June 26, 2023
Written by George O’Neill, CEO of the Centre:
On the evening of Tuesday 20th June, I was honoured to share in the Anniversary Mass of Cardinal Hume. With thanks to Abbott Robert for making the journey down and leading us so thoughtfully, our readers, servers, and the young musicians from the London Oratory Chamber Choir.
We celebrated the life and legacy of the Centre’s founder Basil Hume, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts from the evening, and this Centenary year, and excerpts from Abbott Robert’s homily.
One thing that comes to my mind most regularly when thinking about Cardinal Hume’s life is what it teaches me about the importance of listening and the difference that can make.
Now, I wasn’t lucky enough to ever meet the Cardinal, but I have been lucky enough to hear many stories. And one of the consistent themes is Basil Hume’s ability to listen. And through that his ability to remind people of their value. Their value to him, their value to God and indeed themselves.
Only the other day, one new friend of the Centre told me that when he attended one of the many events the Cardinal held for young people at Archbishop’s House. He was struck how the Cardinal focused and listened to him in conversation despite I’m sure the many other demands for attention. It was almost a chance encounter but he remembered how it made him feel all those years later.
I am sure we have all heard people say well at least I was finally listened to – or something similar. Cardinal Hume would give time to the person he was talking to. And through the act of listening, he was attempting to remind people that they matter.
And perhaps Cardinal Hume’s ability to listen is not surprising. He was after all a Benedictine. And while I am not an expert on the Rule of St Benedict I know the very first words it begins with: Listen Carefully.
And the sad thing is this. Listening is one of the first things that is taken away from you, if your life is lived on the margins.
To take some recent and real examples our clients have told us in the Centre: Who is listened to the family, with a disabled father, whose children left school literally without a home to go to that evening? Where was the listening that could have prevented the indignity of making calls from a local station in a desperate attempt to at least get a hotel room for the night?
Who listens to the significant number of our clients, who are living in over-crowded or damp homes, trying to bring up young families, and prioritise their studies? Who is listening to the young person, who’s behaviour might not fit with our own expectations after a life of trauma, fear and perhaps weeks of living on the street or months travelling from a country in conflict.
It is too easy to be left on hold, to be confronted by a stretched and underfunded system, to be seen as a burden or problem that is near impossible to fix and therefore needs to be punished or contained. So yes, listening and understanding is a powerful commodity.
It is not easy. Someone described it to me as requiring your whole body. You have to be willing to share in someone’s pain, trauma and fear for the future. We don’t provide our staff with sticking plasters to fix simple problems. Because there aren’t the plasters and increasingly the problems are not easy to fix.
But through listening we can build trust. We can build new perspectives. We can build confidence and most importantly we can find hope.
If you are curious to learn more about the Centre, I invite you to contact our wonderful Supporter Care team, or please register to join me at our upcoming events:
Monday 11th September, 3 - 4.30pm, Tea and Talk at the Centre. This is an opportunity to hear from frontline staff and clients.
Monday 25th September, 3 - 4.30pm, Tea and Talk at the Centre.
Tues 29th November, 6:30pm Sacred Heart Church, Horseferry Road, an early Carol Concert
Get in touch or keep an eye on our website to stay updated on our Christmas events.
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