The Importance of' Sermons
SIR,-The question of sermons has been brought up in this correspondence. It is a subject that is awkward for the layman to handle, especially in a widely read popular paper. But, after all, it is the layman who depends on the sermon and who has to judge it.
Sermons, of course. vary greatly, though in many places precious sermon time goes in various forms of notices and, above all, appeals for money. It is hard to see how this waste of time can be avoided, though some think that money would be forthcoming if the priest delegated its collection to a lay committee. Nor is it impossible that with the better spiritual education of the parish through *ood sermons, generosity in responding to financial needs would increase.
When the clergy are asked about sermons, the answer often is that eloquence is a gift and only few possess it. Such an answer seems to overlook the fact that people today have become conditioned to talks and appeals on the radio which arc anything but eloquent in the traditional sense. Their effectiveness depends on simplicity, conviction, friendliness, personality. Yet this simplicity needs careful preparation. The most unlikely person is often the most successful.
Surely it is possible for most to develop the practice in the pulpit of gentleness and earnestness in putting forward and explaining the wonders of the Catholic faith. Today, there are books in plenty which indicate by their success the modern requirements. A study of some of these best-selling spiritual books would surely help the preacher with this matter. Again, in every congregation the preacher will know personally members of the congregation of different types whose reactions to sermone would be invaluable. But in seeking their views, all notions of flattery must he set aside by both parties. One wonders how many preachers have ever bothered to take their people into their confidence in this matter.
It seems certain that a general raising of the standard of sermonswhich only means making them more effective for the mind of todaywould in the long run help to maintain an intelligent practice of the Faith. Such a practice is catching among the neighbours and it will inspire the young. Surely, it is a matter to which far more attention should be given in the seminary and later in parochial work,
SIR, I think that "London Teacher" in his letter to you has touched upon a most important point. The influence of the priest visiting the home frequently, showing that he has a personal interest in the problems of his parishioners, tackling them when a wrong decision is about to he made, encouraging them when they are struggling to bring up a numerous family in a postChristian atmosphere, is of very great importance. How many children have been spared a non-Catholic education through the intervention of a zealous priest? And how many a "bad" marriage, sometimes late in life when the Catholic partner is wavering upon the brink of a fateful decision, could have been prevented if the priest had thrown all the weight of his influence into the balance?
A French priest once commented to a friend of mine that it is the bounden duty of priests to visit their parishioners. and he added that he did not think that English priests, as a whole, carried out this duty. Anyone who read that melancholy record of declining moral standards, "English Life and Leisure," by Rowntree and Lavers (Longmans. 1951). will remember the statement made by the Catholic priest who was interviewed to the effect that : In his opinion a priest was not beginning to do his job Unless he • visited every home in the parish at regular intervals. He added that this was far from easy. It meant a regular time-table, and visite that might last only a few minutes, but it had to be done.
E. J. Way 158 Whitby Road,
Slit, -Westminster Cathedral is becoming, T believe. under the administration of Mgr. Canon Gordon Wheeler. one of the great shrines of Catholicism. It is well known to French Catholics, and, judging by the increasing number of foreigners who visit it. its fame is spreading rapidly on the Continent.
I often stand in the narthex and watch the reverent tread and almost awe-stricken expression of visitors as they behold the high altar in the distance and as they take in the sublimity of their surroundings.
I am so impressed by the atmosphere, the calm and the dignity of the cathedral and by the beauty of the services and of the music that for a long time I have felt that I should express my admiration. Westminster Cathedral must be exercising an immense influence on the nation.
George E. Goidie 78 South Croxted Road, Dulwich, S.E.21.
SIR,-I am thinking of writing a
small hook for Catholics who use youth hostels. This would give a list of all youth hostels in England and Wales, the nearest church or churches, times Of MR5SCS, how to get there (if there is any difficulty in finding the church) and a brief description of places of Catholic interest near the hostels. I should like to hear from those who could help to compile or produce it.
Flat 172,20 Abbey Road, London, N.W.8.
Cardinal York's Escutcheon
SIR, Dorothy Hamilton Dean says that she misses the escutcheon of Henry IX Cardinal, Diike of York at Frascati.
There is a monument to the Cardinal Duke of York inside the Duomo at Frascati. I suggest that it may he the one which she is looking for, now moved inside after the war had destroyed the outside wall where it was formerly,
17 Holly Hill, N.W.3.