The Faith Movement
The Faith Movement
Father Roger Nesbitt produced an account of the Faith Movement some years ago, published by the Catholic Truth Society as part of a series on the New Movements in the Church. We offer an updated version here for a new generation attending Faith Movement events and discovering the Movement and its message. This is the third section and the feature will be concluded in the next (Jan/Feb) issue of the magazine.
Development of the Youth Movement
In the summer of 1973 the first ‘Faith Summer Session’ was held - a five day event at Herne Bay in Kent. This involved daily Mass and prayer, and talks on the Catholic faith by priests and lay people in a happy holiday atmosphere of friendship. About forty young people took part, coming mainly from the John Fisher School, but also invited by friends of the priests and lay people helping. At this event a small card of ‘Aims and Ideals’ was produced, which is included as appendix 1. These reflected the focus of the new movement - thoroughly Christ centred, thoroughly Catholic in its teaching and in its morals, but also prayerful and apostolic. A simple prayer was also com-posed by the first young members of the movement, which is still in use today at all the meetings and gatherings:
Lord Jesus Christ, we believe in you and all your Church teaches. We give ourselves entirely to you because you are truly the Son of the Living God. Confirm and strengthen our faith. Amen.
Following the suc-cessful launch of the Summer Session in 1973, the Faith youth movement slowly progressed through various initiatives. Weekly meetings were held at the John Fisher School and in other places. ‘Youth Days’ were held several times throughout the year. These consisted of talks on the faith, discussion groups, an opportunity for celebrating the sacrament of reconcilia-tion, the celebration of Mass, and a social evening. Occasional retreats and pilgrimag-es were held.
The numbers involved in the movement slowly increased: new pupils arrived at the John Fisher School; those already involved invited others among their families and friends and via their parishes. As many of those involved went on to university they attracted even more to the movement. Through the grace of God there was also a steady flow of members into the seminaries. Some of their fellow seminarians became interested in the movement through them, and within a number of years many priests were actively involved in Faith and were helping to increase numbers at a faster rate.
More recently the annual ‘Summer Session’ has grown year by year and even-tually - as many people have returned each year - it has developed into a major youth conference, attract-ing each year about 200 young people in the age range 16-30. In 1982 a Winter Conference was launched along the same lines as the Summer Session, but especially for students. Faith ‘Summer Breaks’ were started in the summer holi-days in 1985 for 11-15 year olds, again along similar lines.
Later Life of Edward Holloway
Fr Holloway, whose founding of the Faith Movement has been described earlier, attended nearly all these conferences and other initiatives, giving talks and always being available for discussions and spiritual direction. He made many friends with the young people who came along, and helped to foster a number of priestly vocations.
He retired in 1986, after having been parish priest in three parishes: Bramley, Surrey; Portslade-by-Sea, Sussex; and Esher, Surrey. He was then resident with Fr Victor Cook in parishes at Cranleigh and Warling-ham, both in Surrey, but he continued to be actively involved in all the work of the movement until his death.
Fr Holloway saw his writing as a key aspect of his vocation, and his pastoral and theo-logical legacy is truly outstanding, despite the fact that he spent all his priestly life ministering in parishes. As well as writing extensively on theology and philosophy, he edited Faith magazine for twenty years, and gave numerous retreats, talks and lectures. He was of course also deeply involved in the youth work of the Faith movement and in the various parishes where he lived and worked. He brought a deep pastoral sensitivity to the wide range of his paro-chial duties. He had always encouraged us to eschew clerical careerism, and in 1988, towards the end of his life, he gave us some sense of his vocation:
“My vocation from God has not been to be a scholar, or to enjoy the time and library re-searches for deep theological analysis and reflection. I have lived as a pastoral priest overwhelmed with the family chores of the People of God. I have never regretted it and I have been deeply fulfilled in it. So lived the Fathers of the Church, pastoral presbyters all of them. So lived our Lord and Master, Peter the fisherman, and Paul the tentmaker.”
In fact the ideas behind the Faith move-ment have an unexpected and humble source: Agnes Holloway, Fr Edward Hollo-way’s mother. She claimed, in all simplicity, that the central ideas of the new synthesis were given to her by God, through a series of promptings and locutions. They are published by Faith under the title God’s Master-Key: the Law of Control and Direction. Agnes Holloway herself admit-ted that the message she was given could have been attained without a private revelation, but that because of the weak-ness of mankind it was necessary for God to give this revelation to the Church at a time of great intellectual crisis. In Faith we stress that the value of the ideas depends on their own inner strength and coherence: no one involved in the movement is obliged to accept or reject Agnes’ claim about their origin. We also stress that any judgement of such a private revelation is always subject to the Magisterium of the Church.
Agnes was a devout and active Catholic, interested in all aspects of the Church, and she was involved in the Catholic Evidence Guild. Her faith was reinforced rather than weakened by a series of what she referred to as “strange things” that happened to her. These included the frequent answering of prayers and precognition of events, some of which her spiritual director and her son Edward either witnessed or were involved in. These included Edward’s vocation to the priesthood, though she was not to tell him this until after his ordination.
