Monday, 14 November 2011

Catholic Bishops Set to Re-Evangelise England and Wales

Fr Z today draws our attention to the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales's decision to move up a gear in the re-evangelisation of the UK.

In particular, the Bishops hope to recapture the imaginations and hearts of those who have traditionally been described as 'lapsed' Catholics.

According to Fr Christopher Jamieson, one of the keynote speakers in the campaign's launch, the new language of the 21st century Church in England and Wales describes lapsed Catholics as either 'non-Churchgoing Catholics' or, and this is a classic, 'resting' Catholics. And there we were thinking that 'resting' Catholics were all dead!

In fairness, the poster for the Resource Day held in York on Saturday for 'ministry and outreach' to non-Churchgoing (lapsed) Catholics' does at least mention the dreaded 'L word'. The same poster for the Resource Day in York admits that 'lapsed' is the category into which 2/3 of all Catholics in the United Kingdom fall. According to The Guardian that is about 5 million people. Just think. That is 5 million people who have not yet been introduced to 'Shine Jesus Shine'!

We shouldn't joke about it though, for, as all the Bishops will attest, Salvation is a very serious thing, the most necessary and serious thing and Souls are gravely at risk. You won't hear them say that, of course, but that is what they mean. So when our own Bishop Kieran Conry says, as he does in The Guardian report...

"We have something we're trying to market and we're just reminding people there's something that can bring you happiness, satisfaction and friendship."

...we know that His Lordship is saying that Our Blessed Lord's Heart is pierced through by love for Souls, for those who have forgotten Him and that it is only in His Heart and His Holy Church that Catholics, faithful or lapsed, shall find rest. We know that we can't really "talk about Salvation", but that is surely what His Lordship means.

"We have something we're trying to market..."
The evangelisation drive is entitled 'Crossing the Threshold' and it has been featured today by The Guardian and is also featured on the Bishops Conference website. In all seriousness it is a real challenge to us that 2/3 of Catholics in the country are gravely at risk of losing Heaven forever, but it is also a real challenge to the Bishops. So what are the ideas that will bring those wandering sheep home? Well, according to the Bishops' Conference website:

'As part of the legacy of the Papal Visit to the UK, representatives from across England and Wales gathered for a unique event to focus on outreach and ministry to non-churchgoing Catholics (March 2011).

Three bishops, representatives from 19 dioceses from a broad cross section of Catholic organisations were among the delegates who came together to pray, share experiences and good practice.'

'Good practice'? I haven't heard that phrase since I left temping work in the public sector. You can read the Bishops' recommendations hereFr Christopher Jamieson's personal suggestions are particularly interesting. These include:

1. Invite them to house groups and prayer groups
2. Offer meditation and silence. Young people can be encouraged to do sponsored silences. Don’t underestimate the power of the simple.
3. Music – have concerts of sacred music in church buildings,
4. Make sanctuaries – consider in your town coming to an agreement with the other churches that one church will stay open 24 hrs for people to pray and sit; e.g. Night Church
Then invite them to Mass.

Your thoughts are welcome here. I know quite a few lapsed Catholics. I've asked whether they would like to come back to Church many times and perhaps one comes every now and then, but they don't come back. Most are lonely, depressed, alcoholic, living on benefits and suffer mental illness, in some way on the margins of society. I try to show them love and compassion, give them a Rosary or a religious item if I have one lying around. Each person has their own reasons why they don't come to Mass and I expect that those reasons are varied, not necessarily because their lives run totally contrary to Church teachings.

To me, it seems like going to Mass on Sunday is simply an Act of Love for God. First it is an obligation of course, but we can only really make the effort if we believe that the effort is worth it and that God is definitely worth it. I do think this new initiative is interesting, I just wish it had been placed under the patronage of Our Lady of Walsingham or even a patron like St George. Reading through the literature it seems slightly disconnected from the Catholicism of previous generations, in terms of the language and the spirit of it, but I could be reading more into it than is there.

Perhaps I should undertake a survey of my lapsed Catholic friends and ask 'What would bring you back to the Catholic Church?' First, I'll ask George and see what he says. Are the Bishops really asking people to go out in pairs and knock on people's doors, like the Apostles did and the Mormons do now? I don't want to sound negative since my own efforts to bring home Catholics to the True Fold are so paltry. Churches have community centres - you could have informal evenings there, but why do prayers in there when you can have Exposition in a Church before the Lord Himself or something really silent and prayerful like a Low Mass in the Extraordinary Form? Do I really have to invite everyone round to my studio flat for Heaven's sakes? Michael Voris has some interesting thoughts today which could just shed some light onto the reasons for the collapse of the Catholic Faith in the West.


