onsdag 27 juli 2016

Guarding the doors of the church - a reminder

I posted this last October, and drew the matter to the attention of the Bishop. Unfortunately nothing has been done. Following yesterday's events, I am re-posting the article.

Recent events have focussed attention on the need for security in places where people gather. So far, there have been incidents involving lone individuals, but organised activity is also a possibility; last week, in a quiet suburb of Gothenburg, a restaurant owned by an Assyrian Christian was sprayed with ISIS slogans – “Convert or die”, “Caliphate is here” and the Arabic “N” (ن) symbol applied to Christian property in places which have been taken over by ISIS. There have been incidents in the recent past which might have been prevented by basic security, including Hisingen fire of 1996 which resulted in 63 deaths, and an attack by a nude swordsman on a church in South London in 1999. Catholic churches are at risk because they are well attended, especially those which host congregations membership from Syria and Iraq. A particular difficulty for Catholic churches is that their congregations are large enough for strangers to be able to slip in without being noticed.

Catholics should not need to be reminded that this is primarily a battle in the spiritual war against the devil. We can win it. God’s promise to the Catholic Church is that the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. However, this demands that we understand the enemy and respond in the right way.

Islamic terrorism works by instilling fear – that is its aim and purpose. If we become terrorised, then the devil has obtained a foothold in our own souls. We must strengthen our own faith and courage. Catholics have nothing to fear. We have the all the angels and saints and the entire company of the heavenly host on our side. We must however, increase our efforts at prayer, including recitation of the Rosary and the prayer for the intercession of St Michael, which used to be said after every Mass. This prayer needs to be reinstated in the liturgy. We should also avoid watching and distributing terrorist horror videos. Their purpose is to instil terror. We should not be helping their producers to achieve their aim.

For most of the past 2000 years, the Catholic church conferred what were known as "Minor Orders". They were abolished in 1972. One of them was the Order of Porter, Doorkeeper or Ostiarius. It is suggested that what was, prior to 1972, the Minor Order of Porter or Doorkeeper, be reinstated informally. These would consist of young people recruited from the parish and given a professional training in security techniques. Their normal function would be to provide a welcoming presence, to greet visitors, and possibly to carry out other duties such as handing out newsletters or taking collections. They would also perform related tasks such as acting as marshalls at outdoor parish events, as well as at national gatherings of the church.

As Lay Ministers, whilst on duty they would wear cassocks and carry a virge, a staff or rod still used by vergers in the Church of England. Such a ministry would provide a useful focus of activity for young people, both men and women, provide an opportunity to participate in the work of the church and help build team loyalty. It might take the form of a guild named after an appropriate historic person or event such as Sobieski or Lepanto, under the patronage of suitable saints such as Our Lady Help of Christians and St Brigit. A programme of other activities could be developed including sports, fitness training, martial arts, and social events.

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