The children, particularly my son, were keen to meet the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales and so as the crowd thinned we joined the reception queue behind a man in shorts wearing a sombrero with "Mexico" written on it, and were very quickly in front of +Nichols. I knelt and kissed the Archbishop's ring, and the children knelt for a blessing... and that was that. As we walked away I internally kicked myself for not saying what I wished I had had the alacrity of mind to say which was: "Thank you for defending the Truths of the Catholic Faith, and particularly for defending the family, so bravely in the face of opposition in these difficult times"...
... Now, before any readers choke, cough and splutter let me explain myself a little. When, in a past life, I had to manage and motivate large teams of people, I found that praising somebody robustly for what they should be doing, even if they're only making a faint effort, pays huge dividends. Sometimes it's a matter of confidence: being praised for what they should be doing, or are tentatively doing, moves things up a gear... sometimes someone is tentative simply because they aren't sure that they are supported in what they're doing. Praise - directive praise - inevitably moves behaviour towards the desired outcome.
|Courtesy of Acclaim clipart|
...and so, I propose the following: consider writing a billet-doux to your local Bishop or, indeed, to Archbishop Nichols. Thank him, genuinely and robustly, for what he does in the face of opposition from society at large - and be specific about what you're thanking him for. Imagine if a Bishop, feeling uncertain of how supportive the average-Catholic-in-the-pews is of the Church speaking out on important issues, were to receive 100 letters from faithful Catholics in his diocese over a few weeks, thanking him for his work and praising him for, say, speaking out to support Catholic teaching on marriage, sexuality, and freedom of conscience as well as, for example, protecting local Catholic schools from the incursion of secular ideology. He may be doing some of these things, he may be doing none of them; but receiving letters thanking him for shepherding his flock and particularly with respect to issues X, Y, and Z will, at the very least, give him pause for thought.
...and that's got to be a good thing.
Our Bishops know what they need to do, but they do also need to know that we're 100% behind them when they are forthcoming with the Truth in the face of adversity. Giving them our thanks and support - targeted support, specific support - lets them know that there is a flock for them to lead, to protect, to defend. Go on - send your Bishop a love letter this week.