Churches are full of static Catholics
SIR – Concerning the reported falling attendances in Church, I wonder if this may be a problem to do with training. Training may happen initially, but after that – nothing. We sit in pews and hear Mass, but there is no programme of onward progression. Speakers may give very interesting talks from time to time, but they are passive to the receiver, as are homilies.
Once you have gone through the initial instruction – or perhaps passed through childhood – then that is it, and you are on your own to get on with it. Further in-service training does not exist as such in Catholicism.
Indeed, some might be offended if it was otherwise. We have Confession – but that is not a programme of open advancement and it is all hidden away in secret anyway.
Looking back, any progress I may have made was done at a time when I was deliberately taught and actively monitored in an adult class of ongoing spiritual development. Progress was known by all in the group. It was expected and actively monitored and corrected all the time.
But now there are whole churches full of static Catholics in the pews. Nothing against pews – I like them. But it could be different with ongoing training. True spiritual training from a sound base was invaluable and I miss it totally in Catholicism.
The great surrender on sex education
SIR – As someone who has spent 35 years in Catholic education, including 21 years as a head teacher, I read Yusuf Patel’s letter (October 11) with keen interest.
Admirably, he is working within his Muslim community to challenge the Government over its imposition of immoral sex education guidelines that contradict Islamic family values and deny Muslim parents their fundamental rights to nurture their children as they see fit.
In this courageous stance, Yusuf has requested the support of the Catholic bishops and the Catholic Education Service (CES). In other words, to “put their heads above the parapet” and stand up to the Government alongside the Muslim community for the sake of all children.
Yusuf’s request is very well intentioned but unfortunately it doesn’t take into account where the Catholic bishops and, indeed, the laity are “at”.
The Catholic bishops, authorities and laity of the past fought hard to have their own churches, schools, curriculum, services, holy days of obligation and so on, but not any more.
Since the rejection of Humanae Vitae in 1968, when tens of thousands tiptoed away from the faith to embrace the contraceptive lifestyle, a deep malaise has descended on the Church. Zeal for the faith has largely disappeared. Lapsation levels in schools are catastrophic at 90-plus per cent. The pro-life cause should be so powerful because of the advantage of having a school system to proclaim it, but the reality is one of almost total apathy from bishops, the CES and laity alike. An apathy shared by many priests, governors, head teachers and teachers.
So, Yusuf Patel, this is where our bishops and people are at. Thank you for your invitation to support, but it won’t happen. We don’t do “heads and parapets” any more.
Solihull, West Midlands
SIR – Like Alan Ashfield (Letter December 13), I reject the theory that St Joseph felt that Mary’s pregnancy suggested some sort of infidelity on her part to their betrothal. I believe in the holiness of the ordinary, but not of the trivial.
May I suggest the following turn of events: straight after the Annunciation, Mary went to visit her cousins, Elizabeth and Zachary, to help with the former’s pregnancy. St Joseph accompanied her as far as Ain Karim, when he continued on to visit his Judean relatives (maybe around Bethlehem).
He would pick Mary up after John the Baptist’s birth, to return to Nazareth.
He would certainly notice her pregnancy, but his authentic confusion would not last long, since Elizabeth and Zachary would explain how Mary was truly to be the Mother of their Lord.
Scripture does not mention Joseph’s death, since in his heroic example of faithfulness to the will of God – similar to Mary’s – he lives on as Patron of the Universal Church.
Never look back
SIR – I remember reading a Herald book review last summer about a group of cyclists who rode through the battlefield of World War I. At the time, I had a feeling that our memories might get in the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.
I have just discovered a passage in Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, edited by Brian Kolodiejchuk MC, which may solve that problem. Apparently the parting words of her mother to Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu were: “Never look back. Put your hand in Jesus’s hand. If you look back, you will go back.”
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
The Skype Council
SIR – Jonathan Wright (Books, December 20) suggests that the next Ecumenical Council could take place in “a cavernous conference centre in Buenos Aires or Nairobi”. Yet St Peter’s Basilica remains the world’s largest church, so it remains the obvious location for a future gathering of the world’s bishops.
The second largest church is the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, one of the world’s most popular pilgrimage destinations, which would also be a most worthy site.
But we must also consider whether, given the advances in technology since Vatican II, it will ever again be necessary for the bishops to be present physically in the same space again. Could a future council be held via Skype or a similar platform? It would save enormously on plane fares, as well as CO2 emissions – which appear to be a keen preoccupation at the Vatican these days.
Chesterton’s off days
SIR – Joseph Pearce (Arts, December 30) notes that “Chesterton wrote a great deal about Christmas, some of which is of questionable quality, including several mostly mediocre poems.” I suspect that GKC would have been the first to agree that not everything he wrote was a work of genius.
He did, after all, have to write to deadline, whether the muse was with him or not.
Chesterton famously argued that readers can benefit from studying shoddy works.
“A good novel tells us the truth about its hero,” he wrote, “but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.” So I will continue to treasure even such unsatisfactory works as “The Nativity”, “A Christmas Carol” and “The Wise Men”.