Many thanks to our guests so far: Anne Brawley (Youth 2000, USA), Christoph Warrack (filmmaker), Fr Dominic Robinson SJ (chaplain to Aid to the Church in Need), Hal St John (musician), James Burke-Dunsmore (actor), John Pridmore (evangelist ex-gangster), Kris Sladewski (biking pilgrim), Marino Restrepo (evangelist, musician), Norman Servais (film maker), Peter Hutley (writer & producer), Fr Raniero Cantalamessa OFM Cap (Preacher to Papal Household), Fr Stan Fortuna CFR (musician/rapper), Stephen B Whatley (artist) & Dr Theresa Burke (psychologist).
"They cannot stay in the refugee camps in Erbil forever. They want to go back to Mosul, to Qaraqosh, to the little villages in the Nineveh plains where in August 2014 they were driven out. What we encountered there, with these people, with the clergy, with the government officials who we met as well in the Kurdistan regional government, was above all hope. And this always is a surprise .. When you actually meet people who in the most terrible situations in which they've been separated from their families, from their careers, children's education has been disrupted ... and you hear people say 'We want to stay here. This is our homeland. Christianity has been here since the time of St Thomas and it's our country and we want to go back to our homes and practice our Catholic faith or our Orthodox faith or the religious minorities in the coutnry, Yasidis, Turkmen, these other groups, 'We want to practice our faith in freedom', then it affects you. You realise that this is something that you've got to take back. That there is something deep within these people in the most tragic of circumstances which is driving them on. So that was what the trip was really about. .... The sooner that we can have the international community be clear that what has happened, especially since 2014 but which has been building up since Saddam Hussein fell in 2003, to be clear that this is a genocide, it is on religious grounds, then the sooner we can start rebuilding."
Father Dominic is walking 200 km of the Camino of St Ignatius from the shrine of St Peter Claver in Verdu to the Abbey of Montserrat & Manresa from 25th September with 2 parishioners from Farm Street Church, in prayer and solidarity with refugees - more info on their flyer here or you can make a donation directly on their justgiving page here.
(15 mins of TOP CHAT with Ruth, recorded on Feast of St Padre Pio, 23 September 2016)
about his 'St Francis's Tour' pilgrim bike ride, from Palermo (in Sicily) to Rome and Assisi, then over the Alps and back to Southampton, in memory of Debbie Rooke & raising money for the wonderful charity Mary's Meals.
"When I went to the shops people would start talking about my beard, then they were intrigued where I was going because seeing someone with my beard was unusual, they would see my bicycle, my dirty clothes (because I had only 2 pairs of trousers for 5 weeks) ... People in the shops, I would pick up items I needed and then I would start conversation with the shop clerk and they would give me food for free. People on the street or on the camping site would approach me and just ask me where I was going and they would just give me money. I set off without any intentions of collecting money on the way and came back with almost 100 euros in donations, which was really amazing."
Kris biked 2081 miles, raising £4117 for Mary's Meals (at the time of the interview) which equates to feeding 339 children for a year.
(15 mins of TOP CHAT with Ruth, recorded in August 2014)
"It's a wonderful process that removes the barriers and lifts the veil of all the lies and restores truth to who we are before God and restores the truth of our love for our children, for ourselves even. Because people who've been abused and hurt so badly end up hating themselves and then they end up in very self-destructive, self-punishment cycles, and all this is just not what God wants for us. He wants us to live. He came that we might have life and have it to the full. I think a lot of people learn to just tolerate how it is, they learn to live with it, 'Alright, this isn't what I wanted for my life but I can kind of get by.' And they settle. And the Lord doesn't want us to settle, He wants us to seek. So all theses opportunities for healing, even if you think 'Oh, I've learned to live with this abortion' or 'My abuse sucked but I can carry on'. That's not what He wants, He wants us to be better than we were before the injury. Can you imagine that? Better than we were before that happened! And that is what healing does - not only does it strengthen you in the places of weaknesses but then you can use all that horror to help others. Which is why this program has spread all over the world, because it has been spread by people whose lives have been changed. It hasn't been spread by the top-down authorities, it's the grass roots in the trenches, those who are suffering, who have so much to teach us and who in their humility and in their brokenness really reveal the power of God. That's the blessing and that's the grace."
(30 mins of TOP CHAT with Ruth, recorded in April 2014)
about his work as an artist and his most recent exhibition in Westminster Cathedral.
"Even many, many years ago, at the beginning of this evolvement of my work into much more expressive work, I would stand back from those early paintings and think, even though I was in pain and was depressed a lot of the time, my work is not reflecting that. And now I realise what it is reflecting is that, even though it was a terrible tragedy, it didn't block the love that's in my heart. So I think that my work comes predominantly from prayer but it comes from the love in my heart, the colours, and, I mean, humbly I think they must as well have come from God because I literally, as I say, feel rendered hopeless and helpless at the beginning, and depend on God for direction. So, yes, I think ultimately love is the thing, the great thing."
