2012-06-09 Vatican RadioIn a letter to three hundred theologians, philosophers and academics at the Theological Symposium held in Maynooth College June 6-9, ahead of the Congress, Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin stated: “While Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever, our faith in Jesus is lived out in a world which is constantly changing”.
Ireland is no exception. A poll was commissioned by the Irish Times newspaper in the lead up to the Congress among a representative sample of 1,000 voters aged 18 and over. It was not all negative. 89% of respondents stated they were Catholics. But only one third said they attended Mass at least once a week and perhaps even more worryingly, 62% said they do not believe the that the Risen Lord is truly present in the Eucharist.
Commenting on the poll in his intervention at the Maynooth symposium, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras said that "many people are not catechised enough to know about the mystery of the Eucharist". But – he added - this is not just an Irish problem.
Systematic theologian Dr. Anastacia Wooden of the Catholic University of America was one of the “emerging scholars” invited to address the same symposium. Originally from Belorussia, she says the situation is no different in the US. A bit of a surprise to the Irish present at the three day session: “Faith is something that needs to be taught and passed with each generation, we can’t say we established the Church two thousand years ago - the job is done”.
Wooden, a mother of four, is also a volunteer in her local parish as a coordinator for adult faith formation: “I think this is one of the biggest practical problems in the Church today. The Church does spend - and I mean the institutional Church – does pay a lot of attention to the sacramental preparation of children, and in America we do have a wonderful program for the reception of adults into the Church. But that’s basically it. Those who were lucky or unlucky enough to be born Catholic, they learn nothing about the faith past the second grade. And there are certain realities – such as the Eucharist – that you can’t just explain to a second grader and hope that it will remain sufficient for a thirty year-old”.
“What is happening – continues wooden – is that if we remain faithful to our faith, but can’t explain what we believe in we become self-enclosed. We don’t want to talk about our faith to others because it sounds ridiculous. We don’t want to talk about it to others because it sounds ridiculous. Or if it sounds ridiculous we just abandon it. I think it is the task of the Church today and I think it is one of the most important theological tasks to find a language to speak about our faith in a way that regular educated people, and not theologians can actually understand and be able to explain to their children, to their neighbours and trust me people do want to hear it”.