Friday, May 30, 2008

Becoming a Catholic

I received the following email, quite out of the blue today:

Dear Fr Peter Weatherby,

I am e-mailng you because I
would like to become a member of the Catholic church. My fathers side
of the family are members and I did attend church with them ususally on
special occasions. Unfortunately after my fathers death we slowly lost
contact and that was the end of my conact with the Catholic church.
Although I still felt an incredibly close connection to God. I am now
22 and I can really hear the call of God, I am at a time in my life
were I can now react and it is the Catholic Church that I am drawn

I have very little family and not the right kind of friends, I have
been through alot in my 22 years and I want to now better my life and
become the good person that I know I can be. Being apart of this
christian comunity is incredibly important to me and with this
community I know I will truely feel the love of God.

I am not sure what to do to become apart of this church and I would
apreciate it if you could advise me on what I should do next.

Thank you

When I had given some thought to the question, I wrote a reply which it seemed to me is worth recording here. It is general advice and may be worth using again. A reader may also find it useful in his/her own situation.

Thank you so much for your message, it is wonderful to hear about your
faith journey. You do not say where you live - are you from Stoke on
Trent, or have you just stumbled across me on the Internet?

The most important thing to do is to get to mass at your local catholic
Church. If you are not sure where it is, try the telephone directory or
the Internet - or any other local church, the ministers will usually be
very helpful in pointing you in the right direction. Most churches have
Mass on a Sunday morning and perhaps also some time on Saturday
afternoon or evening. There will also be other services, activities and
probably mass each day. The Mass is at the very heart of the Catholic
life, so a first step is to go to Mass.

Next, you should speak to your local priest, and explain your
situation. He can help you become part of your local Catholic
community. If you are already a catholic (e.g. baptised &
confirmed) then the best way of starting again is by going to
confession. If you need help preparing for this, I am sure the priest
will be very sympathetic.

Thirdly, try to find out about Catholic groups which meet where you
might be able to make friends and contacts. You do not say how old you
are or much about yourself, so it would be hard to guess, but you would
find in each parish some activities which might be of interest, and in
larger towns there are probably groups or activities which cover more
than one parish. Don't lose your current friends though - you might
become a very good influence on them!

Fourthly, it is good to read about the faith and expand your knowledge.
Scripture is of course a good place to begin, especially the Gospels
and the Psalms - but without explanation you may find some of this
difficult. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the guide to
what the Church teaches, and the ideal reference book - but not really
bedtime reading. Most towns have a Christian bookshop, but they rarely
stock many catholic books. Many Churches though, do have a simple
bookstall and have leaflets and booklets, those produced by the Catholic Truth Society are especially good.

Finally, there are many places on the Internet where you can read about
the Catholic Faith, and some wonderful blogs too. There are the
authoritative sites like the Vatican, - though you may find this a little too much to begin with. The Church in England and Wales has a sort of question and answer section which might be easier,

If I can help in any other way, please write again,

God bless,

Fr Peter

The Leader of the Church

I've written another letter to the Tablet.

Dear Sir,

Your front cover reads "We discover the kind of leader people want for the Catholic Church in England and Wales". There is no vacancy. The leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales is Pope Benedict XVI.


Peter Weatherby

It annoys me that these London journalists seem to assume that the bishop of their diocese will also be the 'Leader of the Church in England and Wales'. Of course, he will be a prominent national figure. There is, I suppose, a good chance that he will be elected the president of the episcopal conference. It is also quite likely that in due course he will become Cardinal - though he may well have to wait some time for that to happen. But there is no certainty in either case, and even if the Archbishop of Westminster takes on both these offices this will not make him Leader of the English and Welsh Church. Oh no.

I am reminded of the words of Cardinal Newman to Mgr George Talbot, a rather snobbish English priest residing in Rome who had invited him there to preach: "However, Birmingham people have souls". Yes, and the people of England outside London have their own bishops too! The Archbishop of Westminster is no more leader of the Church in this land than Boris Johnson is Secretary General of the United Nations.

(Read Newman's entire letter - it is very short and makes an interesting, and dare I say it, ironic read).