by Canon F. H. Drinkwater
Did you say more initiative?
GOOD old "laity," what should we do without them? Whether they are the huntin', shootin' and fishin' sort (as envisaged by that celebrated Monsignor Talbot who a 100 years ago was Manning's agent in Rome) or the motoring, gardening and football-viewing sort mostly in evidence today, they are more and more aware that they have rights as well as duties, and some of them even want to participate in what they call "decisionmaking," as well as in the Mass. All this education, I suppose.
As for decision-making, I would say they are welcome to it. Making decisions about myself has always been more than enough for my own energies. But actually there is lots of laitypower already, people only need to turn it on.
Take babies, for instance. Not just having some: I mean rather about bringing them along to church.
Any Sunday morning nowadays, at any Sunday Mass, we can all sec a pleasant sight: mothers coming to communion with a baby carried in their arms, or a wondering toddler kneeling at the rails by their side, or sometimes with both, and occasionally, too, there is a father in the same holy predicament.
Everybody takes it for granted, and the young will hardly believe me when I say that this goodly custom is quite a recent one. In my days as a young Edwardian curate such a happening was unthinkable.
We told the mothers they must come to Mass, and most of us confidently predicted extreme and everlasting discomfort for them if they didn't; but we took it for granted that they would somehow leave their babies at home, and if anybody had presented herself for Communion actually carrying One, it is hardly possible to imagine the internal consternation on the sanctuary, the animated discussions between hawks and doves at the presbytery lunch-table, the learnedly documented responses by the monsignori of the Clergy Review.
It just conk! not happen, and it didn't happen. Even
between the wars, with so many things happening, I cannot recall a mother at Communion with a baby in arms or at her side.
It seemed to start gradually in a small way after the last war. Perhaps with
some refugees or immigrants from some less respectable
country. Or did it have something to do with the spread of mixed marriages? At first there must surely have been some demurs from the kind of clergy who fulminate against hatless women, or against men standing at the back. Yet it prevailed by its sheer rightness and commonsense.
In the end no pastorals. joint or otherwise, were written about it, no com missions set up, no permissions sought from Rome, no letters to Catholic papers from angry matrons. Just rightness and common sense asserting itself from below and miraculously prevailing.
In the end even the architects will have to give in and provide those cryingrooms, surely.
That is how it should be. Freedom, said the sage whose name I have never discovered, is not something to be given, but some thing to he taken. Taken by those who are ready for it. A happy thought — perhaps after all they are un necessary, all these mani festos and demonstrations and confrontations, and contestations. Perhaps all that is needed is, on the authority side. a gospel spirit a la St. John XIII,
12-17, and on the side of the "sheep" an equally
evangelical spirit of discreet and conscientiout4 decision-making.