It is in giving that we receive - Opening and Blessing of the St Francis Flexible Learning Centre 2017

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This Flexible Learning Centre has been placed under the patronage of St Francis of Assisi. I remember that when we were discussing a name for the centre, the name of St Francis emerged. It is an appropriate name, not only in terms of the extraordinary character that St Francis was, but also because it is an appropriate name during the pontificate of Pope Francis whom I think would be very supportive of this venture. I was thinking that if the Pope ever visited this island, I would have to bring him here. He would be very much at home and approve of the work being done here.

St Francis, of course, has a special (one could say, unique) spirituality which is captured in the well-known hymn, the Peace Prayer of St Francis.

The hymn prays that we might be instruments of peace. Where there is hatred we will sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; and, where there is darkness, light.

This is clearly the spirit that animates this centre. It receives young people who have been wounded in one way or another. The centre seeks to offer pathways to hope and a new purpose for their lives.

This centre is animated by the Christian spirit and is inspired by the example and teaching of Christ. It is the spirit of the Beatitudes that calls on us all to identify with the poor and the suffering. The Beatitudes announce the conundrum that there is in fact a blessing to be found in the midst of the experience of suffering and marginalisation. The Beatitudes challenge us to move outside our usual ways of thinking – blessed are the rich, the successful, the happy, the comfortable.

The Lord says that in the midst of the experience of poverty, of sadness, of the experience of injustice – joy can be found. God can be found.

The Peace Prayer of St Francis speaks of the dispositions of heart that should characterise the true follower of Christ. These words are words for those who serve the young people here, the staff:

O divine master grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it's in dying that we are born to eternal life.

This is the heart of being a Christian. The Christian seeks to love rather than receive love, to give rather than receive. The Christian is ready to pardon and forgive. I am sure that this is a daily occurrence here. It is the grace of this centre.

The Christian mystery is about the final line of this well-known hymn and its profound paradox: it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. This is the witness of Christ. And it is the Christian way. We embrace a dying that we might come to life.

The work of this Flexible Learning Centre finds its inspiration in the teaching of Christ. The staff find their dedication in this challenging work by looking to Christ. The work here finds fruitfulness not by mere human effort alone, but by the hidden and wonderful working of grace.

Today we pray for the blessing of God upon this enterprise. We pray for God’s blessing on the present and future staff. Most of all we pray for God’s blessing on the students. Amidst human brokenness – which we all have – saving grace may be manifest.

May the Peace Prayer of St Francis animate the work of this Flexible Learning Centre.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Tuesday, 24 October 2017