?. The Waiting Millions
IUSr how big an opportunity to help our generation are we who have the Faith missing at this moment ? I have asked myself this question over and over again in the past 10 years. I have hammered away at it in this column, too.
Some information I got from Fr. Agnellus Andrew, 0.F.M., last week suggests that it may possibly be bigger than even the most insistent of us have suspected.
During the course of any Sunday the B.B.C. puts out, between London and the regions, some 25 to 30 religious programmes, which are spread over the whole day. There are morning and evening services, "people's services", and a good deal more besides. The B.B.C. has taken the view that by the middle evening pretty well everything of that sort can be done has been done. But they have nonetheless put out at 8.30 p.m. on the Light and General Overseas wavelengths a lighter religious programme, "Sunday Half Hour," which is based in the main on community hymn singing and caters for the well-known interest in hymns and the affection
them. the British public has them.for
somE time ago the Sunday
evening programmes were being re-planned. It was decided that there should be three hours of unbroken light entertainment. To make this possible " Sunday Half Hour " was moved to 10 p.m. At that time " Sunday Half Hour " had a regular listening public of upwards of three and a half million (which is high in these days of competition from television). As soon as the programme was moved. the number of listeners at that period went down to two million.
Four thousand letters of protest were received at Broadcasting House, and the programme was restored to its old time. The total
instantly returned to its old lresvel:
Significantly, the programmes which followed "Sunday Half Hour " throughout the rest of the evening all benefited and the listening figures all rose. This shows that people deliberately switt.h on the religious programmes and then leave their radios turned on.
Significant. ion. is the fact that the programme is not just 80 much rousing hymn singing, the attraction of which might be explained in terms of nostalgia or religiosity. It includes meditations and some quite serious religious teaching.
Fr is, no doubt. quite possible to 'doerseandottoo ih rermiiicisteinneteo aplrlovIhis Fr is, no doubt. quite possible to 'doerseandottoo ih rermiiicisteinneteo aplrlovIhis e t, ll that three and a half million people are metaphorically sitting on the top step of the Church just waiting to be asked in. But its significance is real, nonetheless, and is something we should ponder.
On any Sunday, according to such figures as one can obtain, about 5,000,000 people go to church. h. B on any given Sunday well
over people deliberately choose to look at, or listen to, a serious religious programme.
We may try to explain it away as much as we like — in terms ot emotion, religiosity, habit, call it what you will — but the fact remains that here is a great body of people who, far from being hostile to the Christian message and to religion, want to keep in touch with it.
"imoTic" was the term I used
to describe in this column recently a situation which had arisen in the Amalgamated Engineering Union in Sheffield. Mr. Hetbert Howarth, a key man in the Communists' industrial organisation, had been defeated. after a bitter struggle. in the ballot for a district president ot the union, but a member of the district committee then resigned and "gave" his place to Howarth.
The Communist-dominated committee apparently gave this extraordinary move their approval, and it looked as though Howarth would as a consequence regain his positions on the divisional and national committees, both of which he forfeited when he was defeated.
Now the union's national eeecutive council has informed him that he is no longer a district committee member (which means that the other positions go, too) and that a ballot will be held to fill the vacancy created by the other man's resignation.
. This is a victory for common sense. So, too, is a ruling that Howarth's anti-Catholic remarks, made after his defeat, should not have been circulated by the district secretary (another Communist) to the 47 branches in the district.
In the past, the Communists in the unions have tended to score because of the subtlety of their methods and the intelligence they have shown in what might be called the public relations side of their union activities. For this reason 1 find the sheer crudeness of their recent behaviour in the A.E.U. and the E.T.U. rather illuminating in itself.
Particularly interesting is the way in which they are trs ing to make Catholics the scape-goats for their own blunders and defeats. Within the A.E.U. at this moment an organised anti-Catholic faction Is being set tip. It is headed by a leading member who is a wellknThowen eCeoemthminugnist.
which can be said for this latest development is that it should be even clearer than ever to every Catholic trade unionist that a vote for a Communist is a vote for anti-Catholicism.