(25 mins of TOP CHAT with Erin-Thérèse, recorded in August 2013)
Collette, from England: "Nightfever started in 2005 with World Youth Day in Cologne. It was a response to the Holy Father’s visit and it has since spread across cities across all of Europe. It came to England last year, firstly to London and we brought it to Birmingham. It was Frankie Mulgrew who encouraged me to go and talk to my parish priest and get it running. It's a very simple concept. So, on a Saturday evening we go into a busy church, maybe by a high street or where there are a lot of nightclubs and pubs, a priest will expose the Blessed Sacrament for us, the church is lit by candles, there's gentle music in the background, there'll be priests available for confession, and then we send the young people out into the streets with a candle simply to ask people to come into the church and light a candle. And then we let Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament, do the rest of the work."
Nightfever is organised by young Christians whose faith is central in their lives and who with this initiative would like to address young people that have stayed away from the church and to draw them closer to faith again. All should happen without any obligations; as it is said in the gospel of John “Come and see!” (John 1,46).
(9 mins of TOP CHAT with Ruth, recorded at Father Frankie Mulgrew's ordination party, 13 July 2013)
This 'chat' was not originally intended to be heard other than by Erin-Thérèse (from the Totus2us team) to help with the article she was writing about Totus2us. She pulled the trick of an article out of her hat with such charm & aplomb (& a determination that wasn't to be dodged) that Ruth (also from the Totus2us team) couldn't fail but cave in! Once recorded (over skype with a deep-breathing computer), Erin & her darling husband & mother then gave the shpeel that others might like to hear something about the story of Totus2us. So here it is, in great thanksgiving for 1000 somethings about Mary and 3 years of Totus2us.
(28 mins of TOP CHAT with Erin-Thérèse, recorded in August 2012)
about the band Ooberfuse, playing at the opening ceremony of World Youth Day Madrid with Cherrie Anderson, having been chosen through the song competition Madrid Me Encanta, the all night vigil at JMJ 2011 and World Youth Days past & future - in the Philippines & Brazil.
Ooberfuse is an electronic music project from Woolwich, London, UK, led by Hal and Cherrie. Their infectious vibrant tunes proclaim the band's mission: to inject ooberfusiasm into day to day life! Their 1st album is Still Love My Enemies; their track Heart's Cry was chosen for Benedict XVI's visit to the UK. You can listen to their tracks on Totus2us podcasts Catechesis with Benedict XVI, World Youth Days & Word on the Street.
(24 minutes of Top Chat with Ruth, recorded early September 2011)
about OPEN CINEMA, a network of film clubs programmed by and for homeless and socially excluded people which Christoph founded in 2005.
"I was working on a soup kitchen at the church in Soho Square and the homeless started to ask if they could have something more than a weekly meal, and so I started showing films, in a hall with a bunch of friends. We handmade the blinds and we painted the wall and we borrowed a projector and we started showing films and then inviting film makers to come in and talk about those films.. So this space once a week became a place where famous film makers would drop by and introduce a film to a collection of people who wouldn't ordinarily have access to a cinema, and it was really exciting and fabulous for everyone who was involved."
The OPEN CINEMA philosophy is that people excluded from society need the benefits of culture as much as information and food. Each week participants watch the best in contemporary cinema and work with professional filmmakers to create films of their own.
(14 minutes of Top Chat with Ruth, recorded 28th September 2010)
with Fr Stephen Langridge, Dr Andrew O'Connell, James Blythe, Matt Roche-Saunders and Archbishop Vincent Nichols. Invocation 2010 was a national vocations promotions event held at Oscott Seminary in Birmingham, England.
Archbishop Vincent: "The gift that Christ gives us in His permanent presence in the Eucharist is the fullest possible expression of self-forgetful love. What we see in the Eucharist is the Lord giving us Himself totally, permanently, and in that very act of self-sacrifice. And so for those of us who seek a way of life which is centred on self-gift, on giving oneself, then the Eucharist is absolutely irresistible, because what we see in Him, in His presence, is what inspires us and constantly feeds the desire to be generous, which is so often obstructed by all sorts of our own short-comings. So we come to Him in the Eucharist because that's the source of self-giving love which we want to try to the best of ability to express in our own lives... As far as I'm concerned, the quote of the week-end is one young man here who has just said 'Well, you know, the Catholic Church, it's so young and so very modern.'"
For more about Invocation (now an annual week-end event in the UK), visit the website.
(10 minutes of Top Chat with Frankie, recorded in June 2010)
about playing the part of Jesus over the last 12 years, particularly in the Wintershall Life of Christ, his relationship with the cast and the audience and how, as an actor, this role is so very different to all others.
"Anyone who has played Christ would know this; it sets you apart from every other role.. By trying to portray Christ, you get to understand something really of the potential of an actor, it stretches you in places you just can't imagine, even in the most demanding of roles in Shakespeare or any of the greats. It always leaves you shredded and transformed, but you welcome it because that is what theatre should be - it should be a transformation and it should be an opportunity for everyone to transform."
James has a website celebrating his 12 years of portraying Jesus & giving more info - Being Jesus.
