right out of Their Lives
A Catholic Social Worker writes:
IT is the boast of our town that it has no slums, but there are Many mean streets where houses built for single families are overcrowded.
Terraces of better houses shelter the professional workers and the tradesmen. There are pleasant suburbs on the outskirts of the town as well as new housing areas. Several big works give employment to many, and the docks area contains the usual coloured, semicoloured and white population. 'I he place is very cosmopolitan and a number of the people are rootless.
The university draws a number of young people to the (own, and Ciovernment Ministries provide a shifting population of civil servants.
Our town in its present form is little more than 100 years old, and grew up when the industrial revolution was at its peak.
The religion of the majority is Nonconformity, though many have ceased to attend church. The temple of a recently founded and spectacular sect attracts a large congregation. and the Church of England has a small but devoted following, largely among the more prosperous members of the community. Spiritualists and fortunetellers abound.
Fifteen Catholic churches and one Mass centre meet the needs of the Catholic population and are served by a devoted body of clergy.
There are eight infant and primary or all-age schools, a boys grammar school and one for girls in the care of religious orders. The University Catholic Society looks after the spiritual needs of Catholic students, who go out to other parts of the country strengthened in faith as a result of the help given them at the chaplaincy. The Catholics of our town are largely the descendants of Irish labourers, but there is also a stow though steady trickle of converts.
Reasons for lapsing
rrHE writer's work brings her into il. contact with a large section of the community, from suburban dwellers to the poorest, and scarcely a week passes that she does not meet with Catholics who have ceased to practise the Faith. Various reasons arc given for this loss of Faith. A small number allege unkindness or neglect from a priest or nun. A nun in school or orphanage may have been over-severe; a priest may have failed to show the sympathy expected at a time of bereavement. "1 he priest did not come to see me when my baby died" is typical of this kind of complaint. The harsh experiences of childhood cause lasting bitterness. but the "neglect" of later years is more readily forgiven. and it is rare to meet with resentment. on that score, that cannot be broken down.
Many have put themselves outside the Church through irregular marriages, and some have fallen away because of the non-co-operation or contempt of the Protestant partner of a mixed marriage. Irregular marriages are sometimes made by women who have loved their They have said prayers but they do not know the meaning of prayer; they have heard Mass but the drama of the Mass has been meaningless to them . .
Faith but have succumbed to another love that seemed allimportant to them. Sometimes they have "married" for the sake of respectability or to legitimatise an expected child. They cannot believe that God and the Faith are more important than the good opinion of their neighbours.
'It doesn't matter'
CATHOLIC mothers find it almost impossible to fulfil their religious obligations if their non Catholic partners are not prepared to help with the children.
Perhaps, however, there greatest danger of the mixed marriage lies in the fact that the Catholic becomes a member of a non Catholic family and often accepts its values as her own.
Men who promise that their children shall be brought up as Catholics do not always abide by their promises, and the wife must yield or suffer great hardship. Soon she comes to feel that it does not matter, and she accepts the view of her new family that one religion is as good as another. In time the children of such unions arc married outside the Church and they and their children arc lost to the Faith.
Bad to worse
TT is not unusual to find women who "have fallen away because they are leading immoral lives. They have accepted the belief of those around them that they should not go to church unless they are "good." So they sink further into sin and put ever-greater obstacles between themselves and God.
Such women may cherish holy pictures and mesials and have some vague devotion to Our Lady, but there is little hope that they will return to the Church except perhaps on their death-beds.
Occasionally one comes across people who say that they find Catholicism was meaningless to them; they appear to he speaking with sincerity. Such people will say that when they abandoned the practice of the Faith and attended some form of Protestant service, they felt far more satisfied.
IT is rare to meet with great hostility to the Church amongst the lapsed, but their general attitude is one of complete indifference. They do not love God because they do not know Him, and they have no fear of Hell because they do not believe in it.
They are living in an environment
that is almost completely pagan and often anti Catholic. The peop le around them are concerned with material things alone, and believe only in what they can experience through their senses. In a society where a so-called educated woman can ask : "Who is God?" it is not surprising that the ignorant and hard-pressed should have little faith.
Respectability and security are the ideals of so many in our town, and they seek security through marriage and the advancement of their children through higher education. The false but common belief that scholarships are gained more easily in non-Catholic schools where time is not "wasted" in religious education makes it seem reasonable to many Catholic parents to send their children to the council schools.
IT cannot be over-stressed that the 'environment of our town is deadly for those who are not firmly rooted in their Faith, and it makes the practice of the Faith overwhelmingly difficult to those who come from homes where the parents themselves have small belief in God.
If we contrast the lapsed with those who are faithful in spite of equally poor upbringing. and with converts who show such longing for God and become such excellent Catholics, it may be easier to trace the cause of the indifference of the lapsed. It is this indifference that is so much more serious than any reason that they allege for their failure, and far more disquieting than occasional hostility.
It would seem that indifference is based on ignorance and has been deepened by the failure of practising Catholics to show forth the joy of Christ.
SOME of the lapsed have had little instruction. Many have learned Catholic dogma and rules but they have never known Our Lord as a Person Who loves them and wants to be loved by them.
Religion has been superficial and never a matter of spiritual experience to them. They have said prayers but they do not know the meaning of prayer; they have heard Mass but the drama of the Mass has been meaningless to them. They long for happiness but they have no idea of the joy of the Faith.
Every lapsed Catholic who knew Catholic priests and teachers has known those who loved Our Lord and had devotion to Our Lady, but it would seem that they may not have been influenced by those whose love of God transformed their lives and filled them with joy and peace. They have never been warmed by the fires of love that came from the heart of a man or woman on fire with the love of God.
It is only by love and by deep prayer that the Faith of the children of our town will be preserved. It is only by the love and joy that is found through prayer that the lapsed of our town will be drawn back to the Mystical Body of Christ Who loves them and gave Himself for them.