Mass attendance — maturity and desire
From Dom Alarhelm CameronBrown OSB Sir, Rather than argue about whether Catholics who miss Sunday Mass still go to Hell, would it not be better to ask why so many no longer go to Mass? Here is just an hour of the week in which the coming Kingdom of God is made almost visibly present among us through the sacramental signs, and we are fed with the bread which leads us to everlasting life. Why are people not interested?
Of course, I'm lucky. I live in a monastery and just have to walk down the stairs to be in church. But 50 years ago, when I cycled to church on dark and frosty mornings before going to work, the Mass was already a joy. Why? 11 suppose I had read the right books. Also, I was instructed in the faith by a priest who celebrated Mass in a way which showed that for him the Mass was a precious and joyful start to the day.
How can we teach Catholics to appreciate the Mass today? It is better for them to be drawn to the Mass by desire rather than to be driven to it by fear of Hell.
Yours faithfully ADHELM CAMERONBROWN OSB Prinknash Abbey, Gloucester.
From Fr W G Bergin Sir, Attending Mass on Sundays and on Holy Days has always been one of the most distinctive characteristics of Catholic tradition. It is underpinned by an acknowledgement that fidelity to Sacraments and Community are vital ingredients of Catholic identity. The recent creeping trend to water this down and substitute it with a number of variables is rather alarming. What we are left with is a form of religion made in our own image and likeness, another version of cafeteria religion often wrapped in a flavour of nostalgia taken from our childhood. It is important that pastoral guidelines are given to the faithful, in order that creeping forms of confusion are responsibly and sensitively faced. It is also important that the faithful are helped in their understanding of the conditions under which Holy Communion should be received.
This applies especially to the old chestnuts such as funerals, Christmas and Easter Masses, First Communions. Maturity in the faith urges us to acknowledge that there are certain responsibilities that must be respected. Can we really expect the faithful to take on board challenging teachings on contraception, abortion, divorce and remarriage and yet never put before them such basics as fidelity to practice of the faith? It is rather like asking them to climb Mount Everest before suggesting they should take a stroll up some nearby hillock.
A whole generation has been brought to accept that a form of personal negotiation in this matter is quite acceptable. I can only see that trend carrying on in the foreseeable future. However, that does not mean to say it is right.
Yours faithfully, W.G.BERGIN, Rector of Holy Rood, Barnsley,Yorkshire.
All too common
From Mr Patrick O'Donnell Sir, My copy of The Catholic Herald for November 30th gives the date 23rd November, but only on page one. Do I treat it with great care, so that my great great grandchild can display it at an antiques road show and be told that, like a misprinted postage stamp, it should fetch at auction EICI00?
Or were they all like that'?
Yours faithfully, PATRICK O'DONNELL Herne Bay, Kent.
I'm afraid so – E,ditor
From Bishop Crispian Hollis
Sir, I am amazed at the blinkered view that some of your comespondents have about the place of "supervision" in the life of the priest. They make it soMillIM though pne. smenosrace spat Wilt could not possibly have anything to learn from highly qualified and motivated lay people.
For myself, I can only say that I need all the help and "supervision" I can get, whether it comes from fellow bishops, the clergy or lay people.
Confession and spiritual direction are an essential part of that "supervision", and that is priest to priest work. But I also need to develop all sorts of other skills to do with my personal and pastoral ministry. For this, I am very happy to call on the skills and experience of lay people.
I need that ongoing spiritual and practical formation for my work as a bishop and I am delighted to be able to access it through the ministry and care of those with whom I share faith, be they clergy or laity.
Thank God for the whole Church.
Yours faithfully, CRISHAN HOLLIS Portsmouth P01 3HG.
Pastor Iuventus again
From Mr John Henry Sir, Every week I have the joy of spending 70p on the weekly edition of The Catholic Herald. This is not patronising, it really is the truth.
My 70p was rarely better spent than on your edition of the 23rd November 2001. To be precise, it was Pastor Iuventus yet again – thanks to the Holy Spirit, we have a pastor who has obviously got to grips with the reality of the main problems facing young people today.
It was really interesting to read such things as ".... reminded of it by some 20-somethings bemoaning the poverty of school RE" and "I felt at once joy that they had some love and knowledge of their faith, in spite of their Catholic education..."
