I was at Aylesford Priory today with 26 Year Ten chaps and two staff, These Aylesford days never cease to amaze me. No matter how tricky a cohort may seem to be, they always rise to the occasion.
We usually have the place to ourselves but today by coincidence, the John Fisher School was joined by a St Thomas More school. I found this out when I bumped into an acquaintance of mine who works there (Not that I know him that well, I didn’t know he worked there)
We start with a tour of the priory from one of the friars, who gives us a potted history of the place,and the relationship the Carmelite friars have with it. We then have a half hour talk from a priest. This is usually a priest who is a member of the Faith Society and the theme will be something to help the boys understand they have a relationship with God even if he’s not on their Facebook.
We move on to Confession then. There is always a second priest who generously joins us and half the boys will go off to confess while the other half stay and talk about Christian life in the third millennium. Then we swap. I stay with the boys talking about Christian life, no two chats are the same and no questions are shied from being asked, although I gently explain why it’s not appropriate for me to answer the more personal ones.
Today we had something amazing happen. It was cold and the boys chose to sit on the minibuses to have their lunch. Parked next to us was a minibus full of the Sisters of Charity, the most steely serene people you will ever meet in your life. They were all eating outside their minibus. I popped off for 10 minutes, leaving the lads in the care of their form tutor. My 10 minutes became 20 as I bumped into newly revved up Carmelite Deacon Paul, I was chatting with him and he told me he’d just deaconed Mass in the Relic Chapel. I came back to the minibuses to find one of the sisters on the minibus, another was on the other bus and the form tutor was chatting to some of the others. They had gone on to the buses to give each lad a miraculous medal. I poked my head round both buses and one lot of chaps were listening intently as sister told them about her chosen lifestyle. The chaps lapped it up. As I got to the other bus they burst into song
Sister had taught them this song, it’s not one we sing at that school. All the boys left the buses with their medals round their necks.
Immediately after Confession the boys write down questions for our guest priests speaker to answer. At one time this used to be known by the boys as “The dirty questions session” as so many of the questions related to matters sexual, but not now, there is a wide ranging selection of questions from ‘Does God love some more than others? to questions of race and gender and, of course, the ones known these days as “the trouser questions”. (which always makes me laugh for its Victoria Woodness)
We finished with Mass and back we came, with 26 young chaps who were less fuzzy about their faith than when we arrived.