The Quest for Tangible Religion - a view from from the pews'
Ryan, Salvador (2004) The Quest for Tangible Religion - a view from from the pews'. Furrow, July/August .
There has been much discussion in the past few years surrounding the decline in religious practice in Ireland. Poll after poll reveals ever-decreasing percentages of worshippers who regularly attend church services. Instead of lamenting the fact that a certain per centage of the population have chosen to opt out of joining a con gregation weekly for communal worship, I actually marvel at the numbers that continuously choose to do so. Why do they come? What motivates them to turn up at religious services where the preaching may sometimes range from mediocre to dreadful, where music may be non-existent or, if it features at all, may be sub-standard or, indeed, cringe-inducing? One can understand congregations regularly attending churches where a talented and gifted clergy minister, ensuring that they 'get their money's worth', so to speak. At the very least, if the homily is thought provoking or the singing uplifting, it becomes less difficult to understand why one might like to return to savour the experience anew. However, the reality is simply that not all parishes are blessed with good liturgy. What fills, or even half-fills, a church on a Sunday morning in these parishes? Is it simply a profound appreciation of what, for example, the Mass is about, a deep seated realization that the sacraments work on the basis of ex opere operato and, regardless of the personal character of the celebrant, are effective when performed in the correct manner? Is it custom, perhaps - a social ritual by which practice one can feel justified? Does it comprise a weekly dalliance with the divine - the one with which we have become accustomed - and, like an old slipper, 'just feels right'? Perhaps, less cynically, it consists of the working out of a faith that, while often unsure and stum bling, leads one into the presence of God and humanity. The rea sons for attending communal worship are probably as many as the people who attend. Twenty-first century religion (in the tra dition of the many centuries that preceded it) is anything but easy to pin down. What follows here are some observations on reli gious practice from the world of both those who occupy the pews and also those individuals who choose to remain outside while fondly retaining some of the practices of the organized religion they shy away from.
Repository Staff Only: item control page