Mass musings from Manchester Derby

Scottish Catholic columnist Eric Hanna finds spiritual inspiration at the big match.

This past weekend saw one of the biggest derbies in English football play out – Manchester United vs Manchester City. As I watched the game and the pundits and reflected on why it went the way it did, I wondered, could we analyse parishes like this?

In football terms, Manchester City are one of the best teams in Europe and likely the best in England. What about a Scottish parish? Do we have a champion parish, and if so, what makes them that way? Much like with football teams I would suggest one of the keys to a ‘successful’ parish, is a positive mentality.

First the football; for those on the Red half of Manchester the last few years have been difficult watches for the fans – 5 managers and hundreds of millions of pounds spent on a team that on Sunday just seemed to capitulate.

Near the end of the game, Manchester City had the ball 97% of the time. For a team with the quality players Manchester United have that is disastrous and indicates they had all but given up. Their lack of pressing, walking instead of running, all pointed to a lack of desire to get the ball the first or even second time. Manchester United have many problems they don’t lack funds or talent. What they lack is a positive mentality. 

A mentality that is positive and assertive, takes any opportunity and digs in when the going is tough. That is what drives successful teams forward as Manchester City show.

During the first half they had problems, it wasn’t one way traffic. But as Manchester City grew into the game, they kept going and got the results. Over the last few seasons, they have rarely dropped points and their intensity always stays up – they have the mentality to win and this creates a momentum that helps them take games over the line.

What has this got to do with a parish? When you work or volunteer for any organisation the key factor is a shared positive mentality.  A belief in how things are done, why they are done and a personal commitment to the cause. It is a confidence that grows with success. And you need to be able to measure that success as it’s metrics of success are wide and varied,

 If a football team does all this, why not the parish?

We are not seeking to top a league table; we have a higher goal – to see the men and women in our towns and cities to join and be active members of our parish families. To love and worship our Lord and in turn love each other. What sort of mentality do we need as to do that?

Firstly, one that defies defeatism, the idea that we are an ever-diminishing faith. This doesn’t mean being unrealistic but to serve the Lord God who created all things and sustains all things, a Lord who desires all to know Him. He gave us His Spirit and the deposit of truth – the gospel. Do we believe the Holy Spirit Is still active in Scotland; and do we believe in the power of the gospel to change lives? In short – are we open to the Spirit and what He is saying to us? Can we hear His call to look outward to the places our parishes sit in to our neighbours, friends and family?

How each parish steps forth and is something only those parishes and their priests in that place can say. It depends on who is there and what the locality is. There are models like the Community Action Model which have helped Churches train and form groups that have tackled local issues. Being confident in the what we believe, in how we worship and participate in the Sacraments has also been a help to Churches.

But how a parish does something isn’t necessarily the first or most important step to take. It is what lies behind and forms the foundations that is most important. For us, and the world, this should always be the gospel and truths held within the Catholic Church. With those foundations we can build the positive mentality we need to take our message out to the world.

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