“We should look at fundamentals rather than practicalities of reopening churches.”
This was the headline for an Irish Times article by a lecturer at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, on Tuesday June 2nd, 2020.
Pointing to the ageing profile of most of Ireland’s serving priests, and the likely inability of many to attend weekly local Mass as the likely normal pattern for the looming future, Fr Eugene Duffy lamented the current focus on the mere practicalities of restoring a normality which cannot be sustained in the long run.
“We need to remember that our gathering in the church is not the only way we can sustain the life of Christian faith and practice.”
Fr Duffy pointed out that in Judaism it was the family that became the principal means of faith continuity following the collapse of the Jerusalem Temple in AD 70.
“We could encourage and better resource people to pray in families. We could encourage and lead people in acts of charity in imaginative and useful ways. These and other possibilities need to be explored.”
“Perhaps our current anxiety about opening churches is further feeding the superficiality that has characterised much of our practice for too long. We might just be missing an opportunity for profound renewal. … I fear that we are once more attending to the practicalities rather than looking at the fundamentals. We are, in any case, facing a situation where in a decade or so Sunday Mass will not be celebrated in every parish and we will have to start thinking at last about how the life of faith is sustained in such situations.
This crisis might be a good dress rehearsal.
Rev Eugene Duffy lectures in Theology at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.
For those with access the complete Irish Times article can be found here.