Darwin and Evolution
Between the wars there was much discus-sion in the press about Darwin’s Origin of Species and the challenge it appeared to hold for the Catholic faith. In 1927, whilst reading an article in The Universe discuss-ing the theological implications of evolution, Agnes experienced the first of a number of revelations and visions which answered questions she had asked about science and religion.
“There was an article by a leading Catholic theologian who was rather in favour of the theory. I read it through rather indiffer-ently to the end which ended with the words ‘How much is mind and how much is matter? that is the question on which Christianity will depend in the next fifty years and must stand or fall’. Yes I said to myself, I wonder how much is mind and how much it matter? Immedi-ately I heard the words ‘That which controls’. I was puzzled by this and repeated the words ‘That which controls’. Again the voice said: ‘A thing cannot be its own cause and its own control. It must come into contact with that which it controls, but cannot be caused by it, this is a Universal Law’.” (God’s Master Key, p.92)
From this, with subsequent revela-tions as a result of her questions, the ‘Law of Control and Direction’ which showed that evolution was part of God’s plan for the universe was revealed.
Most of the answers and her understanding of them were contrary to her then current views. Nonetheless she felt compelled to write down these revelations as she believed they were significant, both to her son, and to the Church; later on she became convinced that they helped to solve the problems posed by the theory of evolution. She always regarded herself as being born of humble parents, simple and uneducat-ed, and these experiences and her record of them were kept secret for many years as she felt people “would just not believe” her.
“I was told it was for my son Edward (who would become a priest) to present this knowledge to the world and defend it. The knowledge was given to combat a dreadful persecution against the Church which was highly intellectual, and to come in the future.” (God’s Master Key, p.93)
Thus Agnes Hollo-way took no direct, active part in the youth movement, knowing that it was not part of her vocation. She left that work to her son and to others. She lived the rest of her life quietly, passing her final years in the Holy Cross Priory near Heathfield, Sussex and died on 25th March 1991.
The Faith Movement Activities
As already mentioned, the Faith move-ment is loosely structured. However, as the movement has grown, it has become helpful to put into place certain more formal structures.
Faith adopts whatever activities seem best to promote its aims and message. This section gives an account of the current principal fields of activity.
The Faith Summer Session is an annual five-day conference for the age range 16-30. The programme involves daily Mass and Morning and Night Prayer from the Divine Office, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and a Reconciliation service. In our worship and prayer we always follow the current sacred liturgy of the Church as revised afterthe Second Vatican Council. The core of the conference is a series of talks on the Catho-lic faith by priests, religious and lay people. Each year a different aspect of our faith and Christian life is explored. Discussion of the talks and any other issues is actively encouraged, both in formal discussion groups and informally during the extensive free time. There are also sporting and social activities. The atmosphere of the confer-ence is deliberately informal and friendly - it is not a retreat; however, the prayer, study and Christian friendship make the week genuinely spiritually uplifting.
The Faith Winter Conference is a similar event to the Summer Session. It follows the same daily pattern of activities but lasts just three days around New Year. It was started initially for university students, but due to popular demand it has now broadened its scope to welcome all young people over 18.
Faith Summer Breaks cater for children aged 11-15. In a holiday atmosphere the children are given an opportunity to pray and celebrate the sacraments, to learn more about their faith, and to have fun and make friends.
Faith Forums are regular formative groups which meet on a weekly basis at various locations around the country. They help those who attend to develop their faith, and to find regular support and Christian friendship in a secular world. Meetings generally involve a talk on the faith, morals or contemporary issues, questions and dis-cussion, and some social time. Sometimes forums organise social outings and retreats.
Youth Days are organised for 11-18 year olds on an occasional basis. They consist of talks on the faith, discussion groups, an opportunity for celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation, the celebration of Mass, and a social evening. Family Days are a recent addition, responding to the needsof many of those involved with the move-ment who are now married and have young families. They combine prayer, talks and discussion, and social activities, adapted to the diverse needs of families.
Retreats are usually held each year. One is offered specifically for lay people, and another for priests.
We have also recently started to hold an annual Theological Symposium which tries to explore and develop Fr Holloway’s ideas at a deeper level. It aims also to locate his theology and philosophy within the context of the Church’s tradition and the works of other contemporary thinkers, and seeks to draw out the impact of Holloway’s New Synthesis on current issues of theological debate.
The Faith Community is a group of adults involved in Faith, who wish to support the movement and each other spiritually and practically. Through daily prayer they seek to foster a spirit of love and true friendship within the movement as a whole, a spirit of mutual care and concern. Many members of the community also choose freely to make a financial contribution towards the work of the movement.
Another major part of work of Faith has been in the field of publications. The movement publishes a bimonthly pastoral and theological review called Faith. Through its editorials and comment this magazine gives the Faith movement’s perspective on developments in the Church and in the world, and it remains one of the principal organs for making known our theological vision.
The movement also publishes a series of pamphlets on doctrinal, moral, pastoral and spiritual themes with particular reference to our theological vision. There are about 30 titles currently in print, and a number of others in preparation
Finally, there is an extensive internet website, www.faith.org.uk, which includes information about the movement and the theological ideas behind it, as well as details of publications and events.