SIR, Miss Frances Heath has done well in opening a discussion on "Catholics and the Land.' the time is indeeo ripe for a second concerted effort to be Made to bring the Faith to rural England and to give hack to the land and its caretakers their place in the Catholiq life of England.
.Catholicism is losing ground rapidly Probably not more then 25 per cent of the nominal Roman Catholics in the Services are prepared to practise the Faith, unless extreme persuasion is brought to bear on them.
The fundamental cause of this state of affairs-unparalleted since Eliza bethan days-is the loss of freedom and independence by the mass of the people. Freedom can only exist in a non-materialist society. Our Statecontrolled mass-production society is It does not set out to destroy freedom ; people do not realise they are losing Freedom. Freedom diet, and with Freedom Faith.
This discu.ssion must avoid being side-tracked into the dreary wasteland of an academical argument as to how much freedom might have subsisted under an ideal form of industrialism. What the discussion must make clear IN that the Church and England desperately need free and independent men end women, and that the conditions for such freedom and independence no longer obtain in the cities of England.
The Christian life, if it is not to be destroyed, must have freedom; frPedont for the family to establish an independent and secure home; freedom for the worker to do responsible work ; freedom for parents to have their children educated in an atmosphere of faith, and to he fed both in body and mind on healthy food ; freedom for the priest to make his parish a living organism with the Eucharistic Sacrifice as its life, centre These basio, freedoms cannot . be found and conflot survive inside an industrial agglomeration In consequence, the majority ol young Catholics are doemeu LO be submerged in the fetid swamp of power production and pleasure prostitution. 01 course, the Grace of God shines thtough and there's piety in Pimlico and saints in Leicester Square.
lheic is no hope of restoring these basic freedoms of the town addictsnot because the thing is impossible but because they no longer want to he free and independent: they are not prepared to give up their wage packet (with the . slavery it involves), nor their picture dope-house anti popular press (with the mental atrophy they produce), nor their chain-stores (with the shoddy bargains they unload).
But for Gott s suite let us be hank about it. You can't be wholly Christian and work in the money exchange or the factory or the chain-store. Perhaps you can keep the Faith-a dwindling number seem to succeed in doing so. But surely the offering of your life at the altai to be made into Christ's Body will make you feel rather ashamed, to won't it 7 One is dogmatic. space and life are short. One is thOught and called a fool, what matter But come with me to this small-holding: they have been here ten years. How like Nazareth is the homestead bathed in simplicity gold sunshine and joy The little girls of six and seven can milk cows and help their mothei in a hundred sparkling ways. Aren't all the children just angels from heaven ? and please God there are more to come. Or see this big tenant farm where there are now four Catholic men and their wives and fifteen children, and where one day, with God's blessing and their own hard work, there will be fifty families. What an adventure ! the regaining of health, the growth of comradeship, the restoration of the land, the bloom of the cattle, the laughter of the children, and the women going so quietly about their work. And here is a young man rising to his prime who after five years' learning to be a husbandman has now a small -farm of his own. Sec how everything, heart. mind and strength, friends, leisure and happiness are all centred in the good of the holding, which in its turn will provide all the conditions for personal growth, family life and the development of friendship.
You think it is killing hard work 7 You've heard stories of troubles at Ditchling or Laxton or elsewhere and of failures ? I wish I had known these places and others better. The work was too bard and there were
failures. But it was our fault. The men needed help in the fields and the mothers needed help in the homes. and the communities needed help from the Church, and there was no one to help. To summarise, I would say: I. The most urgent social need of the Church in England is the establishment of independent family life in organic parish communities.
2. This will only be possible after Young Catholic men and girls have recovered their freedom by leaving the turmoil of the cities and have learnt a craft which is holy.
3. Husbandry and mothercraft with all their subsidiary trades are the holiest natural vocations for men and women : they are aloe the most neglected and the most necessary in England today.
4. If Catholic Action continues to disregard the lend and rural England then it will remain a form of social salvage and fail to infuse new strength into the Catholic body.
5. Every help and encouragement should be given to young Catholic men and women who wish. to build a new life in rund England. Now, with demobilisation, is the time to help.
6. Economics. like the Sabbath, were made for man Provided Catholics have the faith, want a good home, have learnt to work hard and well, then the economics of rural settlement are of relatively minor importance. The all-important conditions are: (a) Willingness to undergo a thorough training, and this is as important for the girl to the man ; (b) Suitability of both paetners to live a country life; (c) The possession of a small amount of savings; (d) Active understanding. encouragement and support by ow spiritual pastors.
The Parachute Regiment,
[The above letter is from a priest.ED ITOR, CH.)