laugh or be struck by the words he used, by the gestures he made. (We did laugh when Fr Mark attempted to imitate the way this man spoke!)

After the talk, we were sorted into discussion groups. Each pack (I'm talking about the pack we were given on Day 1) contained a huge letter, which indicated our discussion group. There were Discussion Groups A to L, and the last two of these discussion groups were for seminarians (people on their way to the priesthood); I was put into Discussion Group I, and leading that group was Fr Michael John Galbraith. Discussion groups helped where we needed to ask questions but were either intimidated by the crowd, or hesitant to ask in front of everyone else. They also encouraged quite a lot of discussion, especially when people brought up events and issues happening in recent times.

The licensed bar for people over the age of 18. Oftentimes the best of discussions were held there, and not in a purely social context.

It was never like in a pub. People whom I met at the bar during our social time wanted to be challenged. It was awesome, to say the least.


My thoughts turn back to the talk on the Christian vision of love and sex.

Oftentimes, I have come across people doing some serious lawyerly picking apart of the spirit of love. Yes, love has several types. But attraction would definitely not mean sex. The meaning of "love" is profound. In Greek, "love" is often split into types. Philia would indicate strong brotherly love, eros would point to erotic love, whilst agape would mean unconditional love, even to strangers. Christ Jesus himself used the words agape and philia when he asked St Peter what would be translated into English as "Simon, son of John, do you love me...?" (John 21:15-17)

In English and nearly every surviving modern language, there is only one word to describe it all — "love". The English word thus takes on a more profound meaning: no matter who we are in relation with, the onus is on us to care, to comfort, to correct and to condition, to advise and to treat the other the way we ourselves would want to be treated, without self-gratification, and without necessarily having the "feeling" of love. The universal word "love", therefore, hints to me that we are called to treat everyone with great respect and dignity. Yes, everyone, including our own enemies. Everyone, including our families, our friends, our boyfriends and girlfriends, our colleagues, our compatriots, even the poor man on the street trying his hardest to earn a meal for the day.

Wikipedia and lots of other sites and musings have described love as a "feeling". If love were no more than just a feeling, then it'd undermine the things people do in love for others. It is sad that our own society has misinterpreted love as all sunshine and roses. Some of my friends have taken the same approach, much to my dismay. As the speaker for that day put it: waking up at crazy o'clock in the morning to change a child's diaper and feed him does not entail happy feelings. Cleaning out a blocked toilet does not entail anything sunshiney. Reprimanding someone over his behaviour definitely is not a happy thing. A husband taking a senile wife to the bathroom and looking after her every need is, without a doubt, not something to be happy about. There is absolutely no self-gratification involved here. And love has to endure even the worst of feelings just for the sake of what is good, right and true for it to be really called love.

Which brings me to the thoughts I've had on sex — there are two mutually inseparable functions for it: bonding and procreation. Separate one from the other and it becomes an act of self-gratification. Many people have been going down this line without even realising it, and it partly boils down to the notion that love is merely a "feeling". It's disheartening, when I think upon this.

It would take, perhaps, a separate post to explain how love is never for self-gratification. Otherwise, I wouldn't know what I can do in my own capacity to get this across, except pray and hope.


Day 3

Some new friends — Lawrie (the guy in the blue shirt) and his friends — at the play park. I joined them that morning before lauds. I felt like a little child again. ^_^

The first talk was largely related to the last one we had the previous night — it was on loving chastely, and the speaker was Fr Michael John — my discussion group leader. Then came mass, lunch and leisure time.

Fr Mark and one of the seminarians, Guillaume (oui, il est français !) having a conversation together.

The Main Building during the day, probably taken during our free time.

The second talk that evening (I didn't take pictures for that either) was on contemplative prayer — how it was important to call upon the Holy Spirit to lead us into a relationship with God. Prayer is, after all, talking to God, and talking is part of the exercise of a relationship.

A lot of us were weary from the past few days, with the fatigue from our respective journeys to Surrey catching up with us. I asked my friends if I had missed much, but I didn't really.

After night prayer, we had our quiz night in the Main Building.

The quiz was one on general knowledge, and considering how little TV I actually watch these days, I wasn't much help to the team. But anyway. Catherine initially tried gathering the people from Hertfordshire into one single team, but that evening, we were all scattered into different teams. Ultimately, our team comprised Maryfrances, Tilly, Michael, Pascal, Catherine, Stanlee, some U-18 girls from Hatfield whose names I'm not entirely sure of, Fr Mark and myself.

