Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Upcoming Events in Nashville, Ottawa and the World Wide Web

I have been asked to do the following talks in the next couple of months. Please to come along and say hello to me if you are able to; I always hope that I might meet some of you, especially anyone with whom I have had the occasional lively exchange in this blog’s comment box!

The first is with the Institute of Catholic Culture, a series of presentations which starts this evening. I have been invited to present the spiritual exercises that were given to me 30 years ago.

Over thirty years ago, by chance, I met a man called David Birtwistle, who asked me this question: are you as happy as you can be? It was an easy one for me to answer: “No!” “Would you like that to change?” “Yes.”  “Let me show you how,” he replied.

This was how I was introduced to a program of prayer, meditation and good works that changed my life. I still practice these exercises today. It is called The Vision for You.

When I met David, I was miserable and depressed about the direction my life was going. He told me that he could show me a way to feel better and have a new direction in life. I wanted to be an artist and live in America, but was getting nowhere; however, the problem ran deeper than that. My relationships were unfulfilling and superficial at best. I just didn’t know what to do to try to be happy, or what I really wanted in life and while others around me seemed to be moving forward with their lives, I had a sense that I was being left behind. 

Several years later, as a result of following David’s simple directions, I became Artist-in-Residence at Thomas More College in New Hampshire. But more than that, it transformed my whole outlook in life. Where I used to be bitter, difficult to get on with and pessimistic, I am now so much more optimistic and happy. This also led to my conversion. David was a Catholic who led me to the Faith and was my sponsor when I was received into the Church in 1993.

David followed this process himself, practicing the program of prayer, meditation, contemplation and good works on a daily basis. It was his happiness that drew me to him, and ever since I have viewed what he gave me as a personal formation for the New Evangelization. When he died, over 600 people came to his funeral in Fulham in southwest London, and most of these were people whom he had passed on this process to. All had acquired or deepened their faith through this contact and a significant proportion of these were, like me, converts to Catholicism.

David died nine years after I met him, but he made me promise, in common with many others who benefitted from his help, to hand on to others what he had given to me. The great discovery made by those of us who benefitted from this process is that we have the freedom to choose. We can choose to be happy or to be miserable almost regardless of circumstances. This is what drove me to write the two books about the process The Vision for You - How to Discover the Life You Were Made For; and a condensed presentation of the same process The Vision for You - A Short Summary of the Spiritual Exercises & A Manual to Accompany Workshops.

The second event is the 42nd Convention of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars in Ottawa, Canada, which takes place from September 27-29th. I will be giving a presentation and be part of a panel discussion on the Sunday. The theme for the three days is intriguing: Beauty, Goodness, and Truth...and the Encounter with Evil; speakers are invited to consider how we can strive for the the transcendent even as we encounter evil.

The third is the National Catholic Singles Conference, which takes place this year in Nashville from October 25-27th. I have been asked to give a presentation on the Vision for You process of the discernment of personal vocation with, as one might expect, particular reference to living life as a single person happily.

I hope to see some of you there!

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