Last Friday evening Lord David Alton gave a talk, "Time to act", in St Joseph's Parish Wetherby. The evening was sponsored by the Friars of the Renewal and was very nicely introduced by Fr Sylvester CFR.
Lord Alton spoke to us of how people of faith should act in a secular society, emphasising how Catholics not only have their religious faith and the principles which flow from it, which are true and therefore Catholic, but that we also have the whole culture of our human lives and our gifts. It is this human culture which first of all should be enlightened and elevated by our faith and its principles, and then deployed in a true and reasonable way in order to build a better world. In short, we are called to be agents of God in the secular world and in the political world.
Prayer is the first building brick, for our spirituality will be necessary to us if we are to enter into the public arena. Without a real spirituality we will simply be sucked in.
Secondly, "pressure" is the content of our work. We may not be victorious in the public sphere, but the fidelity to our principles and our work in the public sphere means that we will indeed be playing our part in the resolution, for instance, of some issue. And this will cost us!
Thirdly: practicalities. This will necessarily mean that we need to inform ourselves and that we actually get involved in some group or activity - including a voluntary activity. And today, this also means that we should be actively promoting the alternatives to the culture of death
It was interesting that, although God was very much included by Lord Alton in his talk, when we came to question time, God was very much absent from the discussion - the living out of our faith in public life is still a huge issue for the people of our country!
Lord Alton left me with a number of questions, not least the question about the public recognition we should give to God. At another level, I am aware that in order to take our place in the public arena we need to be well formed. The vast majority of Catholics, whether leaving school, University or working, have virtually no formation in the faith, let alone formation in how to apply the faith in the concrete circumstances of a secular neo-pagan Britain. I have posted before in this Blog about what Catholic Journalism should be, and where are the Catholic journalists? Indeed, where today are the Catholic Academies or intellectuals who we need to form us in understanding the genuine principles of Science, Medicine, Law, Business, Politics. Thank goodness for the Linacre Centre, for Maryvale - but what about the other areas of enquiry. The question of Catholic Citizenship is very important and we need leaders in the field; Lord Alton is one. There were about forty people at his talk - the first one that I have ever heard on this issue - but we need formation!