Dear Editor, As Clomaney country music festival, Fleadh Cheoil, Galway races, and the ploughing championships are all cancelled, I decided to do something this summer. So instead of a staycation I did a praycation.
So off to Holy Cross Abbey in Rostrevor, Co. Down for a week. The experience was silent especially with the monks at meal time. The accommodation was ideal for myself as was the food.
What amazed me was that I valued the silence. From the Liturgy of the Hours where we reflected on the psalms, to the stillness of the prayerful grounds. Even though we have over the last 18 months experienced silence in the lockdowns, I felt those times prepared me well for my week away.
I think it would be a help in our various liturgical celebrations to create more silent moments. We feel that we have to fill every moment with music or the spoken word. Any time I did have silence you can hear a cough or a shuffle from an anxious congregation wanting me to just get on with it.
Silence is unsettling, I agree, but embracing it can open up a more unique relationship to the God we worship. If the only silence we experience in Church is when everyone is gone, then I feel we are missing out. I know the liturgical experts will have their view, but if we encourage silence every so often, would two extra minutes be such an ordeal?
It’s amazing when you go for the praycation how much you can experience a hidden treasure.
Fr Martin Gilcreest
Cavan Town, Cavan
Catechesis on the basics of our Faith is needed
Dear Editor, Hand-wringing about lapsed Catholics is futile without action. Some have left, perhaps, for a Church with a livelier social life, a better youth group, etc. Others may have left because being a Catholic requires commitment – to the sacraments, to charity – and endows one with a conscience! Or, because the Mass is not in Latin – were the first Masses in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic? Surely God is multilingual. At the Consecration, transubstantiation occurs – we have the Real Presence (we don’t understand how – we have faith – does the language matter?)
Catechesis on the basics of our Faith is needed, especially on the Real Presence.
Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim
Questioning the distinction between indoor dining and Confirmation
Dear Editor,The advice pertaining to religious ceremonies such as First Holy Communions and Confirmations is religious ceremonies should not take part at this time. The basis for this is public health advice, rather than a statutory provision. Based on public health advice means the Catholic authorities do not have a legal duty to follow these rules, and this was conceded by the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly who nonetheless urged clergy to ‘stick with them’. The basis for this is they can be ‘spreader events’, leading to increased transmission of Covid- 19. The minister failed to mention that ‘free profession and practice of religion’ is guaranteed under Article 44 of the Constitution. The intervention was made on the basis of public health advice, rather than a statute, so it can be inferred no question of constitutionality arose. A moot question, is, what the position of the 1937 Constitution is in civic life? Does it operate solely negatively, used by the courts to strike down legislation or by the Government to refuse to legislate?
The restrictions imposed by Covid-19 put this distinction into sharp relief. The State’s response throughout has been to assume a certain aggregate amount of contact is acceptable, dependent on the prevalence of the disease, the rate of spread, the risk of transmission, and the necessity of the activity being pursued. In Scotland, the legal restrictions on attending Mass were held to violate the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms under the UK’s Human Rights Act 1998 because it surpassed what the Scottish Government were legally permitted to do.
As both indoor dining, confirmations and baptisms occur indoors, it is difficult to ascertain what exactly the epidemiological basis for the distinction between the two practices is.
Kilnamanagh, Dublin 24
An outrageous interference in the right of Catholics
Dear Editor, On 29/7/21 An Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced the Government is discussing increasing the numbers permitted at GAA fixtures in Croke park and elsewhere. At the same time people are advised to continue with recommended precautions against Covid-19 including social distancing.
Given that thousands of people will be allowed gather at sports stadia throughout the country I can’t help wondering how social distancing can be maintained/enforced at entrances and exits.
That said, it begs the question as to why the 50 people currently permitted to gather for a church service, should exclude those for First Holy Communion and Confirmation on the grounds of social distancing outside the church, and fear of in-house celebrations in private homes. And how does that square with the 100 people who will be permitted to attend a wedding in the same church from August 5?
Mr Martin’s public statement that such church services should not go ahead is an outrageous interference in the right of Catholics and other Christians to worship and celebrate their rites as God demands!
What we are experiencing is a full-frontal attack on the practice of our religion. The reasons are twofold: Firstly there are votes in allowing sporting events, none in religion; secondly most of our elected representatives who legislated for the abominations now on our statute books are atheist in practice even if Catholic in name and their actions do not accord with any objective moral criteria.
It is time that those in politics who prattle on about the separation of Church and State acted in accordance with their much-vaunted public utterances and refrained from interfering in a realm in which they have no competence. Otherwise, one can only assume that our Government is practising blatant anti-Catholic discrimination as seen in autocratic regimes elsewhere.
It is time also for our bishops to claim their legitimate authority and protect the flock entrusted to their care.
Ashbourne, Co. Meath
Allowing children to receive the sacraments
Dear Editor, Now that the number of guests at weddings has been increased to 100 and baptisms can be resumed, when will Cardinal Martin and Archbishop Varadkar allow children and young people to receive the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation?
Fr Oliver Skelly
Coole, Co. Westmeath.