Sia,-I am grateful for Fr. Akel's article on the leakage. It remains our fundamental problem, but it is now accepted as a sort of " skeleton in the cupboard," something that we vaguely recognise but for which we have no remedy. Fr. Akel has a heartbreaking job when he tries to combat, singlehanded, the influences of the home. the street and the school. Naturally he feels that if the school were with him the battle could be won. My impression is that, even where Catholic schools exist, the leakage is terrible. Indeed, from
your correspondence on Catholic practice in the Forces it is clear that
most young men had lapsed. before joining up or that their faith was barely alive.
My own experience in another field confirms this. For the last few years I have been organising Catholic holiday groups with the aim of fostering Catholic friendships and eventually, perhaps, Catholic marriages. I have now been forced to give up this project because the number of men interested was negligible, the proportion being one man to fourteen ladies. However, the young men I met or corresponded with were grand fellows and most enthusiastic, but they felt helpless against an all-pervading apathy. They could meet old classmates in a pub, but they hardly ever saw any of them at Mass. Even where parish societies were flourishing the young men were conspicuous by their absence.
In England to-day the seed is being sown on very hard rock and it gets little moisture. I am a teacher myself and I feel that we are asking too much from the schools and too little from the parents. Give me parents who read and digest a Catholic weekly and who maintain Christian discipline in their homes and I needn't worry about leakage. I grant you such hornes are relatively few, and our " headache" is the child of the nominal Catholic who gets from his home neither faith nor discipline. My experience is that, humanly speaking, the only hope for such a child is the personal and continuous friendship of some zealous Catholics. The numbers are so great that such friendship can't come from pricst or teacher, but is best provided by a " pal " of similar age. There is room here for " spiritual adoption " where zealous parents get their children to make friends of " the least of these " and welcome them into a Catholic home. Only after this friendship was solidly established would there be any "
Indeed I think much evangeheal work fails because it appears to be rhetoric without friendship. In effect we say " I want to save your soul and hang another scalp on my belt, but I'm not interested in your other problems." In other words " Religion is caught rather than taught." But let me return to school.
I believe that the small school (and the small parish) can do better work than the modern centralised equivalent. In a big modern school the personal influence will be lacking. The school will be run on mass production lines with A, 8, and C "streams" corresponding to conveyor belts in a factory. The children arc moved along from classroomto classroom where each specialist teacher takes his own subject. The head teacher will be running all this machinery from his office, so whose job will it be to make a Christian of " Alfy Toren"? He will go through the educational machine; he will be escorted to monthly confession and badgered into turning up for " Communion Sunday." Even so he may leave school " Alfy minus" rather than " Alfy plus." But here comes a disturbing thought. Does anybody really care what Alf becomes ? Priests and teachers do rejoice (or grieve) over numbers, for statistics are used to measure their own success, but one sometimes feels that only i to the Good Shepherd Himself s the perseverance of Alfred a matter of supreme importance.
FRANK STEPHENS. 33. Campion Terrace,