From Mr Peter Kraushar Sir, Having just started my Ilth Alpha course — we can hardly cope with the numbers flooding in, nearly all Catholics — I was surprised and saddened by the criticisms of Alpha in your last issue.
Most seemed to miss the point. Alpha is a course helping each one of us to find Jesus and the Holy Spirit in a very personal way. If this is unusual for Catholics, does it not show a gap in most Catholic teaching? On this point I find little difference between Nicicy Gumbel and Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher to the Papal Household.
As a committed Catholic, I know that Alpha has helped revive and refresh my Catholic faith. I am not alone; here are some quotes from Catholics at our past courses: "Has enriched my faith ...inspirational". "Unique experience which I long to repeat". "Having lapsed, I found it a door to future growth in my Christian faith". "I pray now using the Bible...previously I found it difficult". "Profound experience...presented in original and dynamic manner...superb teaching". "Gave me a feeling of belonging and being valued".
Instead of moaning that Alpha was not invented by Catholics, we should recognise it as a marvellous vehicle for revitalising and evangelising, adding subsequently PACT, RCIA and any other material as relevant. At our last Alphas we finished the course with lively Catholic sessions using a panel of priests and lay people, which covered what had been omit ted from the Catholic point of view. Let us be constructive and positive. As one quote said, "Thank God for Alpha!"
Yours faithfully, PETER KRAUSHAR London N2.
From the Chairman of Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Sir, I must congratulate you on printing Bess Twiston Davies' article "Is Catholic Alpha simply Protestantism with optional extras?"
There has been so much confusion about Alpha that it was good to see both those for and against it given the opportunity to explain their stance. This has given us all the chance to see where the truth lies but at the same time to understand why Catholics who have the fullness of truth still hanker after Alpha even when they are aware of its defects.
I agree with the article's author that the answer is to provide Catholics with a Catholic programme which will not lead them astray on important points and which will also give them the social life they seem to be looking for. I would suggest that parish priests or knowledgeable lay people run classes on, for instance, Father Kevin Preston's Christ, Church and Life (published by Gracewing.) This was written for senior schools and it is based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, so it is entirely Catholic. At the same time it is clear and quite fascinating so, as long as the supper was included, it should fill the bill perfectly, and strengthen faith instead of harming it.
Yours faithfully DAPHNE MCLEOD Great Booldiam, Surrey.
From Ms Margaret Gray-Williams Sir, It is saddening to read the article on Catholic Alpha in this week's Herald. Why do they need to try to criticise an excellent programme which has been approved by Cardinal Hume and the other Catholic bishops, and for which the preacher to the papal household sees fit to provide a sequel?
In our area Alpha has been run as a combined effort by four Catholic parishes a number of times over the past two years, attended by several priests who have recommended it to their parishioners. What has resulted has been a fresh enthusiasm for the faith, people coming back to church, and at least one conversion to Catholicism.
As invitations were produced and delivered jointly by the different Christian churches, some people came to the Catholic Alpha as a result of invitations delivered by Evangelicals! It is always easier to denigrate and be negative than to do something constructive. The whole point of Alpha is to introduce new people, or those who have lapsed, to Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Is the ideal of Catholic community really a confession queue where the priest doesn't turn up?
Yours faithfully, MARGARET GRAY-WILLIAMS Bagshot, Surrey. From Mr V Whitehouse Sir, Having recently completed an Alpha course, in a local parish, I can confirm the misgivings aired in The Catholic Herald over its suitability in a Catholic milieu.
Most of the participants were Catholics, mainly of an older age-group. While group discussion-hopping (discouraged but useful for an oversight of their proceedings), I found, to my astonishment, that any attempt to put forward more than a superficial Catholic view, or "voice", was either badly received, thought "dogmatic" or was passed over.
It seemed to make little difference whether the groups were led by clergy, religious sisters or layfolk. Such interventions were by group leaders felt unhelpful and were deemed unwelcome.
At the end of the course, whilst discussing a Catholic follow-up, one group participant insisted this "should not be about doctrine".
It was the clinching clue to my apprehensions about these odd gatherings.
The reason why our children largely leave full-time Catholic school education, with poor, defective, and deficient knowledge, and love of their Catholic faith; and subsequently fall away from what they have never properly received.
Despite its increasingly avid reception in Catholic parishes, Alpha has definitely no place in them.
After all, if one cannot even support and defend one's own corner...
Yours faithfully V WHITEHOUSE London SW20.