KNOCK Shrine has become the meat in the sandwich between a couple of clairvoyants and people hungry for a spiritual experience. The Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Michael Neary, has stepped in to quell, what is bordering on, religious GUBU. The clairvoyants should be sent packing with a proverbial spiritual size 9 and not as much as a ‘by your leave.’ This is not to sound or behave in an un-Christian manner. It is just to be realistic in a world that demands as much. A righteous anger is not sinful. Church authorities, in Tuam and/or in Knock, are correct to spell it out in no uncertain terms. Clairvoyants have no place at Knock. Catholicism cannot be reduced to the whims of such people.
Some boys would probably apply for a vacancy in the Trinity if it ever arose! Personal ‘revelation’ is fine at a certain level but when it attempts to supplant Church teaching then it has to be questioned. The very premise of these boys, as clairvoyants, makes their starting point seriously suspect. Then their ‘message’ has all the usual ‘trappings’ of such ‘revelations’ with the supposed message of love for the followers buttressed by an admonition for church authorities. They create the classic ‘us’ versus ‘them’ scenario. We all have ‘issues’ with parts of church teaching. That does not make us right or lessen the validity of the truths espoused by the church.
The people who attend such gatherings pose a different problem. The vast majority are genuine people in search of a spiritual experience or religious certainty. Unfortunately, they are being led up a path that will lead to frustration. An experience of the divine does not depend on a dancing sun and a smiling cloud or on perceived ‘appearances’ of divine phenomena in shapes and sizes of saints or sinners. The fact that several thousand turn up on a regular basis for such an outpouring is disconcerting for a church that is already engaged in serious ‘spiritual’ battle.
The pages of the papers and the broadcast media have been swamped with stories of spiritual betrayal and hurt. The established church is already on the ropes, fighting for its survival, but survive it will. It will survive for the simple reason that it is not in the gift of man to destroy it. Most of its current destruction stems from the ‘inside.’ Time will ensure that the core is renewed, however long it takes. That time is outside of ‘our’ time.
The real fight for the church is to lead those who are seeking that spiritual experience. It is nothing new to the church over the ages. The western mindset sees ‘evangelisation’ as something that is done to and required by people in other civilisations. Today’s challenge for the church is renewal for those who grace its pews with prayers and pennies.
People are genuinely searching for an experience that they cannot find very often in their local church. This makes the Knock/clairvoyant trip attractive. Unfortunately, this reduces the religious charisma of Knock to a spiritual circus with these clairvoyants as divine puppet-masters.
The familiarity with the church life of the sacraments might breed a little contempt in all our lives but that does not take away from the reality of what is being expressed. There is a need for a major drive within the established church to ‘break down’ the Word of God. We all need to know that this life matters and has a purpose. Leadership, through the healing and teaching functions of the church, is badly needed. There is still a spiritual vacuum within the Catholic Church. Pews are still pretty packed but they are edging towards emptying rather than filling. That is the challenge for church leadership today.
The spiritual experience cannot be reduced to church attendance or reciting prayers. It is more and people demand more. There is a reticence in speaking about the reality of having a relationship with Christ. There are so many fears – unworthiness, being judged and ill informed, to name but a few.
People want spirituality to equate with reality, not a temporary overcoat that is donned for church. Non-believers and so-called liberals have both managed to weigh down heavily on the church today. The established church can stand up and be counted, as Archbishop Neary has done. Knock is not for sale. Neither is it a spiritual aperitif or main course for clairvoyants.
Clergy would be pleasantly surprised that spiritually hungry people are waiting for leadership. Some of these people are leaders in waiting. One thinks of the Northern Protestant who told his Catholic friend that if Holy Communion is really the Body and Blood of Christ then Catholics should crawl to the altar in all humility. Let the crawl begin.