Postcard from Valladolid

By Joseph Champion-Williams

I returned to Spain at the beginning of February and since then it has been wonderful to catch up with my brothers and share stories about the joys and challenges of our recent placements. In classes we have been reflecting on the wedding feast at Cana as a model for ministry and relating this back to our pastoral experiences.

The Cana feast is a beautiful event in Our Lord's life and challenges us greatly. As I write this, I am sitting before an icon of the wedding feast, and the most striking and surprising aspect of this icon is that Christ is not at the centre. Instead, the wedding couple are. Jesus is simply just there. In actual fact, He and His disciples are probably merely a plus one to Mary. This is the challenging part of the Gospel because, when we build walls and don't show the love and mercy of God, we place ourselves and our egos at the centre of the mission.

This is also true when reflecting on the history of the Church – because, as a Church, we have joined in or jumped on the bandwagon of celebrations, for example by celebrating Our Lord's birth on 25 December. The Church, noting the popular celebration of the day, evangelised it from within, or so the theory goes. If Christmas looked like a pagan holiday, more pagans would be open to both the holiday and the God whose birth it celebrated.

Pope Francis, and all the recent pontiffs, are calling us to do the same today: enter into the world, stand in the grey areas and be in a permanent state of mission. In Evangelii Gaudium, the Holy Father tells us that "to be evangelisers of souls, we need to develop a spiritual taste for being close to people's lives and to discover that this is itself a source of greater joy." The root of Christian life is undoubtedly in encounters. When reflecting on my recent pastoral experiences at St Elizabeth's specialist school, it wasn't about trying to call people back to where they were, nor was it about trying to drag them to a place they were nowhere near. Instead it was about meeting them where they were, walking with them and hopefully journeying with them to a place where neither of us had been before.

At first it was a great challenge. I had assumed it was my job to get them to Mass – and of course that is the goal eventually – but hopefully while I walked alongside them I showed them a little bit of the love Christ has for us all.