Nicolas Toussaint Charlet 1792–1845
Children at a Church Door
Oil on canvas
24.1 x 33 cm
The National Gallery, London
The National Gallery website has this to say about this work:
"The painting shows clergymen gathering children at a church door. The priest in the foreground has a tag inscribed with the word 'Hane' pinned to his back. This is a childish misspelling for 'âne', French for 'ass'. Charlet was best known as a lithographer who produced caricatures and this picture has a satirical aspect."
Pope Francis had lunch with seven Roman priests on Thursday, 28 March 2013 , after celebrating the Chrism Mass in the Vatican Basilica.
At the lunch he was reported to have said:
‘Open the doors of the Church, and then the people will come in…if you keep the light on in the confessional and are available, then you will see what kind of line there is for confession’
After a recent short trip to Italy, it would appear that this simple message has been taken to heart by many of the bishops and priests in Italy
The churches are again open for long periods.
Times set aside for confession are lengthening and in some dioceses there are special calls or events for confessions
This is in contrast to what obtains elsewhere.
It is not unusual for even Cathedrals in Britain to only be open for only short times during the day - about one hour or two on days other than Sunday. And times for confession in some cathedrals limited to one hour per week.
One might say that there are more priests in Italy. However there are many many more churches in Italy and many contain very valuable artefacts than would be the case in the United Kingdom. To hang with the insurance seems to be the catchphrase.
All the doors are open.
Will there be an effect ?
No one knows
But the importance of the church building as an icon, house of prayer, sacramental place and house of God as well as an assembly place for the celebration of the Liturgy has often been ignored or undermined.
It was Calvin who did not recognize physical spaces as being sacred apart from the use.
For him, there was no point in a lay person coming into a church to pray during the week since the action he is performing can be conducted just as efficiently anywhere.
Calvin urged that places of worship be locked during the week, only to be opened during times of public worship.
He wrote, “If anyone be found making any particular devotion inside or nearby, he is to be admonished…” (Calvin, cited in William A. Dyrness, Poetic Theology: God and the Poetics of Everyday Life, p. 192.)
In the modern environment filled with retail units, offices, busy roads, anonymous houses, and the extinguishing of religious imagery and messages, the Church as oasis in a spiritual desert may be what is required.