Rector’s Letter from the October edition of our parish magazine, Tidings
Sometimes I get annoyed enough about something to write to the newspapers!
So it was when the Irish Times published its findings on a major survey of the 50+ generation . The poll found that 90% of them were still faithful, practising Catholics. The commentary on the poll results made no mention of how strong the Catholic Church remained, so I wrote.
“As an English Protestant only resident in the State for the past seven years, the thing I found most striking in your 50 + Poll was the resilience of the Catholic Church. Despite the scandals caused by those who betrayed the sacred trust placed in them, despite the constant ridicule and abuse from sections of the media, your poll suggests that 90 % of the 50 + population hold on to their faith.
To an outsider’s eye, the Church seems considerably stronger than some critics have suggested. As well as the 50 + faithful, the large numbers of those under 50 who still attend Mass regularly confound the prophets who believe that the Church is about to curl up and die. Perhaps the Church’s enduring strength derives from the fact that, when it is at its best, it offers an encounter with the sacred and a true sense of community, neither of which can be found in money, no matter how large one’s salary, or possessions, no matter how exclusive the label.
Fifteen centuries ago, as the Roman Empire collapsed and Christendom disappeared from Western Europe, it was the vocation of the Irish Church to remain faithful. As our current Christendom disappears, the opportunity seems to have arisen to again pursue that vocation”.
The day the letter appeared I got an email from the priest of a large Catholic parish thanking me for saying something that no Catholic priest would have been given space to say, or, if they had said it, would not have been believed. He told me about the continuing large congregations in his church and the warmth and friendship he met with daily in his parish.
Other priests who spoke to me talked about a mood of optimism within the Church, “there’s hope for us yet”, one laughed.
There seems to be a wide gap between the reality of life in the parishes and the picture of the Church that the media want to present. It seems that if the truth doesn’t correspond with the agenda of the journalists, then the truth will be ignored.
This is troubling for the Church, but also encouraging because it means that we depend upon the grace of God and the faith of the people to carry on Jesus’ work. Like the First Century Christians, we carry on telling the story of Jesus because we know it to be true and we do not worry about what others think or say.
Reality is not what journalists or commentators say, reality is the day by day experience of people. It is our experience that God is with us—and if God is with us, who can be against us?