A View from the Pew
Palm Sunday was the first Sunday following Confirmation.
I scanned the Church wondering if any of the candidates had joined us for Mass today; not one. The Church was more packed than usual though, not by our local worshipers but by a large number of family and friends, back to celebrate the anniversaries of departed loved ones in what was once their Parish church. (And where the funerals had taken place).
Just a few days earlier, the Church was buzzing with children, excited to be Confirmed, with proud parents and sponsors filling the pews. Am I surprised that not one child is here today? Not a bit. What I am is sad, frustrated and a little angry at why, as Church, we insist on this annual charade. And what a waste of energy and time for the Bishops or whomsoever is parachuted in to celebrate these Confirmations. They could use their ‘ministry’ in a much better way.
Each month we Baptise the children of all those who request it. It is a hugely important Sacrament. Sadly for most, the significance is lost and it is little more than a naming Ceremony requiring no commitment on the part of parents or Godparents. Or so it seems. There is an absence of honesty in all of this.
At eight years of age when in second class, First Holy Communion looms large. Teachers spend a lot of time preparing the children. The local people participate in the Faith- Friend programmes. The Parish team expend great energy with the children and families. A great day will be had by all. And that sadly is what it will be, for many – one day. We won’t see these children again until it’s time for Confirmation. How confusing is all this short term intensity, for the little ones, who are so enthusiastic and eager to learn about Jesus. It is a delightful age and time, which does need some such occasion to celebrate their spontaneity, their exuberance, their uninhibited delight. However First Communion is not the way to do it. There is a basic untruthfulness.
Has the time come to bite the bullet and stop making preparation for the Sacraments, part of the school curriculum?
Should parents not have a more active role in the faith journey of their own children?
Would Confirmation be more meaningful at say sixteen years of age when candidates are more mature and have a greater understanding of what they are undertaking?
I sense a fear for such drastic change, but what have we got to lose? Is it not better to have a smaller church of committed people rather than an illusionary bigger congregation (on the odd day) of lukewarm believers?
Thankfully some things have changed for the better in my parish. We celebrate the Word in a very special way. Following the Readings (daily and at weekends) the congregation are invited to share a word or a phrase that has particular meaning for them. This practice had a slow start but now people understand and appreciate the value of it and share willingly. The fruits are many. We actively listen and seek out the thread running through the Readings, we discuss, question, agree, disagree, ponder but we never leave with a confused mind or an unanswered question on our lips. The Magnificat (booklet) is a great tool to assist in this. Mass is always – ‘a raising of the mind and heart to God.’ We are inspired by the Word and by each other.
Our recent SOTW (Students of the Word) series with Kieran O’Mahony (Biblical coordinator for Dublin Archdiocese) was a great success. Here was an opportunity for those who wanted to mature in their faith; to learn about Jesus including the history and geography surrounding him; to immerse ourselves into the depths of the Bible and to find our place in the middle of it all. Learning about God does not have to end at the school gates. It has been amazing over three six week sessions how c60 people turned up for those 18 weeks for a two hour session, and got totally involved in such deep and serious material. It was wonderful – full of wonder for us all.
Lastly – the question of women Priests.
Most of those involved in ministry in church today are women. Are we riddled with angst at not being ordained? No. Most of us have our own vocation, wife, mother, career etc. However, given that the majority of our congregation are women, would it be such a terrible thing?
After all God created us all equally. Most of the arguments against are cultural and not theological. We have spent years playing around with unimportant issues and ridiculous arguments. Let’s get on with it. Christ is too important to be wasted on nonsense. The Gospel is more needed than ever. Our God is awesome. We are at home with our God. Our community is a place of miracles. We don’t want distractions from the beauty of faith. We need to get out there everywhere and make great noise as counter-cultural ministers of the world of Jesus Christ.
Rita Fernandez (Rivermount).