Will Africa Save UK Catholicism?
Impressive experience yesterday, at a Novus Ordo church I will not mention.
The start was very bad, as for the first time since attending in England I had to endure a guitar, which made the usually atrocious hymns even more atrocious.
I prepare myself for a horrible experience when the priest appears. Like more and more priests in these part, the man is African, though his strong accent does not make the understanding difficult. Father is young, big and tall, and his assertive, masculine tone immediately makes clear this is not your Father Pansy.
Where things really become surprising was by the homily. Never, outside of the Brompton Oratory, had I heard the like. Taking inspiration from the the gospel reading, Father invites with thundering voice to defy, and in case quarrel, even with our closest family members in defending Christianity's values.
He spoke with a very loud, thundering voice, and if he ever was a timid child, this was a long time ago. He spoke, if you allow me the arrogance, like one who reads this blog every day, albeit it would be more appropriate to say “like one who cares for Catholicism”. It was clear, though unsaid, that the impact with the British society must have been rather traumatic.
It was like a black Don Camillo thundering from the pulpit, and I kept wondering how this could be reconciled with the guitar, and the atrocious hymns. Perhaps he is new and must wait some time before he strikes, I thought; or perhaps he, being African, doesn't really understand our beautiful musical tradition and follows the “colourful” musical arrangements of that Continent. At the time of distributing communion a third hypothesis could be made, as a far older white priest came out to help with the distribution (in cassock! The man was wearing a cassock!) and I thought the older priest might be in charge, and be the more accommodating type.
I had been in that church before, and the two priests I temember were different ones: the one was rather good but still too V II, and the other very probably a homo. The new team was certainly different, but again it was the Black Don Camillo who was highly impressive.
“These are the people who inspire vocations”, I could not help thinking. His passion, energy and candor, but also the assured manliness of his behaviour, must send to every boy the message that priesthood is fitting for real men, and if you aren't one you have no business in even thinking of becoming a priest. Noticeably, there were no altar girls, either.
If it had not been for the damn guitar and the blasted hymns, I would have thought shameless Catholic reaction is here openly at work. Perhaps, though, the matter is much simpler: there is great need for priests, and these priests come largely from Africa; and boy, they do Catholicism.
My impression is that a young priest who has risked the stick in his own country is not really afraid of the bishop, or of the old petty women in the parish council, when he moves to England. His vocation has been already tested far more than most of our bishops will ever dream of. To him, “sensitivity” squabbles must seem as stupid as… they actually are.
This is not the first time I notice when the NO parish priest is a young African the chances he's good are very high, and when he is a sixty-something English smiling champion they are very low. Give this country another fifteen or twenty years, and priests like this Black Don Camillo will become very common. I'd love to see what the bishop can do, then, to keep them silent, and that might also be the time when vocations start to increase in earnest.
Salvation for this country, now tragically sinking in an ocean of stupidity, political correctness and compulsive niceness, may well come from Africa.
In time, they'll get it right with the music, too.