Mr R. Sutherland's quotation (August 9) from Augustine Birrell is worth extending for the sake of another prophetic sentence. In The Nineteenth Century" (April, 1896) he, a non-Catholic, wrote: "It is the Mass that matters; it is the Mass that makes the difference; so hard to define, so subtle it is, yet so perceptible, between a Catholic country and a Protestant one, between Dublin and Edinburgh, between Havre and Cromer. Here, I believe, is one of the battlefields of the future."
I think it might be said that that battlefield is now with us. It is world-wide, and strewn with casualties. According to the "Church 2000" Report, twothirds of the Catholics of England and Wales do not attend Sunday Mass. The position is much the same in Italy, and there are many other examples, not excluding my own country, which indicate that the battle is at its height.
With so many of the young in the midst of it, I suggest that it has reached crisis point — and the remedy in my view is in Miss Mary P. Hurn's letter in the same issue of the Catholic Herald.
The vernacular liturgy and other changes are an effort to make the Mass more meaningful, but without doctrine they are merely externals. Miss Hurn demonstrated in her letter what could be achieved by explaining the origin and meaning of the Sign of Peace.
Why not do the same with the rest of the Mass, each little bit of it, such as the reference to the Covenant, the breaking of the Host, the Amen at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, the adding of the drop of water to the wine, the meaning of the Liturgical Year, the priest's vestments and their colour, the double Consecration, the significance of a Concelebrated Mass?
There are many other matters and aspects of the Mass which the People of God ought to know if it is to be really meaningful in their lives meaningful in a way which would impel them to sacrifice themselves on behalf of others (as Christ did of himself on Calvary) instead of sacrificing others for self-gain as happens so often in the manner of industrial strife and injustice generally.
John Kirby Knocksouna, Bishopstown Avenue, Cork.