Monday, 30 June 2014

Ramadan (2014)

Ramadan began on 28th June 2014 and will last for around 30 days. This page collects some information and resources about the month and Ramadan, the expectations and the meaning for Muslims.

Please add any further resources you find in the comments section at the bottom or email to

#RamadanProblems <here> 

BBC Schools - <here>

East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre - Info <here>

Islamic Relief - Info <here>

Muslim Council of Britain - Lots of information <here>

Huffington Post - Article on fasting <here>

The Guardian - 'Share you Ramadan Stories' <here>

Ramadan - Portal <here>

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Our Retreats (2014)

Image courtesy of Pins of Light

To retreat, in battle, is to step back, to re-evaluate, to regroup. In our daily lives, it is also important to do this and so we try to provide this opportunity for as many students as we can. 

This year the Walsingham House team, part of the Brentwood Catholic Youth Service, provided days of retreat for Y7 and Y8. We hope this becomes the start of a relationship between SHoM students and the BCYS, and indeed many of our Y10s go off to Lourdes this year as part of the youth pilgrimage.

This week saw the Y12 and Y9 retreats take place as part of our Enrichment Week.

For Y12 we welcomed back Steve Murray and Hamish MacQueen. Steve is an internationally renowned Christian mime artist who challenged us to think about our self-image and self-worth. He left us all with a powerful reminder that each and everyone one of us is beautiful and has great value as we have had the 'touch of the Master'. Here's a little clip of Steve from one of his DVDs and you can find out more on his website <here>.

Hamish is a friend of mine from when we travelled together to TaizĂ© as part of the East Anglia Diocese Youth Pilgrimage. He lead a session that involved singing and dancing as well as reflection on our priorities in life. He shared his own story and asked us to think about what would happen if things went wrong, what would we be left with? Find out more on his website <here> and if you fancy buying his recent single from iTunes, it's available <here>.

Y9's retreat saw a "Day of Peace" organised by Davina Bolt of Brentwood Diocese Justice and Peace commission. We had workshops lead by CAFOD Brentwood (see photos <here>), Vererans for Peace UK (, Pax Christi and the Columbans Missionaries. Each had it's own take on the theme looking at music as a means of peace (and writing some excellent raps!), the realities of war, peace in our everyday lives and relationships, reflection on scripture and prayer using the news.

Both days concluded with Mass, lead by the ever generous Fr Phillip Denton.

A huge, huge thank you to everyone who contributed to our days. We are so grateful.

We hope all students got a lot from their days of retreat.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Atheism - A Mental Illness?

Image courtesy of BBC

The BBC have reported upon a Nigerian man who has been sent to a mental institution after he declared that he did not believe in God.

The humanist charity, The International Humanist and Ethical Union, claims he has been "forcibly medicated by his Muslim relatives, despite being given a clean bill of health by a doctor."

The IHEU have said that Mr Bala told Muslim relatives he did not believe in God, they asked a doctor if he was mentally ill. He was given a clear bill of health, yet his family then took him to a second doctor who declared that his atheism was a side-effect of suffering a personality change.

The chemical engineering graduate, while forcibly committed to a mental institution without access to a lawyer, was able to contact activists using a smuggled phone.

Read more from BBC: <here>
Read more from IHEU: <here>

Who do you think is to blame here? Why do you think his family and local community have acted in this way? Do you think the Nigerian government should intervene? How does this portray religious people? 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

World Cup Prayers

Image courtesy of The FA

It was a frustrating start to England's World Cup campaign, despite an encouraging performance, loosing to Italy. However, Daniel Sturridge managed to get on the score sheet and after doing so, clearly offered the goal up in prayer to God.

It is not the first time that Sturridge has mentioned his faith. In an interview in May 2013, he said: "I've kept praying every game – which I always do. God showed me how I need to be strong mentally. Being strong mentally is the one thing that can separate you from anyone else. When I worked with Didier Drogba at Chelsea, the one strength he had above everybody was his mental strength. I learned a lot from working with him about what it takes to be a top player. Hopefully I'll become one." (see more <here>)

[Drogba has been featured in a previous blog post about prayer <here>]

When he first broke in to the England team in October 2013 he said, "At the moment, things are going well and I've been blessed by god to have this sort of form and my faith in god has got me to where I am today" (see more <here>)

It's not the only prayer that has featured so far at the World Cup. When Algeria scored against Belgium in their opening game, they celebrated with this:

Image courtesy of Yahoo

Sofiane Feghouli and several teammates ran to the corner flag and celebrated by kneeling down together. It was rather subdued compared with some of the general craziness of other teams' goal celebrations. However the Sujud (a prayer position in which the forehead, nose, hands, knees and toes all touch the ground) has become a customary goal celebration for Muslim players including Chelsea's Demba Ba.

