From a Special Correspondent
have just come away from a Sunday night service at Beccies, a little place just inside the Suffolk boundary. There were 70 people in church, and those 70 people represent half the total Catholic population !
lt is possible that the crowd at Beecles was not unconnected with the fact that when I dropped in this evening two priests simultaneously
got up to preach. They climbed into separate pulpits on either side of the nave; one of them was a Benedictine, the other a secular.
Fr. Macdonald. the secular, suddenly said: " I used to go to church a bit, but I came to the conclusion that it was absurd to believe in a good Ciod with the world drowning in misery and suffering of all kinds. How can I believe that God is good if He lets it all go on?"
A ripple of surprise ran through the church and there was even a Little flutter among the good nuns in the front row.
Then Fr. Farwell, the Benedictine,
took over. " That's a very good question!" he said, and he went on to answer it.
" Do you follow me?" he asked when he had finished.
" I'm afraid 1 don't," replied Fr, Macdonald uncompromisingly. " God might have made life a bit easier, don't you think?"
Fr. Farwell didn't think so. He said that much of it was our own fault and that God had the right to ask us to overcome our faults with His help. " The complaint you make." he went on, " is like the man who cuts his own throat and then blames the doctor because he hurts him while stitching it up."
Fr. Macdonald tried another tack. " But lots of unbelievers are perfectly happy." he persisted. " They get away with it and the good go on suffering."
Patiently Fr. Farwell explained that the unbelievers' happiness might be all they were going to get, but that Catholics tried to accept what came to them so that they might be
happy with God for ever.
" I'm beginning to see what you're driving at," said Fr. Macdonald.
" I'm very glad to hear it," said Fr. Farwell severely.
And so they went on, dealing with everyday questions people get asked at their work and in their social life: Why pray in Latin ? Why do Catholics make such a fuss about their schools ? Why is it a mortal sin to cut Mass on Sundays ?
The congregation hardly breathed for the shortest half hour of their lives. They followed the lucid arguments with the sort of attention you can feel and, of course, they appreciated, as I did. the occasional spontaneous joke.
There was no hint of a stunt about it—any more than there was in the Middle Ages about doing plays in church. It was profoundly serious and, I thought, immensely valuable.
As is layman, ii would he presumptuous for me to suggest remedies for ill-attended evening services but Beccles, if it is off the beaten track, is, as you see., beating a new and successful track of its own which might well be explored by other parishes. I believe they have all sorts of other plans: courses of sermons, lectures, as well as Benediction. of course. They have at least scotched the notion that people won't turn up to church in the evenings.