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October 14th, 2016

Vanishing Young Irish Catholics

If I were to say the future of the Irish Church looks dark, you might well retort: “So what else is new?” But I don’t mean anything so simplistic as to say the outlook is depressing, although indeed it is.

When I was in Knock last weekend for a Mass organised by the Latin Mass Society of Ireland (yes, it went very well, with a congregation of well over 120 on a Saturday afternoon) the first thing I noticed was the great contrast in the age and racial composition of  pilgrims, compared with 20 years ago.  Now, as then, a majority of those circumnavigating the old parish church were fairly elderly, but last weekend there were hardly any white young adults at all.

A very large proportion of pilgrims were Indian. Some, judging from the Portuguese inscriptions on their  tee-shirts, must have been from Goa. There were also plenty of Africans, some groups consisting of three generations. It was most edifying to see one old African, sitting on a bench, leading the rosary while his children and grandchildren  made the responses most reverently.

By contrast, outside the Apparition Chapel we noticed two bored and extremely reluctant Irish teenagers, both smoking, who just couldn’t wait to get away.  Their parents had clearly pressurised them into coming. As we moved on, one of the youngsters surreptitiously spat on the ground. This was just a few yards from where the handful of villagers saw  the Paschal Lamb, Our Lady, St Joseph, St John and the angels appear on the gable wall on that rainy night back in the 1870s. The evidence for the truth of that apparition is, to my mind at least, overwhelming.


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