In anticipation of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to England and Scotland from September 16 to 19, several of the United Kingdom's Catholic bishops have produced videos to recount their most profound experiences of the presence of God.
The probing and introspective interviews draw their inspiration from the motto of Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, "Heart speaks unto heart" (in Latin, "Cor ad cor loquitur"), which has been chosen as the theme of the Pope's visit to the U.K.
Cardinal Newman will be beatified by the Holy Father on September 19.
Each of the bishops was asked to reflect on an instance in which God "spoke to their hearts." Several described difficult circumstances in which they found consolation through prayer, turning to God in the face of a personal challenge, lingering resentment, or significant loss.
An Auxilary Bishop of Westminster, John Arnold, said in his video that God had given him a sense of acceptance and peace on the day of his mother's death. "Of course, I knew I was going to miss her," he said, but he described clearly knowing that "God was present when he invited her to himself." The experience of God's love during the difficult parting helped him understand how "we are all held in his hands."
Bishop Edwin Regan of Wrexham recalled having his youthful doubts about God's existence met with a sudden realization of the world's order and beauty. As he looked up at the sky during his early morning paper route, "it was just full of stars. They were sparkling and gleaming, scintillating." The incident made him realize that "someone must have made it all," and it suggested a transcendent beauty "at the heart of everything."
Other bishops' interviews focused on events that had challenged and deepened their faith, or given them a greater insight into the realities of Christian history. Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool recounted a visit to the Holy Land, during which he found himself completely alone at the site of Jesus' crucifixion on Mount Calvary.
He said that the concrete reality of the sacred place made him confront the challenges of Christian faith once again: "Here, not in some other city, on a Friday . . . God, in Christ, reconciled the world to himself."
Archbishop Kelly said that the Holy Father's visit to the United Kingdom would provide a similar occasion for reflection on the meaning of Christian discipleship, which originates in "an encounter with an event, with a person . . . Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God."
Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton spoke of his experience celebrating Mass in the Roman catacombs where many of the earliest Christians were buried. At the moment in the Mass which commemorates the dead "who have gone before us, marked with the sign of faith," he said that "a number of people were moved to tears," realizing there were "thousands of those people here now."
That experience, Bishop Conry said, made him aware of his responsibility to transmit the faith for generations to come. "We've received the message," Bishop Conry said, "we've taken it into our hearts, and we've passed it on."