...Autumn day with a crisp fresh feel to it. Off to give a talk at a Catholic secondary school, about the work of Aid to the Church in Need, supporting persecuted Christians.
Interesting to observe trends in Religious Education. Have you heard the daft packet-of-sandwiches theory about the Feeding of the Five Thousand? It's the modernist take on this great miracle, deliberately invented to try to steer young people away from understanding the full Eucharistic significance...I heard it again today and it's clearly one of the bits of rubbish given to gullible RE trainees: the idea is that it wasn't really a miracle when Christ took the loaves and fishes and raised his eyes to Heaven...nooooo, what really happened was that when the small boy produced this simple food all the other 5,000 people who had apparently been hiding their packets of sandwiches greedily for themselves now produced them to share...
Quite apart from the racist idea of assuming selfish inability to share picnics was somehow the norm among 1st-century Palestinians...this daft theory doesn't even fit the facts. Why would it be considered remarkable if people simply enjoyed food they already had? What sense can be made of the link made in the Scriptural account with the manna in the desert - and Christ's extraordinary words about feeding people with his own flesh?
No wonder young people seem bored with their religion, finding it apparently hard to grasp its reality, or surrender to its joy, when they have it thus gutted of real meaning.
However...the school was welcoming, efficient, friendly, generous. Pupils mixed: some (a few) open, interested, capable of response to my talk about faith and ACN, and tales of derring-do in assisting Christians in various parts of the world... others with rigid body-language saying don't-come-near-me-with-all-this, shrugging, pushing away the holy cards, downcast faces hidden behind sheets of hair. It's something I always notice: among the young today some, especially the girls, have a wounded and alienated look...the pressures in today's vicious culture are so huge, and already in late teens there is a sense of violation somehow, of lost life. This makes it tough for teachers.
Interesting point made in discussion: those who believe face derision from their peers. "Persecution" isn't something far away from these young people, it can already be a reality, if you admit to being a believing Christian...yes, even in an RC school.