On Tuesday 4 October 2016, the Feast of St Francis of Assisi, Prior Park College in Bath welcomed over 120 children from six local Catholic schools as part of the South Clifton Catholic Hub (SCCH) reflection on Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’.All schools in the hub are committed to continuing the work begun during this Year of Mercy by considering how we can not only show a deeper love and compassion towards our neighbour but also towards the whole of creation. In this way, we can adopt Pope Francis’ suggestion, made on 1 September 2016, of two new works of mercy:
“So let me propose a complement to the two traditional sets of seven: may the works of mercy also include care for our common home. As a spiritual work of mercy, care for our common home calls for a “grateful contemplation of God’s world” (Laudato Si, 214) which “allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us.” As a corporal work of mercy, care for our common home requires “simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness” and “makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world” (ibid., 230-31).”
At the day of reflection, we were able to consider the spiritual work of mercy: “grateful contemplation of God’s world”. On arrival, the pupils sketched the view from the Mansion steps before taking part in a sensory walk, led by Sixth Form students and staff from the College, through the beautiful National Trust valley below. Each group of pupils was able to collect leaves and flowers, create rubbings of bark and one hundred year old graffiti from the bridge, witness ducks and herons in natural surroundings and breathe in the still autumn air.
Following lunch, the children reflected on the sensory walk by creating some stunning collage work using the materials they had collected during their morning stroll. Each pupil was also given a yellow paper sunflower petal on which they were asked to write down one word to describe what or who they would like to keep in their prayers: the homeless, family, peace and Grandad were just a few suggestions. Our Sixth Form helpers created sunflowers from the petals and these, along with the nature collages, were brought to Chapel to decorate the internal columns. Miss Cummins and Mrs Stotesbury conducted a final service and some wonderful singing – including, of course, ‘Laudato Si’ – concluded the day.
All involved seem to enjoy the day and we hope to follow this up with another gathering in the spring when we will reflect on Pope Francis’ suggestion of a new corporal work of mercy and consider what practical changes we can make in order to care more deeply for God’s creation.