Everyone is talking about the Benedict Bounce. The term was first used, it seems, by Cardinal Keith O’Brien at Oscott College, during his speech thanking the Pope at the end of his visit. It refers to the positive after-effects of the Papal visit. The pages of the Facebook Papal visit group have been buzzing with all kinds of wonderful stories about people whose faith has been enlivened, restored, enriched by this visit. I learnt today that in the past week the Facebook page has had 44,830 visits this week. The challenge for all of us will be to make sure that the bounce continues, that the impetus is not lost, that the momentum is maintained.
I wonder what it will be like for someone who has lapsed when they decide to return to active church participation. Will they find a welcome? How will they be encouraged to get involved in the life of their local parish? Will the RCIA programme be accessible to them? Are there other alternatives? One lady I spoke to today said it was up to the priests to identify the ‘newcomers’. I baulked a little at this, because surely it is up to the laity, as much as anyone. When I was a new convert, the priest seemed like a distant figure, and it was easy to avoid him. It was a colleague I worked with at the time who encouraged me to join in, and introduced me to her friends and relatives in that parish. After that I never looked back, but some people prefer not to get dragged into helping with the next Bazaar or Coffee morning.
What ideas do readers of this blog have to encourage any new arrivals in our churches, whether they are the lapsed who are returning, or non-Catholics who are enquiring? And what of the e-pilgrims, those who have followed the whole visit through cyberspace? How do we continue to support and encourage them?