The issue to-day is the Church v. Irreligion
'CATHOLIC HERALD' REPORTER
HOW has the Church in England fared in the year 1957? To answer this question THE CATHOLIC HERALD has consulted a number of distinguished priests. Their work enables them to survey different aspects of the Church's progress on the eve of 1958.
FR. F. J. RIPLEY, Head of the Catholic Missionary Society, and of the famous Enquiry Centre that has helped so many to their first real knowledge of Catholicism.
FR. NORMAN SWINTON, priest of the Southwark Diocese, who under the guidance of the Bishop studies with brother priests the best means of making people " Mass-conscious." FR.'AGNELLUS ANDREW, O.F,M., responsible for years for most of the outstanding programmes that have gone on the air through the BBC and helped to bring the Faith nearer our separated brethren.
MGR. LAURANCE GOULDER, Master of the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom, whose work in familiarising Catholics with our English heritage is doing so much good.
THE material growth of the Church is evident. North, South, East and West great new schools to implement the costly 1944 Education Act; a stately Cathedral in Liverpool, the crypt of which is well under way; the restoration of existing Cathedrals, Plymouth among them : the enlarging of that at Northampton, the rebuilding of Pugin's masterpiece at Southwark.
Convents and other religious institutions that buy the country houses whose owners no longer can afford to keep them up; the acquisition of land by the dioceses in the new towns for new schools and churches.
And alongside all this: the Sunday morning streets empty but for the milkman and the Catholics.
Each new number of the Diocesan Year Book issued by authority of the 18 Bishops of England and Wales for their respective dioceses shows material increases.
FR. travels tip and down the country with other members of the Catholic Missionary Society. "The Church is more than holding its own." he says. " Night after night we preach to packed churches, and there are always many non-Catholics willing to come and hear us. One finds far lesa prejudice among ordinary people than there used to be."
Fr. Ripley continued:
" It may be a sad thing for the country as a whole that the denominations are losing their grip. but their decline makes the issue clear. it is the Catholic Church or irreligion: In view of the general decline, it would be quite satisfactory if we were maintaining our present position. We are. I am sure, doing more than that.
"The number of converts received each year 'continues to grow. There is great influence tieing shown in the appeal of the Catholic Enquiry Centre. Again this year. many thousands of our separated brethren have written in answer to advertisements in the secular press. Also the Enquiry classes and talks on the Faith, which have become such a feature in recent years, continue to be supported.
"It is encouraging also to find in so many new towns and housing estates, young families with grand Catholic parents and a thoroughly Catholic atmosphere in the home. 'Young people too are showing great interest in the Apostolate. Legion of Mary and the Cell movement, have expanded in the last couple of years. The Legion in particular is making a special appeal through its Patricians. It is good to see so many young people giving up their spare time to work for the Church. " My own opinion," added Fr. " is that in some places the site of the leakage has been considerably exaggerated. One meets very few people indeed who will say that they have left the Church. When the years of adolescence have passed many who for a time did not attend church, begin to do so again. So on the whole, the picture is not a gloomy
But a more cautious note is struck by Mgr. GOUL1DER: Wide publicity given in the Press to sayings of clergymen of all denominations must not, thinks Mgr. Laurance Goulder, Master of the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom. be taken to mean that people attach value to them.
" They make the head-lines because they are spoil-sports," he says. People want to 20, very many of them. their own materialistic way. The clergyman may innocently think he is making an effect with his prominently printed story. He is not : he is very often read with contempt by the worldly-wise.
Mgr. (molder is quite inured to the prejudice and indifference towards Christianity existing in this country. "The very nature of the Church." he feels, " prevents one being too optimistic."
His work, and that of those surrounding him in the Guild, is the furthering of the conversion of England. "Our job is get on with that with God's help," he sass. Mgr. Goulder takes people along with him to visit places which are of historic interest particularly to Catholics, and they especially like going to the Tosser of London.
Charity, he feels, will help restore the Faith : " Money is the expression of charity." The generosity of helpers made it possible hint to send to the Bishops, as an aid for their poorer parishes, no less than £10,000 in 1957, 10 times more than was sent them in 1940.
THE CATHOLIC HERALD, itself so interested in the Liturgical Apostolate, was happy to hoar the observations of one of our younger priests, Fr. NORMAN SWINTON, who works on this important matter with other priests of the Southwark Diocese. Bishop Cowderoy has given permission for more evening Masses, and by encouraging celebration of the First Thursday Mass for Vocations shows his desire to obtain the sympathy and assistance of his people in recruiting a larger body of diocesan clergy to further the work of the conversion of a huge Diocese.
Says Fr. Swinton in reviewing the work done in the past year in the liturgical apostolate : " I give an unqualified 'yes' to the question whether the liturgical revival is progressing satisfactorily."
He goes on : "England, which has lagged so far behind the Continent in its approach to the Liturgy, is at last making leeway.
" The people themselves are crying out for instruction in the Sacraments ; and their need is being supplied by many of the clergy who realise that there has not been much emphasis on this in the past. " The students of St. Edmunds College, Ware, have produced a very useful booklet on Baptism, and I hope that they will follow this tip with similar works on the other Sacraments.
-Television has played its part as well for the first time, many of the faithful have been able to see the Action of the Mass at really close quarters, and, helped by expert commentaries, have gained great benefits from broadcasts of this nature.
More schools are teaching their children the Dialogue Mass : and Sacrament projects form a substantial part of the Religious Knowledge Syllabus. It is with the children that I see our greatest hope they love answering the Mass or singing part of it, and take a real joy in making their model altars and altar furniture. To them, the Mass means some thingc.ontinued on p. 5, col. 4, " Apart from the influence of the many Religious Houses in the country, one must also mention the magnificent work now being done bye-Westminster Cathedral. The Administrator and his staff have achieved wonderful results ; they have maintained the grandeur and splendour of Cathedral functions. but at the same time have brought the people into those functions, so that they are not merely spectators. The evening Dialogue Masses are ample proof of the popularity of this form of worship. It is true to say. I think, that the influence of Westminster is spreading throughout the country. "What of the future ? I will tell you what 1 personally would like to see. First, a moderate use of the vernacular-particularly in the instructional parts of the Mass, and most of the prayers in the Sacraments. 1 should like permission to be given, on occasions, for Mass to be said facing the people.
" Thirdly. I should like to see many more congregations being urged to take a more active part in the Sacraments of their own parish. Perhaps Baptisms could form part of the Sunday Evening Service, thus enabling many to see this beautiful ceremony. Weddings on Sunday morning with a Nuptial Mass would set many a young maiden thinking."
The habit of St. Francis, worn by Radio and TV personality Fr. AG1NIELLUS ANDREW, 0.F.M., is seen by millions on BBC
St. Francis would have approved of the new communication media for his apostolate, had it been invented then.
"Yes," says Fr. Agnellus, " the Church has indeed made progress this last year. Sometimes we are discouraged, however, at the resistance, and even attacks. But we must not worry. When our Catholic heads appear above the surface, as is heppening now, there arc plenty of people about waiting to cut them off.
" We saw this in the recent accusations. completely unfounded of course, that the BBC was giving undue prominence to Catholic broadcasts."
Fr. Agnellus has been associated with the BBC for eight years, and confirms that there is a growing understanding of the work that is being done in his particular sphere. " But," he adds cautiously, '' there is still some anxiety on the part a a small minority. who fail to understand our motives."