Comment Opinion & Features

Letters: Is there a case for lay-led Eucharistic services?

(CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Chicago Catholic)

Is there a case for Eucharistic services? 

SIR – Your recent correspondents have defended lay-led Eucharistic services on the basis that there is nothing wrong with them, but they fail to provide any reason why such services are in any way necessary. As Catholics, we are not obliged to receive Communion every week, let alone every day, and reception of the Blessed Sacrament is a privilege not a right. 

If during the week there is no priest available to say Mass in a Church, that does not mean that the parishioners have to put on a “let’s pretend Mass”. Catholicism has a rich heritage of worship and praise that does not involve Communion, so why not train lay people to lead prayer rather than getting them to play-act as priests?  

Pray the Daily Office, a novena, the Stations of the Cross or the rosary, or how about simple silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, a touch of “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening”, rather than “Listen, Lord, your servants are pretending to be at Mass”. God knows we could all do with moments of silence in this noisy world. 

The fact is that to separate Communion from the Mass itself undermines the unique nature of the Mass, demeans the Blessed Sacrament and the priesthood, fails to accept the value of simple prayer and, above all, demonstrates a complete lack of imagination. 

Neil Addison 

SIR – Conflicting opinions on services of the Word and Holy Communion have been expressed on your recent Letters pages, but the issue is unresolved. 

This and other matters evoke strong emotions and reactions, even when we lack sufficient knowledge or understanding to have a definitive opinion.  

I should like to see what an expert liturgist has to say. 

P Whitney 
Doncaster, South Yorkshire 

Tafida’s religion helped to sway judges 

SIR – What distinguishes the case of Tafida Raqeeb is the influence not so much of her parents’ religion, but of her own (Comment, October 18). 

In 2006, the decision authorising withdrawal of ventilation from the 18-month-old child “MB” emphasised that his Muslim parents’ own wishes were “wholly irrelevant to consideration of the objective best interests of the child”, except in relation to the “child/parent relationship”. This statement was quoted in the 2018 judgment permitting 11-month-old Isaiah Haastrup’s ventilation to be discontinued, against the wishes of his Pentecostal Christian parents.  

In the case of five-year old Tafida, however, the court heard how she was “upset at the death of a ladybird and of a goldfish”, and that she “had begun to follow Islamic practices … with her small prayer mat, encouraging her brother to come and pray with her”.  

Ruling against withdrawal of Tafida’s ventilation, the judge gave weight to “her formative appreciation that life is precious, a wish to follow a parent’s religious practice and a non-judgmental attitude to [another child’s] disability”, concluding that treatment permitted her to “remain alive in accordance with … the religion in which she was being raised and for which she had begun to demonstrate a basic affinity”.  

Tafida’s right to receive treatment in Italy was a consequence of her EU citizenship. 

Andrew Todd 
Worthing, West Sussex 

Talking over Newman 

SIR – Having arrived early to obtain good seats for the canonisation of St John Henry Newman at St Peter’s, our prayer was disturbed not only by ‘‘selfies’’ being taken, but by a conversation about the FT, which one gentleman behind us was having loudly with his younger companion, who was proudly boasting of “bagging” seats for friends who were still having coffee somewhere outside St Peter’s Square.  

Commenting to my husband that the booklets-for-towels image which this conjured up was reminiscent of the uncharitable holiday act of sun-lounger hogging, I now fear this may have been overheard. I “offered up” my frustration – “the first shall be last and the last shall be first”.  

The coffee drinkers arrived, posed for photos against a backdrop of saints and finally settled down. Post-Communion comments, not sotto voce, by the younger man that he didn’t “have a clue” what was going on, and from the older one, that “saint-making” involved “a lot of bureaucracy” and was “all political”, was another opportunity to suffer the faults of others for the sake of His Truth – “Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom …”  

Graced to forget, I was sharply reminded of this aspect of our experience by William Cash’s Diary (October 18). While suffering is a virtue, correcting error is a spiritual act of mercy. The final word must go to St John Henry Newman who, before penning a word, must surely have first examined his conscience. 

Maura Coyle 
Stockport, Greater Manchester 

SIR – The “official” miracles attributed to St John Henry Newman are all well and good, but perhaps we are missing the significance of his greatest “miracle”, which has been the conversion of the thousands of people who have been brought into the Catholic Church as a result of his writings and explanations of the faith.   

His work is still continuing and has been particularly important in the conversion of Anglicans who have become interested in the teachings and practice of the Catholic Church. It is no coincidence that the establishment of the ordinariate in this country has been greatly assisted by many of those inspired by his teachings. 

The canonisation of Cardinal John Henry Newman has been a significant event in the history of our country and can do much to encourage the conversion of England and bring healing to our country – “Our Lady’s Dowry” – during these troubled times. 

John Owen 
Sittingbourne, Kent 

SIR – Watching the canonisation Mass from St Peter’s Square, I was struck again by the need for the Church to come to terms with the implications of mega outdoor celebrations. In particular, while heads need protection from the sun, the sight of concelebrating priests in jaunty baseball caps is unedifying and detracts from solemnity, even leading perhaps to further lack of respect, such as the use of mobile phones to photograph the Mass. 

Nicholas Hinde 
Felsted, Essex  

Saintly strains 

SIR – Jack Carrigan (Books, October 18) notes that Newman was “an accomplished violinist from a musical family that regularly held musical evenings and attended concerts”, but that he was forced to lay down his bow in 1849, following his conversion. It was only 16 years later that Newman took up the violin again, while staying at Rednal Retreat House, “making the Rednal wilderness resound with solitary strains”. I hope there is an artist out there who can show our newest saint in this touching scene. 

Erin Leonard 
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania