As we in the Catholic League are about to reach our 90th birthday I am using this opportunity to assess what we should be saying to the Church of God, and these will be headed "Five Loaves and Two Fish".   We have a great challenge and need to say positive things in our various communions.

First. - We stand for the Worship of God.   This may sound obvious, but many services are unbelievably man-centred.   I passed an Anglican Church (which used to have a CL priest) in a Suffolk town and saw a poster "Poppet Holy Communion".   In a Suffolk country church a service was advertised as "Lollipops and Roses" and in a Worcestershire Church the church notice board said:  "The Gang Meets Here At 9.00 Each Sunday".   Such services put the emphasis on the person - what he or she might receive - and not on the worship of God.   The hymns and choruses are trite and banal!   People do hunger for the transcendent - not finding it in many clubs.   

Second. - We stand for the Male Diaconate, Priesthood and Episcopate.   Today, there is a tendency to view new orders in managerial terms, whereas the essence of the Holy Order is to be Busy with God in the Divine Office;  Intercession;  Study of the Scriptures and Fathers;  Meditation.   Being busy with God helps priests to serve others and take them back to God.

Third. - We need to give more teaching on the basic Catholic faith.   People do not fuss today over vestments, incense, reservation, benediction and statues but these can be window dressing without sold Catholic teaching, devotion and discipline.   We must not let people stick to bits of ritual and paraphernalia of Catholic.   Worship with little grasp of what it means in terms of teaching and spiritual discipline.   You can hear people talk of the Catholic Faith as if it is whisky or tomato juice.

Fourth. - There is a hunger today for the Ministry of Healing - one that is not man-centred with some emphasis on charistmatic powers -  but Christ-centred for he is the one that heals and, very closely related to this, is the Sacrament of Reconciliation - or confession.   All too often confession has been seen as a rather mechanical discipline rather than an aid to healing and personal growth.   Any therapist or GP will agree there are millions burdened with guilt, wating to hear the words:  "I absolve you, you are wanted, loved by God, now go and live".   Holy anointing and reconciliation are healing sacraments that only the Church can give.

Fifth. - We need to witness to Moral Standards without kicking out at those with different standards and being judgmental to those of different standards.   Christ always loved and welcomed people first.   He never waited until in our opinion they made themselves worthy.   I am thinking particularly of the divorced and those that co-habit.   As we stand for points of doctrine and morality in a very liberal church, we can appear reactionary and negative.   We must always state our case positively.

What are the two fish?  One is Evangelism.   By this I do not mean taking Christ to people as if I have him and they have not.   Catholic evangelism is different.   We are here to find him and reveal him where He is already for St John wrote "The Lord was the true light that enlightens all men".   Our job is to help people receive Him and become Sons of God.   Let us never forget the oppressive fear that churches inspire in many that are unused to them for they are afraid of being shown up and doing the wrong thing.

The other fish - linked with Evangelism is Unity for our Disunity hinders evangelism.   The Catholic League must work and pray for the reunion of all Christians with the Apostolic See of Rome.   "You are Peter and on this rock I will build by church."

Today, you and I are challenged - how can these loaves and fishes be multiplied by Christ?   Through you and me -  for your hands and mine are to be used so that Christ's love and compassion can shine in a troubled church and world.

The Priest Director

An Edited Extract from

The Priest Director's remarks

at the 2002 AGM

Christopher Stephenson

27 Moor Lane



YO12 5SL

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