The statement that there has been a drop in the general pattern of Mass attendance is not a glib generalisation. Fr Smythe (July 19) is to be congratulated that his effori,s to create a "live" liturgy i his parish has met with so much success.
However, the facts remain that the overall picture throughout the country does not accord with his own particular parish. Statistics are tedious and are not a good method of proving a point, but they do give a general idea of the decline in Mass attendance: Westminster 1966, 273,835 1972, 230,166; Liverpool 1963, 267,251 1969, 227,520; Lancaster 1966, 74,510 1971, 65,555.
The Catholic Education Council reported that there had been a drop of 100,000 in Mass attendance between 1968 and 1971.(C.H. July 7).
We cannot blame Church music or any other single factor for this decline, but we have to face the fact that our churches and cathedrals are just not attracting the people in the way that they used to. To say that when the older generation has beeit replaced there will be a marked improvement, is an over-simplification, for it is a well-known fact from letters that are continually being sent to the Catholic Press that many young people are favourably disposed towards the ideas of reverence, devotion and worship.
Having worked during the week in a noisy world they want to be taken out of themselves whenever they go into a church. They do not seek a man-centred religion where • everything has to be made "meaningful". This is to disallow for the working of Grace in the soul. It is true to say that in every age when there is a playing-down of the worship and respect due to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, there is also a decline in the Liturgy, in Church music, and in the general attendance at the central act of worship around which the Liturgy is woven, namely the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
There are people who might argue that our churches arc no different to what they were in the past. The chief difference must surely lie in the fact that the, Tabernacle is no longer given the central place of honour.
Indeed, I know of one church in which it is possible to get a sore neck trying to find just where the Blessed Sacrament has been placed — on some side altar right out of the way. What hits people in the face as they go into the majority of Catholic churches is the Table. This Table is a symbol of Protestantism, Let us forget about Church music, hymns and all the rest of it, and concentrate on putting Christ back into the centre of our churches, then will the Liturgy not only take care of itself but flourish as it did in the past.
Monica King 24 Yeading Lane, Hayes, Middlesex.
Many local Churches have introduced the "Let us offer each other the sign of peace" clause into the Mass and 1 fear, without too much success.
On a number of occasions recently, 1 have offered my hand to fellow Church-goers and have been met with stony glares — as if I had gone starkraving mad! In view of this fact, and I am sure many others who have offered their sign of peace have been treated in the same way, would it not be a good idea if priests and their altar servers proceeded down the aisles shaking hands with the first member in each row of pews — thereby giving the incentive for the congregation to "pass it on?"
When I was on retreat last year, at Allington Castle, the offering of the sign of peace was quite a success with everyone joining in and shaking hands with their fellow Christians and I understand that in some churches it also works very well — I wonder how it works in some places and not others.
In just under two weeks time, I am being received into the Catholic Church and I find it sad that many fellow Christians do not seem to want to shake hands with, let alone "Love Thy Neighbour" as our Lord asked.
After an initial outburst promising never to offer my hand to anyone — I am determined to persevere and I hope that gradually everyone will willingly shake hands with each other.
(Miss) Everal Flint 21 Castleton Road, Goodmayes, Ilford, Essex.
I should be grateful if you would be kind enough to allow me to suggest through the Catholic Herald that churches should have Mass at 8 o'clock every evening so that working people who wish to attend Mass daily can go to their local church instead of having to travel to other churches where late evening Mass is celebrated.
P. Bennett 77 Charles Hocking House, Bollo Bridge Road, Acton. W3.