REALITIES OF TO-DA 17
—By Fr. JOHN FOSTER
I Westminster Regional Chaplain of the Young Christian Workers Fr. Foster writes: "At this stage In the diecussion on the 'leakage' problem may 1 In all humility point out the reason why most of the C
ontributions from your readers are serving only to confuse the issue. which is tragic considering the experience and goodwill of those concerned. This is the purpose of this article."
THE most important idea to get
into our minds today is that the Church never chooses the method whereby she gives to the world the divine life; it is imposed on her by the environment or which she is part, and it is the action of leaven.
To take as an example the history of the foreign missionary apostolatc: at the time of the Catholic Empires of Spain and Portugal. it was the Catholic Kings who carried the full weight of the responsibility for bringing the Faith to the newly-discovered pagan lands: not until the 19th century do we see in the work of Pauline Jaricot a new orientation and the responsibility being laid by the Church on the ordinary layman.
Onecan trace the same development in the history of the Church in this country, and the great turning point with Bishop Challoner's prophecy about "a new people" coming into being to take over from the Catholic landed gentry who, after centuries of preserving the Faith through their system of " little Rome-s." or cases of Catholic life built up round Catholic estates. were with he Catholic Relief Acts to give up the magnificent struggle Is. survive.
Both examples stress the fact that the new methods used by the Church were not substitutes, or making the best of a had job, but imposed on the Church by the state of society at the time: the first shoots of democracy were appearing in the land.
T° approach the problem of the
"leakage " with any hope of reaching a solution. it is necessary above all to understand the state of contemporary society.
For two reasons above all: first because the action of the Church, being that of a leaven, is determined as to its method by the milieux in which she acts; secondly. because the "leakage" is fundamentally not a question of how many fail to conform to the laws of the Church but the far more important problem of how many, both old and young, are failing to interpret contemporary life.
The reason why so many of the older generation write off presentday youth as a bad job is mainly that they themselves arc consciencestricken and realise only too clearly that the old traditions and accepted conventions are no longer adequate to interpret this extraordinarily complex system we call modern civilisation.
All agree today that OW age is an age of transition and that the world is going through a crisis of growth, a crisis of unification. Society is going through a structural reform which is breaking the continuity of its traditions and upsetting the working of established rules.
The Age of the Easy Ansever has come to an end and the world is in revolution.
For the normal Christian to isolate himself from this crisis, or to fail to understand it—as so many do by limiting the practice of their Faith to church-going—means, first, that through her members the Church is being isolated from contemporary life and secondly that the individual member has a cornpletely inadequate idea of the Church which, because she continues in time the Incarnation of the Word of God, needs the world as much as the world needs the Church.
jOHN GRIEFtSON of documentary film fame defined this type of film as the creative treatment of actuality.
One might use the same definition to describe the role of the Christian in the world today: it is to interpret in the light of I Iiiistian teaching the contemporary scene, or to insert the whole of the truth of Faith into the whole of the truth of reality.
And this is precisely what our modern youth are in search of: they desperately need to interpret the world of the 20th century and in many respects they are searching alone and unaided.
Why they leave the Church or are ineffective in the Church is mainly because the Church they know is absent from that world. Contemporary life flows on as though the Church did not exist and many members are quite content to believe that the Church will weather the storm by refusing to embody herself in temporal institutions.
The chief way to save our youth is to shake Catholics from that deceptive security in which they are held fast in this time of crisis for the world.
Out of Touch
FAR the worst result of this de
ception shows its head in the traditional way the social teaching of the Church is taught today, exemplified, one is sorry to say, in a recent C.T.S. publication, "Catholics and Industry."
While all admit that the thought of present-day commercial, competitive culture is out of touch with the thought of the Church, it is never suggested that there is some danger that the Church is out of touch with the prevailing climate of thought in modern life.
What we mean can be illustrated by reference to the recent dock strike in England. The main
lesson of the dock strike for us Catholics was that time is a serious lack of Christian leadership among the dock workers, the majority of whom it is said arc Catholics.
