When a student of mine returned from a recent visit to Barcelona, where she’d spent a busy month babysitting small children, she reported that the host family she stayed with not only did not go to weekly Mass, or say Grace before meals, but positively refused to believe that these were practices other people might actually observe. When the student pointed out the oddity of their position—after all, Catholics the world over routinely do these things—they reminded her that while in Spain everyone is baptized, after a decent interval most people simply stay away, disdaining the Church whence their New Life in Christ began.Share
Utterly baffled by this anomaly, she went on to ask if the people of Spain ever return to church at all. Only three more times, they assured her. When making one’s First Holy Communion, they said—which is a big deal, indeed, a rite of passage—it is expected that people will attend since otherwise they can’t very well receive presents. And, then, when people decide to get married, there simply must be a Church wedding since there are so few backdrops as beguiling as the interior of an old church. Like La Sagrada Familia, for instance, a huge and stunningly beautiful basilica, looming in all its neo-gothic grandeur high above the Barcelona skyline. Who wouldn’t want to tie the knot in a place like that? And, finally, when people are about to be buried, it is the custom that the obsequies be performed, once again, in a church. After which, of course, oblivion awaits us all.
It had been, the student ruefully conceded, a real strain having to spend a month or more ensconced in the company of people who had pretty much emptied the cosmos of Christ, leaving the founder of their faith totally out of the picture. Had Jesus himself, one wonders, never left the tomb on Good Friday, would they have noticed anything missing from the Sunday that followed? Perhaps that’s what secularism does to people—it strips them of a hope they seem not even to miss. As if the very ladder we steadily climb into the heavens had all at once been dismantled, plunging us headlong into the abyss, and nobody notices. Or cares. As someone once said, there is nothing worse than the answer to a question nobody is asking. Could there be a sadder legacy to assign the inheritors of Spain’s future? Think of all those cherubic little children elatedly awaiting their first (and last) Eucharist, forced to live in a world shorn of any recognizable reminder that once upon a time their nation was the pride of Catholic Europe. (Read more.)