The means charity, war on ignorance, and the Mass
'Catholic Herald' Staff Reporter
THE stage of the Ritz Cinema, Southend pier: Bishop Beck of Brentwood on the stage in the rays of the footlights an intonation, the swell of the theatre organ—and 2,500 roaring Catholic voices send their splendid "Credo" up to Heaven.
This was the opening on Sunday afternoon—the second day of the Catholic Evidence Guild Inter-Guild Conference—of the rally thrown open to the public, with the Bishop, Fr. Agnellus Andrew, 0.F.M„ Group Captain Cheshire, V.C., Mr. Ted Kavanagh, and Count Michael de la Bedoyere as the principal speakers.
Four speakers had to deliver their addresses twice—once in the cinema, and once to the overflow of 850 people in the Winter Garden opposite. For those who could not get in at all, Fr. Ronald Roberts, of Shoeburyness, the organiser, recorded the talks on a tape machine.
And it was Fr. Roberts who read the telegram bearing the Holy Father's blessing to the Rally.
Anguish to give the Faith to those who are starved of it was the keynote struck by the Bishop, quoting from the words of Frank Sheed.
Of the 50,000,000 souls in this country, said Fr. Agnellus, abotn 5,000,000 are Catholics, 10.000,000 are in effective contact with organised religion of other denominations . . . and the rest?
'Yet, while probably no more than 5,000.000 people would be attending church that day, as many again would be listening to religious broadcasts—in spite of alternative programmes on other stations, With all the devoted work and enterprise of the Catholic body here, Fr. Agnellus went on, conversions over the past 20 years have remained at a steady annual average of only 10,000.
The harrier between Catholics and the rest, he said, is not one of doctrine. There is a feeling that Catholics are strange people, not quite like the rest; that they don't belong, that they are separate and apart.
It may be that this is the softening-up period in which that barrier is being broken down. Then we can really go out to the people. All over the world men are looking at the Catholic Church again.
Why this failure to convert more? Because. said Fr. Agnellus, " You don't believe this is your job." Many Catholics are content to leave it to the Bishops and the priests.
But Our Lord broke into the world He had made—and redeemed it from within. We have to do likewise.
Group Captain Cheshire spoke of the charity that needs to be extended to the non-Catholic. To come into the Church is an act of great humility for him, He has to admit he was wrong.
It is startling for the world at large to be told that the Church can never he wrong. The Catholic makes it harder for the non-Catholic if he appears to extend the Church's infallibility to himself.
The apostolate, he said, is not only for great speakers. Everyone can share in it through love, giving —offering little things every day. So when provocative remarks are made, remember that the strong man can afford to be hit whiteout hitting back.
Underneath his provocativeness, a non-Catholic enquirer may really only be seeking diffidently a little bit of information.
For practical charity, said Group Captain Cheshire, consider those who are in need of a home. Like the over-institutionalised boy who only needed the affection and discipline of family life. A probation officer tried 18 Catholic organisations. Nobody could help.
The terrifying ignorance and apathy of some Catholics, said Mr. Ted Kavanagh, is holding up the work of conversion. Anyone showing the faintest sign of interest in the Faith is worth talking to. We want to convert—not only the great men—but the man in the street, the clippie and the chorus girl.
The Jews have their family integrity, the Methodists their great social sense, the Anglicans their piety and patriotism, But Gothalies have their great gift of Faith. Proud in the enormous heritage God has given us, we want to share it with the rest.
And as regards ignorance—if only 30,000 Communists here can produce a daily paper. Catholics can at least inform themselves by taking a Catholic paper into every home.
Then came the plea of Michael de Is Bedoyere t Give back to the Mass its early character.
If, he said, we would only experience it again 'as a-great joint act of the people visibly united together, feeling the strength of Christ together, the parish would become a living apostolic parish, carrying the word and the love of Christ to others.
In the early days of the Church, God's gift of Faith seemed to be pouring out as the first Catholics preached with enthusiasm and fire the " good news " of Christ. Why the contrast between then and now?
Those early Catholics had no Catholic schools, societies, books and papers. They had nothing but the Mass. It was enough to make them apostles.
They were mad about getting together. Michael de la Bedoyere continued—mad about the Mass, constantly strengthened by it in a very tangible way. They felt the force of Christ by the feeling of being together.
Attending Mass, as many of us do—each a lonely little island— we cannot hope to emerge from church revivified, with the joy of Christ showing in our faces, ready to be shared with others.
A great movement in the Church to-day, led by the Holy Father, seeks to make the Maas again the visible centre of our Catholic lives together.
It fosters the dialogue Mass, the commentated Mass, Mass facing the people. the people making their own offering of the altar breads, the solemn Communion procession.
The Easier Vigil has set a new note, and brought us back to the early Church.
Renew the parish life in this way, said Michael de la Bedoyere, and Catholics will go out to take the spirit of Christ with them into the secular work of the world.