Tuesday, May 05, 2015

A Portal of Mercy



http://www.hotels.tv/blog/brighton/wp-content/uploads/sites/51/2013/09/brighton-n-laines-1.jpgBe careful what you wish for!

Spurred on by our Beloved Supreme Pontiff's exhortation to 'go out to the peripheries', to 'bring mercy' to people, I said in a sermon that the Church needs a presence 'where people are'. Like most Catholic churches we are not in the midst of where people are, 'location, location' wasn't the first thing in the minds in of our Victorian forefathers. In our case I get the impression our Church and Presbytery was built in a side street with a strong memory of anti-Catholic riots. It wasn't built as a centre for evangelisation.

I suggested that it would be great to have a chapel, a place of 'outreach' in the main shopping area. I had some vague thought that it could be a place where people could drop in to pray or even go to Confession: a sort of 'portal of mercy', a good idea, but I hadn't quite thought it through.

Last week one of my parishioners said she knew someone who might be able to let us have a small shop for a few weeks, now I am not quite sure what to do with it, I'm in a bit of a panic.

I think that it needs to be a place of prayer, a place of conversion, more than thing else and people need to be invited to pay there, it needs to be simple, I don't have vast numbers of people who could act as counselors or even catechists.

I have been thinking about that bishop who said the Rosary will overcome Boko Harram, it seems a bit like Pius V commanding the Rosary be said before Lepanto.  I remember the valiant Hugh Thwaites' convert instruction "it works well for drug dealers and wife-beaters especially", was teaching the Rosary, and Dominic of course taught the True Faith to those Albigensians who had either never heard it or were unconvinced by it.

My thinking is is how do sow the seed of conversion in a brief conversation. The Rosary is easy to teach, most Catholics can do it. It teaches the fundamental doctrines of the faith, it opens people up to mystery and grace.

So my 'Portal of Mercy' would have a Crucifix in it, a statue of Our Lady, the opportunity to light candles, kneelers and pious men and women being seen saying the Rosary and willing to teach it, and to pray it for those in need. Say a Rosary, it may or may not come off. Even if it doesn't, it is a useful exercise to think of what is the best way to communicate our Faith.
 

33 comments:

ACC92 said...

What a wonderful and creative idea, Fr. Here's an idea, why not get some of those wonderful CTS leaflets and booklets which briefly explain aspects of the Catholic Faith, either to give away for free or to sell

Susan Conner said...

May Our Lady scoop up into her mantle every soul who enters your holy little chapel and transform them to Christ.

Et Expecto said...

I immediately thought of the shrine to St Margaret Clitherow in The Shambles in York. That attracts quite a bit of attention.

Pelerin said...

I have to admit that my first thought was 'but would the council permit it?' Or even would they insist on paying for a special licence to open such a venue?

Last week I went up to London to hear the American Michael Voris talk on how to evangelise. As Dr Shaw has pointed out on his blog England is a different kettle of fish - we don't have the first amendment here. If people were to start quoting the bible during their lunch break at work, they are likely to receive a severe reprimand if not the sack. Wasn't a nurse once reprimanded for saying she would pray for a patient?

Protestant evangelisation seems to have been quite normal in the US - remember Billy Graham - so Voris' ideas on Catholic evangelisation follow on. However in Britain we do tend to ignore any street evangelists we may come across. I remember for many years there used to be a man with a bill board declaring 'The end of the world is nigh' walking backwards and forwards along London Road. I used to wonder who he was sponsored by! He was ignored by everyone!





motuproprio said...

The Blessed Sacrament Fathers turned a pornographic film cinema in Liverpool into a Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament. The Shrine is still there, but now part of a redevelopment.

Liam Ronan said...

Superb idea, Father. When I lived in the States many years ago several heroic members of the Legion of Mary would gather late at night once or twice a month at a certain location notorious for its prostitution and drug trafficking and recite the rosary aloud. God bless them.
They were there on the violent peripheries and met with much abuse.
Who knows how many might have had their hearts opened by such witness?
It turned grim after a while when 'business' took a downturn and (I believe) the police strongly urged the group to seek a location more hospitable.
I believe, though I could be mistaken, they had access to a shop in the city where they could recite the rosary at a time when 'drop-ins' might appear (whether out of curiosity or devotion) and learn about the Faith.
They were able to distribute orthodox/traditional Catholic pamphlets and other resources as well.
Success is measured in one rescued sheep at a time.

JARay said...

