Ireland, the Eucharistic Congress, and Catechesis

For a few days last week, and over the weekend, I was at the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin (I know, I’ve been getting around a bit recently…) So much has been written and said about this Congress, so I won’t give you too many thoughts… simply that I was glad to be there, at such a fundamental moment for the Church in Ireland. I’ve heard how wounded the Church is: not only by the abuse scandals, but, it seems, by a decades-long crisis of faith, and of priesthood. Despite all of this, the Congress, along with other recent events such as the appointment of the new apostolic nuncio, are signs of hope: that despite the wounds caused by the Church upon herself, the only thing for her to do is to cling more closely to Christ, her Spouse, and willingly accept this purification.

One thing that strikes me as important: for too long, it seems, parishes, priests, bishops and lay people themselves, have underestimated the extent that people have fallen away. Being among Irish people at the closing Mass in Croke Park – beautiful as it was – made me realise how far from faith many people are. While they are indeed receiving the sacraments, they seem far away from an understanding of what they receive. Close to the means of grace, far from grace. We returned to our seats from receiving Holy Communion (in a dingy corridor, with stewards shouting at the lay extraordinary ministers while 1,000 priests sat in the arena), to find everyone around us, who had also just received Communion, chatting and laughing and even passing around sweets (…at a Eucharistic Congress!) This seems to be a country where to be Catholic has for too many decades simply been a part of being Irish, rather than involving any real assent of faith. I thought of some of our parishioners who were received into the Church at Easter, I thought of those who have just finished the precatechumenate, and even those who are contemplating beginning the precatechumenate – in terms of exhibiting ‘signs of faith’, they are far ahead of these supposedly fully-fledged Catholics.

So, in the process of renewal, priests and lay catechists need to have a full awareness of the reality of the vast majority of Catholics. It is almost as if parishes need to stop the ‘hollow ritualism’ of dispensing sacraments and start right from scratch with basic evangelisation, like a completely new mission territory…

Maybe I’m being too drastic – tell me in the comments if you think so! I am aware that England has more than its fair share of cultural Catholics. And don’t worry, I’m not all doom and gloom. I actually enjoyed the Congress. I am praying more fervently for the Church in Ireland, for the new appointments of bishops which we hope will happen before long. While I was there, I had a great desire to help. Ireland has an eye-wateringly huge need for catechetical leaders to begin the renewal of catechesis in parishes. Naturally, I felt a great longing to give some catechesis. Something on the Real Presence would have been good, for a Eucharistic Congress. Ireland – if you ever need someone to give some catechesis or train some catechists, I’m there!

About transformedinchrist

I live in Southsea and work for the Diocese of Portsmouth. My first love is for catechesis and evangelisation: until January 2013, I worked for a busy, thriving parish in south London coordinating the catechesis - sacramental programmes and adult formation. In November 2013, I completed my MA in catechetics at Maryvale Institute, Birmingham. View all posts by transformedinchrist

7 responses to “Ireland, the Eucharistic Congress, and Catechesis

  • Tonia

    I first went to Ireland in 1988. I stayed in a small town about 20 minutes from Dublin. Mass was packed, the whole town was there, but it was over in 25 minutes and the men stood at the back so they would be first at the bar when it finished. We all left the Church, filed into the pub and ordered our Guinness. You have to allow a few minutes for the head to settle to get that satisfying thick creamy white line and deep black beer that looks a bit like a priest’s shirt and collar. That was a Sunday ritual people took time over!

  • Marilyn Moran

    I do not think you are being too drastic. I totally agree with you. It is very upsetting to see a disrespect for the Eucharist, people not being truly aware of who they are receiving. I work with the RCIA in my parish in the USA and realize how much more our candidates and newly baptized know and how much more reverent they are compared to so may of our “cradle Catholics”. There is truly a huge need for catechesis everywhere.

  • Paul Rodden

    ‘New mission territory’?

    Funny you should mention it, but these guys don’t think you’re being too drastic:
    http://cenacleosb.org/monastic-mission/
    – From Oklahoma to County Meath!

    By marrying into a large Irish family, I’ve experienced what you’re talking about regularly (e.g., the Offertory being the signal to go outside for a fag and get the latest Hurling score). Yet they’re convinced if you’re not Irish, nor from Boston, you know diddly-squat about Catholicism.

    Anyway, here’s a beautiful Prayer of Reparation to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus which, Fr Mark, the Prior of Silverstream, posted on his blog, 14th June:
    http://vultus.stblogs.org/2012/06/reparation-2.html

  • Mary G

    You are absolutely right – we are at ground zero, and it’s difficult to understand why many (though not all) priests, teachers and bishops can’t see it.

  • Nuala Lynch

    I agree totally with you. I am a primary school teacher and see first hand the lack of catechesis in the schools. The Alive O programme is completely inadequate and has doctrinal errors etc. It is more like a programme for environmental studies. I know a principal of a local protestant school who wouldn’t have it because it is so bad. The problem is , we have been saying this for years and nothing has been done. But even if the catechesis was improved in the schools there is still the problem that the children are getting nothing at home. So something must be done at a parish level. My daughter is a member of youth 2000 and these are an excellent group but we need something at parish level for younger children. Youth 2000 is only for 16 to 35 year olds. I think something along the lines of Sunday school in parishes should be started.
    Nuala

  • Paul Rodden

    Hi Mary, G.

    Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants.” [Letter to Robert Hooke], and I think that’s a good analogy of what we do and hand on in catechesis.

    That is, maybe the problem is they’re too small to see by themselves? If it is, then I think some are there through genuine ignorance (can’t see), but others have deliberately stepped off those shoulders to go their own way (won’t see).

    I have to confess some years ago I was there through ignorance (and sometimes don’t feel much further forward now!), but when I was younger, I attended a group that met in the basement of a Church just off Oxford Street in London. They were faithful to the Magisterium, and so knew how to stand on the shoulders of Apostolic Tradition.
    Sadly though, instead of helping me up onto those magnificent shoulders, they spat on me (metaphorically, of course!), accusing me of Modernism and other things, when I didn’t even have a clue what they were talking about back then, so I gave up after a few evenings.

    From that experience, I think we have to be very careful and always offer to help people up onto those loving shoulders of Christ’s, even if they’re a bishop, priest, or teacher, they might just be small, just like the little children, here…

    It is from that vantage point we go back out into the world!

    “Who is going to save our Church?
    Not our bishops, not our priests and religious.
    It is up to you, the people.
    You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church.
    Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests,
    your bishops, like bishops, and your religious act like religious.”

    — Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, to the Knights of Columbus, June 1972

    (Bit longer than I’d planned, sorry!)

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