The School for Prophets (SfP) is the name of the Youth Group in Newtown Catholic Church. It is open to confirmed Catholics although at the moment we are taking a break from our usual activities.
The name is inspired by the work of Fr Douglas ‘Bert’ White – who started a group called School for Prophets in Walderslade, Kent. His group was not a Youth Group but the adults who participated looked at the discussed the Gospel in creative and holistic ways. Bert tried to show the richness of Catholic spirituality and Gospel living.
Bert did not invent the term, however. He got the idea from the work of Fr Richard Rohr – an American Franciscan – world famous for his preaching and teaching and as a retreat master. Fr Rohr established the Centre for Action and Contemplation in New Mexico and works from there.
I thought the term ‘School for Prophets’ was a useful description for the development of young people in our parish. The group is not intended as just a social juncion, giving youngsters some activities and somewhere to go to ‘keep off the streets’.
To make it distinctive from the many other groups that aim to occupy and entertain, we try to offer members a way of developing within their church. We do this by firstly being church in our small group. Then by learning about our faith and its applications in the wider world. This may stimulate us to consider ways we can be involved in living/speaking the Word of God to others through our daily lives. This is essentially the work of a prophet in the Biblical understanding of the word.
Of course, we try to do this in a lively, varied and enjoyable way to allow the humour, creativity and inspiration of youth to flourish!
We should not confuse the Jewish/Christian idea of prophecy with the idea that it is all about foretelling the future, like Nostradamus. The Jerusalem Bible says, ‘The prophet is the bearer and interpreter of the Word of God.’
The message of the prophets comes from God. They are called and compelled by God to proclaim his demands and will to the people, not only by words by also by the actions they perform and the lives they lead.
St Francis of Assisi understood the way of lving as a prophet when he taught: ‘Preach the Gospel at all times: where necessary, use words.’
In Baptism, we have all been made prophets (to be more precise, ‘Priest, Prophet and King’!) so we are called to live lives that challenge the prevailing culture when it fails to acknowledge God.
We must present God and the Gospel faithfully and in a way that inspires others to seek the truth and see the beauty and happiness that his kingdom brings. We, like the Biblical prophets, must do this in our day-to-day lives: living and interacting with others in such a way that makes others stop and wonder at the source of our joy, peace, simplicity and confidence.