Monday, 20 September 2010

P+3: Cofton Park - or not

There were some difficulties (very diplomatic word) with the coach arrangements for getting the group I was with from East London to Birmingham. Two coaches were needed, not one, and we had to wait for the promised second coach, which in the end didn't appear. So despite getting up at 2 am, getting myself organised to look after the fellow pilgrims in the group I was travelling with, and waiting some three hours beyond the advised pick up time, I didn't get there.

Letters have been written!

I put in writing to my fellow pilgrims (a little prematurely, as it turned out!) the following reflection on what had happened to us:
I am writing to let you know how much I share your deep disappointment that we are not able this morning to be with the Holy Father in Cofton Park. I am very conscious of, and appreciated very much, being able to see in the early hours of this morning your commitment to being at that momentous occasion. I am very aware that, for two of you, this was to be your only “live” participation in the events of the Papal Visit; and that, for one of you, the choice to go to Cofton Park was the fruit of a long standing family devotion to John Henry Newman. I reiterate again how deeply I share your disappointment, which only deepens as I follow the Mass of Beatification on a live webcast.

At a time when following the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI is made the object of ridicule and fierce criticism, the opportunity that I had this morning to meet a group of ordinary people of differing ages willing to go to great lengths to be with the Holy Father has made a great impression on me. This was particularly brought home to me by the enthusiasm of the younger members of our group with their banners and flags; by the thought that a number of us had attended the vigil in Hyde Park or been on the Mall during Saturday evening; and by the member of the group who said to me after we had returned home, “I just wanted to see the Pope!”
As I called in to deliver my letter after evening Mass on Sunday, I met six of our group, including the two teenagers - who by a totally accidental chain of events had spotted the coach that was meant to have picked us up, flagged down the driver, and, by stint of even more phone calls to National Express, ended up being provided with taxis to take them up to Cofton Park. Even that was fraught, as they had to rendezvous with National Express staff at a service station on the way up to get hold of passes to gain access to the coach park. They made it just 10 minutes before Mass started. Getting back was also fraught. They enjoyed a lovely experience of inter-religious dialogue, as their taxi drivers were Muslims and talked about how they had just celebrated the Eid festival at the end of Ramadan - as they drove Catholics to a Papal Mass!

I spent about half an hour with them, enjoying a very enthusiastic exchange of experiences of Catholic life and, I hope, prompting a young lady to start hunting for a way to get herself to Madrid next year!

1 comment:

Patricius said...

Sorry to hear of your misfortune here. Somehow this seems to be the sort of thing likely to go wrong with the attempt to micro-manage which the insistence on bussing everyone in implies.