Thursday, February 15, 2007

Today`s Times

The front page of today`s Times announced in an article by Ruth Gledhill, the Religion Correspondent: `Catholics set to pass Anglicans as leading UK church`. The gist of the story is that attendance at the Catholic Church in this country has exploded with recent immigration. It makes the claim:

From being an Irish-English church in a mindset of managing steady decline, the Church has within the space of 12 months found itself having to countenance an unprecedented expansion and change in its ethnic make-up.

One comment on Ruth Gledhill`s blog, which seems to have disappeared now I have gone back to look for it, pointed out, with the figures, that for quite a while now the number of practising Catholics has exceeded the numbers of practising Anglicans in this country. I have spoken to priests in other parts of the country whose congregations have increased dramatically through Polish immigrants but, so far as I am aware, they haven`t showed up here. St Aidan`s and St Mary`s are pretty full anyway at a weekend, but we could do with some Polish newcomers at SS Peter and Paul`s! A priest friend tells me that the future of the Catholic church in this country lies with immigration. I just hope that after a generation or two, our new arrivals have kept the faith and haven`t fallen prey to the high lapsation rates prevalent among Catholics today.
Many thanks to Ruth for the mention of Forest Murmurs on her blog.


Hebdomadary said...

Father, the answer is simple. When the church gets a better liturgy, the lapsation rate will fall. The Novus Ordo isn't substantial enough to inculcate a sense of devotional reinforcement. It feels hollow. I'm not spitting invective or anything, that's just how I see it, and people I know have experienced it. I work in a new rite parish, too. Here's the deal: the idealistic '60's wanted to strip ritual and conceptualize the faith so that it can be wrapped around CARE packages. Problem is the human species hasn't become the Space Child like at the end of 2001. We're only as old as the oldest person among us (excluding the Consecrated Species), and we still make the same mistakes, commit the same sins, and need the same elevated amount of ritual, liturgical prayer to help us remember those concepts of the faith which for most people lose a good deal of their lustre in the face of temptation. Get a better liturgy, get a better church.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Hebdomadary, I`m glad to hear you say this. I know good, orthodox priests who say the liturgy is not the central issue but the problem is that society has changed and we must find new ways to reach people. All I know is that for me the liturgy IS the issue. I simply wouldn`t be able to take myself to many Catholic liturgies if I were a layman except out of a need to fulfil my Sunday obligation. What I find amazing is the level of resistance to making the liturgy less like entertainment and more like an opportunity to pray.

roydosan said...

Sadly most people have voted with their feet when it comes to the liturgy. I know in my own family there was almost complete lapsation after the introduction of the novus ordo (whatever its rights or wrongs). If I hadn't discovered the traditional liturgy I'm sure I would have lapsed as well. The liturgy needs to be different from our everyday life - we should celebrate God in the liturgy and the community in the parish hall. If the Mass can be seen once more as a prayer rather than a community get together we might see people coming back. Thinking of it in marketing terms, to get the consumer to buy your product you have to offer them something different. To win souls for Christ you have to give them that something special which will show them a ‘glimpse of heaven’ - of the transcendent. If the liturgy is a contradiction to our modern lives rather than an ill-fitting complement then, I think, people will return.

Hebdomadary said...

Thanks, Padre, I'm not used to clerical support when making such an assertion. But "reaching people" is the coward's response, made by those who lack the personal assertiveness to stick to a position even when it is unfashionable. But the reality is that the church has never been "fashionable." It has ALWAYS irritated secular society, and sometimes priests and laity alike pay for that irritation with their lives. The church has NEVER gotten anywhere by accomodating society, and has always viewed itself as the REMEDY to the world, not a reflection of it. The clergy on the other side of that view, good men no doubt that they are (most of them), are kidding themselves.

I had a high-school football coach once, guy named Al Lewis. He was old when I knew him in the early '80's, still coaching, and still running offensive schemes that were fashionable in the '50's. He had a reason for doing this, and his maxim that described the rational was "If you march in one direction long enough, you'll find, eventually, that you're leading the parade." Surely he was raised a Catholic.

Hebdomadary said...

To draw another metaphor from sports, there was an expression going around a couple of years ago when the Red Sox won the World Series (sorry to draw so much from American culture, Padre!), that went "Cowboy up!" In other words, when the chips are down (as they always are in the Church) and poise, talent and character are required, it's time to 'Cowboy up!' and deliver the goods, come through for your team. I heard this echoed just the other day on the radio as "Man up"; getting some spine, standing up for what you believe in, doing the right thing.

I propose a further refinement of the metaphor, that when the world scorns you, when they find you an irritation past bearing, when the time comes to stand or fall on our Church's principles, it's time to "Priest up." I think when one does "Priest up," no higher compliment can be paid. Just don't expect any appreciation from the world for "priesting up" for what you believei in. But you'll get it from me.

Monica said...

Father, the liturgy is the issue. The more people are told that 'commemorating the last meal of Jesus our friend is a good way of making friends', the more intelligent young people are going to look elsewhere.

On the other hand, when they are told of the Sacrifice of the Cross, the Sacrifice of the Mass, and what Christ the Son of God did for for us by willingly laying down His life to redeem us, the more we will challenge them to be Christ-like.

It's not rocket-science - but then again, it's not protestant. It take some courage to be a Catholic - and our young people have that courage in spades if we only give them the true message in all its fullness. Unfortunately much damage has been done by bishops, priests and lay-folk over the past 40 years and it will take some courage and patience to repair that damage.

God bless all that you are doing for the Church.