(16 minutes of Top Chat with Ruth, recorded in June 2010)
about the plays he produces at Wintershall: the Nativity Play, the Passion of Jesus, the Life of Christ, and the Acts of the Apostles; how they've been taken elsewhere, eg Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and this year Trafalgar Square, London, and are now being performed around the world, particularly in prisons.
"It's not difficult although you do need to pray about it .. above all you need to be fired up in your heart that you want to spread the Gospel, and then it just follows. I can make my script available - I can tell you that it's being performed this summer in the State Penitentiary of Alabama, it's being performed in Uganda, and I'm seeing a group next week who want to perform it in Ghana. Once you get going it's infectious.. and it gathers momentum because Jesus is behind it. That is the great advantage: when you are portraying His life, He is there."
For more info about the Wintershall plays, visit the Wintershall website.
(9 minutes of Top Chat with Ruth, recorded in June 2010)
about how she got involved with Youth 2000 and its beginnings in the USA, the way Eucharistic adoration has been transforming young people's lives and the participation of Youth 2000 at World Youth Days since WYD Denver in 1993.
"From that experience I thought it was really necessary to bring young people to the Eucharist to really understand their faith. So we planned a Youth 2000 retreat in the States in 1992, never dreaming it would last and that we would have 1 retreat. We had that retreat and 700 people came; from there we've now had over 500 Youth 2000 retreats in the States and we've been to 21 countries. So it was a great grace from God, it was an inspiration from Our Lady. The whole Youth 2000 programme is based on bringing young people to know the true presence, and I find that that is the great grace that God has given us to do this work."
For more info about Youth 2000 USA, visit their website.
(7 minutes of Top Chat with Ruth, recorded in April 2009)
about how his life as a musician (with his band Santa Fe) and an actor changed dramatically when he was kidnapped by the Colombian rebels of the FARC (Revolutionary Arm Forces of Colombia) and taken to the jungle as a hostage for six months.
"I have experienced the world in so many fashions, in so many levels, and I was able to enjoy what tempted me the most, what attracted me the most, which was the money and the pleasures, the opportunities of doing whatever I wanted to do and travel wherever I wanted to go, and enjoy the capacity of acquisition, things that you are tempted to possess - so many things like that that are basic in a human being, I went through. So, after I found the incredible reality of the spiritual life that I was missing, I embraced it in a way that I realise now it's not only about the material world, it's also about the sense of eternal life, it's about what goes on after we part from this earthly life which is an instant in eternity."
To find out more about Marino, his mission and the Pilgrims of Love, visit his website.
(7 minutes of Top Chat with Frankie, recorded in the autumn of 2008)
about the essential gift of the Eucharist, the new Pentecost in the Church, preparing for Christmas and preaching to the Papal household.
"This is the most real place to meet Jesus, it is an occasion Jesus provided Himself to enter into personal relationship with a member of His body. There is something special about the Eucharist, I think it is inexhaustible, the Eucharist. For young people and for every Christian, I think an appreciation of the Eucharist is essential for the spiritual life, especially for priests of course because the Eucharist is the main ministry of priests."
To read/listen to more by Father Raniero Cantalamessa OFM Cap, visit his website.
(5 minutes of Top Chat with Frankie, recorded in November 2008)
about his trip in Australia around World Youth Day 2008 Sydney and how God is working miracles today.
"For me, the first thing is to understand that God is in the suffering with us, in our pain. I think a lot of people close their heart to God if they've suffered a lot, maybe they've lost a loved one, maybe they were abused as a child, maybe there was some other tragedy, and they really believe where was this loving God in my pain, in my hurt. This was one of the questions I had, but then I realised that he was me, he was being crucified because I was being crucified, he was mourning because I was mourning.. No matter whatever we've suffered, Christ has always suffered it with us. So I think that's the first thing to understand that you've got a friend who has suffered with you. The second thing is that sometimes sin can build up a wall between us and the unconditional love of God; and we need to knock down that wall, we need to go to confession and we need to be completely honest and get rid of our sins and really have them redeemed, and in that way we can let that light, that love, that grace come pouring back into our hearts and we can be free again."
You might like to read John's most recent book 'Journey to Freedom' (2011) or his autobiography 'From Gangland to Promised Land'. John is a member of St Patrick's Community, based in Ireland - for more info, visit his website.
(7 minutes of Top Chat with Frankie, recorded in September 2008)
about World Youth Day 2008 Sydney, his music and the influence of music.
"It just comes, it comes from life and then the more open you are open to life, then the more open you are to inspiration. And Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly, and it's really the abundance of life that winds up being the inspiration. As is sadly known, life has many different sides to it, sides that are joyful, sides that are really sorrowful, sides that are tragic. Being a member of a community that lives and works with the poor in very difficult areas provides me with the different dimensions of life that I wind up singing about, writing about, rapping about and being about, and that's a beautiful thing. And when you see people who suffer exercise a capacity to move on and continue, to demonstrate and give some sort of evidence and testimony of a something, of a faith, of a mystery, of a reality, that moves them on and keeps them going, that is just the real deal."
(8 minutes of Top Chat with Frankie, recorded in August 2008)