On the side of the angels said...

Most Catholics didn't walk - they were pushed.

Could talk for hours on the subject but in crippling pain with my hip so will leave it to the rest of you for the time being.

The Bones said...

With that hip of yours, you could bring at least a thousand home!

epsilon said...

Going to Mass can seem like you're going to a social club that's effectively excluding you and if you're in pain it can make the pain even more excruciating, especially when Mass is over and you kneel there and try to pray, and all you hear around you is shrill, empty laughter. God is unimaginably patient, the way He lets us take so long to realise He is all we need and long for!!

Those bishops have a lot to answer for, the way they are letting marketing gurus do a revamp of the Catholic Church in this country!

We could say the Rosary in our homes and give local people an open invite to join us. But for men of the cloth to suggest a sloppy, watered down versions of all night vigils, when we could have all-night Eucharistic adoration in our own Catholic churches is just pityful and very, very sad.

epsilon said...

A very practical step would be for them to make sure that all churches have up to date websites with practical information and contacts. So often you go in and the latest newsletter was for last March or something. There's really no excuse, people don't have to create websites from scratch any more. One thing I noticed on St Patrick's Soho Square which could be a project to tie in with Eucharistic Adoration in every parish could be this:

SOS Prayer Line – 50,000th call.

On 13th May 2002 SOS prayer line started at St Patrick’s. SOS is a service of volunteers praying before the Blessed Sacrament answering the telephone praying for the intentions of callers from 7-11pm every evening, 365 days a year. At this time we are about to receive our 50,000th call which is a grace and a blessing but also a witness to the beauty that is Eucharistic Adoration. During the relocation adoration will continue because that is the ‘engine room’ of the Parish. On it is based all the work and generosity which gives the Parish its life. Please join us in this prayer; “The family that prays together stays together.”
This happened on Sunday 10th January (2010), the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Fr Alexander was in the Chapel and took the call. How many blessings God has poured upon SOS in the last 7 years!

Every parish should have a prayer engine room imho:)

The above link is unfortunately titled "past"... hope it's not

Mike said...

The Bishops should start from where we are and concentrate at first on stopping the haemorrhaging of people from the Church, especially the young. That means having a good look at what is being provided at the moment and seeing where it could be improved. Two obvious examples; catechesis and liturgy. More specifically, bring back some proper education in the real Catholic faith by cutting out all that nonsense about not talking about salvation or mortal sin. In fact, now that I think about it, some frequent talking about sin and the destiny of our souls should be at the top of the agenda. Bring back frequent Confession. Get people to see why they need to put their lives right by God. And, dare I mention it, it might be a good idea to mention Hell on a more frequent basis. If we want to save souls we have to make it clear what we are saving them from. Anybody who thinks that the Church has been working wonders by avoiding these topics is living in cloud-cuckoo land.

A Reluctant Sinner said...

Thank you for an excellent post!

I really do despair when it comes to our bishops. They seem obsessed with using the language of middle-management, middle-class and middle of the road bureaucratic drones.

What's happened to beauty and holiness? What's happened to the radical language of the truth that sets hearts on fire?

I nearly cried when I saw that one of their proposals was to try and get people back to church by inviting them to a concert of sacred music in church buildings. Haven't they thought about bringing back sacred music to all our solemn Masses?

Why are they so boring and so bloody clueless?

Lindi said...

Some thoughts on Catholics who have lapsed.
1. lead 'happy but busy' lives and see no reason to come to Mass.
2. are struggling with own physical / mental illness or that of a family member. You have to be pretty 'up together ' to come to Mass.
3. Aged 60+ - the Mass is not what they remember and 10.30 - 11.30 on a Sunday morning is more like a social club meeting.
4. Have been hurt by remarks from the pulpit / excluded for not keeping to the rules.
5. See the Church as a group of successful. well educated semi-professional lot of 'know it alls' who want to boss you around.
I could go on !

Lazarus said...

We should tell every secondary school Catholic that they have a duty to write the great Catholic novel (or the great Catholic film). Even if only a couple of them produced something it might be a game changer. Fantasy, I know, but we do need to fight back and claim the commanding heights of the culture.

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