02Feb

Losing our religion

 

A grumble follows intended as constructive criticism not attack. I seek to speak with humility as I value our local clergy and parishes and know most contain far more impressive Christians than me. So in that spirit let me share my beef…

I had a scour of the internet earlier and my suspicion was confirmed. We are the only parish in the locality, Catholic or Anglican, advertising evening worship to celebrate Candlemas. How can this be? What does it say?

Now to be fair on the other Catholic parishes, they all celebrated mass earlier and were free to take this option; this is not a day of holy obligation. And undoubtedly one benefit of my serving a smaller parish is being able to go the extra mile where busier colleagues may be too overstretched. So I am all for cutting a little slack nevertheless doesn’t the total lack of evening worship on what is a major feast not feel just  a little impoverished? After all the majority of the faithful must have been working or at school during the day.

Meanwhile all Anglican parishes are closed tonight- one presumes the celebration was moved to Sunday? At least it does get remembered that way but, again, it seems to me a lesser option than observing the feast on its appropriate day. It hardly teaches us the importance of Christian feasts in our daily lives when they all get shoved over to a Sunday. Don’t you think?

Perhaps I am being unreasonable? The sort of outdated ‘rigid’ old fashioned Christian whom the liberalising hierarchy in both communions frowns on these days. Nevertheless it does seem sad that when I stand before the altar tonight, celebrating a feast of light, all other local sanctuaries will be in darkness. Sad, not only because Candlemas is a wonderful feast containing unique liturgical elements, but because it is further evidence of the creeping erosion of faith in the West. You can bet your bottom dollar this was not the scenario fifty years ago!

Are Western Christians forgetting how to keep feasts on their appropriate day or else neglecting them altogether? There seems to have developed a habit of encouraging people to go to church on Sunday not be the Church on Monday, Tuesday, etc…by immersing ourselves in the culture including its rhythm and feasts. And when officialdom itself forever shifts feasts to the nearest weekend- it speaks volumes to those who are watching. The wrong example is set.

It saddens me finally because there is a dreadful irony at play. A central theme of Candlemas is liturgical obedience!! Mary and Joseph fulfilling their religious duty in presenting the Christ child before the altar. Yet it seems the fulfilling of our own Christian duty today leaves us lacking. Gathering as the family of God to mark the a major occasion in the life of Christ is seemingly not important enough to justify sacrifice of sofa and television.

I suspect it is in little ways like this that our nation gradually loses her religion. The slide into secularism continues. The devil wins not by great victory then but simply by boring inertia. An ancient liturgical cycle abandoned not taken away.For those still interested Mass is at 8pm. Our choir have kindly prepared an anthem. Candles will be blessed and distributed for use throughout Mass.

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8 thoughts on “Losing our religion

    1. I have. Do tell me how it relates to the gradual erosion in the West of keeping feasts on their actual days? I dont see the link.
      If you are suggesting I am being the pharisee here- I suggest you read my opening paragraph where I ensure I am not stating I am better than any other.

  1. You make a very good point, Father,
    I attended Mass on the evening of Candlemas at St Wilfrid’s Church in York, which is served by Oratorians. It was a Sung Mass with the blessing of candles and a procession, and, as you would expect from Oratorians, all very well done. I was, however a little disappointed with the size of the congregation. There were about 40, and I would have expected 100.
    Probably the reason for the low numbers is that people have just got out of the habit of going to Mass on feast days. So I am delighted to hear that St Anselm’s at Pembury, like St Wilfrid’s at York, are maintaining the good traditions.

      1. You have my very guilty admiration. I regret to say that I threw in the towel years ago on this and other sung masses on feast days. Just can’t persuade folk – even servers and choir – to come. We will keep the Purification as an external solemnity this Sunday.

  2. The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus, the Purification of Our Lady and the blessing of the candles for the following year(candlemas) was always a daytime event ‘up north’. Children from the school always came and held candles so I know it was in the daytime.

    1. The usual parish practice before the advent of television and secularism was to hold Mass in the day, to which schools were invited, and also on in the evening for those who were working. Indeed most had several each feast to ensure the faithful could get there.

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