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15 September 2013
posted by Canon Dakin on 22-09-2013

Your people have apostasied’ was God’s message to Moses, heard in the first reading. To apostasise is to stand away from.  There are five million baptised Catholics in England and Wales of whom four million rarely, if ever, go to church.  That is a situation we may not accept with indifference.  What has happened? Some were put through the hoop of First Holy Communion but never had the example and support they needed. Others went to University and learned about Kant with a K without realising it was cant with a c.

There was the Sixties phenomenon with its relaxed approach to life,  turning the Church into a caricature of a prim Victorian grandmother.  There was the challenge of the convenience of the pill. The reasons are multiple and complex. The fact is that what we used to call a leakage has become a flood. It is no consolation that the drift away from the Church has happened in other countries in Western Europe and across all Christian denominations.

So - what do we do about it?  Today’s special collection is, partly, to fund materials for a campaign during the coming year to invite those who have drifted away to return back to the Church.  Not easy, but at least we can show ourselves to be welcoming in the spirit of today’s gospel, the attitude of the father towards the son who came back home. The problem is to persuade those who have left that it would be good to return. If they fell away because once they were just too busy to bother there should be no obstacle other than overoming their inertia but if the Church had seemed to stand rigidly by principles to which they felt unable to conform there are some who might stll be thinking that the Church could have no place for them. The Church tends to speak about ideal situations and circumstances are not always ideal. If such people might be persuaded to discuss their situation they might find that their self-imposed exile had not been necessary.  We are invited to be aware and to drop a helpful word at what may seem the right moment.

We are not to neglect to pray. I told you last Sunday of Pope Francis vigil of prayer on the Saturday night for a peaceful solution to the tragedy in Syria.  Was it simply by chance that on Monday we heard of the entirely unexpected Intervention by President Putin?  We should be encouraged to pray in and with the Church.


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