Friday, October 21, 2011

Conversation on a train

An interesting conversation on a train the other day between a young university student who got on the train with some young Middle Eastern students. I don't know if the young man was Catholic or Orthodox, he looked southern Mediterranean.

Yes, I used to to Church every Sunday.
I don't believe in it now.
There followed a short discussion on different cultures and family celebrations, including Eid.
We have Christmas which is a bit like Eid.
We also have Easter.
What is that about?
Someone betrayed him, I think it was Jesus, so we burn some wood.
That's strange
Yeah, it is really weird isn't it?
A good priest would have stood up and catechised the whole carriage, I didn't. I didn't know how to.

21 comments:

Fr William R. Young said...

A priest would, perhaps, simply not have been credible to people at this level of listening. Only simple lay people will be able to reach out in this kind of situation. While we drop our jaws in amazement at the way the truth is garbled, we should perhaps be pleased that these things are being said in conversation. And if that person really did think that about Christianity, we should respect his decision not to go to church any more. In the end, the truth will out. The idea that we always need a qualified teacher is deadly. Just make sure the talking goes on. I suppose there might be an opportunity to throw in an aside to correct manifest misperceptions, but there is the danger of creating further misunderstandings. It seems Christianity has just leached out of our culture over the last century. We must re-evangelise our people. Thank God we can now make a new start in and through the liturgy.

Gigi said...

"A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring" - as Mr Pope would say.
How sad, and frustrating. Somewhere, someone has failed to inspire him. Possibly his family if he's aware that he's essentially Christian but oblivious to what that means, although he used to attend mass regularly.
Were you not wearing your soutane Father Ray? How could they have missed you? Unless you were wearing a winter coat and scarf.

petrus said...

Fr. Young, I must disagree. With all due respect, further misunderstandings aren't created by introducing facts and clarity. The most basic contribution perhaps that could be made would be to simply share what Easter is. They were asking, and it sounds like they were genuinely interested in knowing. Once in conversation, most people also welcome sharing how one became interested in their own faith: "Personally, I started to take my faith more seriously when..." Never underestimate the hunger for the truth! As long as you're giving of yourself, and not trying to tell them what to do, they will be more open to seeds being planted, but they do want to hear the truth.

nickbris said...

All true Muslims would know about Jesus,He is mentioned more in the Koran than Mohammed and is revered as a Prophet.

Catherine said...

Don't feel bad, Father. You can still do something very special for both those people, something of infinite worth. Say a Mass.

bb said...

Gigi wearing a cassock on a train would have just brought ridicule.

Saint Michael Come To Our Defense said...

Twelve year old Daniel spoke with authority.

He successfully defended Susanna by speaking with Truth that had been inculcated to him through Scripture, Tradition, and Ritual.

He did not cat chat about his own personal experiences, 'Sharing' them as with the gathered crowd.

He spoke with authority.

Priests speak with God's authority through the Magisterium, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and Tradition.

If a Priest fails to defend the Truth, he becomes a disappointment to she that forms Priests in the image of her Son.

*

Gigi said...

bb: Really? No, I've seen priests travelling between Brighton and London proudly cassocked and not seen many people raise an eyebrow. As indeed they shouldn't. Although if a person is of the kind who would ridicule someone's open faith, it would probably take less than a soutane to rile them.
I agree Nickbris: I have Muslim friends who refer to Jesus as "our prophet" and certainly know his life story...

Ma Tucker said...

Well, you should not be earwigging in the first place.

Physiocrat said...

Nobody could catechise a whole carriage. The incessant announcements and chimes would be too distracting and the "conductor" would stop them as soon as they came round, for making a nuisance of themselves. That is just as well because otherwise all sorts of sectarians would go around preying on innocent passengers with their Protestant rantings.

Seriously though, this can only be done by engaging individuals in conversation, listing to discover where they are and starting from there.

Gigi said...

I think the best advice would be to gauge the mood and situation; from what Father Ray's said, it doesn't sound as though this group were likely to turn abusive or aggressive. In this case, I think maybe Father might simply have introduced himself and explained the true origin of Easter and some of the associated Catholic traditions. This might have led to a fuller discussion, or not. But we weren't there and it's impossible to gauge the reaction with hindsight. We don't know who else was in the carriage and what their demeanour might have been. We don't even know how close Father Ray was sitting to this group - I'm sure he wasn't earwigging... :)

bernadette said...