I feel that I must join in here although I do not know Brighton nor am I familiar with most other centres in England right now. It is so long since I was resident there. However, I still count myself a Yorkshireman even though I am long gone overseas.
I know York well.
The famous street "The Shambles" comes to mind and the shop, right in the middle of the street where St Margaret Clitheroe might have lived is one gem in the very middle of York. I have only ever known it as a chapel and this is right from my boyhood. The Shambles is one serious tourist attraction in the middle of York and here we have a lovely dedicated chapel, open all day, a spot for serious prayer amidst the hustle and bustle of a tourist scene.
It is just perfect.
Can you replicate such a spot Fr.?

viterbo said...

Perhaps some prayer cards could be handed out with St Mary Magdalen's 'anti-Catholic riots' address somewhere on them for future reference. A whiff of incense wouldn't go amiss. Ave's for the project, Father.

JARay said...

Whilst on the idea of York, there is also "The Bar Convent" which is just a little out of the centre of York, used to be a girls' school but now is just a vistor's centre with a long history of Catholic ownership. It has a beautiful chapel with a "priest's hole" and is another gem that York has to offer.

Jane said...

This reminds me of Night Fever, which is catching on in England from the continent: the Blessed Sacrament is exposed and a team of watchers begin to adore. Another team goes out into the street to invite passers by to come in and light a candle. For just a few minutes or for longer, the unchurched thus enter the presence of Our Blessed Lord and come close to Him. He does the rest. We`ve done it in Maidstone; we call it Light Fever.

Chloe said...

Pray the rosary and let Our Lady do the rest. ths reminds me one of my favourite jokes:
Two men considering a religious vocation were having a conversation. "What is similar about the Jesuit and Dominican Orders? " the one asked.

The second replied, "Well, they were both founded by Spaniards -- St. Dominic for the Dominicans, and St. Ignatius of Loyola for the Jesuits. They were also both founded to combat heresy -- the Dominicans to fight the Albigensians, and the Jesuits to fight the Protestants."

"What is different about the Jesuit and Dominican Orders?"

"Met any Albigensians lately?"

Leave it in Mother's hands. She'll sort it. Good luck with this Father.

umblepie said...


In Exeter there is a small, very old chapel in the main shopping precinct, which is open daily for people to call in and say a prayer, which they do. I can't remember the name of the chapel but it is old and probably purpose built, and as such has a more recognisable image than perhaps a modified shop. Nevertheless your idea must be good, and as long as the shop premises - suitably furnished etc. offer a clear invitation to prayer and silence,I'm sure that you will have people visiting. Good luck and God's blessing on your efforts Father.

Jeremiah Methuselah said...

That is a superb idea Father Blake. Surely the possibilities are huge.

May I suggest the security aspects could be quite important ? These days, Catholics seem to be target number 1.

NBW said...

I think it is a wonderful idea!

Jane Booth said...

a simple solution if it works. Ask Fr. Alexander S at St. Patrick's Soho if any of his school of evangelisation people might be around. This is exactly what they do best. Comment is from Philip, though signed in as my wife

James C. said...

In America we have "mall chapels" in shopping centres where people can drop in for confessions, mass, adoration, etc. I believe the first one built was the Carmelite Chapel in the North Shore Mall (near Boston) in the 1950s. They're everywhere now, and they tend to be run by religious orders.

I must say now that I live in England, I miss the convenience of these mall chapels. Father, a chapel on one of Brighton's high streets is a great idea!

Fr Stephen said...

It sounds a wonderful opportunity. When exactly will you have it?

Cosmos said...

Fr. Blake!

Great idea. My only suggestion--which may sound petty--would be sticking with non-plastic materials to decorate/hand out: wood, metal, terracotta. Nothing plastic, nothing disposable, and no fluorescent overhead lights.

If you want to suggest you are giving people something real, surround them with real things!

James,

I live in various cities in a number of American states, and I have never heard of a "mall chapel." You learn something new everyday.

Eriugena said...

Dear and Reverend Father,
may I take advantage of this comment section to inform you and your readers of news which is beginning to come out, but which has not yet been confirmed (therefore completely unofficial) and has nothing whatsoever to do with the article? It seems Fr Fidenzio Volpi O.F.M. Cap. has died today, 6 May 2015, Feast of St John before the Latin Gate. May I ask everyone to pray a little while to Ss. Francis and Claire to ensure that his time in Purgatory is as short as possible.

amaqula said...

Thank you so much for this Father. This is just what the Church needs...to stop navel gazing and get in contact with the ordinary folks of Britain.

'Come to Me all who labour and are heavily burdened', said Christ. Instead our society directs people in need to Social Services, psychologists, agony aunts etc. There should be a Chapel in every Shopping centre.

amaqula said...