Aside from the players praying, there is also a encouragement for fans to get praying too. The Bible Society are distributing free World Cup edition Bibles (see <here>), papers like the Catholic Herald have written articles reminding Christians to learn from the World Cup (see <here>) and CAFOD have used the opportunity to educate young people about some of the global issues connected to Brazil including poverty and fair trade putting their prayer into action (see <here>).

Thankfully Pope Francis has promised to not pray for his homeland in Argentina, see <here>. However Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera has asked Mexico to pray to their team! <here>

The Church of England have even gone as far as to release five prayers for the World Cup:

Prayer 1 - A Prayer for the World Cup

Lord of all the nations, who played the cosmos into being, guide, guard and protect all who work or play in the World Cup.
May all find in this competition a source of celebration, an experience of common humanity and a growing attitude of generous sportsmanship to others.

Prayer 2 - A Prayer for Brazil

God of the nations, who has always called his people to be a blessing for the world, bless all who take part in the World Cup.
Smile on Brazil in her hosting,
on the nations represented in competition and on those who travel to join in the party.

Prayer 3 - A prayer for those simply not interested

Lord, as all around are gripped with World Cup fever, bless us with understanding, strengthen us with patience and grant us the gift of sympathy if needed.

Prayer 4 - Prayer for the England Football team

"Oh God..."

Prayer 5 - Prayer for the England Football team

"God, who played the cosmos into being, please help England rediscover their legs, their eyes and their hunger: that they might run more clearly, pass more nearly and enjoy the game more dearly. Amen."

(Based on The Prayer commemorating Richard, Bishop of Chichester in 1253 and used by the Church of England on 16 June each year)

See press release <here>

Do you think the World Cup is a good place to pray? Do you think the footballers do provide good Christian role models? Is it right that Christian organisations use this opportunity? Will you be praying for England?!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Why Do People Convert To Catholicism?

Image courtesy of Terra

Each year around 3,500 adults are received into the Catholic Church in England and Wales (see <here>). This is a significant number, especially given the headlines which often claim we live in an increasingly secular society. 

John Beaumont, author of The Mississippi Flows into the Tiber: A Guide to Notable American Catholic Converts to the Catholic Church, recently gave a lecture that summarised eight common reasons that people gave in his research:

1) Visibility - Church buildings, the clergy, religious orders... all remaining distinctively recognisable in the modern world.
2) Universality - "Catholicism is catholic" and it spans the whole globe; it is unifying rather than divisive.
3) Endurance - Despite all the tests and tribulations of the Church, it still remains faithful to it's 2000 year old doctrines.
4) Authority - People see individualism as a false freedom and instead want guidance on what is right and what is wrong.
5) Beauty - Music, artwork, architecture, literature... 
6) Hierarchy - This brings about dignity, and ultimately an ascent to God.
7) Saints -  Witnesses and teachers who give living examples.
8) Moral Witness - High standards that give people high moral goals to aim for.

Read the full article <here>

Do you think these reasons are the appeal of the Catholic Church? Do you think that some of these reasons are exactly the opposite of the 'appeal'? Do you think that this is still only an appeal for the minority?

Sunday, 8 June 2014

"Thank God! I've won The Voice!"

An Italian nun has won the country's version of The Voice. Sister Cristina Scuccia, who has even sung a duet with Kylie Minogue on the way to the final, ensured that she thanked God and Pope Francis for her victory. She received an unprecedented 62% of the telephone vote.

After being announced as the winner, she led the TV studio audience in the prayer Our Father. She then broke down in tears, she then said: "My presence here is not up to me, it's thanks to the man upstairs."

A little later, stood next to the mother superior of her Ursuline order, Sister Agatha, she added: "I really didn't expect all this... My aim was to say that I have encountered Jesus. I have a gift and God gave me that gift and I have used it to say that God has taken nothing away from me. The priorities in my life are prayer, getting up early and teaching at my school. I will never give up on my vows and the greatest love of my life for a singing career."

This video already has 52million views on YouTube:

Do you think it is right for a nun to be entering competitions like The Voice? What will she do with the winnings? She now has a professional recording contract, do you think this is right? How do you think she will cope with the fame? Do you think people just voted for her because she was a nun?