I wouldn't worry too much. It sounds suspiciously like a bunch of Polyversity undergraduates playing to a crowd. They were probably waiting for someone to make the obvious response: to laugh out loud.

Saint Michael Come To Our Defense said...

"...Nobody could catechise a whole carriage..."

Amtrak Train, United States, Westbound from Washington, D. C., to California.

The Conductor had attempted to stifle catechisms being given to passengers that inquired about the Saint Benedict crucifix worn on the outside of my shirt.

A family with three extremely loud children was causing trouble for the other passengers that simply wanted at least a moments quiet.

Besides the children, the parents openly argued with each other and the love/hate (more hate than love) between them was obvious.

Eventually, the mother and her children found their way to my table in the lounging car.

I spoke to the woman and her children of God’s love, and how He requires us to know, love, and serve Him.

I spoke to them of Truth, and how beauty and Truth walk hand and hand.

I spoke to them of conversion and repentance.

The father soon joined us, and at first tried to act tough in order to shut down the talks.

I told him I was not speaking on my own authority; I was speaking with the authority of Holy Mother Church.

I told him since he refused to listen all his life to that which God tried to tell him, God had decided to send a talking jackass to him in order that he may believe.

“Look around. For the last three days on this train, your children have screamed day and night. I have told them about the love of God, and their souls are at peace. What you have been doing is wrong. Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven.

Nice talking to you.”

The only place you cannot catechize from is your casket.

[31] And he said to him: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead.

*

Little White Squibba said...

..."wearing a cassock on a train would have just brought ridicule..."
Tripe.

Richard Reeves said...

Gigi and Little White Squiba - it is not the custom in England and Wales for secular priests to wear cassocks when traveling, outside of liturgical functions, or the parish church and presbytery. 'Clergyman' which consists of a black lounge suit and Roman collar is the customary dress for such occasions.
It is puerile to think that more cassocks, birettas, lace and incense is going to solve the crisis of faith we have in England and Wales. The answer is in sound catechisms, such as the excellent one devised by Fr Andrew Pinsent.

Gigi said...

"It is puerile to think that more cassocks, birettas, lace and incense is going to solve the crisis of faith we have in England and Wales. The answer is in sound catechisms, such as the excellent one devised by Fr Andrew Pinsent".
So true; fortunately no-one on this Blog seems to have made such an immature suggestion.
On a very sombre note, it is a regrettable fact that some folk will feel inclined to mock the soutane, the Roman collar or any form of clerical dress. It's obviously aggression and bigotry fuelled by lack of respect and fear of what is not understood. It amazes me that although bigotry and discrimination are rightly legislated against, "comical" derision of a person's faith is often seen harmless; one of my oldest friends, a non-Catholic, introduced me to another friend of hers today as a "Roman Candle".

William a sinner. Most unlearned. The Least of all the faithful… said...

Hello Padre... Just carry around a few extra Catechisms... They are really cheap, and good to hand out... When I get a few extra bucks, I buy a few, just to hand out to folks who have questions about our faith, or to name only Catholics who do not know the first thing about the name they claim as the faith has been obscured for the past 50 years...

Laura said...

You got some strange comments there Father - most of them focused on catechising in trains and/or wearing cassocks. The point of what you wrote has been a little obscured - that is, the absence of an underlying grasp of the Christian narrative, irrespective of faith. Much catechesis is attempted with the assumption that everyone knows the basic narrative, which is no longer the case. We have to go so far back to the very basics of the Christian faith in our catechesis that it can seem patronising and we hesitate to do it, particularly with adults - but this initial proclamation of the Good News in a simple but complete form is a real necessity today.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Laura,
Yes, that is what I was getting at but also that this lonely lad was welcomed by a group of Muslims friends, who shared friendship and their faith in a non-aggressive way.

Patricia Phillips said...

I agree with William. Carry around catechetical material in little booklet form. I always carry a few and it's surprising how often one has to replenish them . . . I also leave a pile behind the front door for when the Jehovah's Witnesses come knocking!!

Gigi said...

Father Ray, I've just re-read your post and the point you've just emphasised has struck me - of course there was a kind of multi-faith interaction going on in front of you. How lovely that you've focused on that; there was I going on about anti-faith bigotry and too blinkered to see the subtleties of the tale.
(I was actually joking originally about people not spotting your soutane on the train. I should learn not to make jokes...)