I am sure that many parents (including myself) are very concerned about the lapsation of their children. Indeed, it is more than concern, it is a sincere hope that with God's help things can change. I feel their lives are empty, as they have not had the opportunity to experience the beauty of their faith – i.e. those loving devotions of Benediction, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament (40 hours), and the peace and joy experienced by regular Confession and Holy Communion.
Young people don't want gimmicks, they want the truth. The truth that Jesus Christ and His Holy Mother really do exist. As Pastor Iuventus writes, in every other area, our children were encouraged to discover the world of truth. It would seem that the fundamental truths of the Catholic faith have been systematically daniad our children. This has got to change, and soon, our Catholic tradition will disappear from this land altogether. We must never forget that clergy and lay people
sacrificed their lives to pass on the Faith to us — their sacrifice must not be in vain.
In conclusion, hopefully for only the present, may I ask a few questions which have been baffling me for some considerable time? Why are we no longer taught any of the fundamentals of our faith?
For example, it is years since I heard any priest from the pulpit mention Easter Duty obligations, fast and abstinence regulations, banns of marriage, and Friday penance. If the fear of mentioning these things is that it might put people off coming to church, heaven forbid, it is precisely because these things are not mentioned that young and old no longer practice — we all need guidance and our schools.
I really wish Pastor Iuventus well, and sincerely hope that his plans materialise, and that the Good Lord will come to his help as I am sure He will.
Yours faithfully, JOHN HENRY Liversedge,West Yorkshire.
From Mr Jim Allen Sir, With regard to the recent discussion in The Catholic Herald on whether the exalted status given to Mary by Catholics is justified in the Bible; I would like to make two points to our protestant sola scriptura friends.
A doctrine is not more or less true in proportion to the amount of space allotted to it in the text of scripture. If this were so, the Holy Trinity itself would be in dispute since this greatest of all doctrines is by no means self-evident in the New Testament: Mary actually gets more space than God the Father!
And yet most pmtestants accept the "Holy and Undivided Trinity' — that is to say they accept that doctrine can be drawn out and developed by the Church even if not explicitly formulated in the Scriptures. Why cannot the same process be applied to the Mother of God?
If Mary had written a gospel or epistle herself surely she would have diminished in stature. She is the very channel of life and inspiration that enables the (male) apostles to do all the talking! It would be unfitting that she should descend from her divine motherhood to be a "mere" writer or preacher.
After Pentecost she lived quietly in the house that St John built for her at Ephesus. I think that this silence of Mary is much more powerful and impressive than any publications or words of hers would have been.
Yours faithfully JIM ALLEN Torquay,Devon
Undermining the Pope?
From Mr M Skarpa Sir, Bishop Lindsay (Nov 30) confirms, in fact, that Mr Aheame's criticism of his views was correct: it is evident that His Lordship, rather than accepting the instruction Liturgiam Authenticam in the spirit of positive cooperation, seeks every excuse to undermine it. The acceptance would be an "uncritical agreement" which might turn out to be "imprudent" and "out-of-date in 30 years time", against the "sound misgivings". The approval of the Instruction by the Pope and his subsequent reiteration of it by the letter you have published are not enough for the "loyal fellowship". His Lordship is willing to "follow" the Instruction only if once again "the Holy See eventually ask us", as if the bishops were children who had to be told the same thing three times. If the English speaking bishops really followed the 1969 Instruction which relied on their brotherly co-operation the present, more precise instruction would not have been necessary.
In an earlier letter His Lordship defended, for example, the rendering "and peace to his people on earth" (which should read: "and on earth peace to men of good will") which is contrary to the Sections 20 (text to be translated "in the most exact manner, without omissions, additions...paraphrases or glosses"),25 (dignity and beauty"; the present rendering sounds pedestrian),27 ("free of an overly servile adherence to prevailing modes of expression", "truly memorable and capable of expressing heavenly realities"; even if "obsolete in daily language"), 30 (about inclusive language), and 57b ("the same...gender")
Yours faithfully, M SKARPA Bromley.
Signs of the times?
From Mr Michael Devine Sir, In the last two issues you have referred to the controversial closure of the ecumenical school in Oxford.
In the first instance you coupled it with the failure of a school in Surrey to find a Catholic headteacher and the necessary decision to appoint an Anglican instead. in the second you link your comments to the creation of yet another RC/CE school in Liverpool. Both these events, from affluent Surrey to Catholic Liverpool, are surely important signs of the times. To ignore them is like being colour blind in garden or an illiterate in a library.
Yours faithfully, MICHAEL DEVINE Fishponds, Bristol.