I have been on experiment for a week now. My experiment is full immersion with the London Catholic Workers (CW) (http://www.londoncatholicworker.org/) – I am living in the CW house, not at a Jesuit house, although the Jesuit community at Stamford Hill is just up the road. As I write this I remember that I was planning to go to Mass at St Ignatius parish at Stamford Hill but that it finished an hour ago. There isn’t the fixed schedule I am used to at the novitiate. This is one of the challenges of experiments. We have morning prayer in the house for half an hour which is most welcome but I haven’t managed to get in much more prayer on a regular basis and so I’m going to try doing what I did today and get up half an hour earlier.
This morning I went to an event which was strikingly religious – I accompanied CW Martin to his court management appearance in the Westminster Magistrates Court to prepare for trial of the case against him (http://london.indymedia.org/articles/10350). It was my first time in a court and the ritual part of it struck me. The people in the court stand as the magistrates enter and leave (each time). Lawyers bow when entering and before leaving. The magistrate is addressed as “Your worship”. People sit and stand when they are spoken to or when they talk. There is a sacred vocabulary, besides the technical legalese, to talk about things. There was even an “usher” who reminded me of the man in some parishes who looks after the collection. However, for all its religiosity I didn’t feel that three hours in court substituted for Mass. It did give me a chance to see the broken Body; about ten people who seem to be losing the battle to live the fullness of life Jesus came to bring them. Hopefully, the man who drunkenly assaulted a security guard will be helped in the programme he was encouraged to attend to address his drinking. However, it’s hard to see how the man arrested for carrying a screwdriver will be reformed after four weeks in prison or that the unemployed Polish man will be able to find a job after his time in jail and so stop shaving in restaurant toilets.
Not that I think that the magistrate or lawyers or even the police do not mean well, but it didn’t seem that they were making much positive difference to these people’s lives. Martin and his co-defendant were fortunate to have their bail set without the conditions the prosecution were asking for which would have banned them from the borough of Westminster and prevented them from carrying chalk or charcoal outside their home districts.
This has been the most striking but by no means the only new experience for me during the last week and it is sure not to be the last.