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5 October 2014
posted by Canon Dakin on 06-10-2014

When I was a student we rose at 5.30 with continental breakfast at 7.15 - just a roll of bread with a pat of butter. Then a twenty minute walk for a first lecture at 8.30. Lectures finished at 12.30. You walked back to the college absolutely famished.  First course at lunch was usually soup.  The Italian for soup is minestra. Good thick soup is minestrone; thin watery soup is minestrina. Ours was always minestrina.  There were days when instead of soup we began with pasta or risotto and on those days there was a spring in your step in anticipation. But before you eat there were prayers - we called them ‘starvation prayers‘- prayers for the conversion of England composed by Cardinal Wiseman.

 They were based on the psalms.  The psalms may be understood in various ways - as it was for them then or as it is for us now.  One of the psalms we recited was psalm 79 of which some verses were chosen for our responsorial psalm today. When it was composed it applied to the situation of the Jews in the 6th cent. before Our Lord when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Assyrians.  You may imagine that at the time of the Reformation in England our forefathers may have featured Henry VIII as the boar of the forest destroying shrines and selling off monasteries, bringing an end to Catholic England.  Today we may have a different take. Many of us grew up in a society of thriving churches - Catholic and non-Catholic. Today we face the question of whether England may any longer be called a Christian country.  I am not referring to the impact of Muslims and Hindus.  Christian churches have lost their clout because they have lost their congregations.    The vines have withered.

We are faced with a society that needs re-evangelising.  How? I will await with interest the findings of the coming synod on the family. It is meeting this weekend. From my limited experience I would identify two causes of people becoming detached from the Church. I know that our young people were affected by the cultural changes of the ‘sixties but I would point to our failure to prepare them adequately for the experience of university and the failure to unravel for married people what was wrapped up in the document Humanae Vitae.

 There is an interesting reflection published recently in a publication which is not a papal document but a joint effort by a group of scholars about what is called the sensus fidelium - the instinct of the faithful.  It is not a new idea - Cardinal Newman made much of it - the idea that the baptised person, with his or her gift of faith, has an inner compass bearing on the truth.  It is for bishops to discern where this instinct of the faithful may be heading - and if the sheep are wandering away from the line indicated by the shepherd it is for the shepherd, first of all, to question whether his directions were clear enough. This is the kind of reflection that will take place in the synod. 

The Holy Father has asked for the assistance of our prayers. In particular he has asked for the rosary to be said. We are saying the rosary before Mass every morning in October.  Otherwise I commend it for a quiet time at home.  Family life touches everyone intimately: the family is worth a rosary.   

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