By Constance Holt
E ET I N G " i nterest ing" people is the lot, and often the good fortune, of anybody whose work takes thew among writers. 1 think I have met as many among readers too. Arc you ever surprised at ignorance. of a stark kind, which seem; widely knowledgeable. and can rightly he called "interesting" ? I am thinking of ignorance touching our Faith.
I well remember one lively lunch talk in mixed company drawn from different walkS of publishing. Having sighed over my Friday fish choice as some sort of primitive hang-over. possibly akin to ancestor-worship. in an otherwise apparently normal person, they proceeded to talk gaily, and eloquently, about the general reasons for despair at the state of the world. That was the main theme anyway.
There was a chorus of dogmatic agreement about it being a miracle that one could keep going. Before I had begun to speak. someone said: "Ali well. it is different for you— having a faith"—almost as though I had. rather unfairly. been fitted up with some sort of spring which made it easier for me to keep going. Or possibly some well-made blinkers which shut out the view of impending disaster.
CONVERSATION galloped on, taking in various isms and creeds, with their obvious advantages. All the "interesting" people present clearly thought that a religion was a useful possession— especially these days. Clearly too they had no idea of the process by which one 'gets" a religion. or what it means when you have it.
Any one of these people would have taken great pains to be right in their facts on any other subject that might occur in books or stories they might read -or write, and even for their own background equipment. hut this "having a religion' was not important enough (or too important ?) to he investigated. beyond newspaper headlines and lunch-time talk.
Why this girl?
I DO not think that attitude is
typical of " knowledgeable" people of the world today. hut that it can exist, goes on surprising me. This talk got fixed in my mind by the • last remark—made between signals to the weriter: "It's a pity so many of your young people throw it over afterwards—nice Convent girls I know . . ah. waiter !!'
It echoed the remark of a woman cleaner: "Its when they get into business and that-you know." I am afraid I do, and at times have been cowardly enough to wish I didn't.
This is the problem I postponed. in honour of St. Paul, last week.
"Leakage"—an ugly word for an ugly situation It has been much discussed in The Catholic Herald recently And the Editor has also given us a heartening tonic by presenting more positive news: facts and slims ol 'revival" and development in many parishes and dioceses. All that is big and hopeful beyond measure.
I shall not try to discuss the vast and vital question of the young deserters here and now. It is too big for any one of us to survey fully. even if we had all the knowledge necessary. which I certainly have not But like you, no doubt. and with the particular "evidence" that has come my way, I have my own convictions about some or the reasons why in tragically numerous cases young Catholics do not persevere Numbers among congregations Or absentees are not the end of the story. Let's keep off. percentages startling as they may he, and keep our eve on --the girl. This has nothine to do with proportion of lenses between the sexes, If we scrap statistics and think about the individual it has to be boy or girl. Each lensed Christian may share o ith manv more her reason or reasons for "throwine it over"— believe she does. But it is through individuals that one eels a glimmer of what goes on deen below the official summary of reasons. She may be your daughter or sister, or their daughter, friend or neighbour. She may be the bonny Irish nurse who was so much of a comfort to you in Hospital. or the pretty girl whose mother helps on wash-days. Talking across the foam one hears a thing or two.
A good start? 1 HAVIe thrown out to a few people, including a most intelligent mother of full eperience, a
University "career" woman and a thirteen-year-old Convent schoolgirl the casual question: "What do you think is the chief reason why some girls drop their religion after school ?"
The answers allowing for a schoolgirl wriggle—were swift. In coming weeks I will briefly quote them. I will add my own view, which has been confirmed by many meetings with young women inside and outside the Church in recent years. And I want very much to include views from you, expressed briefly, please.
So do—in honour of Saturday's Feast of St. Francis of Sales, a great Writing Bishop—get pen to paper if you have something to say. I don't promise to deal with letters very quickly, but believing in the untapped sources of wisdom and experience in the lives and hearts of women who are notofficially—writers, I do hope to hear from you.
Opinions of women at home are of special interest because they are near the girl, the girl who "had something.and now hasn't. Or did she ever. in one sense really have it ? Everyone, cradle or convert Christian, has to make the Faith their seen. Yet she had what is eenerally called a "good start,' perhaps ?
SOME churches keep the Crib tilt Candlemas. (I well remember exacting annually front a liturgically-minded father the happy assurance that Christmastide did not really end till February 2). .A certain two-year-old girl of to-day is going to miss her visits to one oi these "late" Cribs. where her devotions gave enchanting distraction recently. Firmly entering the ground-Level stable she greeted, with an air of familiar custom, all the occupants. St. Joseph and Our Lady got a friendly kiss and a pat: the Holy Child a sort of "Good Friday" prostration, so convenient when you are about two foot high. The cattle had lingering hugs and coos.
'11 he greetings. repeated in full later belme leaving the church, were gently, but not too carefully, supervised by the young mother. A three-year-old brother, equally affectionate to the Holy Family, put both his arms round his sister's waist when her energetic movements threatened danger to St. Joseph's kneeling posture A large Crucifix had also received a cautious visit. "That's Holy God too ?"—she called out to her mother who now knelt by the Altar. All praying done, the baby's leave-taking at the church door with a general wave all round would surely move a—rationalist ? "Goodbye Holy God," she cried. 'See you soon In spite of the confidence the little girl was gentle and careful. On a film she might have seemed too good to he true. Her mother's face was amused and halfapologetic, hut it was much more too: it was happy.
I like to think that when that small girl has gained a few inches the lovely symbolism of Candlemas will have become more widely known and shared—for these things are haripening—and she will have compensation for her vanished stable. Here was a girl who insisted on taking an active part.