SIR – The question by Matthew Schmitz’s friend, Tom Holland – “What is the Church offering that can’t be done by the welfare state?” – is intriguing because it points to an unresolved paradox of history (Feature, July 1). That is to say that before the brutal dissolution of the monasteries, the Church was the welfare state, where destitution was rare even if poverty was ubiquitous.
For as Desmond Seward points out in The Last White Rose, after the dissolution a desolate landscape appeared, a country that “swarmed with beggars once fed by such houses, now joined by starving monks and nuns”. So Holland’s point that Catholic charity, like the hymn-singing soup kitchen of Soho parish, reflects in a contemporary way what was no doubt commonplace in pre-Reformation days: the synergy of both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy nourished by communal prayer.
I think you’d be hard pressed to find any explicit liturgical/spiritual activity accompanying outreach to the vulnerable and poor in charitable activity with a Catholic “brand”, despite the evidence of the 2014 report Lost and Found by Lemos & Crane. This blew away the cobwebs on a taboo issue – that of manifesting faith in charitable agencies serving the vulnerable – by pointing to the fact that service users often see faith as a huge component of their recovery and rehabilitation. The point being that we should not expect the modern welfare state to provide for the totality of the needs of the poor which includes their spiritual requirements.
The British are admired for the vast amount of volunteer charity work they give which, I believe, has more to do with what Tom Paulin, in reviewing Clare Asquith’s book on Shakespeare, calls “the concealed heart of the English identity” than with humanitarian spirit.
If only all our Catholic and other Christian charitable acts could be openly accompanied with unashamed prayer and praise alongside our needy brethren, then, as Schmitz puts it so aptly, “Perfidious Albion may (indeed) be faithful England after all.”
Yours faithfully, Edmund P Adamus Redhill, Surrey
Help for Francis/span>
SIR – Your leading article (June 24), “Pray for Francis”, paraphrases the words of John F Kennedy: “Don’t ask what the Pope can do for you, ask what you can do for the Pope.”
In addition to praying for the Pope, membership of the Friends of the Holy Father, a national charity, offers the individual a simple practical way to achieve this.
Over the years we have been able to offer him practical support for many initiatives outside the Vatican budget, such as paying Pope St John Paul’s hospital bill after the attempt on his life in 1982; providing the kitchen equipment for the hostel for the homeless he set up in the Vatican; sending funds to Vatican Radio to replace the worn-out 150kW radio transmitter that broadcasts to Europe; and backing a conference convened by Pope Francis for 70 mayors from major cities around the world invited to the Vatican to discuss how they could address climate change, people trafficking and modern slavery.
We can be contacted by email at [email protected] and via our website, thefriendsoftheholyfather.org.
Yours faithfully, Dr Michael Straiton By email
Name your sin clearly
SIR – Tim Stanley’s excellent piece about the challenges of Confession (Comment, July 1), provides an opportunity to draw attention to a marvellous short booklet. Written by the late Fr John Edwards SJ, Ways of Forgiveness – thankfully still in print – is as good as it gets.
One of its many useful tips is to name the sin clearly. This is very helpful, living as we do in a world where people no longer resign or are fired, but merely “step aside”, and where the word “abuse” is used for everything from the rape of toddlers to exchanges of unkind words between adults. Highly recommended.
Yours faithfully, Sebastian Cody By email
SIR – As a volunteer with a Lourdes pilgrimage, I read Fr Niall Sheehan’s letter (June 10) with warm interest. It was wonderful to read the unique insight and perspective of a sick pilgrim, who is also a priest, on pilgrimage to Our Lady’s Shrine in Lourdes.
It was heart-warming to read Fr Niall’s appreciation of the support he received from all the volunteers at Lourdes he met, both medical and ancillary.
The Society of Our Lady of Lourdes, with whom I volunteer, has been organising pilgrimages of the sick to Lourdes from the UK for more than 100 years.
Without the hard work throughout the whole year of our medical, helper and liturgy committees, supported by the dedicated office staff (led by the tireless Ray Harrison), our pilgrimage simply could not take place.
My thanks go to Fr Niall for acknowledging and highlighting the role of all Lourdes volunteers and I send my best wishes and prayers for his continued recovery.
Yours faithfully, John Mitchell By email
Our nation’s guide
SIR – Our PM having actually declared it “immoral” to vote the “wrong” way in the referendum he himself gave us, voting for Brexit became a “sin that dare not speak its name” (rather as had “remain” in the Scottish referendum and similarly affecting the polling).
It was therefore heartening for one also ignoring the stated preference of our Christian leaders, to read the sensible analysis and comment by Pastor Iuventus (July 1), with its conclusion: “A democracy that holds a plebiscite and then rejects the outcome on the basis that the ‘wrong’ side won is nothing but a tyranny” (sc. of a “bien-pensant”, self-proclaimed liberal intelligentsia which shows itself neither liberal nor notably intelligent).
As members of the Walsingham Association, my husband and I have lately added to the daily prayer we are signed up to, the entrusting to Our Lady of Walsingham to guide our nation(s) aright in this decision and all that follows from it.
Our Lady knows, better than any of us or our politicians, how things can best result in Britain, Europe or the wider world – all of them in crying need for the faith in her Son that once sustained ‘Western’ societies.
We would call on our fellow Catholics and to do likewise.
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