Last week, at mass, I shared with you the sadness of people who know that when they die faith in the family will die. Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren do not attend church and many have not been baptised. Nothing to be done, they reflect, except pray and hope and keep on loving.
For many years I have seen this. Families know nothing about the prayers and responses at the Requiem mass. They are glad to be here for the sake of the one they loved, this mass was what (s)he wanted, but they are here out of love and not in faith. The love is a blessing but they cannot share the prayer. That’s one of the reasons I try to arrange Requiem mass at 10.00 am so that our regular mass-goers will give a sense of community in sharing the prayer and singing the hymns.
It’s been happening for a long time. In 1962 there were 72,000 regularly at mass in our diocese, in 1992 there were 37,000, and in 2016 there were 29,000 – and you know how many mass-goers now come from other parts of the world.
Seeking to blame is futile. People choose to believe in God or not, to attend church or not, and no one can touch that freedom of choice. Example is best, persuasion will rarely work and forcing young people to come looks to be counter-productive.
One awful man told me “It’s because people don’t believe in hell”. What a motive for loving and serving God, for praying, to be frightened by the threat of hell! Only the most timid and fearful would fall for that.
Love of God is our message, always has been, and love cannot be forced. Love is always invitation. We are all invited, but fewer people accept the invitation than used to. Those of us blessed with a living faith, weak though we feel it might be, uninspiring as we seem to be told it is, we still want to love and serve God as best we can. If the children, small or adult, follow our example, good: if not we still continue because we know it is the right way to be.
Religion and Church are not numbers, but faith and love. In other parts of the world, the Church is showing tremendous growth. We seem to have lost it here.
God bless us,
(14th May 2017)