Friday 5 October 2012

The Year Of Faith ... Thoughts and Tips -amended

Let us hope and pray that the Year of Faith produces its fruits. As we listened to today’s readings this morning we heard how God corrected Job’s reliance upon his own understanding. Father reminded us that we are to rely upon God and seek the Wisdom that sits by His throne, rather than rely upon our own understanding. Many Governments around the world today seem to rely solely upon their own understandings and secular education (and are not uninfluenced by strident lobbyists) to make and determine their policies and laws, hence their attempt to redefine marriage and their allowing of the killing of innocents in the womb –in numbers far greater than those who lost their lives in the Crusades, the Inquisition or, worse still, the World War II Nazi Regime or Communism. We badly need a Year of Faith in order to renew our grasp of God’s wisdom and our Christian courage so that we may transform ourselves, the Church and the world. A few suggestions given us recently may help...

Since faith, self, Church and society are not renewed by Papal Proclamations decreeing a Year of Faith but by the practical appropriation of such proclamations, we have to do things in this Year of Faith if it is to achieve its purpose. Some practical things we can do as part of our personal programme are:

·         Three Fundamentals:

1. Increase our prayer
2. Increase our fasting
3. Increase our almsgiving

·         Three Public Actions:

1. Wear a crucifix in public
2. Make the sign of the Cross before and after meals at home and when out
3. Say ‘Oh, God bless you’ instead of ‘thank you’

·         Three Personal Building Blocks

1. Read the Catechism (or Credo and Lumen books) to build/consolidate knowledge of the Faith, and the lives of the saints so as to be inspired and guided by the holy rather than the merely educated: Introduction To The Devout Life (St Francis de Sales) Story of a Soul (St Therese of Lisieux) Confessions (of St Augustine) Dark Night of The Soul (St John of the Cross) Uniformity with God’s Will (St Alphonsus Ligouri). Leave behind theologians; go for the spiritual Masters
2. Order our prayer life: a set time which no one and nothing disturbs
3. Begin/return to attending weekday Mass and Sunday Devotions.

No pain; no gain; no exterior change, no interior change.

Let us seek change within ourselves in order to change society, that the Lord may not say to anyone, ‘Alas for you... you shall be thrown down to hell.

As a young person I hope we are treated to more solid teaching and more dignified worship than we have had during my 20+ years. I was on my way out of the Church before I discovered the Catechism and the Extraordinary Form after leaving school; the former helped me to value the Faith, the latter to appreciate liturgy in both Forms. Certainly the predominance of social-justice issues rather than relationship with Christ (from which justice should spring); of relativist teaching rather than the Deposit of Faith, and of hand-clapping, dancing and pop music Masses rather than worship and supplication of God -all of which were no doubt seen and given to us as “consonant with the youth”, actually did nothing to help me or my peers remian in or value the Faith. A 95% lapsation rate of school leavers has resulted from all of this in the last 40+ years, yet our leaders don't seem to grasp or even consider that they might have got it wrong. As young people at school we happily went along with these undemanding things, but by High School many of us were quietly laughing at it all: it was infantile and lacking in meat and challenge. It was, in fact, the Church badly aping the world. Well, we might well have had thousands of youngsters through our youth programmes, but these youngsters aren't committing to Christ in His Church at the end of it. They leave school to stand on street corners, frequent the pubs and enjoy free-floating relationships. Pray to God for a successful Year of Faith.

Father Dickson writes:

We want to add for the purposes of clarification that:

·         This post does not blame teachers or youth workers for the lapsation of the youth; it ends saying the youth are distracted by the attractions of the world. We recognise the sincerity and hard work of our youth workers and teachers, and are sorry if any have felt offended.
·         We here and now record our opinion that dramas, pop-style music and such like can be useful in paraliturgies. Indeed both ‘the collar’ and ‘the tie’ are happy to promote and attend such paraliturgies, and would like to see more of them so that Holy Mass can be left to convey the sense of the holy, rather than a sense of the theatre.
·         The post does proffer that since the lapsation of the youth over the last forty years has not been stemmed by their engagement with youth ministries, that our youth workers/leaders try a different approach: sacred-style Masses and clear, doctrinal teaching. These can easily run alongside very imaginative paraliturgies. It can’t harm to try, can it?
·         We also recognise the need to help young people ask questions of The Faith in order to deepen their understanding of it and thus “give a reason for the hope that is within” (1 Pet.3v15). This post only points out that educational material of the relativist, subjective type (‘The Church says....Do you agree? Give reasons for your answer’) has not proved useful in bonding the youth with Christ in His Church.
·         We affirm that social justice is an essential part of living out the Gospel (cf. Matt.25v31ff), but suggest that when presented with the subjective, relativist thrust of today’s world in educational materials, the revealed nature of The Faith can be lost –especially on life and marriage issues, even though Objective Truth arises within the Person of Christ and leads back to Him.
·         It is true that many of us enjoyed what was given to us at school but despite this, the circle of people with whom we have mixed did dismiss it all very easily (i.e., ‘laugh at it’). It would be interesting to know how many young people in year 12 and above attend Mass of their own volition. I suspect that in many places the numbers might be even less than 5%.


  1. Can I just ask who Andrew McDowell is? Where was he educated, in fact was he at all educated. Another thing if he believes that youth ministry consists of only hand-clapping, dancing and pop music Masses then it is obvious he has very limited experience, again if any at all, in youth ministry. I would suggest he educates himself before he gives his narrow minded opinions on such matters.

    1. This comment feels to me to be lacking in basic Christian charity, for which reason alone I ought not to publish it. However, it also misses what Andrew has said: it is from his experience of school Masses and the like that his comment about youth Masses arose, not education in youth ministry. So let the facts speak for themselves: of the thousands of youngsters who have passed through our oh-so-successful youth missions, youth Masses, schools etc, over the last 40 years, very few are attending Mass. Sadly, they are engrossed in the attractive distractions of the world.
      Further, it is recognised by more and more prelates around the world that education and catechesis have failed over the last few decades. Andrew is therefore correct to ask for something more solid; more Catholic –more true.
      Finally, I would ask all anonymous commentators to step out of the shadows and use your name: personal attacks from 'anonymous' are always, I think, a little cowardly

    2. Reply to anonymous 2 whose comment I have not published simply because I want to bring this exchange to an end:

      1. I suggested Anon.1 was lacking in charity because of his/her statement that Andrew is ‘narrow minded’ which seems to me to constitute a personal attack on a named individual. I have altered my reply so as to show that I am speaking from my personal feelings rather than from objective data about the commentator, whose sincerity in asking the question about Andrew’s education I do indeed recognise.

      2. While we try never to be disrespectful of persons on this blog, we do aim at giving critical appraisal of opinions and activities/actions. I stated that I felt there was a lack of charity in the comment by Anon.1 only because s/he had not given either their name or identifying information and as such, no personalised attack could be made or construed. If Anon.1 feels personally attacked, I sincerely apologise; I simply wanted to defend the good name of a well respected young man whose love for the Church and the Faith is sincere.

      3. I add that what is described as ‘narrow minded’ can be seen in a positive light as ‘committed’ or ‘focused’; this is a re-labelling skill used in some forms of relationship counselling to help provide spouses with a more positive understanding of one another.

      4. I am surprised that anyone should ask Andrew’s educational qualifications since every Tom, Dick or Sally is entitled to an opinion and as a service-user (as we say today) of Youth Services, Andrew’s opinions are as valid as those of any other individual. As I am often heard to say, “what we really need is not educated people but wise and spiritually attuned people; those who have ‘the wisdom that sits by God’s throne’ ” (Wisdom 9). However, to give a response to the question without equating intelligence with education (which many fail to receive simply through lack of opportunity) Andrew was educated to A level in a catholic School and is currently study for a Diploma.

      For Andrew’s sake, I feel I should end exchanges on this subject at this point; we are here simply sharing experiences, opinions and ideas with anyone who is interested while trying most sincerely not to get into personal attacks.

  2. I see from the press and elsewhere on the web that it is being suggested that we should study in depth the documents of the Council. Dare I suggest that, if this had been done nearly 50 years ago, a lot of the intervening confusion and misery would have been avoided?

    Your own spiritual suggestions strike me as immensely valuable and I shall endeavour to put them into practice. I write as one who was baptised as a Catholic but not brought up as one, spent all his adult life until last year as an Anglican and was put off the Catholic church by the almost omnipresent bad liturgy, bad preaching and general air of not being bothered enough. Blessings on your joint labours!


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