Come to Oxford for new play on JPII on 27th- 29th April

Leonie Caldecott has written a new play about John Paul II and her daughter Tessa is directing. Why don’t you come with us to begin our celebration of the Beatification of JP II? Piotr, Dan, Karolina and I are already booked to go on 27th April. The play starts at 8pm at the Oxford Uni RC Chaplaincy.

Just ring the Oxford Playhouse on 01865 305305 and you can pay for your tickets over the phone. £10 or £5 concession.

Note that the play is taking place in THE OXFORD UNIVERSITY CHAPLAINCY not the playhouse. The playhouse is merely handling the bookings.

Here’s where the Chaplaincy is – Rose Place off St Aldates – look out for Cafe Loco!

We’ll probably go by Oxford Tube – coaches leave every 10 minutes from various locations from Victoria to Notting Hill.

We may also get the chance to meet some of the Caldecott family who are all inspiring. Leonie and Stratford edit Magnificat at present but Stratford also writes and edits the beautiful print and online Journal Second Spring, which is full of revelatory content. You can even buy back copies, if you’ve missed it thus far and I would greatly recommend doing so.

Leonie has an amazing gift for making theology accessible as a lived experience, which is the talent of the true theatrical writer.

When I first heard, (around a plate of excellent home-baked brownies) about Leonie’s plans for her play on St Therese of Lisieux, I was impressed, but slightly stunned. She intended to combine Dr Who, Dante and the Little Flower, Doctor of Souls, some time-travelling in the woods and a couple of young people, neither of whom had any idea that this Doctor was in fact St Therese or indeed who Therese was at all.

But when Tom and I travelled to Oxford to find out how the local parish had managed to pull off this marvel, we were not disappointed. It was moving, tender and sincere… the scenes of Therese’s realisation of her vocation within a vocation and the struggles of her darkest sufferings on behalf of those who most despised her, were realised in such a way that they survive in your memory as a personal experience. I expect no less of the new play THE QUALITY OF MERCY:

This, in Leonie’s words, is its premise –

“Where, in the slow reprise of a life well-lived might the dying actor-Pope go, in his mind?

His last words thanking young people for coming to pray for him in St Peters Square during that week made me feel that he was thinking of them in particular. As the sands of his earthly time touched eternity, might this most pastoral of men not dream of walking, one last time, with a group of young people in the mountains, amidst the beauty of God’s creation, helping them to find the beauty of truth in their own lives?

What then would he have said to them, how would he have ‘accompanied’ them in their own journey of faith? And most importantly of all, how would he have helped them to understand the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ, as it touched their lives and his own, culminating in that death on the vigil of the feast of Divine Mercy, which he himself had instituted for the whole Church a few years earlier? How would he make them feel the quality of mercy, and its transformative effect, in their own lives?

THE QUALITY OF MERCY is our attempt to use the very medium which Pope John Paul II appreciated so well, in order to express his vision of faith and his profound understanding of human experience. It touches on all the principal themes of his teaching, from the Theology of the Body to the mystery of vocation, but not in a didactic way.

It uses music, vocal recordings, choral speaking, scriptural imagery and realistic drama to encompass that which he had closest to his heart: the truth that only Love ‘makes life alive’. And only in faith does love find its true expression. Furthermore, as he said in his Letter to Artists (1999), “unless faith becomes culture, it has not been really welcomed, fully lived, humanly rethought.” And for John Paul II, theatre is the great cultural medium for this task.” Leonie Caldecott

She loves also to quote these wonderful lines on Theatre from catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasaar;

“Through the theatre, man acquires the habit of looking for meaning at a higher and less obvious level. In theatre man attempts a kind of transcendence, endeavoring both to observe and to judge his own truth, in virtue of a transformation… by which he tries to gain clarity about himself.”

and let’s not forget those words from John Paul II’s Letter to Artists that have so often inspired the Bards of the Bard School;

“In situations where culture and the Church are far apart, art remains a kind of bridge to religious experience… Art is by its nature a kind of appeal to the mystery.

Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil, artists give voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption…

The Church is especially keen that in our own time there be a new alliance with artists. I appeal to you, artists of the written and spoken word, of the theatre and music. I appeal especially to you, Christian artists: I wish to remind each of you that you are invited to use your creative intuition to enter into the heart of the mystery of the Incarnate God and at the same time into the mystery of man.”

See you there! And let’s tell our friends in Oxford all about OUR plans to celebrate John Paul II’s life; our new Anthology of Poetry from Bards and friends of the Bard School, Heartspeak – A Contemplative Chorus. More of that on the blog later.