Lay Community Picnics

Kew picnicKew picnic

From David:

On Saturday, 4th May, the Charles de Foucauld Lay Community of St Anselm org in Southall organised a picnic at Kew Gardens. A recent book on Charles calls him "Universal Brother" and the picnic lived up to the values of Charles and our fraternity, namely: inclusivity, hospitality and accepting one another as we are in the name of Christ. We had some rain and even a bit of hail but mostly sun. We were joined by two Little Sisters from Hackney. We brought and shared food and drink and all present enjoyed the feast. Passers by enjoyed our fun and we invited them to join us if they wished. One of our members read out an article about Pope Francis's Easter sermon on how easy it can be to get disheartened and feel that everything is going badly in our lives and we bury our hopes. As Pope Francis said, the tomb is empty and we are NOT to bury Hope ! No. Never! We are Christians... and Christ is alive! He is our hope. Everything he touches becomes young, new, and full of life.

We all enjoyed our time together at Kew and we are still talking about the fun and joy we had. We hope to do this again.

Pavla accompanies the singingPavla accompanies the singing

From Pavla:

We seem to be often speaking about picnics! Is it because of the welcoming sunshine?: I come from the Czech Republic and I am always keen to learn more about everything! This question came to my mind: "Is there a difference between an ordinary picnic and one of the Lay Fraternity?" I liked this question so I started to think about it and put it on paper:

Is there something special about Our picnics?

Picnics are popular meetings among members of families, clubs, work or organizations who want to share in a good meal together and have some fun in nature. Well, that sounds nice. And what about Lay Fraternity picnics? Is there something special in our picnics, which makes them a part of Charles de Foucauld's spirituality? Let us talk about one of our recent picnics, which took place in Kew Gardens last Saturday.

With friends from EnfieldWith friends from Enfield

Meeting up again

The first surprise for me was the number of people who took part in the event, even though the temperature had dropped significantly and even younger members worried about how long they would be able to stay outside. Meanwhile, I guess that the average age of the people present was around the late sixties. Many of us needed to cross a big part of London to come to Kew Gardens, bringing food and equipment with us. What was it that brought us together? This is my guess: to meet each other once again, feel a warm welcome from everybody and then to share time, food, prayer and the program of the day. I remember peoples' shining eyes seeing each other once again and seeing their hugs in the middle of our anonymous city of 15 million.

Who is Welcome to the Picnic?

Everybody is welcome... Ah that may be a good point! I think that not everybody is usually invited for a picnic , for instance if you are not a member of your family, club, organization and so on. You simply will not be invited to join the group. But I clearly heard a member from the Southall Lay Fraternity say that she likes to stay for the whole time near our shared food at the picnic base and welcome people who happen to be passing by! And this is what she did. For her sharing of food was the door to approaching unknown people and talking to them about the Kingdom of God. This openness to others speaks to me a lot. One of the signs of the Kingdom of God is this healing acceptance of everybody as a member. I tell you, as far as I know, Lay Fraternity members can be so different from each other!
Friends from our parishFriends from our parish

Generosity

I think that I noticed a lot of generosity when I saw the quantity and variety of food shared during the picnic. That required some thought and in some cases a lot of preparation. Nobody really organized the supply of food for the picnic, but it went so well! I saw some members putting aside a plate of food to keep it for another member who was arriving a bit later. Wasn't it that nice? Tell me, who would bother if I came late to the picnic and the best food had already gone? Our Lay people brought plates, cutlery, tablecloths, and moved 2 heavy benches to let everybody feel comfortable and happy. I call this characteristic of tender love. One who wanted us to love tenderly, was Jesus and then, among many other saints, Brother Charles. Charles's house was called Fraternity because of the diverse people visiting him, chatting as friends and eating together what was offered. After the Resurrection, Jesus met his friends several times when they were sharing bread. And I imagine Jesus enjoyed sharing bread, which he had been dipped in the sauce to all sitting around him. It had was so nice that the Pharisees felt jealous not to be present there as well and they complained about it! So I liked this concern for the well being of every single participant.I was witnessing something of Jesus's care for others.

A friendly Robin!A friendly Robin!

The end of the Picnic

Each picnic has its end. People generally split up quickly. But there is always some final work to clean the place and deal with the leftovers. But I never noticed any hard work after our picnics. There were many helpful hands with rubbish bags and boxes to pack up the remaining food, so nothing was wasted and the area looked as clean as before. But the picnics of the Lay Fraternity generally end in two ways. The first is physical separation when a picnic is over. The second is composed of cards and emails, expressing the gratitude of being there, enjoyment to see old friends and new faces, to know more about them and emphasizing the especially good moments during the picnic. The positive feedback and the absence of any criticism is the final characteristic of our meetings which I would like to draw attention to. This corresponds to St. Paul, who said, that we have to be happy with everything that we have now.
I think I have found quite a lot in answering this question! Do you, a member of the Lay Fraternity, or the participant of our picnics agree with me?

Haggerston Park PicnicHaggerston Park Picnic