Sunday, June 6, 2010

There are many young people who are struggling to find a reason to remain in the Church

Venerdì 4 giugno Sua Eccellenza Dairmut Martin, arcivescovo di Dublino e primate d'Irlanda, ha parlato all'Università di Oxford su invito della Newman Society locale.
Martin ha trattato della situazione della Chiesa in Irlanda, con una attenzione particolare ai giovani, facendo spesso riferimento al Cardinale Newman e all'Università Cattolica d'Irlanda da lui fondata.

Ecco alcuni passaggi significativi:

There are structural and cultural factors which are unique to the Irish Church which have contributed to this alienation of our young people. The Irish Church has traditionally stressed the central role of Catholic schools. In the nineteenth century, after Catholic Emancipation, the Irish Church was determined that it would have an education system not just open to Catholics, as had hitherto not being the case, but which gave the strongest possible guarantee of being truly Catholic.

The only Irish bishop who took a strong strand in favour of Catholic participation in the initial National School system or in the Queens University system was the Archbishop of Dublin, Daniel Murray. His successor in Dublin, the first Irish Cardinal, Paul Cullen, on the other hand strongly supported the idea of specifically Catholic education in schools and universities and definitively won the Holy See’s support for his views.

It was Cullen who invited Newman to come to Dublin to establish the Catholic University of Ireland. There is a fascinating temptation for me to ask the “What if” question: what if the model of Archbishop Murray had been followed with Catholic children attending public schools and secular universities? Might the faith in Ireland have been stronger and less parochial?

Newman’s University, in fact, was not a great success; its degrees were not recognised and apart from the medical school failed to attract public interest. I have to be careful not to make many critical comments about the effectiveness of Newman’s University, not just because I am addressing a Newman Society, but because I am actually the current Rector of the Catholic University of Ireland which still exists in law. It exists in law but it has little more than Trustees, a Rector and a beautiful University Church designed in great part under the direct influence of Newman. I will come back to that Church later.

The particular religious history of Ireland led to great emphasis being placed on the school as the principal vehicle for religious education. The school in Ireland then became a rather authoritarian school system, with Victorianism, Jansenism and older Irish penitential spirituality combining. Questioning was not encouraged. Questions of faith were to be accepted in obedience. It was presumed that all students in Catholic schools were believers and that they would make the First Communion and Confirmation when they reached the appropriate class. In my younger days parents were not even allowed to be in the Church for Confirmation. In more recent years, due to the drop in the number of priests and the increase of their work load, the link between sacramental preparation and school deepened and the link between sacramental preparation and parish diminished.


Let me come back to Newman’s’ Church. I do not know if any of you may ever visited Newman’s University Church. Walking along Saint Stephen’s Green in the heart of Dublin you would hardly notice that there was a Church there. There is a small porch with a cross on it. If you enter into a porch you find yourself in a long, nondescript corridor which gives little indication where it might be leading. Then you suddenly enter a quite unique Church, of great beauty and mystery, quite unlike other Churches built in its time, very much Newman’s Church.

I often link that experience of entering Newman’s Church with the challenge of evangelization. The task of evangelization is to challenge these who walk our cities to stop and be curious about this small signs of God’s presence which are all around us but which so often we chose to ignore. We need to stimulate the curiosity of those who walk directionless or just going about day to day activities. But we have to realise that such curiosity will not provide immediate results. There is still, for all of us, the long, nondescript corridor which gives you no indication of what you might expect if you journey onwards. This is the challenge and the risk of faith But through perseverance and especially through the helping hand of other people of faith we can be led to enter into the surprising, into a presence of God which brings us way beyond the sphere of normal human imagination.

Experiencing the beauty of faith is not something that will happen to us every day. There is no way however we can expect young people to remain in the Church if we do not at least attempt to open up that experience for them or at least glimpses of it which can enlighten and encourage them in the ups and downs of their life within their culture and the characteristics of their generation.

Sul sito dell'Arcidiocesi potete trovare l'intero discorso.

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