Last weekend fifteen young people gathered at the offices of Slí Eile on Gardiner St., flung a sleeping bag in the corner, grabbed a bite to eat, and headed out on a night-time soup run with a number of ‘guides’ well used to this work. Thus went the beginning of a weekend exposure to MAGiS, a programme developed by the Ignatian family for young adults, and first experienced by Slí Eile as the lead-in event to World Youth Day in Germany 2005. They experienced the impact of the MAGiS programme once again in Sydney, Australia, in 2008. It was, they say, “time for us to take up the challenge, and do something with it for an Irish audience, in Ireland”.
The more of MAGiS: a weekend immersion experience of homelessness
The MAGiS has a spiritual magic, a dynamic all of its own. It is built around the 5 pillars of morning prayer, practical-physical activity, Mass, group reflection and the daily Examen. The experience cannot be boxed. It is different for everyone. It stretches and challenges a person to consider relationship with self, with society and with God. It wraps itself around the person, not like a boa constrictor but like a whirling mist: strangely inviting, comforting, at times scary, disorienting, challenging and amorphous.
The weekend continued on Saturday morning after a fitful night’s sleep (on the floor but indoors) with an imagination exercise/meditation on homelessness. This put people somewhat ‘in the zone’ for a lengthy exercise of walking the streets of Dublin – alone with very little money, a rucksack, no phone and wearing the same set of clothes for the entire weekend (underwear excepted!). Some found this second part particularly challenging – the boredom, the aimlessness. In the afternoon, we paired up, walked different routes in the city, and engaged respectfully with people who were homeless. We distributed information on homeless services to them, and simply took time to acknowledge them as human beings with dignity and presence.
Some of the young people found the prospect of actually talking to someone who is homeless very daunting. All were enriched and surprised by their actual experiences. That evening’s MAGiS reflection circle was very rich with sharing. Next morning we broke into groups and visited 4 hostels catering to the homeless around the city. We also spent some time in Mountjoy prison, speaking to one of the Chaplains and caretakers there and seeing a close relationship also between prison and homelessness.
Peter McVerry SJ and John Guiney SJ celebrated our two Masses over the weekend. Their sensitive and engaging styles made a deep impression on many. Some, have emerged from the weekend experience having somehow experienced the Mass in a new and perhaps more intimate way. Everyone got introduced to the Examen and the use of imagination and Scripture in prayer. Some will take that away with them, others will leave it behind. Tantum Quantum.
A few were particularly challenged by the accumulation of ‘God talk’ over the weekend. Others were encouraged to be more confident in their searching, and understanding, and assertions – drawing confidence and curiosity in ‘what might be’, from the convictions and passions of others in the group.
A strong sense of community emerged over the weekend. Some of the expressed learnings and feelings were of anger, compassion, relevation, gratitude and desire to know, do or simply be more.
In my experience, many of the learnings from MAGiS are trickling, and linger long after exposure to the actual programme. Fr. John invited each person in the group to take time, during this subsequent working week, to notice the things from the weekend that lingered. What might they mean, how am I or might I be nudged to further growth of awareness of self, my relationship with society and with God through them? The journey continues…