...visited the office of Aid to the Church in Need in Sutton Yesterday (see previous post), and we had a good chat over mugs of tea. For years and years, faithful ACN supporters in Britain were supporting the Church in Poland, helping to fund the building of the great church at Nowa Huta, praying for Poles struggling against a vicious bureaucratic obstructive Communist state machine, assisting the arrival in Poland of books and literature banned by the State. And now, here was a cheerful priest, busy with plans to take a large crowd of young Poles to World Youth Day in Madrid, showing me snaps of various youth events in Poland, swapping news and information about the state of the Church in Poland and in Britain and elsewhere.
The young faces grinned out from the photographs - groups just like the gatherings of the FAITH Movement in Britain each summer, or, indeed, like the young people in our parish the other day, in their WYD teeshirts, rushing about organising a big parish lunch to raise funds for the Madrid project. But the difference is that to be a practising Catholic in Poland isn't a minority thing - it's much more normal.
I asked: have numbers at Mass gone down since the fall of Communism - is a new generation viewing the Church in a quite different way? Yes, there's a different attitude - it's no longer a case of showing support for the Church in opposition to a Communist regime. But today's generation has grown up with that - they see the Church in a different way but still in a way that inspires them, holds out a message that they like. Many will travel abroad, and all have an attitude that looks wider, likes the idea of something worldwide - the big challenge is to show them that when they do go to different countries, the Church may not seem to large and lively there, and they must make an effort to seek it out.
Earlier, I'd been talking to a - former Anglican - ordinand about evangelisation, and how to bring the Gospel to modern British cities. The shouting, drunken young girls staggering out of pubs late on a Saturday night? The solid Islamic areas? The young single women with their babies on a bleak Council estate? The young men, dedicated to the local football team with the pssionate fervour of a great religious cause?
Tonight, a gathering of an informal Catholic group in London which meets from time to time for talks from guest speakers, wine and snacks, socialising. Tonight, we're watching the Papal Visit DVD, (recommended).
The vast crowd, mostly young, silent at prayer in Hyde Park last year holds a message that is relevant to what I've written above.