By Dom Christopher
DELANEY, O.S.B. ST. PAUL, in describing the nature of the Church which Christ founded, likens it to the human body: Christ is the head, we are the members. And just as in the human body each member has its own special function, "just so we, though many in number, form one body in Christ, and each acts as the counterpart of the other." (Romans 12:4-5).
In his first letter to the Corinthians. St. Paul follows the same line of argument: "And you are Christ's body, organs of it depending upon each other. God has given us different positions in the Church : apostles first, then prophets, and thirdly teachers."
PARISHES ARE CELLS
CLEARLY St. Paul en visaged a Christian community where all who were capable, and not a mere handful of especially dedicated men. continued the work of the Incarnation.
Each member of the community, in St. Paul's eyes. had his own special part to play in contributing to the health of the community and this brought home to all a sense of responsibility and duty.
Although the Church has changed a great deal since the time of St. Paul it still answers to the description he gave it; it still remains a community and this communal aspect should also be seen in those cells of the mystical Body which we call parishes.
ONE HEART, ONE SOUL
"CHRISTIANITY in our time", writes Abbe Michonneau, is not something separate. it is clearly bound up with the everyday world. Leavening the lump, its function is to make the whole of society into a unity. Christ's last prayer was that we might be one. A Christian cannot really live alone. He is essentially a member of a community.
"One has the impression that the Holy Spirit can only influence the world in and through communities. In the first place, he came down on the apostles when they were all gathered together in the upper room. The religion of Christ was spread far and wide by the witness of the early Christian communities, when it could be said of them that they had 'one heart and one soul'.
"Christianity today. as yesterday, is stronger than any paganism and any persecution. but it can only spread by means of strong groups, everywhere. No parish can be saved merely by one or two people doing one or two pious things. Its mission can only be fulfilled if it has, at its very centre, a living nucleus of real Christians, who are true brothers among themselves, and a burning and shining light to those about them .
"The parish priest's task is to bring into being such a community consciousness that all Christians. whatever their social standing, can see that their salvation, and that of their fellow men. is bound up in the group." ("My Father's Business," Michonneau, p. 68 & 70).
PRIEST AND LAYMAN
THISTHIS means then that priest and the layman—not merely the former—must shoulder the burden of running and organising a parish.
How are the laity to share in the work of the priest?
At the outset we must clearly distinguish between what belongs to the priest alone and what can be carried out by the laity without any depreciation of the sacerdotal office.
The laity have no right to that work of the priest which has been especially deputed to him—the administration of the Sacraments and teaching; but the laity can surely deputise for the priest where the temporal and administrative affairs of the parish are concerned.
In this respect we must not adopt the view of Mgr. Talbot who was not alone in thinking that the function of the laity was merely to hunt, shoot and entertain. We must be careful not to make of the laity ,AY responsibility and activity in many parishes could comprise:
1. Responsibility for parish finances and the collection of money; 2. Parish Catholic Action Society di■ ided into groups responsible for social help in town or district: Christian news in local press and correction in ft of local errors about the Church and Catholics; cardindex of parishioners with professional, technical, artistic. handicraft, manual skills available for church, church hall, and other needs in the parish, and, if suitable, for non-Catholics; 3. Assistance to clergy in early stages of instruction for converts, catechising, visiting sick, lonely, poor. and the organisation needed to run such work effectively;
4. Liaison committees for working in with members of' other denominations in social, political and other local affairs, so that Christianity can be a strong witness in the parish or district.
The dine saved to the clergy by all these matters gradually becoming the responsibility of the laity could in part he used for the spiritual apostolic training of the laity In carrying out of these functions; compare the system of the YCIV where the role of the chaplain becomes all the more important where responsibility and autonomy are fully delegated to the laity.
another "nation" so that clergy and laity are foreigners to each other: each living in his own world without any bond between them. This will make of a parish not a cornmunity but an autocracy.
NO ROOM FOR AUTOCRACY
IN parochial life there
should he no room for autocracy. The parish, if it is to be a community. must be to a certatre extent democratic. Autocracy must be admitted in the Sacramental and doctrinal sphere. as we were careful to mention above, but in other spheres of activity the laity might do well to lessen the burden of the overworked parish priest of today.
Autocracy in a parish is the ever present danger and it could be encouraged unconsciously either by the priest or by the layman. "Priests can have their heads turned with false compliments, they can be spoiled by being showered with presents, by too much sympathy. or by undue servility. By an means honour the priesthood, but have a
IT is typical of Fr. James a Brodrick, S.J., that though I have recently been having correspondence with him—and I have known him for over 40 years—he failed to mention that he has hist been celebrating his golden jubilee as a Jesuit. I say it is typical of him, because as a writer he has managed things in such a way as to become, in my view, the most underrated of our Catholic writers. I do not of course mean that he is not well-known as by far the best of our biographical writers. but somehow when the merits of writers are being assessed Fr. Brodrick's work is too often forgotten. He combines learning, detachment, and a lightness and charm of touch that together are unique. Nor is he worried by the odd mistake, as when in a biography he imported elephants into the wrong part of India to the scandal of the Roman authority on the particular saint's life. All this is in keeping with his vocation. for he started his writing career to the order of his superiors and has continued under the same orders. With equal disinterest in himself, he has enjoyed (as they say) bad health all his life. Rumours went round Stonyhurst, where he once taught, that every night he lay on the floor writhing and twisting in agonies of pain. This, he told me, was an exaggeration, but at the age of 68 his wonderful courage, 1 am sure, gives him a very good expectation of life and further work—blessings which I am sure my readers will wish him with me.
