Dickens saw the riches in poverty
SIR – I could not agree more with Anthony Esolen in his plea for Catholics to celebrate the joy of our religion and to communicate that joy to the rest of the world (Arts and Books, January 3).
Taking Dickens as his model, he notes that even Dickensian villains are somehow redeemed by their creator’s good humour; although watching old BBC adaptations of his novels, he was struck by their “grimness”, warning that “if you are not in love with goodness, you should not try to put Dickens on film.” And while seeing only misery in Dickens, the BBC appears to be in love with evil, their latest offerings for young people seemingly dominated by drag queens and other dreary perversities.
The “entertainment” industry knows that Dickens and the other classic authors are still popular, hence the regular regurgitations of Dickens (the BBC’s latest offering of A Christmas Carol features f-words and other obscenities), Agatha Christie and, as Mr Esolen notes, a new film of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, but they don’t know why. But to those who do not much believe in God, vox populi, vox Dei conveys not the voice of God but of dangerous unreason. Cushioned by their materialistic comfort but also swayed by left-wing thinking, they believe the poor should be interested only in poverty, unaware that there are riches in poverty of which they know nothing. With Scrooge, they demand of their viewers “What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”
And with Scrooge’s nephew, the viewers might well retort, “What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.”
One of the greatest ironies of life that Dickens showcased to such great effect is that the poor (whether materially or in spirit) have more capacity for joy than those who have everything but don’t appreciate it. Only the really hungry appreciate food, and only the hopeless can really feel joy, because as long as they have God they have hope. Dickens knew – and in the context of institutional scandal and sin, Catholics should know – that when all reasons to be merry are removed, only joy remains; and we know there will be a happy ending.
Woodford Green, Essex
What is Catholic education for?
SIR – As one who has been teaching in Catholic schools for 17 years, I have been concerned for some time by the apparent lack of knowledge of our students in the basic tenets of the Catholic faith. I asked my class of 27 pupils (aged 17 to 18) if they had ever heard of transubstantiation. Not one had. They looked at me with blank stares and waited for the answer, which brought the reply from one: “What is the Eucharist?”
These bright, articulate and ambitious students are leaving school in six months and will enter the world with little or no awareness of Christ and his Church. One has to ask what Catholic education is for if we do not seek to hand on the teachings of the Church to our young, who will face a tsunami of secularist ideology in their post-school life.
A lack of sure teaching can only be to the detriment of the Catholic community as we see our children lapse in their droves.
SIR – I echo Jozef Bubez’s comments (Letter, December 13). As an uncle of many nieces and nephews, and coming from a family that produced three faithful Jesuits in the last generation, I find it troubling that many from the subsequent two generations have gone through “good” Catholic schools in the south of England and emerged with no apparent understanding of or interest in the Faith.
Indeed some have at best complete indifference and at worst a slight antipathy to the faith. In conversation with a 21-year-old great nephew recently, when discussing academic results, I said that my great sadness was that his Catholic education had left him with almost no real knowledge of the faith. His reply: “Uncle Paul, at school they don’t teach you the faith, they teach you all the faiths.” Ultimately the buck surely stops with the bishops.
Bring back retreats
SIR – I was interested to read PM Evans’s letter (January 3) emphasising the continual need for ongoing formation in the faith. I am old enough to remember the parish missions, retreats and days of recollection often led by the Redemptorists and the Passionists. These were once a regular feature of Catholic parish life. Where are they now?
I remember well organised and co-ordinated missions and retreats that reached out to the whole parish and resulted in enthused and more active Catholics and the return of some of the lapsed.
We can never stand still in life. Our faith has to grow and develop. We need the ongoing training and catechesis that comes with the leadership, encouragement and vision of our clergy. To achieve this, we need (among other initiatives) the return of the parish missions and retreats.
Peter D Clarke
Ryde, Isle of Wight
SIR – RM Evans rightly bemoans the numerical decline in practising Catholics and suggests some helpful remedies.
In the same edition, Anthony Esolen positively recommends a revival of Catholic pageantry, including processions.
I am not a cradle Catholic, having been born to Free Church parents. I spent the first decade of my life worshipping in their Nonconformist church. Joining the Church of England thereafter, I went “up the candle” and was a thorough-going orthodox Anglo-Catholic until I converted to the Catholic Church almost a decade ago, becoming a committed member of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
Throughout my faith pilgrimage, I have always found congregational and sanctuary processions distinctly powerful, involving and inspiring, as well as a fitting metaphor for the faithful people of God on the move.
Beyond the Palm Sunday and Easter Vigil processions, I am convinced that the Church is failing to embrace a welcome tool for evangelisation and increasing our devotion.
During, for example, the neglected feast of Candlemas (on February 2), there are few more moving sights that the faithful laity processing into church for Mass with their hand-candles lit.
On Solemnities (such as Epiphany, Corpus Christi and All Saints’ Day) there are few more impressive sights than a full processional entry with church banners flying aloft.
As we rededicate this realm to Our Lady in 2020 (Britain news analysis, January 3), let us see a resurgence of processions on pilgrimage, out of doors and in church.
Papal truth and fiction
SIR – The old adage “Why let the truth stand in the way of a good story” may be applicable to the film The Two Popes (Interview, December 20). But if what is known more directly about the reality of both pontiffs is applied critically to any review of the film, another adage, “Truth is stranger than fiction”, may be seem more appropriate.
Fr Antony Conlon
Our Lady and St John, Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire