Last year I gave a lecture at Aylesford for the local Province of the Knights of St Columba on the Catholic response to secularism. They asked me to speak again this year and so this afternoon I joined them at the North Barn which the Friars have recently restored with the aid of English Heritage.
The Knights wanted me to continue with the same theme, and more recently we agreed that it would be good to look at Bishop O'Donoghue's "Fit for Mission? Church" since it offers a wealth of practical suggestions for action which are relevant to promoting the mission of the Church in a secular society.
Personally I was glad of the opportunity to study the document in greater detail. After giving some background information, I outlined the structure that Bishop O'Donoghue used and then took a few examples from the four areas of Liturgy, Revelation, the communion of the Church, and the Church in the Modern World.
Overall, I tried to emphasise that Bishop O'Donoghue does not offer any excuse for us simply to bewail how dreadful things are. He does not look at the second Vatican Council through rose-coloured spectacles but is honest about the confusion and discord that followed it, while remaining optimistic about the value of a proper reading of the Council according to the hermeneutic of continuity.
He takes an honest and hard look at the problems which face the Church in our country today but then invites us to respond positively by our prayer, participation in the sacraments, faithfulness to the teaching of the magisterium and practical charitable, social and political action as appropriate to our state in life.
I suggested that Councils of the Knights of St Columba might find it useful to look at the document a small section at a time at their Council meetings and try to agree on ways in which they can follow some of the practical suggestions to further the mission of the Church.
The North Barn is dominated by this statue of Edith Stein, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. As a Carmelite martyr, it is very fitting for her to be honoured in this way at Aylesford.