A Winter Sunday
DRIVING Londonwards from the south-west on Sunday, I
care for the man who bears it. In seeking to honour him you may dishonour the priesthood" writes Abbe Michonneau. (p. 51).
In fact there is the danger of the laity turning the priest into somebody resembling Goldsmith's village schoolmaster with: "the gazing rustics ranged around".
THE DANGER OF PRIDE
pOR the priest, Abbe Michonneau has the following warning. "Priests must always he on their guard against clericalism. One could even go so far as to say that of all the people in the parish, the parish priest himself should be the 'anticlerical' par excellence. Clericalism, in his case, means imposing his own views, his own conception of true order, and forgetting that the laymen themselves, not the priest, are to put everything into practice." (p. 66).
Towards the end of the book the author makes the following pertinent observation: "He is a man in a position to direct others, and to tell others what to do. His author
In a l'ow Words
was amazed at the fewness of the cars. It was a glorious sunny day. One hardly noticed the cold from inside a heated car and every so often one could stop and take quick walks to appreciate the
ity must be exercised in the most private sphere of life—other people's consciences—where no one else has authority.
"It is he who presides in his own church, in the sanctuary he is incensed like a prelate. Here is the danger of pride. He can become a kind of Jupiter, the kind of parish priest who orders everyone about, from the nuns to the sacristan. Such an authoritarian outlook is bound to be provocative, particularly in places where the people have lost contact with the Church and its pastors". (p. 49).
THEY DO NOT 'BELONG'
IF we are to avoid any autocratic spirit from creeping in, we must be prepared for a certain amount of co-operation and co-ordination both from the clergy and the laity.
There is of course no substitute for the Faith, but the sense of participation felt by the laity if their representation was a feature of Catholic life. would result both in an increased corporate spirit amongst the laity and in a real apostolic activity among our nonCatholic neighbours.
As we noted above Christianity can only be spread by means of strong groups. There is no simple solution to the spread of the Faith but if the laity are excluded from the parish administration it is surely not remarkable if there is a certain touch of apathy in their attitude towards the exhortations of the clergy; if far too many drift away from the Church it is perhaps because they feel they do not belong.
Cranmer was once reported to have said to Gardner when both were still in communion with Rome: "How sad it is that the people in the nave do not understand what is being celebrated in the sanctuary!"
Gardner replied: "Don't worry about that, it has never occurred to them that they might want to understand it."
THEY HAVEN'T THOUGHT..
\v HERE participation in parochial affairs is concerned, there may be a similar state of affairs. It may never have occurred to the laity to share in the administrative work of the parish or to the priest that they should be given the opportunity to do so.
But if the parish is to he a community there must be a common work, a common end in view and an even distribution of labour. It must not be, to use a modern idiom, "a one man show."
better the winter dress of the undulating countryside in which every hedge row was a feast of beauty and subtle colouring. Golden catkins of the hazel willows were garnered to bring the signs of spring into London homes. With the aid of a good map it proved possible to drive from Southampton to the Guildford by-pass almost entirely by narrow, twisting up and down lanes that seemed entirely deserted. The motorists who were not there last Sunday will. I suppose, be taking their place later in the year in the endless smelly A-road queues of bumper-tobumper cars. Only one tragic note: on the Portsmouth Road near Esher in the twilight two grisly scenes. policemen with flares around cars heaped together on the verge and ambulances near an overturned car less than a mile away. Even near Southampton a screech of brakes and a bang indicated an accident, but perhaps the drivers (like myself) were taking too long a look at the Queen Elizabeth in a near-by dock.
Sound the trumpets, beat the drums
"wE are in urgent need of some one to take over the duties of musical director owing to the retirement of our bandmaster." This S.O.S. reaches me after personal ads in different papers have proved vain. Is there a Jotter reader with the will (and the qualifications) to lead the "Good Shepherd Brass and-Reed Band" in connection with outdoor processions, garden parties, concerts, etc.? Money for charities is raised by the blowing of the stalwart members who are leaderless. If so, please do not write to me, but to Mr. C. Mahony, 166 Waters Road, Catford, London S.E.6.
The speed of your train
RARM AYS, ships, planes, cars? 1`• Am I right in supposing that trains still fascinate the young as they have continued to fascinate me all through my life. despite the increased competition? The sense of weight, speed. power, and noise —these are only perfectly combined in the. alas, disappearing steam-train running on its predestined way. Anyway, for those who like to estimate the speed of the express in which one is travelling I borrow from a "Guardian" letter the following simple formula. Count the number of Ra ta ta ta . . . Ra ta ta ta's within 41 seconds and you have the number of miles per hour. A complex mathematical foo-nula is given to explain why, but I leave this out. What fun I shall have on the rare occasions when I travel by train!