There was, I presume, a time when Catholics would receive their copy of The Universe and even The Tablet and rejoice.
Looking over a volume of 'From the Archives of The Universe Catholic Weekly' the other day, I was filled with wonder at photographs from what appears to have been a 'golden age' for Catholicism in the United Kingdom. I saw a marvellous image of G K Chesterton and his wife walking into Westminster Cathedral, for instance. This 'golden age' seems to have been from the late 1800s, through the decades until the ravages of the Second World war, or rather its aftermath, and the resulting 1960s 'new age'.
It appears to have been a time when Priests and Bishops behaved and dressed like Priests and Bishops, when the laity voluntarily built shrines to Our Lady in the East End of London, when couples loved the Faith so much that they would get married in freshly bombed Churches, when processions were massive, piety and devotion to the Rosary was strong and the Catholic identity ran through British Catholic life like a stick of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock. In that novel, the innocent Rose tells bad boy Pinkie that suicide is a "mortal sin". Pinkie's response is that "one more won't hurt". Nowadays, presumably, Pinkie would tell Rose that you can't talk to people about Salvation and ask her whether she means something about climate change.
The archive images are fascinating, but they throw into sharp focus the present age and how aspects of Catholic worship, liturgy and dress are absolutely unrecognisable from what they once were. When you compare the ornate vestments, birettas and lace albs that were just what Priests and Bishops wore routinely, it just appears as if everything was taken so much more seriously in those days! There was a sense of timelessness and majesty to the images. The Faithful really were faithful. Full of faith. That is certainly how it appears, anyway.
|'From the Archives' Hardback Book|
It always strikes me that it appears that many senior Priests and Bishops are embarrassed by the Church's past in the UK. I have a feeling the time will come when future generations of Catholics will feel embarrassed by them. This isn't just history. This is our history. These are our roots! These are images of Bishops, Priests, Religious and Laity with whom we are still in communion, as much as we are with the Saints! I recommend the series very much.