Catholic Church in the UK After the Pope’s Visit

Praise God! It seems that our Holy Fathers visit to the UK last month is beginning to bear fruit (H/T Deacon Greg).

The Holy Father’s visit began with media hostility and ended in tens of thousands of people — not just Catholics — lining the streets for him. Visiting several churches across different cities since his visit, one notes a sense of the foot soldiers in the pews feeling less inhibited about their faith. Hearing a newly-consecrated bishop preach last week on the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Schoenstatt’ movement’s first shrine in the UK, I was struck by the sheer joy on this shepherd’s face as he peppered his homily with references to the words the Holy Father uttered in the UK.

And people seemed so grateful for this.

Some bishops have referred to a “Benedict bounce” with more people coming to church and an increase in inquirers.

Personally I think this is far too robust a term to be associated with the holy, gentle, humbly intellectual genius that is Pope Benedict XVI. It is no coincidence that he chose Newman’s motto Cor Ad Loquitur (heart speaks to heart) as the motto for the UK visit. The awesome, genuinely warm four-day exchange between shepherd and flock will grow a lasting fruit because Pope Benedict spoke to our hearts — and indeed our souls — but the season of growth may be extensive. His kind of witness sometimes takes longer to bear fruit as we try to overcome our concupiscence.

A friend told me an enlightening story last week. She was attending 40 hours devotion at an inner city church, where she heard the priest confess of his lukewarm initial response to the pope’s scheduled evening vigil for youth at London’s Hyde Park. But Fr. X explained that as he encountered the incredible silence of a Pontiff and his outdoor flock of 80,000, praying in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament something moved him, profoundly. In fact, he based the last hour of the 40-hour devotion on the pope’s programme for that night.

Everyone who attended that vigil has spoken of the silence at that event, which seemed to many to recall the half-hour silence mentioned in Revelation 8:1. One man, I know, a fully paid up member of  “the church liberal,” has repeatedly spoken with awe about how that silence, that vigil, affected him.

Of course the Lord’s parable of the sower and the seed is a reality check; some who embraced the pope’s visit may be like the seed that did not bear fruit. However you can’t help thinking that Peter came among us obeying the Lord’s admonition to strengthen the brethren (Luke 22:32), and that his obedience was efficacious.

We feel truly strengthened by those truly amazing four days in September. Read the rest here.

I was really struck by the effect that praying in Holy Silence before the Blessed Sacrament had on people in attendance.  Silence is so important to our relationship with God.  Too often I am a busy Martha instead of a quiet and humble Mary. Mary gave herself completely to Jesus. She put herself in the presence of our Lord.

It is difficult to cultivate silence in our busy noisy world. Mass, too often is no longer a place where we can find silence.  The General Instruction on the Roman Missal explains:

45. Sacred silence also, as part of the celebration, is to be observed at the designated times.54 Its purpose, however, depends on the time it occurs in each part of the celebration. Thus within the Act of Penitence and again after the invitation to pray, all recollect themselves; but at the conclusion of a reading or the homily, all meditate briefly on what they have heard; then after Communion, they praise and pray to God in their hearts.

Even before the celebration itself, it is commendable that silence to be observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner.

But I have  written on this before.

About Susan Kehoe

I am the wife of a Catholic deacon living in Des Moines Iowa. My husband Larry was ordained in 2006. We have two children and five grandchildren.. Our daughter and her family live in Ireland, and our son and his family live in Franklin Massachusetts.
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