Comment Opinion & Features

Letters: The Newman line that inspired me to convert

(CNS photo/Junno Arocho Esteves)

Newman inspired me to come home

SIR – John Owen writes (Letters, October 25) that St John Henry Newman’s “greatest miracle 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”. He is quite correct and I am one of those thousands.

I read about the then Blessed Cardinal Newman in April 2017 and saw that the Roman Catholic communion is the Church of the Apostles, and that there is only one Church which can be seen to stretch back in an unbroken line to the Apostles and to Christ himself. I was inspired by one particular Newman quotation: “Catholicism is a deep matter, you cannot take it up in a teacup.”

I came home to Rome, being confirmed in the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in 2019.

Stephen Clayton
London SW16

A Eucharistic service isn’t a ‘pretend Mass’

SIR – In reply to Neil Addison’s letter (October 25), it seems important to clarify a few things. It is surely important to remember that the Blessed Sacrament only exists as a result of a celebration of Mass. The physical presence of the Lord in the Sacrament cannot be drawn down to our altars from heaven in any other way. It is therefore impossible to “separate Communion from Mass”; nor can it be in any way demeaning of the Sacrament to bestow it on individuals (the sick in hospital or housebound come to mind) outside the actual celebration of Mass.

If Catholics think of a Eucharistic service as a “pretend Mass” there is something wrong with Catholic teaching in schools and parishes, not with Eucharistic services as such. The words of consecration spoken by an authentically ordained priest in the central Canon of the Mass are what brings Our Lord down onto the altar. And we surely know that no lay person can do that.

Donato Tallo’s letter, which started this correspondence (October 11), ends with “I believe that there is no place for a lay person to stand at the altar in the absence of a priest …” In my experience of Eucharistic services, the lay minister of communion actually leads the preparatory and closing prayers from the lectern, below and to one side of the altar. He or she is, however, bound to place the ciborium with the consecrated hosts on the altar out of respect for the Sacrament. Therefore, “Behold the Lamb of God” will be said from the altar. This is not the consecration, which has already taken place at a previous Mass.

Many years ago, before we even had lay ministers of communion and before communications were so easy, I sometimes arrived at our parish church from the country to find Mass was already over because of some alteration to a timetable. Frequently, the priest, if he was still around, would kindly give me Communion and I was always so grateful for it. Perhaps Mr Addison does not realise the deep private devotion many people have to the Blessed Sacrament, in particular in relation to special devotions such as the First Fridays and First Saturdays, in honour of the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary respectively.

After the fall-out from Vatican II, such personal devotions are now being encouraged by the recent successors of St Peter, and surely we should be aware of that and follow their lead.

Ruth Yendell
Exeter, Devon

SIR – For many years I have felt that my concerns over the practice liturgies of the Word were perhaps questionable. To address my concerns I attended churches beyond my own parish to see if commonality of service existed – and it did. I obtained a copy of the 1988 Directory for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest and the 2004 US bishops’ publication Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest to seek the official basis for alternative services. Both books clearly endorsed the widespread acceptance of liturgy services.

From reading the letter to you from Donato Tallo, it is of some comfort that others share my views, even though other responses have taken issue with his views. I too agree that an act of adoration would be preferable to following the basic format of the Mass. I have in the past written to my dean and parish priest expressing my concerns but have had little support.

On one occasion I led a liturgy service in an attempt to come to terms with the arrangement, and to see if I was wrong in my opposition to such events. The outcome was only to reinforce my view that even the format of the Mass should not be used for liturgy of the Word services, even though the best intentions are the reasons behind conducting such services.

There is no doubt that we have a difficult future with the limited priests that we have who fulfil their roles so wonderfully. But I hope that we might adopt more appropriate forms of adoration in accordance with the wishes of congregations who endeavour to worship regardless of extremely limited means.

John McKenna
Chorley, Lancashire

Peter’s Pence shame

SIR – Christopher Altieri reports a steep drop in donations to Peter’s Pence in recent years (Vatican news analysis, October 25), which, he says, “appears at least partly connected to a perception among the faithful that Francis has not got to grips with the broader crisis in clerical culture, the worst symptom of which is the ongoing cover-up of clerical sexual abuse”.

To withhold charitable donations and reduce the Church’s ability to do good because some of its members do bad is perverse. It is also un-Christian. The Devil must be laughing gleefully.

P Whitney
Doncaster, South Yorkshire

Shamans in Rome

SIR – I read with interest the reported remarks of Bishop Pereira of Alto Solimões about the work of the Amazon synod (Rest of the World news analysis, October 11). Any man with his episcopal seat in Tabatinga deserves both our sympathy and prayers. It is truly the pyloric valve of the middle Amazon.

Having been both among the indigenous Ticuna this summer and in Rome this autumn, I was surprised not to be called upon to contribute my thoughts, worthless as they no doubt are, to the shamanistic goings on in the Eternal City.

The task of a peritus is a lonely one and I reflect that, had I been but a witch doctor, neo-Christian or a German bishop, the job would have been mine for the asking.

Fr Nicholas Leviseur
Hartfield, East Sussex

In the name of rights

SIR – Our Westminster Parliament and judiciary have chosen to thunder out their judgment over unborn babies in Ulster, in the name of human rights.

They might like to consider that when the United Nations was formed it speedily framed the “Rights of the Child”, which gave protection to the child both before birth as well as after birth.

Bernard Cartwright
Stourbridge, West Midlands