F0 R generations
: English Catholics Nye enjoyed a unique relationship with their priests. The tradition of the clergy of the parish regularly visiting the people in their homes is an English practice which has produced an easy rapport between the two.
'hat, at any rate, is how it should be. In fact, the system as practised at present, often falls down. A sackful of letters from readers of the CATHOLIC HERALD on this subject of parish visiting seems to indicate that there is a vast guff between parishes: so e are fastidious about fi vi ting, others border on th negligent.
11 am a few months short of 20 years at my present address, and not once has a local priest come to the door," says a reader in a Hampstead parish.
A woman living near Plymouth called on her parish priest when she first moved to the district four years ago. "As time went by," she says, "I was surprised to realise that no interest seemed to be shown in new parishioners; not even a few words after Mass on Sunday. By contrast the local vicar called within two days of our moving into his parish."
But there is the other side to the coin. A parishioner of the Sacred Heart Church, Westbury on Trym, Bristol, says: "Our parish priest spares himself nothing in giving the stranger 'a loving welcome.' Our family group meetings are held each
month preceded by a
House Mass. We arrange coffee evenings for newcorners, enabling them to become part of the parish family life centred around the Eucharist."
Other letters suggested that if a person felt left out of parish life the fault was probably theirs. "Have those who complain that
they have never been
visited by a priest ever tried to help the priest in any field of the lay apostolate?" one reader from Gravesend asked.
Of course, Christianity is not concerned with some kind of tit-for-tat — "I'll visit you if you join my club" — since it is the very people who do not take an active part in parish life who most need a visit from a priest.
But it is a sad reflection of the quality of parish life in this country that fewer than two in ten Catholics take any part in the organised lay apostolate.
Most priests — whether they do it or not — agree that parish visiting is essential to a lively parish. "There is nothing to take the place of it," says Mgr. Anthony Reynolds, parish priest of the Precious
Blood Church, South Lon
from a priest meant bringing out the best china and lighting a fire in the front room which was unlived in for the rest of the year are over, and few priests will regret it.
Today it is just a matter of pushing the nappies and "News of the World" under the cushions and settling down to a friendly chat in familiar surroundings.
A parish where they have come to terms with
the question of visiting is
Coulsdon in Surrey. All