THE THIRD WEEK OF ADVENT
DECEMBER IS THE MONTH OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
THE STATE OF OUR NEIGHBOUR’S CHURCH.
It was good to see the Church packed for our School Carol Service last Thursday, but this was no sign of great faith or love of the church. Yes it was lovely, absolutely delightful, but as the Lord says, ‘And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (Matthew 5: 47) For how many at the carol service came to mass in the morning or later that evening for love of the Blessed Virgin Mary on her great feast of the Immaculate Conception that very day? How many at the carol service would come to mass in their church on a Sunday or even once a month or twice a year? We need to heed the signs of the times, like one from a neighbouring church.
The new annual report from the Church in Belgium makes sad reading for all faithful Catholics.
It states that Mass attendance on an average Sunday was just 166,785 in 2021 in all Belgium, compared to 241,029 in 2019.
Attendance at Christmas Masses was 347,229 in 2021, a significant drop from 551,134 in 2019.
There are roughly 6.7 million baptized Catholics in Belgium out of a total population of almost 12 million, suggesting that around 2.5% of Catholics attended Sunday Mass in 2021, compared with 42.9% in 1967.
The report noted that there were 36,834 baptisms in 2021, including 162 adult baptisms, compared to 44,850 and 219 respectively in 2018.
There were 41,751 First Communions in 2021, down from 45,079 in 2018; 35,783 confirmations in 2021, compared to 39,284 in 2018; 4,032 Catholic marriages in 2021, in comparison with 6,765 in 2018; and 41,760 Catholic funerals in 2021, fewer than the 48,407 in 2018.
There were eight priestly ordinations in 2021, while six diocesan priests left the ministry in the same year.
It is also worth noting that another reflection of the rapid rejection of God in Belgian Society is the increase in people asking for ‘De -Baptism’. The Belgian Church’s report said there were 5,237 such requests in 2021, compared to 1,261 in 2020 and 1,800 in 2019.
Of course, there is no such thing as ‘De Baptism’ and it cannot be granted, because Catholics believe that once you are baptised you are always baptised. There’s absolutely nothing anyone can do about it. People do lose their faith and religious practice, but through confession and the sacrament of penance which channel God’s mercy, there is always a way back in. Let us pray for the Church in Belgium, but remember, it’s a neighbour. They are not wholly ‘other’ from us. We should consider this as a warning, and indeed, I suspect the English figures would not be very different.
Please ask yourselves:
What are you doing to pass on the Catholic Faith to our Children? Are you going to Mass every week and demonstrating to your family that your lives are ordered and directed to God, starting with being married? Do you show them by example that weekly attendance at mass is an obligation to God? (note it is actually a sin to miss even one Sunday mass other than for illness, essential work or impossible distance from a church). What are you doing to build the community and family life of your church? Are you encouraging a culture of vocation in your family so that your sons might consider priesthood or your daughters the religious life or do you think that is totally ridiculous? If you think that’s crazy, then where will our future priests come from? The future of the Church is in your hands: it’s you who make our future priests not us priests, just as our High Priest, Jesus Christ and all our the priests who stand in his shoes at the altar are because Mary said ‘yes’ to almighty God and so gave us her son. I pray you all, Mother Mary’s sons and daughters in today’s church will also say yes to God like her - and so work for the survival and growth of this parish and God’s Church. I do fully realise that not one of you bother to read this, but it is my prayer anyway.
Join Patricia in the house after Friday mass to share in the Advent Gospel, with tea and coffee.
A DAY WITH MARY
Saturday 10th December 2022 at St.George’s Cathedral from 10. 15 a.m. to 5.15 p.m. Please bring packed lunch. Join Patricia in the house after Friday mass to share in the Advent Gospel, with tea and coffee.
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Masses & Intentions for the Third Week of Advent
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