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grammes such as Landings, a Paulist ministry for returning Catholics. This is a moment for great sensitivity. Many Catholics who feel excluded from the Eucharist still come to Mass regularly, and non-Catholics also come to Mass with their spouses or chil- dren. We might make a deliberate, but gentle effort to invite them to talk to a priest by including a note in the bulletin or by putting enquiry cards in the church. Alternatively, the celebrant might include in the announce- ments a reminder that he is always available to speak privately after mass or during the week. The Pope’s Prayer Vigil in Hyde Park was


extraordinarily powerful and the introduction of prayer vigils, or a time of adoration of the Eucharist, in parishes could help people reflect on their faith, or make the faith their own, either for the first time or once again. Such devotional practices can help build up a sense of Christian and Catholic identity leading to a sense of community. Let me give some concrete examples of what we can offer. I know a woman who would sit at the back of the church during Mass, looking longingly at what Catholics do. When she had gained enough confidence, she began to light a candle before the statue of Our Lady. She would sit and think about her family dif- ficulties and would share them with Mary — and she found that her burdens seemed lighter. Then there was a refugee who had fled a violent husband, leaving behind her children. She would visit a church and sit and think before the crucifix of her own suffering and how she could make sense of it. In both these cases, someone befriended them in the church; both of these women became Catholic.


O


usama used to pray in a mosque that had once been a church. On one wall, not yet obliterated by whitewash, a face of Christ was


discernible. He came to England as an eco- nomic migrant and searched for that human face again. A religious sister gave him a Bible and he would read the accounts of Jesus – and discovered that it was among the Christians he met that he could find that face. None of these rituals — lighting a candle,


sitting before a crucifix or icon, reading a Bible — involved an official liturgy, but the Christian community helped enquirers to reflect and pray. Their experiences and the personal encounters they had helped them to respond to God in their own way.


Our parishes and dioceses could use all these and other pious practices and popular devotions to help many of those touched by the visit of Pope Benedict to come into the Christian community or to return to it once more.


■James Leachman, a Benedictine priest, is a member of the monastic community at Ealing Abbey, where he was for eight years priest responsible for the parish RCIA programme and helped found the UK version of Landings. He now teaches and writes on liturgy in London and Rome.


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