Letters & Emails

Comments of the week

Should this prayer remain in silence?

SIR – The subject of silence during Mass has been raised by several recent articles, most recently by Fr Raymond de Souza (July 21). But some prayers which are now silent could, I think, be said aloud. For instance: By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity. ​This prayer wonderfully reflects the greatest privilege that God has given us: to share in His Divinity. Someone has exuberantly commented that this is as near to blasphemy that we might get in our prayers. The words in the prayer are what the faithful should rejoice in and acknowledge in “loudest song”.

However, the rubrics distinguish between prayer and commentary. The words are therefore treated as prayer and hence requires to be said in silence. The semantics of the rubrics should not ignore the rich theological and doctrinal significance of this prayer. I see this prayer as our destiny expressed in a nutshell.

The oftener the faithful hear this prayer the more we would acknowledge and appreciate this most generous gift of God.

Dr Anton Joseph
Wallington, Surrey

The trauma of war

SIR – One aspect of Dunkirk which Ed West did not mention (Arts Essay, August 4) was how the film reminds us of the terrible psychological impact the Second World War had on soldiers. As Mark Rylance’s Mr Dawson says about a shell-shocked soldier, “He’s not himself. He may never be himself again”. But this is not something that can be consigned to history alone. The violence and upheaval of war haunt the minds of millions of people around the world right now.

Decades on, the right medical and psycho-social attention for these people should now be a given. Yet so many remain out of the reach of support. War is horrific for those on the front line, but violence against civilians is often even more brutal, with sexual violence still being used as a weapon of war.

In DR Congo, our local Church partner runs “Listening Rooms” for women who have suffered the trauma of sexual violence. In villages where other humanitarian organisations have left because of the economic crisis, the Church is the only one left. As a result, they are busier than ever, and run additional sessions to cope with demand.

Supporting women, men and children through trauma is a massive part of CAFOD’s work overseas. It’s also why working with local organisations is so important; it is these groups who are there before, and long after, conflict or disaster.

As we remember Dunkirk’s victims, we must also support civilians in the 21st century who are living through this nightmare.

Laura Ouseley, World News Officer, Cafod

A great archbishop

SIR – Thank you for Rachel Kelly’s wonderful interview with Catherine Wiley (“Catholic grandparents come of age”, July 28). But may I make a small correction? The article refers to Catherine’s ancestor John MacHale as having been an archbishop “in the 17th century”. Not so: Archbishop MacHale, who lived from 1791 to 1881, was a 19th century bishop for over 50 years, as his excellent biography Lion of the West by another descendant, Hilary Andrews, will testify. My own O’Malley relatives still speak of Archbishop MacHale and his influence on their Mayo family to this day.

Alan Whelan
Killarney, Co Kerry

Enemies within

SIR – Julius Caesar paused before he crossed the Rubicon, a step that would eventually change the world. He knew there would be a high price to pay for his action; that he would have to conquer or die. He had the advantage of a few thousand loyal soldiers at his back of course and ultimately rid Rome of his rivals.

At one time or another on our journey through life we will all have such a step to make, especially as Christians in a hostile world where we will often have to stand outnumbered or entirely alone for what we believe in or hold dear (Letters, August 4).

Sad to say it may not only be in the clearly defined and obvious conflicts with an increasingly godless society, but also within our own Christian organisations. Those who still believe that whilst we can work our side of the street while the devil works his are underestimating his malice and influence. Slithering under the doors of committees, councils and board meetings, he often has a helper in the room.

Their role is simple and subtle; they play a long game to gradually erode and dismantle and thus render impotent whatever generations of the faithful before them had put in place. This is done through de-Christianisation of policy, centralised control, modernity and impenetrable bureaucratic structures.

A recent example I saw close-up showed this precise pattern and, sadly, not for the first time in the organisation’s history, a marvellous piece of work is being corrupted due to a lack of vigilance. A division of the organisation, which exists to serve the poor in Christian charity,has been “transformed” over time, systematically and methodically, into a business which will pad a few retirement plans.

It is not easy to stand against tyranny, nor great odds, to challenge what you can’t quite put your finger on due to its “cloak and dagger” cleverness and deceit, but we must defend our own Christian organisations from any enemies within, with prayer, courage and collective determination.

Name and address witheld

Duffy and liturgy

SIR – It seems incredible that a great scholar, the historian Eamon Duffy (quoted by Kevin Heneghan in his letter of August 4), could be guilty of such logic as “the diversity of Catholic Eucharistic practice and therefore belief”. Possibly Professor Duffy’s argument rested on lex orandi, lex credendi (“the law [or “condition”] of praying [is] the law [or “condition”] of believing”, Prosper of Aquitaine’s criterion in the Pelagian controversy.

But this can hardly apply to Vatican II’s liturgical reform. That was designed to clarify: to free practice from extraneous elements that now obscured, imbalanced or de-emphasised unchanging doctrine. There was no essential change, so Prosper’s criterion was not relevant.

St Cyril of Jerusalem’s 4th century instruction to converts on the Eucharist described – barring pious practices like touching the eyes with the Host and the forehead with the Precious Blood – exactly today’s usage.

Was Professor Duffy contending that over the feudal centuries, as the people were distanced from the mystery and could only receive once a year and that on the tongue, the Mystery itself somehow changed?

Tom McIntyre
Frome, Somerset