Another thing England could do with are Rosary walks.

James C. said...

Cosmos, oh they're around. In the Carousel Center shopping mall in my hometown of Syracuse, New York, you have the Franciscan Center. In Boston, where I lived for 7 years, you have not only the Carmelite Chapel in the North Shore Mall but also St Francis Chapel in the Prudential Center (run by the Oblates of the Virgin Mary).

These places are confession powerhouses because so many people are passing by while they shop or are on their lunch break. Make confession convenient, and people come!

Fr Ray Blake said...

The particular shop I thinking of needs to close, we should have it between closure and being re-let - but only maybe - we are dependant on a free gift - wee haven't got any money!

princepsmilitiaecaelestis said...

Suggestion: with the help from the laity establish a "cultural association" and teach the sound doctrine, catechism, history, life of saints, latim and tridentine mass, gregorian chant. It will convert almost all.

Uncle Blobb said...

Dear Father, you might look up the St. Paul Society For Street Evangelization. They have a program with some resources that may help you.

Annie said...

How about doing Rosary walks and singing the Marian hymns? We used to do it as schoolchildren during the month of May and they attracted a number of people. But why limit these walks to May? Anytime's the right time.

amaqula said...

Father, you could maybe have a stand with CTS leaflets in your Chapel. CTS have many leaflets with clear and simple information regarding the Catholic Faith.

Also a batch of cheap prayer cards to hand out would be beneficial. Prayer cards are useful and beautiful.

Pelerin said...

I have been giving this a lot of thought recently and thinking back wondered whether I would have been encouraged to enter such a place in the centre of a town rather than a church tucked away in a side street.

The conclusion I came to was that apart from fearing I would be seen, I would not have had the courage to do this whereas I did eventually summon up the courage to knock on the door of a presbytery after having paid many visits to churches all happily off the beaten track (including St MM!)and of course have never regretted my decision to take that first step. Perhaps people are bolder today and prejudice is not so strong - I don't know but anything which encourages people to find out about the Church should be tried out if the occasion arises.

It was interesting to see the comment of the Belgian Priest involved in the ceremony for the dead dog, 'Miss Chiwa' which is linked on Fr Z's blog. He mentioned Pope Francis and going out to the peripheries and he said this was his way of following that. By having that ceremony in the church, people had attended who may not have been in a church for a long time and it was his way of reaching out to the peripheries. He admitted he would probably not do the same for his own dog.

motuproprio said...


Pop-up shops are all the rage! St Mary Magdalen's up with the trend as usual.

goat777face said...

This is a great opportunity. What depresses me about the modern Church is its complete lack of evangelization. We don't realm *do* anything. We keep to ourselves and when we're given the opportunity to evangelize, we keep it pretty vague. For us Catholics, we've given in to the concept of religion being a private matter, a personal eccentricity.

I like to listen to the dynamic preaching that comes from the Catholic Answers team. They engage the public on multiple levels. They've identified the common objections to the faith, from whatever background that might be, and have put the Catholic answer in to a simple, easy to understand and bible based conversation.
We need to understand that the sacramental life and our private/family life are not enough. We're incomplete when we're not reaching out to others. We don't have to dumb down or scrap our Traditions to reach out to people, but we shouldn't dump the weight of the whole Church on people either.

No, what we need is a squad of catechized lay people who can deliver the gospel to people. Then the priests can take over the sacramental side of conversion once the people become evangelized.

Focus on the basics, on the core of the Gospel. That will bring people in.

epsilon said...

Great plan! Pray for courage to make it happen:)
Set a trend we can all follow elsewhere...

Sandpiper said...

Catholic Answers can be bizarre. They advised a woman inquiring whether she should get a tattoo of the rosary on her leg: "yes, if it can be used to bring people to the faith, go for it".

I want to weep daily for the selling out to the culture engaged by some catholics.

Lee Gilbert said...

Here in Portland, Oregon we have a Dominican priest who comes every summer to evangelize in the Lloyd St. Mall. I have never seen how he does it, but I believe he sits ( dressed in habit) in a very visible place-maybe by a kiosk- but it is in the middle of foot traffic. His arrangement with the Mall is that he is welcome to be there so long as he waits for people to approach him. In other words, he is not to approach them. Evidently many people have taken advantage of his presence to seek counsel, go to confession, get their questions answered. I wonder if you could set up a desk in this space, Father, say your office, handle your correspondence, make your phone calls, prepare your sermon, and see what comes of your simply being there, available to the public.