Saturday, 11 September 2010
An Empty Husk?
I hope the Altar-cave for the Cofton Park beatification Mass turns out to be more dignified on the day than the artist’s impression suggests. Messa in Latino has come up with this rather extravagant description of it: “Like the fearsome interior of the carapace of some enormous dead grub”. Perhaps it’s not as bad as that, but we shall see! We can’t always judge from a drawing what the reality will look like. This is why I’ve held back from adding my two-penn’orth to the reactions that have appeared in the Catholic blogosphere. All I will say is: that’s an optimistically blue sky for 19th September …
However, I think MiL has hit very close to the mark with its evocation of the idea of an empty carapace. It feels to me like an uncomfortably accurate metaphor for the current condition of the Church in England and Wales. I’m sorry to say that I’ve thought for some time that our part of the Catholic Church demonstrates, in some respects, the deceptive attributes of an empty or nearly empty husk.
A great part of the illusion of health comes from our Catholic education system. School after school refers to itself as having a “Catholic ethos”. If this ethos does not express itself in the form of sound Catholic teaching, does it have any reality, or is it just a fuzzy feeling?
The post-school lapsation rate appears to be catastrophically high. This cannot all be due to adolescent rebellion against devout parents. A large percentage of the pupils must surely belong either to non-believing and non-practising families, or to church-going families who quite sincerely but misguidedly follow the Cherie Blair variety of “Catholicism”, not knowing any better.
I wonder also how many families attend Mass as a form of school fees, as the price to be paid just until their youngest child leaves school, and then they are off. Parish clergy must surely be aware of this phenomenon. However, one never knows: the good habit may be formed, at least in the parents, even if their children lapse. God takes His opportunities to find a way into the most unsuspecting hearts.
Do our parochial and diocesan schools, then, create a great illusion of health in the local Church, and indeed in parish churches? A deceptive impression of fullness, when there is, in large part, only emptiness?
While lamenting these signs of hollowness within the external appearance of the Church in E&W, I must say how much I admire those truly Catholic families, in which the parents know the Church’s teachings and are fully committed to them, in spite of our current adversities; and all credit and honour to them, and to their children who are properly taught by their parents, and who hang on to the true Faith, and come out at the end of their school years with their belief intact.
So, I’ll try not to be too bothered about the physical appearance of the Altar-hood, because there are far worse things, seriously so, swirling around in the English and Welsh Catholic scene. It may well be that a number of things are biding their time to emerge when the Holy Father is safely back in Rome. Will we then see the claws unsheathed? I have a heart-sinking feeling that this may be so.
Dear Heavenly Father, please keep Pope Benedict safe, and may his visit bear the good fruit which we so desperately need.