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CEPHAS 2019: Searching for Meaning and Value in the Contemporary World

In the face of this immense enterprise now involving the whole human race, people face many worrying questions. What is the meaning and value of this feverish activity? How ought all of these things be used? To what goal is all this individual and collective enterprise heading? (Gaudium et Spes, 33)

At CEPHAS 2019, we reflected on how to find meaning and value in the contemporary world, how to rediscover the ‘dignity of the human person’, and how to chart our ‘individual and social role in the universe’.

Over the weekend, we explored — with a focus on Aquinas — the rich philosophical and theological wisdom underpinning the encyclical Gaudium et Spes [Joy and Hope].

Addressing, like the encyclical, ‘the world in which we live, its explanations, its longings, and its often dramatic characteristics’, we sought to understand more fully the Church’s response to the ‘perennial questions which men ask about this present life and the life to come, and about the relationship of the one to the other’ (4).

As usual, participants were able to join in the daily liturgy of the community, and there was free time for relaxation, private reading and reflection. The guest lecture was given by Sr Mary Magdalen, OP, and was entitled: ‘The Meaning of Our Lives and How to Attain It’.

Participants commented:

‘Thank you so much for the wonderful time this weekend. It was very fruitful, almost too good to be true!’

‘I liked the relaxed, unpretentious, non-intimidating environment that encouraged sharing thoughts and raising questions.’

‘A fantastic retreat with insightful and meaningful conversations and talks.’

‘I liked the opportunity to learn directly from highly accomplished lecturers and discussion leaders who were patient and conscientious’

‘It was nice to be able to see a glimpse of life in a convent and the life of the sisters. The opportunity to have met and spoken to some of them was also a highlight of the weekend.’

‘Being a complete philosophy novice and someone new to Aquinas, i was somewhat unsure that i had the necessary skills or experience to feel comfortable and competent on the course. I was very much mistaken! Dr George Corbett, Sister Valery and the Dominican Sisters created a warm, welcoming environment and, learning Aquinas in the company of like-minded and friendly guests was a wonderful and rewarding experience. I hope to be back!’