November 15, 2020
I was born a Catholic and some of my ancestors have been so since mid -18th century, when there was quite a push to revive the Faith in Northumberland. Since then many of the family have followed the faith of their fathers. It is disappointing that our children and grandchildren no longer practise their religion, although they had a Catholic schooling.
My late teenage/early adulthood was taken up with being in an order of monks which nursed- the Hospitaller Brothers of St Joh of God (I did my State Registration training there).( Some of the early Brothers of the Order were nursing men on the Spanish armada). Besides consolidating my knowledge of the church, its function and history, it taught me values of giving oneself to the those disadvantaged, physically and mentally even at the peril of one’s own life. St John of God a Spanish soldier had turned from a more worldly life to become a carer for any one whom he saw was ill or needy. He became for me a great role model. After 6 years I left because I realised I could not reach the standards set for me.
After a year trying teacher training, I joined the Capuchin branch of the Franciscans. After 7 months, I realised a preaching order was not for me either An abiding sense of how faithful Francis was to the ideals he set himself remains with me .
Since then, I have kept up regular practice of Catholicism , going to Mass daily if possible and being involved with local charitable organisations, both within the remit of the church or beyond. . However, the current situation of the church is very disillusioning.
The main benefit in going to Mass regularly is to hear the readings from the Bible. The reformers and many of our more fundamental Christian colleages are so right in their insistence on this. The uniquely Catholic part of the Mass is the Consecration of bread and wine into the the Body and Blood of Christ. This joins the ordinary man to Christ. (It has been my long term privilege to be a Eucharistic Minister (since 1982) and take Christ in the host to the sick in their own homes and to those in hospital. Besides the sacramental/ spiritual side of this, there is a warming social side, linking the person to his local parish. It shows that somebody cares on several levels for the person visited.
What is sad is to have witnessed over the years is a receding sense of mission by the church. I have more recently been stopped doing my Eucharistic ministerial visiting in my home parish by the local parish priest. Whether the clergy like or not, the only way the church’s mission is to be gained in the future through its ‘ordinary’ members, like us.
The English clergy and the especially the Bishops of England and Wales seem to be no better than an specialised adult male club, wanting to protect their privileges and status. The last ‘Sexual Abuse’ report (November 2020) would seem to confirm this view of the church. In the light of so many social, political, employment and health issues and much more, where is the leadership at global national, diocesan and parish level? Why do the hierarchy and lesser clergy not show us all (the despicable word the clergy use is ’laity’ – as if we are somehow lesser mortals) how Christ’s example and His clear precepts are to be fulfilled. They need to lead us in concern for the disadvantaged of any caste, level of society, status, colour, race, sexuality. They should be leading us in protest and promoting actual safegauding for victims of physical, employment and industrial injustice – in short how to love God and His fellow men, women and children . Too many words, committees, decrees, and encyclicals and not enough action to fulfil the Mission at all levels of the Church, as shown in the past and now manifestin places like Africa and Borneo. England used to be knwon as the ‘Dowry of Mary’. She surely wants us to follow her Son’s words and actions. We , if possible will be going to her shrine in Walsingham in July again, where we travel with Holy Family parish from Hartlepool. This allows us to pray for the whole world and renewer mission, under her guidance to the world around me.