In a new series, we share the reflections of some readers of The Irish Catholic as the Church in Ireland continues the synodal journey
Fast and Pray: this is the traditional way to prepare and we should be encouraged to fast as much as we can. Abstinence on Fridays is not hard or we could even follow the old Irish custom of Céadaoin, the first fast, on Wednesdays as well. Anyone, you would think, could do the fast of the prophet Daniel who just abstained from tasty food.
It is obvious that we need to pray for good fruits of the synod.
I think we the Church need to aim for holiness. Successful busy parishes have to be careful that they are not all work and no prayer, even though good works are very important too of course.
Vatican II in emphasising the liturgy seemed, perhaps, to belittle private devotions and it is – I think – a form of clericalism that many priests take no part in the various devotions in their parishes, such as the rosary and adoration of the Blessed Eucharist.
I took part, through the internet, in many Masses throughout these islands and was deeply impressed by the goodness, kindness and sincerity of all the priests.
The Church needs to be a teaching Church again. In spite of the issue of The Catechism of the Catholic Church, way back in 1997, and the wonderful easier versions produced by Aid to the Church in Need, children and young people have only a watered-down Catholicism taught. Surely in a proper division between Church and State the teaching of religious doctrine is the Church’s prerogative.
Bríd Ní Rinn
- Catechesis: that constant call to conversion is entirely absent. In 1979, Pope John Paul II pleaded with the men of violence to lay down their arms; they did. A month later he begged pastors (Catechesi Tradendae S64) to give catechesis; nothing happened.
- Mercy is central: we should not allow the media define who we are. We ought to assert that the Church has no power, purpose, or programme, other than the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 1:21; John 1:29; I Timothy 1:15). This is our Unique Selling Point! Any other concern, competence, or characteristic, ascribed to her, comes from outside.
- Conversation: a tactic in war is to destroy the communications of the enemy, thus throwing them into confusion. We need a forum (broadcast, written, local Q&A-club, etc.) so that we can talk amongst ourselves, encounter Christ at work in others, be ourselves, and so exist as God’s community on earth, putting on the mind of Christ. We have allowed our minds to be colonised; our daily reality filtered and distorted by a hostile, unbelieving media. Indiscriminate television, destroys faith. A screen-tech break would greatly assist in keeping the Lord’s Day holy.
- Perspective: we need to recover the integrity of our self-talk and to abandon agenda-laden media-speak, e.g., ‘reproductive health’; nobody considers themselves a reproduction of anyone. (We go to the shop in an art gallery to get a ‘reproduction’.) Transmission of life would be more correct. ‘Feminist ideology’ is internalised misogyny; including fertility suppression, pathologising pregnancy, and devaluing maternal-care.
- Gratitude: Joy is not complete until we celebrate what God has done for us and in us. ‘Pride ideology’ drives the consumerisation of relationships, (substituting consent for commitment) and has placed our society on an unsustainable trajectory of self-annihilation; currently no generation in the global north is replacing itself.
The hopes and dreams I have for the future of the Catholic Church in Ireland can’t wait for a synod in the next five years. Going on what I witnessed this morning, I fear we must act now to address the issue of how we continue to administer the sacraments to non-practicing families. I know it is not popular to ‘get tough’, but has the ‘softly, softly’ approach worked? Is the Church facilitating a traditional sentimental rite of passage, or, in the words of Prof. Eamonn Conway, celebrating the sacraments “fruitfully”?
This morning half of a First Communion class, and half of a Confirmation class were invited to attend two Masses in a Dublin parish, as part of their preparation for the sacraments, whenever they are allowed to happen. Three out of nine came from the junior class, and only two out of nine from the sixth class. (Note, this is following the prolonged prohibition on public worship, so it’s not as if the families have been pressurised to attend weekly Mass). Because there were so few of them, one little fellow looked very disgruntled throughout the Mass, which was noted by the celebrant afterwards.
These children attend a Catholic school, which does it’s best to promote a Catholic ethos, but despite the efforts of the teachers to teach Christian values, there is very little commitment from the parents.
I believe it is the right of Catholics to have their children taught in the Faith if they so wish, but it simply dosen’t work if the children are not brought up in the Faith. Parents are the first teachers of the Faith. Teachers can only do so much. The third member of this triangle, the parish, is helpless if the families stay away, and they are staying away in droves. And yet, the chorus at the school gates continues to be “Any news of a date yet for the First Communion”? Why? To organise the party or invoke the grace of the Holy Spirit?
We welcome the announcement of a new synodal pathway for the Catholic Church in Ireland – the process of synodality is the starting point.
The synodal path is a journey of engagement, listening, dialogue and inclusive of all the People of God, especially those who have been hurt, disillusioned or rejected by the Church.
Enabling people to articulate a new and radical vision of Church will be important to sustain people for the five year journey: “without a vision the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).
A key question for leaders is: what do we need to let go of to allow the new to emerge? What are the attitudes, beliefs, values and ways of doing things that may have served us well in the past but are now becoming barriers to a renewed Church?
A special concern is about listening to the voices of young people and women —all of whom need help to find and express their voice and exercise leadership.
Through the use of creative arts — poetry, music, artwork, dance, digital media and more; we can glimpse the kingdom of God among us.
Therese Mullen IBVM