Brighton is place where people change lifestyles, it is mainly the young but this Lent I have had a spate of older people who have wanted to change. I had a call about man in his eighties who has decided that he wants to become a Catholic, it is not quite in extremis but he is housebound and I am trying to think what is the minimum of catechesis he needs. I have a letter from another priest who told me of a lady who wants to go to confession after 50 years.
It is not quite unusual for people to return but invariably those who have been away for a long time just don't know what to do when they come back. "It has all changed", is not an unusual reaction.
Nostalgia brings them back and the same nostalgia causes them dis-ease when they return. It is as someone once said to me, "I was the prodigal son who was away from my Father's house for a long time, and when I returned it was a bit like my father had moved house and had plastic surgery. I couldn't recognise anything".
One of the advantages our forefathers had was that the Church offered a more-or-less standad "product", if you left it, it was still the same when you returned 40/50 years later, whether it was in England, Ireland or anywhere. I think here in the city centre we pick up alot of returners, who just happen to wander into the Church, they don't want to go through "a process" which might well work well in more stable community, here they just seem to want to pick up where they have left off. After a period, they might well get themselves along to confession. Having a liturgy that deliberately tries to look back helps.
Nostalgia is a useful pastoral tool.