Comment Opinion & Features

Letters: ‘Services of the Word’ offer no offence to God


Services of the Word are no offence to God

SIR – In his letter (October 11) Donato Tallo terms the practice of Liturgies of the Word and Holy Communion a “serious blight on the Catholic Faith”.

In the parish that I attend on weekdays, Services of the Word and Holy Communion are held on the parish priest’s day off. There is a rota of eight lay men and women who are commissioned ministers of Communion, and they follow the outline provided in the document “Celebrations of the Word and Communion … in the Absence of a Priest”, produced by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and approved for use from November 2013.

Accordingly, these ministers are “chosen with care”, “recognised by and acceptable to the parish”, “well prepared”. and also “proper and advanced
notice of the celebrations” is given in the weekly newsletter.

The congregation (similar numbers to those at weekday Masses) welcome the opportunity to “reflect on the word, pray together and share Christ’s Body consecrated for us at a previous Eucharist”. Because “the dialogue between God and his people which happens through the powers of the Holy Spirit requires short intervals of silence”, there are short periods to “foster reflectiveness” after the readings of the day and after Communion.

Surely these services, reverently celebrated by the laity, cannot be “of great offence to Our Lord”, as Mr Tallo fears.

Ann Müller
Wallasey, Wirral

SIR – I read with some concern the comments made by Donato Tallo about the Service of the Word and Holy Communion supplementing the Mass.

As a permanent deacon, I have often been invited to conduct such services in the absence of the parish priest. From the feedback of parishioners, they have appreciated the availability of receiving Holy Communion but have never regarded it as a substitute for the Mass.

The reality, sadly, is that with the current lack of vocations to the priesthood and the diaconate, such services are likely to become more frequent.

Deacon Jeremy Oliver
Godalming, Surrey

SIR – I agree with Donato Tallo on the practice of Liturgy of the Word and Holy Communion.

The instruction and formation received by lay people has been entirely inadequate, and there is no doubt people are seeing these services as a “substitute for Mass” when they clearly are not and can never be.

This is exacerbated by instances of parish priests (not in my own parish) promulgating the holding of such liturgies:

1) on Sundays when the priest is on holiday – this is totally inappropriate and in such circumstances, if there is no supply priest arrangements should be made for parishioners to attend Mass at a neighbouring parish; and

2) on weekdays at the time when the parish newsletter has previously advertised Mass as being available; the only circumstances this should ever happen is if the priest is taken ill or otherwise detained after the congregation have gathered.

W J Farren
Sevenoaks, Kent

A simple way to share prisoners’ pain

SIR – I was touched to read about Fr Ronald Rolheiser’s retreat experience (The Last Word, October 4), and grateful to him for highlighting the importance of sharing pain within a faith community.

As the Catholic chaplain at HMP Coldingley, I am greatly privileged to pastorally support the men in my care. In recent years, with the help of my dedicated volunteers, I have organised a Taizé evening for the prisoners in our lovely chapel. We sing a Taizé chant together, then have a few minutes of silence, followed by a reflection. Then we invite the men to come forward to light a candle around the altar as we read out the names of loved ones who have died. The votive candles, once all lit, form the shape of a cross and the atmosphere in the chapel is very peaceful. People in prison have no opportunity to grieve together with their families, so our Taizé evening gives them a chance to share their pain and creates a space for the healing process to begin.

As people of faith, we can make a difference wherever we find ourselves so that people don’t feel alone in their suffering. In the words of Mother Teresa, “we can do no great things, only small things with great love”.

Gerlinde Symons
RC Chaplain, HMP Coldingley (HMP Brixton), Bisley, Surrey

Newman in court

SIR – There was one aspect of Newman’s “humiliations” (Feature, October 11) that needs to be recalled and that concerns the libel case brought against him by a renegade priest Achille, who, having apostatised, was being used by an Evangelical group to publicly undermine Catholicism. However, as Achille’s own life was immoral, Newman publicly accused him of this, provoking him in a libel case.

From practical reasons, when the case came to trial, the evidence was not available, so Newman lost the case and had to pay damages. The judge accused him of moral lapse after his conversion, but afterwards the case was seen as a moral victory for Newman, and the laity paid the damages with an excess left to build the University Church at St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

It is significant that before the case Newman brought the matter in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, seeing it a duty to defend the Church against scandal. For as Chesterton said in his The Victorian Age in Literature, Newman was “like a naked man fighting with a naked sword”.

Iain Colquhoun

A major problem

SIR – In much of the world, Catholic belief and practice are declining, and many people still have not heard the Gospel. Let us hope, pray and work as we can to make the Extraordinary Month of Mission (Feature, October 4)) the start of something much bigger leading to a revitalised Church.

There is a common fallacy weakening the Church, like a virus. I hear people say that evangelisation is a work for only priests and religious, and that the rest of us only have to “be a good example” (without defining the term). This is untrue and it is not what the Church teaches. There is too much work for priests and religious, and sometimes we have to state and explain our faith; we are all called to be missionaries as our ability allows, and we have to work to increase this ability.

I have met former Catholics who have been converted from Catholicism by people who are more knowledgeable in their faith. People who are ignorant of the faith are vulnerable and unable to defend it from attacks which are superficially convincing. This is a major problem in some countries.

A Tanzanian priest told me that his bishop addressed this problem several years ago with a programme of catechesis which formed a part of the homily at every Sunday Mass. We need ongoing formation for all Catholics, laity and clergy, not only those who can attend courses.

P Whitney
Doncaster, South Yorkshire