Our team name? Quizzy Rascals.

It all started when Pascal and Stanlee sent paper planes with the letters STA written on them (apparently STA seems to stand for St Albans). And then, Stanlee was like, "I have an idea! Let's name our team STA!" We got tired of the STA meme after a short while. My idea was "Kingdom Herts" (Herts being an obvious play on Hearts and Hertfordshire), but we couldn't use the name because the Hertfordshire people were all scattered. Then Pascal wrote on a piece of paper, "Team Pascal." Michael then added one stroke, and it became "Team Rascal." From that moment, a few others thought of the name "Quizzy Rascals", and we all decided to stay with that name.


Kirby. Just because I can. And those multiple STAs were done either by Pascal or by Stanlee.

The snacks were on Fr Mark and some of the younger members of our team. There were plenty to go around, and I ended up bringing back a bar of chocolate with me.

NEVER HAVE TROISNYX IN A GENERAL KNOWLEDGE QUIZ TEAM. THE GROUP IS DOOMED TO FAIL OTHERWISE. This is evidence. All these were summaries of questions to which the answers seemed too difficult for us to find.

Oh, and would you like to know what's next, now that nearly everyone is laughing.

There was a team led by Canon Luiz, better known as Fr Luiz (whom I have affectionately, but not derogatarily, nicknamed Fr Super Mario because of the reference to Luigi), and they were winning that night. Fr Luiz celebrated in the most eye-catching manner possible.

Oh, and a Hetalia drawing. Just because I can.

And I digress:

I discovered that at least a group of students from Woldingham School have actually been to Sabah. ^_^ I recognised Sungai Kinabatangan and the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre.


Loving chastely isn't something the world does. But it's something we do.

The tendency of the world to reduce people to mere sexual objects without even realising it is disturbing. And it's one of the many temptations people often fall into. The few of us who are constantly bugged by such thoughts try to repress them.

I remember in our discussion group the day before (I think), when Fr Michael John was with us, we remembered how clear the connection was between contraception and the mass killing of unborn children. Before contraception was made publicly available, Blessed John Paul II (then Pope John Paul II) forewarned about the resulting "culture of death". People who defended contraception spoke out blatantly in the papers saying that it would "eliminate the need for abortions". And contraception was made publicly available. And now, we can see that the converse has happened — it was after contraception being made publicly available that abortion laws were passed (especially true for the United Kingdom), and the statistics rose sky-high, enough said.

We've been blessed to have two nuns from the Sisters of the Gospel of Life, an order recently set up in Scotland and spreading all over to Britain at this point. One of them, Sister Roxanne, who visited us in Hatfield last year, told us that when she had people visiting her and asking her what to do about the children in their wombs which were unintentionally conceived, the most common thing these young girls said was "I'm pregnant and I don't know how it happened!" And she and Fr Michael John both retorted saying, "I'm single and I can tell you how it even happened!" Where earlier, people would take responsibility over their bodies, today, we don't see much of it happening. With contraception, the ultimate disaster is having a child, and when the girl does indeed become impregnated....... the stock answer comes out — "I'm pregnant and I don't know how it happened!"

Loving chastely is about treating others with dignity and respect. It is about taking responsibility for oneself, and not merely at a superficial level. Fr Michael John put it bluntly, just like the speaker the day before him: "sex does not make love". And indeed it doesn't. There are so many people whom we can love deeply without even considering sex. And even if we are attracted to someone, we have our pretty obvious limits which people tend to miss — there is a line we draw on how far we can even go, and there is the fact that bonding and procreation in sex are not mutually exclusive, and therefore knowing its function, stay away from it if we're single, or engage in it in marriage with the acceptance of children as gifts. It's saddenning that the opposite is happening in the world around us, but heck — they've always been obstinate, and we've always been different, and we've been silenced for it. Countless times.

The culture of death can be likened to that of slavery — once human beings become a commodity, it is difficult to reverse the process. Slavery was the one evil that was abolished in the rest of the British Empire first before America. And though we all know slavery is wrong, back then, THERE WERE UNIVERSITY PAPERS ACTUALLY JUSTIFYING THE ACT. It doesn't matter whether a human being is in his prenatal or antenatal stages of life — once his body is used, traded or destroyed for whatever purpose, it is being used as an object. Let us call a spade a spade: the culture of death is indeed very much alike to slavery. We are indeed falling into decadence. The same can be said especially for us at the Home Isles. God bless the United Kingdom.

Day 4
We were a bit sad about this day because it was going to be our last full day in Woldingham School. Naturally, we all wanted to make the most of it.

So it was morning prayer, breakfast and then our first talk.

The first talk for the day was by Professor Tom Pink, once a skeptic, now a convert to the Catholic Christian faith. He's a psychologist and I'm not sure what else (drat, I have a very short memory for these things!) and in his talk, 'Love and Life', he attacked points from a philosophical point of view. In this talk, the term "culture of death" was mentioned a lot. It was the term I spoke of in my reflexions for Day 3.

Immediately after that talk, group pictures were taken by Fr Tim Finigan. I took some from my point of view too.

Team London and Southeast (a.k.a. Team Westminster). Spot me!

Team Scotland. Naturally, Tony, who hails from Scotland, joined Team Scotland after taking a photo with Team Westminster.

Drat, Fr Luiz, drat! XD

Team Chaplaincy. Or rather, the group of priests who turned up. I don't know why part of the second picture looks like it's been cropped off... I can't help but laugh at the fact that Fr Mark remained at the back row! XD

Um........... yeah. That's Team Leeds. Again, the last image looks like it's been cropped.

Damian, smile.

Team Seminarians. Yep, the whole lot of them are training for the priesthood. Damian (third from left, front row) is going to seminary next month. We haven't got long with him...... Guillaume (second from left, back row) came with us on a visit, but left on his own soon after.

Team Southwest.

Team Northwest.

Team International. I didn't even know that photo was for international participants, so that's why I'm not there. Wanting to reside in Britain much? XD

The two nuns from the Sisters of the Gospel of Life — Sisters Roxanne and Andrea.

Everyone taking a picture together. Aaaah, the memories. Wonder if the gestures we made spoke volumes as to what kind of people we were...

Then came mass, lunch and free time.

The second talk for the day, right before we gathered into discussion groups, was 'States of Loving', delivered by three people in different routes: Tilly handled that for single people, and there was one for married people, and there was one for seminarians. It was a great seminar, although probably one of the biggest we ever attended......... 200 people??

Our afternoon ended with the evening prayer in the chapel, and right after that was....

Ar céilidh

For the uninitiated, céilidh is pronounced kay-lee and NOT say-lid. If you've seen the post from my time in Stonyhurst, you'd already know that a céilidh is a Scottish/Irish dance gathering. If not... you've learnt something new, yay!

In this section I include pictures from Emma (Findlay-Wilson) and myself.

That guy brought a kilt. How awesome is that?

Pictures with friends — including Veronica, Lawrie, Halinka, Peter (Taylor), Mary-Jane and myself.

Waiting in line for the next dance to begin.


Strip the Willow is the climax of all our céilidh nights. AND IT WAS TIRING. Whilst the dance went on only for two rounds in the Winter Conference last year, it went on for FOUR COMPLETE ROUNDS in the Summer Conference. When it came to Round 3, I decided to take part. And I couldn't even last half a round. My sides were aching!

The epic dance-off between Fr Dominic and Fr Kevin. I made a mistake in the video description saying they're both English; Fr Dominic is English whilst Fr Kevin is Scottish. Not that this is disallowed — it's obviously allowed (during the last céilidh, Damian was my dance partner!), but 1) we don't often see priests jumping around like kawaii animé characters, 2) the English are said to be a lot more subdued than the Scotsmen. Turned out to be the other way round that night, since Fr Dominic won! 3) That being the case, they really should've done the MikuMikuDance steps to Love and Joy.

The Last Day

We had breakfast, morning prayer, our final talk by Fr Luiz, 'Mary, Mother of Love'; mass, lunch and off we went. It was the day of goodbyes and "Add me on Facebook, please!"

Oh, Fr Luiz. You never cease to impress us, do you? I wondered if I had to go down the pipe... XD

Entering the Millenium Centre for the last time after mass to take our luggage and get ready to leave.

Team Hatfield.

Coming soon:
Faith Summer Conference: Bonus Content


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