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Monday, 22 December 2014

Community AGAIN

As my regular readers know, I keep writing, "This is my last post on community",

Well, here is another  "last " one.

An interesting discussion with my seminarian son revealed that he thinks one of the biggest problems in Great Britain in the Catholic Church is individualistic faith. He thinks that one of the reasons why priests are so worn out and that the Church is not thriving has to do with individual people not seeing that the Church is community and needs to be built up into an extended family.

No one seems to be working on that problem in GB. Now, we all know the English characteristic of being very independent, which is a good thing, but this emphasis and reticence to do things together undermines Catholic community.

Many, many years ago, when I was still single and working as a "lay chaplain" with university students in England, I met with Americans who had come from Ann Arbor's great community to try and set up something similar in Chiswick. The efforts all failed. In discussions with those who came over to do this, I learned that the British just did not want Church-based communities.

There could be many reasons for this, including these facts. The first problem would be a recusant mentality left over from the horrible Henrician and Elizabethan persecutions. In other words, Catholics learned to hide, live low-key religious lives, and not draw attention to Catholicism.

A second reason would be the problem with immigrants not banding together as Catholics, as they did in the States. Irish Catholics and English Catholics still have very different models of Church in their souls and do not practice their religion in the same manner. This is more noticeable in some areas in the northern part of GB, and in the "deep south".

A third problem is the gross secular attitudes of many British Catholics. Their social lives have not centered on the Church, as in the States, where, especially in the South and Midwest, the Church was the center of all life, social and private. For some reason, social life in many Catholic areas either never includes Catholic social activities, or very few. The common Church fete is one thing which persists, and maybe a carol service at this time of year. but not the continued weekly getting together of various groups.

A fourth ingredient for failure would be that lay people in England rarely start anything on their own, waiting for a priest to begin projects. This is sad and an indication of a lack of the adult appropriation of the Faith.

A fifth problem is that families, strong Catholic ones, are usually the core of communal Catholic life. Where there are no or few such families, community most likely will not spring up.

I remember going to a Legion of Mary meeting in a huge London parish in 2012. Only six people showed up. I was surprised. This type of grouping seems not to attract the British. Even pro-life groups are small in comparison with the numbers of people in the parishes. The Guild of Titus Brandsma has a very difficult time meeting. Religion is not a priority in some areas of GB.

Maybe Americans are just "joiners" and the British are not so. But, community must happen in England if the Church is to survive. One is never a Catholic in a vacuum. This has never been part of the heritage of Catholicism, nor the way Christ set up His Church. He started with twelve men, and that expanded to 70 disciples and then more and more.

That a young seminarian can see the real need for community is a good start, as when he is a priest, he can work towards this goal. But, people in the pew must want community, must see the need for it.

The group I am friends with here in Malta has been, for four visits, the Magnificat group. This resource builds excellent community, albeit on a small level. In 2012, I wanted to start such a group when I was in England, but could not get any women, but one, interested. See the problem?

British Catholicism will remain weak and even disappear in some areas because of the lack of community. God did not intend for Christians to live in separated lifestyles, going to Mass on Sunday and then, going home and not interacting during the week in any way at all. This model is not one which has been traditional. And, with the death of Christendom, local communities are even more important.

My friends in England know the importance of community, but it takes more than one person, here or there, to create the links needed. Those in the Church are lacking a common vision, a common goal for community.

I can say for sure that false seers, false prophets and unorthodox charismatics in England have ruined broad-based community efforts in many, many places. When people are disobedient to Rome, there is no grace to work together. Sadly, in more than one place I have been for some time, there are too many people following New Age or even condemned seers.

God will not bless such groups and they usually end up either falling apart, leaving the Church entirely, or falling into serious sins.

However, those phenomena are not the only reason for the lack of community in GB. How interesting that my conversation in London, in 1987 and my conversation in Malta in 2014 concern the same, huge and desperate need for Catholic community in GB. Over 27 years, nothing has changed. Perhaps, the Church is GB is destined to be very, very, very, biblically small.