Why did the leadership come from the Communist Party ? Only because the majority of Catholics do not identify the Catholic Church with the world of work.
As one worker said to me: " The Church has a black record in my part, the recoil from times of unemployment. I don't mean that she failed to help us out in our want but that the had and still has a ' working-class ' mentality and kind of patronises the work ing-class."
What he meant, I take it, was that " paternallism" is still the way through which the Church approaches working-class problems in many working-class parishes.
If this is so, then it can mean only one thing: that the Church, by which we mean ordinary parochial policy, is out of touch with important trends and tendencies in contemporary society.
THERE is no doubt that the most
important trends are to develop leadership in industry from the ranks, to accept as proven that the status of the worker is the secret of higher productivity, and to make human relations in industry the corner-stone of future development.
The influence of the social teaching of the Church is evident in much of this development, but what is more important to note is that the changes which are happening in modern industrialised life themselves determine the method which the Church uses to win the world to Christ.
As was mentioned above: the Church's method whereby she resolves the contradiction between the truth of Faith and the truth of reality is imposed on her by the environment of which she is a vital part.
IN a most important address given recently by His Eminence Cardinal Griffin to the Association of Catholic Trades Unionists, it was evident to all who heard or read his words that the official mind of the Church in this country is not one of " paternalism " but one of belief, confidence and trust that through the laity the whole ternporal order will be restored to Christ.
What gave so much satisfaction to thinking Catholic workers when they heard these words of the Cardinal was not primarily that he revealed the roots from which come the causes of industrial unrest today but that, in doing so, he stressed the dignity of the labourer and of human labour and — what springs from his value as a person—the sense of responsibility to and for others in society.
Even the priest learnt
IT was a curiously odd sensation to walk up to an altar, with crucifix, candles, linen, gold chalice and everything, and over the altar laughingly shake hands with the priest fully vested for Mass. I was attending part of Fr. Howell's lecture on "The Things Used in the Mass," at Southwell House, last Sunday. The Mass in fact was a "dry" or demonstrating Mass in a lecture room, and Fr. Sire, the Superior, was acting the part to illustrate Fr. Howell's article on page three of this issue. Fr. Howell, our foremost popular authority on the history and meaning of the Liturgy, has brought lecturing on the Mass to a fine art. A priest present said to me: "I have been saying Mass for more than twenty years, and yet I learnt many things I never knew and should have known." I feel sure that there are many more of our parishes where Fr. Howell's lectures on the Mass would be appreciated by the people, and in case any parish priest is interested, one thing at least I can promise him— and that is that Fr. Howell has got it all taped so there would be a mininsum of fuss and bother about arrangements. Another innovation this week at Southwell House was that both men and women attended the lectures in a house so far restricted to retreats and conferences for men only. Indeed. there was a very strong contingent of nuns in the lecture room.
The Cure d'Ars of Camden Town wHEN the late kr. Van Zuet
(The Cure d'Ars of Camden Town) was critically ill some months ago, Denis Blakelock, the wellknown actor, wrote a little poem about him, though he used the name "Father O'Grady." One verse reads: He loved them.
He taught them, He preached thcm the Word. He fed them with Body And Blood of the Lord, He sat hour by hour At conlessional's grill,
He lovingly helped them Their passions to still.
" Man is neither brute, beast or machine," he said. "It is because he brings to his work not only the faculties of his body but also those of his mind and spirit that his labour, of whatever kind it is. however menial, is endowed with a dignity of its own .
" Precisely because he is a human being, gifted with intellect and will, man has responsibilities towards his fellow-beings • . . he must work for the common good . . . . these responsibilities he possesses alongside his rights. His rights are undeniable. his responsibilities inescapable."
The laity, says the Church, is today irreplaceable, not because the Church is in a fix and must make the best of a had job but because in present-day society the laity has reached its majority and the Church is living in a social environment where the ordinary man and woman have been educated to play some part in making the world.