SAMPLE ANSWER: 2014, Higher Level, Section 5, Question 4.
Imagine you have been asked to write an article for a local magazine about religious practice in Ireland over the last hundred years. Outline what you would write in your article making reference toeach of the following:
(i) 1. Drop in church attendance 2. Vatican II
(ii) 1. Influence of home, school, etc 2. Media influence 3. Non-religious views?
POINTER FOR SUCCESS: This question is divided into two, which means that each half carries 35 marks. This means that you should balance your answer and have an equal/similar amount of points for each part of the question.
The Changing Face of Religious Practice in Ireland
Over the last hundred years, Ireland has seen many changes occur in our culture, our eating habits, our style, our travel habits and of course in our religious practice. The multicultural environment that we now live in, has had many positive influences on Irish culture, as we learn and adapt to welcome our neighbours, our traditions also change and adapt to create an inclusive society for all. Our recent census results show clear movement in Irish habits, as like all things, they change over time.
One religious practice which has changed in Ireland is attendance at religious services. Ireland has always been a predominantly Roman Catholic country, and so when I refer to changes in church practice, I mean the Roman Catholic Church. Over the last hundred years, Ireland and many other countries have witnessed a noticable drop in attendance at churches. Mass on a Sunday and all holy days was an absolute must for our parents and especially our grandparents’ generations. However nowadays the general population attend weekly religious services far less often, other than for sacramental occasions such as weddings, baptisms, funerals, communions and confirmations.
Following the Second Vatican Council from 1962–65, huge changes began to occur in Catholic churches worldwide, including Ireland. Some of the more noticable changes in religious practices following the Second Vatican Council was the change of the language of the Mass. Traditionally, all Masses were said in Latin, however, although Latin was taught in schools, many people couldn’t fully comprehend the Mass and so participation in the Mass was minimal. People instead often chose to say their own private prayers or read their bible. After the Second Vatican Council, the Mass could be said in the vernacular (local) language of each country, which invited greater participation from the congregation. The priest would now face the congregation and new church seating layouts, invited responses and participation. In fact greater involvement from the laity in the Mass, was another huge change in religious practice brought about by the Second Vatican Council, as ministers of the word and ministers of the eucharist no longer had to be members of the clergy.
What influenced these changes, other than the Second Vatican Council? The first notable influence may be the effect of technology and media on religious practice in the last hundred years. Due to technological advances, people can now listen to Mass at home on their radio, or watch it on television. Although Mass broadcasts meant that congregations were smaller, religious belief remains strong. Unlike one hundred years ago, where usually the father worked and the mother was the caregiver at home, now in many families both parents work full time and new media has a greater part in many people’s lives, to allow for more hectic lifestyles.
Another influence on religious practice in Ireland is the home and schools. Nowadays not all young people in Ireland attend religious schools, this is the choice of the parents, and they now have the opportunity to attend the school of their own world religion, an ‘Educate Together’ school or be home schooled also. Whereas in the past a large part of Catholic school education was faith based, even in religious school’s today, this is balanced with all of the other curriculum subjects. In the homes of Ireland, another noticable influence on religious practice is that all parents aren’t necessarily from the same country or even the same religious faith. Emigration and immigration means that we have a multi-cultural and multi-faith society. If a parent wants to raise their child without religion or in a different religion, that is their own free choice, especially as school’s for many other faiths now exist in Ireland, as well as schools for those who do not wish for religion to be a part of their child’s education.
Overall, compared to one hundred years ago, Irish people today generally earn more money and for that reason, are able to travel more widely. When we travel we see and learn about different religious points of view and also non-religious points of view such as atheism and agnostisism. Even if we do not travel, broad ranges of books, films and television programmes are available on any topic which we wish to find out more about, and all of these influence our relgious practices in Ireland today.