Training Centres for Marriage
Sir, --You have provoked me into asking for a second innings, You will render a great service in the apostolate if you can hold the attention of Your readers to this idea until a remedy for the situation arises from the constructive thinking of the intelligent and zealous people you are able to influence. Your headline in the same issue was: NEW F1GH I FOR PARENTS RIGHTS. It would have stirred me more to read about a new fight for making sure that parents fulfil their duties. We are slipping Lou easily into the mood of our materialist contemporaries who are fond of clamouring for their rights. Sound doctrine teaches us that rights and duties go hand in hand; and Catholic education would be in a far healthier state in this country if we made as much noise about parents' dutis as we do about their rights.
Fr. White, who will know that Canon Law says that it is for the confessor and the parents. or those who take the place of parents, to decide when a child is ready to make its first Holy Communion. will probably have learned by this time that Fr. Rorke is a parish priest. It is my privilege also to hold this office, with this difference: that my parish is in the central area of an industrial city, which until recently contained the most thickly populated square mile in the whole of Europe. It is now undergoing extensive slum clearance and the Catholic population of our parish has been reduced to eight thousand. In such a neighbourhood we have indeed to be realistic. Twice in one week I had a case of a Catholic who had married a Catholic, secured a civil divorce after a few years. found another Catholic and wanted to know how to get married to the second. One of them, dissatisfied with the advice given by a priest, had written to the Pope. When, a few years ago, I introduced the practice of Family First Communions, amongst the many who protested was one mother who told the Headmistress that if her child was not to get breakfast at school she was not going to make her first Holy Communion. Some of them thought I was trying to save money by the change. It made me more determined than ever to break the vicious circle. Incidentally, for the sake of those who will not believe my estimate. I am trying to get accurate figures to show the proportion of children who come to the school without having learned at hofne to make the sign of the cross.
It is most interesting to see how, in the views of those who write against the theories of Fr. Rorke and Miss Cahill, there is a universal admission that we must sanctify the home if we are to raise the standard of Christian living. The question resolves itself into how we can hest do this and so produce a generation of parents better fitted to carry out the
religious training of their children. Their answer seems to be that the process will he best achieved through the schools.
Amongst those who support the theories there is a surprising ignorance of the attempts that are being made to break the vicious circle by providing training for parenthood. One of our Catholic weeklies carried an article recently which described courses in Holland and Germany and complained that " we have no similar institutions in
England at all . . no single place or institution where Catholic girls may piepare themselves materially and spiritually for marriage." The fact is. Sir. that in England we have thc longest and most comprehensive course of training for marriage that is to he found anywhere in the world. There is one place at least where there exists for both boys and girls a real noviccship for marriage which lasts twelve months and the first thing to be said about it is that it works. It attracts and holds couples who are prepared to take the means to make their marriage approximate to the ideals of Cash i Connubii. and thus to prepare themselves " for the arduous work of educating their children which awaits them." to quote the words of Our Holy Father.
It is six year since the late Bishop of Salford wrote in a pastoral that he would like to sec a network of such training centres all over his diocese; yet I would hazard a guess that attempts to do something similar have been made as frequently by non-Catholics as by Catholics. Yet here is a form of the apostolate which can be set up in any centre of population without the need for a new Society: it needs but a priest director and a team of lay helpers.
It is not claimed that it provides all that is required in the way of improved training for family . life: it needs to be supplemented by remote preparation and by " postgraduate " work, which can easily he developed; but it is the most effective point of insertion for the attempt to break the vicious circle. It takes young couples at a period of enthusiasm and of freedom from nursery cares and puts them on the right lines before they have made any major mistakes.
There is a tendency in both social work and apostolic work for reformers to concentrate upon the needs of the moment: to come to the rescue Of those in distress in El way that shows immediate and tangible results; but the failure to take a long view can sometimes contribute to perpetuating the very evil that one seeks to redress. The immense effort resulting from the Curtis Report to care for 'children who arc deprived of normal home life has done little to prevent the destruction of home life. and we sometimes hear of families being broken up by measures taken to deal with delinquency or poverty. I submit that some of the people who pin their faith to the value of the " Schoolchildren's Mass " on Sunday. in fear of the consequences of leaving the responsibility to the parents to send. or better to bring. their children are taking the short view through being purblind.
H. 0. Waterhouse, S.J. St. Francis Xavier's, Liverpool, 3.