I note this morning that this blog had been operating since 2008. Since then it has carried over 130 articles of substance. That’s by no means a record but I think it tells us that Christians of intelligence are more than ready to think, to consult, to agree and to disagree. I have no firm picture of the contributors who take part in the discussions. Clearly, the majority are Catholics, and a proportion are in religious orders. But there are plenty of other Christians, and of course we have non-believers. The standard of comments is high. And they are frequent – often approaching, and sometimes exceeding, a hundred.
Not surprisingly we often come back to the question of communication within the Church. For me, that was triggered by a major study of communication within hospitals. It contrasted hospitals with poor communication upwards, downwards and sideways, with those who put emphasis on their internal communication. The outcome was that the communicating hospitals were significantly better at curing patients. Round about that time, businesses were finding good internal communication to be a big factor in success.
And, at first sight, it appeared that the Church by its very function was a non-communicator. Its chief, the pope, was absolute in authority and, in certain cases infallible. He was surrounded by a bunch of senior clerics, known as the Curia – a kind of administrative government. Then come the bishops – seen as the descendants of the Apostles, and, in turn, the obedient parish priests. Finally, there’s us, our hands inevitably in our pockets – because that’s where the money comes from.
The 1960s was a key decade. The second Vatican Council took place and demonstrated at least that the bishops were free to discuss issues which historically had been fixed by tradition and authority. Even today there are those who believe, and have argued strongly, that the Council was fundamentally wrong in freeing up the long held ecclesiastical Church authority. We see an outcome each week when we attend Mass in English as an expression of the whole community, and not one in a foreign language exclusive to a minority. It would be interesting to know how well we think the Church nowadays communicates with its members.
I attended Mass this morning on my computer. I am fortunate to have the best parish priest I have ever encountered. I just finish with a story he told.
‘I am reminded of a story told to me of a group of salesmen who had been on a conference. They were running late on their return trip and in their rush through the airport one of the group inadvertently knocked a basket of apples off a table. Apples were everywhere. The group kept running and reached the plane just in time.
All except one. He told his colleagues to go on without him and he went back to where the apples had been knocked off the table. He was glad he did. The young girl selling the apples was a sixteen year old blind girl. She was trying to recover her produce by feel, no one was helping, all were trying to get to their departure gates. The salesman knelt on the ground with the girl and gathered the apples into the basket, replacing it on the table and rearranging the display. When he had finished he gave the girl some money to cover the cost of any damaged fruit. As the salesman started to walk away the bewildered blind girl called out “Mister, are you Jesus”.’