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Give thanks for Nigeria’s young Christians
SIR – Festus Iyorah (Feature, February 2) suggests that young educated Nigerian Catholics are leaving the Church, preferring the apparently more Jesus-centred, Spirit-filled, Bible-based ecstasies of Pentecostalism. Interestingly, those he interviewed nearly all bear Igbo names. A hundred years ago “Igboland” was an area of rapid Catholic growth; young Catholic Igbos today often have several generations of Catholic affiliation behind them.
Personally, I find that there is still much to be thankful for if many young Nigerians, like their Latin American counterparts (Cover story, January 26), are tempted to follow this path. Unlike so many in the West they are often strongly religious, and do not embrace atheism. Nor do they turn to Islam. They do not condemn the Catholic Church for its handling of cases of child abuse, or for its teaching on issues of sexuality (with which they often agree). Rather, as the article suggests, a common problem is Catholic teaching concerning Mary. Their fellow Catholics, clerical and lay, have a duty to discuss such matters with them, and they need to be well informed themselves.
In my house here in Jos, “morning devotions” sometimes brings together for Bible-reading and prayer three Catholics, four mainstream Protestants and one Pentecostal. The latter, an ex-Catholic, said he found Catholic worship too “ritualistic”. He does not pray in tongues. We Catholics do not say the Hail Mary, but we make the Sign of the Cross.
We all joyfully affirm that Jesus is Lord; and thus we begin a new day in the way that every human being ought to begin it.
University of Jos, Nigeria
The Devil hates unlocked churches
SIR – I read with interest Bishop Egan’s article (Comment, January 26) in which he expressed his dismay and disappointment as to his experiences in visiting Catholic Churches outside his diocese. He reported his sadness at finding so many locked churches outside of times of services.
I share his sadness as that has been my experience too. When enquiries are made the excuse given is always along the lines of “the candle money gets stolen” or “the church might get vandalised”. I have yet to hear a plausible reason as to why so may of our churches are locked most of the time.
I agree with the bishop that it is tantamount to hypocrisy for the Church to proclaim that part of its mission is evangelisation when churches are shut most of the time. If we truly are an evangelising Church then we must throw open our doors.
I was fortunate to grow up in a Franciscan parish in Bristol where the church was open from dawn to dusk, and though the Franciscans have been gone 50 years, successive parish priests have kept the church open.
Now living in Cardiff, I attend a church next to a pub and this church is open all day long. The parish priest occasionally has to ask someone, sleeping off an excess of drink, to leave, but would never lock the Church all day.
Why is it that the theft of candle money or candlesticks is considered to be more important than the salvation of souls? As a priest once famously said: “When we lock our churches the Devil’s work is done for him.”
SIR – Bishop Egan raises a very important issue for the spiritual lives of the laity. Our churches must be open so that we can spend time with the Lord.
However, there is another important issue. Our churches must also be quiet when they are open. Too often, when one needs 15 minutes of silence in the course of a busy life, the church is open but, for example, someone is playing or tuning the organ. This is a particular and regular problem in London. This is not fair for the reasons given by Bishop Egan. Unless the spiritual life of the laity is to be asphyxiated our churches must be both open and silent.
SIR – Dr Martin Smith’s letter “Baby business” (January 19) addressed a problem I know from experience that mothers have faced. In the 65 years since I founded the Cana Movement in Malta and Italy, I have met cases where not every member of a family could continue to attend church, thus missing Confession. Since then there has been a degree of progress as some parishes now have a “crying corner” for babies and toddlers.
Nevertheless I had a great experiences in Tanzania, where the wife of Julius Nyerere, then president and now the subject of a Cause for beatification, came on Sundays to receive Communion breastfeeding her baby. I started to place the Host on the forehead of the baby and then gave it to this wonderful mother of, I think, five children. Of course, with her and the baby came the father with a couple of toddlers hanging on with him.
Likewise for Confession, which I often heard accompanied by the cries of a baby. As with the priest mentioned by Dr Smith, I was “more than happy”, though often in these cases I asked the lady if she preferred not to confess in the box, in order to put the baby at ease.
Mgr Charles G Vella
Protest thee not
SIR – Your correspondent Alan Pavelin (Letter, February 2) seems to disapprove of using words such as “art”, “thy” and “thee” in various Church prayers, especially the Paternoster, which is used by all denominations and even those who rarely visit religious buildings and services. Those of us who are members of the British, North American or Australian personal ordinariates are privileged to use the Divine Worship liturgy authorised by Rome, which draws on a wealth of ex-Anglican liturgical history going back to the 16th century, as well as the Book of Common Prayer, revised in 1662 following the Restoration.
Not only does Divine Worship use the words Mr Pavelin apparently objects to, but we also enjoy the beauty and poetry of this unrivalled version of the English language, glorifying Almighty God in the reverent manner He deserves. How much better than employing what I habitually call the “language of the supermarket”, which has characterised in recent decades British church liturgy sung or said in the vernacular.
The allusion to a modern supermarket seems appropriate, as 21st-century shoppers visit their local supermarket dressed entirely casually – very similar to the torn jeans or seaside shorts now seen in church.
Supermarket shoppers must feel at home playing with their noisy smartphones or dragging their yelling children around the store – as a certain proportion of worshippers in our churches seem to feel is their right, too.
Indeed, visiting a modern, soulless supermarket is a fitting way to worship Mammon, the god of commercialism. Fortunately, our churches are about something different, and our worship directed to Almighty God and not ourselves.