Practical Agenda For Pre-Catholic Action Meetings
BY PAUL McGUIRE
Catholic Action will become a possibility when Catholics, in offices, shops, factories, parishes, begin to come together, to form groups, to pray, to think, to act together.
We can begin now, at once. Two, three, four of us can begin. We can form our cells, here and there and everywhere. At every point where we touch our fellows, we should begin to strengthen our ties with them.
Consult Priest From the first any group of Catholics coming together, to start their preparation for Catholic Actilotafashould be in touch with a priest.
But they should not wait on the initiative of the priest.
I assume in these articles that a few Catholics have decided to meet together, to discover what Catholic action is and to prepare themselves for it. The group may be formed of the most various people, it may be formed in some particular office, it may consist of an employer and his employees, it may he a group of Catholic publishers or fishmongers or barmen concerned in a common vocational interest: the nature of the group will always determine. of course, its actual plan of work.
But whatever the nature of the group, it must develop its corporate life, by praying.
by thinking, by acting together. Prayer thought, action: each is essential to the development.
A study-circle is not enough, a devotional society is not enough. good deeds, however good, are not enough. Each must be an element in the whole life of the group, each must constantly contribute to it, none may be neglected, each must be planned,
Plan from the start. Every meeting of the group should provide, in some way, for each of these elements, the spiritual, the intellectual and the practical.
Practical Details The simplest way to explain what I have been saying, is to set outeroughly, the kinc of agenda with which a group may begin. It is designed for people who lack, as, mos. of us do, much Catholic knowledge and who arc not in a habit of study.
The group needs a leader from the first.
This may be a problem, if you lack a trained, competent person. A sympathetic priest may give the necessary guidance, but he cannot be the leader. When Catholic Action conies it will need its lay leaders, and we should begin to exercise people in
leadership from the start. As the demand grows. it is possible to have special training-courses for leaders, but if you are an isolated group of people without resources in trained personnel, you must select the best man you have, and he must work to fit himself for his special responsibility.
The problem of its leader you must solve in your own circumstances, and preferably in discussion with your priest. (If your parish-priest has no interest in you, that is his responsibility, providing you have given him proper opportunity. One usually finds that compensation works as between a parish priest and his curate. If the parish priest is not interested, the curate probably will be.)
Here is a rough agenda for a first meet ing:— • 1. Decide what prayers to say. Our Father. Creed, Bail Mary, certainly. and our groups in Australia have a strong
attachment to the Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas before Study.
2. Say them together, clearly and loudly.
3. Elect your leader.
4. Write your names and addresses and telephone numbers in his note-book.
5. Settle a time when you can go to Holy Covnnzunion together. If this is impossible (and it really should be impassible before you decide that it is impossible), then when canyou go to Benediction together? One cannot emphasise too much the value of a corporate act of worship. It seems to establish your ccvnmunity at once.
6. The leader, in the role of an earnest enquirer, asks each of you why you believe that Christ is God. Then someone asks the leader. It is probable that none of you will really know. Thus, there is an obvious task for next time. Each of you will come back prepared to say why you believe that Christ is God. You may have to rout amongst books, you may have to pester a priest : preferably, do both. This leads to 7 and 8.
7. What priest can you pester. Try your parish-priest in the first instance.
8. What Catholic Library is available to
you? When is it open? What is its subscription?
Reading 9. Let each member write down any Catholic newspaper he regularly reads and a list of the Catholic books he remembers reading (I assume, of course, that we are not extensive readers). Hand them to the leader. He will keep them, and you will add to his list as you read more books. It is interesting to discover what people take to be a Catholic book, and it is important that the leader should know something of the general background of his members' minds. If it appears that neither leader nor members know anything about Catholic books, it becomes necessary to find out. So to 10.
10. How can we find out something about Catholic books? We may think of someone who will tell us, or (I don't like saving people trouble. because it is instructive to have to find things out for oneself, but I have already mentioned this) we may spend 6d. on Mr. F. J. Sheed's Ground Plan fcr Catholic Reading. Each member of the group may be asked to exert himself in this matter before the next meeting.
11. Instruct the leader to get catalogues of C.T.S. pamphlets and of C.S.G. publications before next meeting. These do not generally appear in the libraries, and you can begin to build up a small pamphlet library of your own.
12. The leader asks the group what an encyclical is. Then each member agrees to read an encyclical, preferably Divini Redenzptoris before the next meeting (you will find it in your local C.T.S. box. If you do not find it there, you might trouble yourself to find out what is wrong with your C.T.S. box). You will not be ready at your next meeting to discuss Divini Redemptoris, but you should begin to read what the Pope has written for you.
Jobs To Do 13. Catholic Action, being action, try to think of a job you can do before next meeting. Something should be done, however trivial. Drop a spare copy of Divini Redemptoris in a 'bus. if nothing else. Remember to report on what you have done at the next meeting.
14. Consider your Catholic acquaintances, with an eye to recruits. You do not
want to overload. If you grow to fifteen, you should divide into two (like a growing cell.) You should not rush people, and you have to form yourselves before you can form others, but you are training for the lay apostolate, and the apostles were fishers of men. Be mindful of the bait and the hook and the landing-net.
15. Settle date and place for next meeting. If you meet in one another's homes, do not expect the host to entertain you ad lib. You might bring your own bottle.
16. Prayer, (Australian groups like the Commemoration of St. Thomas More.) 17. Tea, coffee, or what have you.
There must always be order and direction in your meetings, or they will rapidly become a sheer tedium and quite useless.
In the next article I shall sketch an agenda for the second meeting.
(To be concluded.)