Thursday, 23 August 2012

Teaching the great unwashed

It's difficult to know how to approach this subject; how to even refer to those Catholics who have either never known the doctrinal teachings of Holy Mother Church or those who have genuinely forgotten them.
My good friend Jason at Ascending Mount Carmel has a few interesting points to make on the subject.

This yawning gap of knowledge does need bridging and the Holy Father has instructed the troops to set about creating re-evangelisation programmes but, if this process is in the hands of the you know whos, don't expect anything too riveting, or immediate, or effective, or in line with Church teaching.

I have called them the great unwashed. I don't mean to be unkind; I could call them casual Catholics or CINOs or Modernists but "unwashed" says it all to me.

They are in need of help to get them back on the path to salvation, to retrieve them from the wilderness of the past 50 years, to clean them up so that their Faith sparkles as it should.

I have touched on this subject before and received many kind, positive comments, mainly by email.

I cannot help but believe that those Catholics who blog have a role to play in the re-evangelisation process - the trouble is, we are addressing a section of the community who know nothing of blogging and its global network.

How do we reach out?

One way is to produce a newsletter at regular intervals either carrying basic and brief items of current Catholic affairs or, indeed, carrying snippets from the Catholic blogging world.
This newsletter would then be made available online and those who have an interest in doing so would print it off and leave it at the back of their parish church (after first checking with their PP).

One commentator, whom I shall refer to as 'MC' as I do not know if he wishes his name to be revealed sent me the following message:

1. The way I see it is that 'the message' needs to go beyond those that read Catholic blogs. It seems to me that those who need to hear the message very rarely hear it.

2. There is a need for an antidote to The Tablet. We already have one it is called the Catholic Herald but once again the people who need to read it do not seem to be the ones that ever read it.

3. Who is the target audience?

  • Those who are generally un-catechised.
  • Those who love Catholicism but are embarrassed (due to the present climate) to go that step further i.e. the lady whom I mentioned who said that she was too embarrassed to ask for Holy water because she felt the priest would look at her as if she had gone mad. We need these people to be more confident and start talking openly about all aspects of Catholicism. We can encourage these people to be open about Catholicism once again. No more closet Catholics.
  • Those 'fringe liberals' who can still be 'saved' if they had it properly explained to them why the rules of the Church are actually present.
4. A free monthly/bi-monthly one sided news letter would at least have some impact because:

  • Catholics always pick up anything that is free (sad but true).
  • If it is short then the chances are at least one article will be read - Long diatribes must be avoided.
  • Copies could be distributed in the editors own Church (and further a field if they could afford to print more).
5. What is imperative?

  • The headlines and the article must be pithy and get over the points of view within 2 sentences.

6. We need a network of enthusiastic Catholics who want to get the word out there.
  • It seems to me that we already have a network of enthusiastic people, they are called bloggers and many have the same goals. Of course, not all will be interested but that does not mean that bloggers can not be approached. I am quite happy to contact bloggers up and down the country to drum up support. Even if we only get 10 to start with then this is still a start.
MC makes other points but these are the ones I would like to address first.

MC believes that this might be a series of individual efforts whereas, I think a corporate approach might be best. Say, 6 bloggers who produce a monthly item that is then incorporated into the overall newsletter and then carried as a post by X number of bloggers who then proceed to print it off and distribute.

MC has done some good groundwork here and produced a facsimile draft newsletter - I will post this shortly, meanwhile, please donate thoughts and comments and please remember, this is just one step.....others could follow - always eat the elephant slice by slice (old Pembrokeshire saying).


  1. Yes,this problem has perplexed me for some time.I think that the ordinary man or woman in the pew are mostly unaware of such things as blogs etc,and rarely hear the words of The Holy Father for example.There must be some way to spread the word to them.The unmentionable publication,and the Diocesan magazine (almost as bad in my opinion) seems to be popular,and as your friend has stated there is no antidote to it.Think the idea is a good one.

  2. Great ideas. In theory any priest who allows the bitter pill to take up room at the back of Church could find some space for an A4 newsletter. (ok, this might be a bit optimistic)

    It seems to me that the advertising of particular devotions would be of interest, say, if the newsletter is monthly then one Novena per month (e.g. August could be a Novena to the Immaculate Heart/ Queen of Heaven). This would be in order to encourage greater devotion to Jesus and Our Lady but would also educate the great unwashed about feasts, saints (and their lives), titles of Our Lord and Our Lady that they may have forgotten or do not know about, etc.

    In time, maybe these short, punchy articles on the newsletter could be supplemented by additional materials or, perhaps, refer people to books?? (yes, this might be a bit optimistic, too)

  3. Thank you for the link. I am not certain how to go about it myself - in many ways, though I gave a bunch of tips, really I don't know. Only God can awaken the sleeping soul.
    In the meantime, I want you to watch this - I wept after seeing it. After praying the Jesus Prayer often and suddenly viewing this holy man, I broke down weeping. I have to go to Confession tomorrow...and I have never experienced such contrition of heart as I did today.
    I think maybe there is a point here. Contrition and a lukewarm feeling towards God. God should be our all and everything, above all else. Everything is passing, only God remains...

    Let me know what you think.



  4. Thanks Jason and thank you for the link to a very holy man. I have to say, at the risk of making myself unpopular, I am less moved by the Orthodox way of life than the Western Catholic one. Perhaps that is because its the religious culture that I was born into but I also believe that Catholic monastics (generally) display a more contemplative and ascetic approach. Keep up the great posts you are doing a powerful amount of good.

  5. Not unpopular at all! I am glad you enjoyed it. I am putting a link to your blog on mine by the way - I really enjoy it.


  6. Yes, good idea; happy to help if I can, with both contributions and distribution.

  7. Having thought a little further about this, I think that we would need carefullly to consider the roles of editor and spiritual director.

    On the editorial side, not only do we need to be authentically Catholic, but we also need to set the right tone: honey not vinegar etc. Also, personally, I would have an aversion to anything that was not properly proof read for grammar,spelling, punctuation and syntax.

    At the level of spiritual direction I propose we find a good priest to give us an imprimatur, as it were, on each edition; and also that we recruit some 'professional prayers' (eg enclosed nuns) to pray regularly for this apostolate.

  8. Sounds like a great idea, I'm willing to offer my support!


  9. Ben- you are absolutely right, I would have it no other way. Will be in touch shortly. Mark, thank you, will be in touch soon. ACCH and Malvenu, thank you.