TWO typical working-class parishes give figures of regular Sunday Mass attendance at 40 per cent. and 30 per cent. respectively, yet in both cases the priests of the parish spend many hours in visiting their people.
What is the reason for this apparent tepidity or laxity; is it sheer ignorance, " couldn't
care less ", environment, mixed marriages, or what ?
"C.H." Reporter, F. A. Fuiford, continuing his Enquiry, of which the first parts were published on February 13 and 20, gives further food for thought, discussion, and action in our series "Why do They Lapse?"
nNE day a middle-aged man stopped me outside a church in a .middle-class district, and asked me what were those prayers that were said after Mass: he had just been to Mass and couldn't understand them.
I told him about the three Hail Mary's. and our need to pray for Russia. He had not learnt the Hail Mary.
His story was that he had been the non-Catholic partner of a mixed marriage. that his wife had at last persuaded him to take instruction, and that the priest in that busy parish had "gone rather quickly through the whole thing". and had received him into the Church
His ignorance, for which he was not to blame, has now turned to indifference, for his heart is not in a thing he does not understand. His wife has now lapsed, but the children occasionally go to Mass.
Neither is the priest to blame in this case; he is alone, and in charge of over 2,000 souls. A very busy man indeed .
'!'m I m as good' PPPPP 1.111,11,i11111■111 iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii
IGNOR ANCE is blamed free quently for leakage, and so are slums.
William T. Bowman, writing In the January, 1959. issue of the "Contemporary Review". says: "In the slum, the largest number of denominational families arc Roman Catholic. The reason why large numbers do not go to any church and profess no religion can be ascribed to indifference. a rather scornful indifference". How true.
While there are welcoming smiles for the visiting priest on the part of such non-Mass-goers, and a ready dipping of the hand into the pocket or purse to give to his monthly collection, there is the eontempt shown me, a layman, come to enquire why they don't go to Mass. "I don't have to go to Mass", they reply, "and I'm as good, and better. than those who do".
Slum angel THERE was a red-headed angel e" in a London slum. and her name was Alice. She was eight years old. She saw me calling at the houses, followed me. and over
heard the conversation. Then she put her hand in mine, and asked: "Are you a Roman Catholic?" said I was. She said; "I want to go to Confession".
Enquiry elicited the information that her parents, living farther down that street, were both Catholics. but didn't go to Mass.
Alice had been prepared for Confession and First Communion in the parish in which they lived up to a few months previous. This child was now going to a nonCatholic school. Was the carelessness of these parents due to insufficient instruction regarding their religion?
'THOSE who study the leakage A will tell you that numbers of the lapsed are larger in workingclass areas than in those where people call themselves middleclass; that they are larger too in urban than in rural districts, the implication being that "respectability" is often an incentive to go to Mass.
But there is the "respectability" that gets people enjoying certain social standing to go to Mass, and yet continue an attachment that is sinful.
Here is a tragic Mae I met in a prosperous parish; He is the owner of the leading grneral stores, an active worker in the parochial football pools, very generous to parochial and town charities, always at Mass on Sunday with his wife and two children,
The mother and children frequently approach the altar-rails. He cannot. He is a Mason.
The wife fears that were he to give up this attachment, his husiness would suffer, and that in consequence there would be an end to a certain elegance of living they now enjoy.
Would he mind very much? I asked her. She didn't think he would, as he could always make a fresh start if business became bad. But what about herself? "I couldn't face it." she confessed. "It would mean giving up this lovely house."
AN ACQUAINTANCE of mine " died suddenly. Middle-aged, and comfortably well-off. he had been an altar-boy many years ago until the priest one morning said something to him in a rather sharp tone of voice, whereupon he had thrown down his cotta. walked out of the church, and never entered another since.
The bank manager made it easy for him to start a little business, and suggested it would help if he became a Mason. He did, he prospered, he died, he had no priest by him when his last moment came. His Catholic wife and children have had no connection of any sort with Catholicism.
A big worry
pRIESTS worry enormously lest an action, a gesture, a word even, causes reeentment. I told Fr. X: "The blame could be the priest's, you know." He opened wide his hands helplessly, and said: "I'm blessed if I know. You find out."
I went to a woman parishioner of his, who never went to Mass, though her two sons did. She said bitterly: "When my husband died. I asked Fr. X to say Mass for him, and he said he would see about it. He never did."
Her other complaint was: "My eldest boy married in a registry office. and I told Fr, X to go and see him. He never went."
Fr. X explained: "Her husband was a public sinner, and I could not post up a notice for Mass for his soul. He was not forgotten, however, in our prayers, and his wife was told that. But she insieted on his name being read out, or nothing. The boy in question lives in another parish, and the priest there has been notified."
'Mass or Hell'
ILLIAM T. BOWEN, to
whose article in the "Contemporary Review" I have already made reference, says in the same place; "The priests exercise great power over their flocks, particularly in matters of birth, marriage and death.
"I once heard a small priest severely dress down a large navvy who had come home drunk whilst his wife was having a baby. The navvy wept and after the priest had gone went out to complete his oblivion."
Just like the Mass-missing teenager whom I have related as probably being 'willing to resume his duties, if' Fr. X came round and "boxed his ears", so a certain type of Catholic likes his priest to "bully" him. Thus the 'legend goes around that whereas English priests fail to impress Irish immigrants because "they are too shy tiod too polite", the Irish priest working over here tends to have a quite direct "Mass-or-Hell" approach with his compatriots that is altogether effective.
Said an English priest: "We can't do that kind of thing over here."
To be continued
This is an interesting picture in that it shows the Throne room at the Vatican as it appears during the Lenten sermons.
Each Friday of Lent. with the exception of Good Friday, and on Holy Thursday, a preacher-he is always a Capuchin-mounts A pulpit erected in place of the Papal Throne and speaks to the assembled Cardinals and In the present.* of the Pope who remains hidden behind the grille shown in the left (back) of the picture. The grille is covered with a red veil
which allows the Pope to hear without being seen.
The office of Apostolic preacher dates back to the reign of Pope Martin V, In 1422. Up to 1740 various religious orders provided the preachers, but from the year 1743, Pope Benedict XIV entrusted by the Bull Inclytwn to the Capuchin Fathers the privilege of always supplying the preacher to the Holy Father and the Cardinals during the season of Lent,