You can divide religions into those that are most at home in the large public space and those which are most at home in the domestic space. For most Christians the choice has never been visible: they own many big buildings – and that is where religion takes place. If it takes place elsewhere, that is really just ‘a follow up.’ Christians seem to like big public statements.
But it is startling to recall that the original eucharistic meals – where the followers of Jesus wanted to be distinctive from their fellow Jews – took place in their homes.
‘Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke the loaf at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts’ (Acts 2:46).
In this domestic scale, they were in tune with their Jewish roots. Every meal was to be an occasion at which those gathered blessed God (Dt 8:10); the weekly meal with which the Sabbath began was a special act of praise, and the most special night of the year is Passover meal when God’s liberating deeds are recalled around the table. This year – in most places – Christians are going to have to rediscover this domestic liturgical space.
Professor Tom O'Loughlin has sent us something to reflect upon during this time of 'retreat'.
This collection of Table Liturgies is intended for those who wish to use a Grace before meals that recalls the meals Jesus celebrated with his followers. Some will regard them as Agapes; others will understand them as Eucharists. When we eat bread and drink wine in memory of Jesus, we are doing what he asked us to do. These liturgies have all been used by small groups of Catholics in the UK over the years and modified as necessary.
Some are very brief and ancient, such as FROM THE PSALTER and THE JEWISH BLESSINGS. Others belong to the first century of the Christian era, such as COME JESUS SAVIOUR and BROKEN BREAD. The liturgy AT TABLE, comes from the 1984 Vatican De Benedictionibus [Book of Blessings, ET 1987] and others have been written by modern-day Christians.
These liturgies therefore make heavy use of the work of others, ancient and modern, and some of these are listed in the bibliography at the end of this booklet in OTHER RESOURCES.
by Thomas O’Loughlin
Thomas O’Loughlin is Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Nottingham. A fuller version of this article appeared in New Blackfriars, vol. 100, number 1086, year 2019, pages 171-183.
Meet any group of Catholics today and within minutes someone will mention that their diocese or local area is undergoing a ‘re-organisation’: parishes are being combined; the ordained ministers being spread more thinly around communities; and the access to gathering for Eucharistic activity being curtailed. The process is sometimes given an elegant name derived from analogies with businesses that are ‘down-sizing’, but this does not hide the reality that this is driven by two key factors: fewer and ageing presbyters. Moreover, there is little prospect that this situation—even with the addition of presbyters from Africa and India—will change any time soon.
In answer to this, we need to reflect on the basics of ministry and not merely imagine that what has been the paradigm of ministry in the Roman Catholic Church since the early seventeenth century is either set in stone or in any way ideal. Rather than being an ideal, it was instead a pragmatic response to the Reformation which, in terms of Trent’s vision of ‘the priesthood’ (a sacerdotium), was perceived as an officer-led rebellion that was to be prevented from recurring.
by Thomas P. Doyle
The well-known Dominican argues that, far from being merely a tragic moment in the Church’s history, sexual abuse and related cover-ups are the fruits of a systemic disorder in the Church: toxic clericalism. He is one of three authors (with Richard Sipe and Patrick J Wall III) of Sex, Priests and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church’s 2000-year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse (2006). Reprinted by permission from Catholics for Choice. This is an edited version of an article which originally appeared in Conscience: The News journal of Catholic Opinion, Vol. XXXX No. 1, 14-18. © 2019 by Catholics for Choice.
The clerical leadership of the Catholic Church has been aware of the sexual violation of minors and vulnerable adults for centuries, even if it has been buried in secrecy. The secrecy ended in the mid-80s, when the media exposed the Church’s cover-up of a prolific priest-perpetrator in Louisiana. Often referred to as a ‘crisis’, it is, in truth, not a crisis. It is something much worse. It is a worldwide manifestation of a complex, systemic and self-destructive condition in the Church.