I am currently taking part in the International Priests' Retreat in Ars, France. This is the place where St John Vianney, was parish priest, the Curé d'Ars. I am here with Fr Jeremy Howard, also from the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
There are about 1200 priests on retreat here from all parts of the world though mostly from France ( and very few from the UK).
Two first impressions.
1. The clergy here are so young - especially - those from Africa and Southern Anerica. As we waited in the airport to be transferred to Ars, Fr Jeremy and I were clearly the most senior of those who had flown in. The age range among the participants today is a little more comfortable with us, but it is still very obvious, to paraphrase Popd Benedict XVI, that the Catholic Church is very young, especially in the developing world.
2. Language and Liturgy. There are very few English speakers here, and the principal language for the talks is, not surprisingly, French. However the Liturgy - Mass, Lauds and Vespers - is celebrated is several languages. Mass today moved from Latin to Italian almost unnoticeably. We have used traditional plainsong, alongside some Taizé and similar chants and other modern liturgical music. It is interesting how natural this has all seemed, and how comfortably this all fits together. It is a triumph, I think, of what some now call 'the ordinary form' and proof if such were needed, of its complete pre-eminence.