Faithful Catholics Follow Bishops Who Offer True and Courageous Leadership

My parish priest is also Vicar General for Brentwood Diocese. He has recently returned from one of his bi-annual meetings of vicars general, which took place in Salford. He remarked at the weekend that his colleagues had all recounted the same story: apathy rules. Mass indifference is, it seems, the Catholic reality across the country.

This has long been the topic of discussion among those of us involved with catechesis and has been the subject of numerous books. Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples is a good example and gives extensive consideration to the statistics and reasons for this prevailing attitude as well as offering some practical solutions.

Her focus is very much on a living, personal Catholic faith – our becoming disciples of Christ and catechising the catechists.

Professor Stephen Bullivant has also written extensively on this issue and, in his latest work Nonverts: The Making of Ex-Christian America he makes a startling assertion: that sharing a weak strain of Catholicism inoculates our children from the “live virus”, if you will.

This insight struck me as so obviously true and the reason why I have spent much of my adult life trying to explain why we need to stop sharing the felt-bannered, collage making, bland, insipid kind of Catholicism I grew up with and exchange it for something that has real power, that really makes a difference in people’s lives and in the world.

As someone involved in my local community of Baptists, I am always impressed with the level of engagement from normal people. They take personal responsibility for the work of evangelisation in the community. Do we Catholics too often consider that this is the responsibility of our priests and bishops or do we recognise our responsibility in the work of the vineyard? As the Second Vatican Council taught, “the laity can and must perform a work of great value for the evangelisation of the world” (Lumen gentium n.35).

The Gospel acclamation on Sunday came from John 10:27, “The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice, says the Lord, I know them and they follow me”. To what extent are the people reliant on their Shepherds to hear the real beauty and power of the Gospel?

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