Thursday, 12 December 2019
Back to the Future for Renewal of the Church
Bishops and parish pastors each have their own vision for a ‘renewal’ of their Diocese or parish. In our own Diocese we have gone from erecting ‘Pastoral Areas’ with one Bishop to establishing to ‘Parish Partnerships” with his successor –partnerships which, even after a five year project, turned about to be little more than re-organising the boundaries of the ‘Pastoral Areas’ and renaming them ‘Parish Partnerships’ -especially since we had already been directed to share resources between parishes when we were Pastoral Areas. In reality, neither Pastoral Areas nor Parish Partnerships were anything more than a reorganising of boundaries and the encouraging of cooperation between parishes as the number of those attending Mass, seeking baptisms and marrying declined while the number of parishes and convents closing increased. In fact, the programmes we have put in place over the years have been nothing more than a way to manage decline, not a way to build and renew.
As long-time readers of this blog will know, I have always said that the programme which needs to be put in place is a return to the teaching of the Catechism in the schools and from the pulpit; ensuring the liturgy is celebrated according to the rubrics, and a promoting of authentic lay ministry via the Legion of Mary (which focuses on the Spiritual works of Mercy) and the SVP (which focuses on the Corporal Works of Mercy). I do not want to abandon that programme, but something needs to precede it: spiritual renewal.
It is past time to have all parishes re-establish weekly Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and a daily Rosary before Holy Mass. Any renewal that does not place Christ and His Holy Mother at its heart is bound to fail, for Christ in the Eucharist is the source and summit of the entire Christian life, and therefore essential in bringing about true renewal. Once renewal of the spiritual life and doctrinal formation of the people has taken hold we can refocus the people of God on those ministries upon which we will be judged according to Mathew 25: the spiritual and corporal works of mercy –easily achieved by establishing the Legion of Mary and SVP in every parish.
This all sounds like a return to the past doesn’t it? Perhaps it is, but the path we took in 1965 to create a bright new future has not worked: it precipitated a rapid decline in marriages, baptisms, and priestly and religious vocations. Some folk –lay and ordained- profess the renewal brought about by Vatican II has been a great success. What they mean is we have created inauthentic roles for the laity wherein they ape their shepherds by a myriad of committees and groups wherein they engage in parish management and pastoral care (shepherding). As a result, we have brought about in the people of God a feeling (or belief?) that to be one of the sheep in God’s flock is just not good enough. Truly, the only way forward for the renewal of the Church is the go back for the sake of the future: back to correct doctrinal formation; back to a liturgy focused on the propitiation of God and the demonstrating of his triumph rather than continue a liturgy that focuses on celebrating and affirming the people, with the re-establishing of the SVP and Legion of Mary so that the people of God can make The Faith their own by the living out of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and thereby grow in holiness ready for the event of Matthew 25.