When it comes to the apostolate, the primary concern of many reformers seems to be how to attract multitudes to the Church.
The twentieth-century, more than any of the preceding ones, can be called the century of the multitudes. Everywhere multitudes gather — and for every reason: political rallies, sports games, rock concerts, pagan pagents of feminine beauty and thousands of other reasons.
Considering these multitudes, one naturally thinks how good it would be if an equal number of people would gather for a religious purpose, a public ceremony of worship, a grand sermon or a solemn manifestation of faith.
Thus, the question naturally surfaces: What modern means could be found or what new technique could be used to attract such enormous concentrations of people for a religious function? For example, how would one attract the ocean of people shown in this picture to a Catholic ceremony?
Having posed the question, the responses begin to flow. Obviously, if modern people employ modern methods to attract the modern multitudes, then before all else, the old-fashioned methods of apostolate must be discarded to avail oneself of more timely techniques; the old ways are certainly not sufficiently modern.
Using these modern means – providing that they are accompanied by a sacral attitude, dignity and elevation -would seem to be an excellent solution to the problem and completely unobjectionable. However, banishing those old fashioned ways is far from being so simple.
In fact, we believe the most effective means for attracting the multitudes continues to be those old-fashioned ways; divine worship, the pulpit, the confessional, and especially devotion to Our Lady.
Some progressivist readers will be writhing in anger upon reading this. He will exclaim: “We need new methods! Nothing is attained in the modern world except by modern methods! Our Lady died almost 2000 years ago and no longer interests anyone. Today’s people want to admire modern-day people!”
This obsession for the modern, like all obsessions, clouds a true vision of reality.
The modern multitudes, devastated by worries, the feverish fight of everyday living and an insipid existence devoted only to money, are developing an ever stronger appetite for the supernatural. And many traditional practices of the Church, so impregnated with nobleness, piety and a sense of the supernatural, are themselves to be the most effective means for attracting the masses.
Someone might smile disdainfully and say, ‘”Where and when could the traditional methods attract as many people as there are in this photograph?”
Very well, we reply. These very people are gathered in Fatima for the elevated beauty of a Catholic ceremony, a Mass celebrated in honor of Our Lady.
Faced with such facts, the arguments cease. Mary attracts the multitudes to Herself, and if one wants to attract the people, it is enough to invite them to praise Our Lady.
These people pray with sincere devotion to the Virgin Mother and there was no need to make concession to the “new ways” to attract them there.
Note: Crowds still flock on pilgrimage to Fatima. This article was adapted to reflect a recent photo which further proves the timeliness of the commentary.