Breda O Brien returns to the subject of the Archbishop’s Knock Shrine sermon in her Opinion piece in the Sept 1 edition of the IT. Though sympathetic to the general tone of the sermon she questions whether in our lifetimes Ireland was ever a gentler more community-minded place.
She also challenges Christians rather than lamenting the change in the country, to ask different questions of the new ‘island of stocks and shares’, such as, how a person can live as a Christian in that context.
Her view of Protestantism is a little skewed though. She thinks we have a stronger ethic for the poor that Catholicism. Not sure about that one. The vast teaching on social justice in Catholicism remains largely an untapped resource, she says, because it has never really been translated into practical teaching on how to live in the ‘new’ Ireland.
She does though, ask a series of questions that exercise us too: Where would a Catholic (or Protestant) businessperson be challenged to be ethical and socially responsible at work? What has the church to say to someone who works in the International Financial Services Centre? Or to the 22-year-old working long hours in a supermarket? What does it have to say to families struggling to raise children? What does it have to say to the single man working on a building site?
One comment really grabbed my attention, and is worth pondering, whether one is Catholic or Protestant. She says,
“Lay people are still seen as a group that must be encouraged to be involved in the church, rather than being the church.”
What a concise and sharp observation. So much of my experience of membership of the church, has been about getting people to DO things, believing that keeping people active will keep them, full stop. Christianity therefore becomes insanely activist and we can easily lose sight of our call to BE the church.
Activity can also give the illusion of vitality. Financial markets have long been familiar with the phenomenon of the dead cat bounce.