At a recent meeting of the Dominican Family, fr Richard Finn OP, Regent of Studies at Blackfriars, Oxford, presented a paper discussing the use which the Order had made in the past of Confraternities : and he cited their erection as valuable tools for encouraging lay involvement in, and devotion to, the life of the Church – but also as a means of encouraging the laity to share in the fraternity or sorority of the Order : which must, clearly, be beneficial to all concerned.
I have a splendid book, originally published in 1910 (my edition is 1921) entitled ‘Early Steps in the Fold’ by Fr F. M. de Zulueta, SJ; and in chapter 19 Fr de Zulueta discusses ‘Confraternities, Sodalities, and Associations’, and lists no less than seven Confraternities, as well as a number of Sodalities, Associations, and the like : and he makes the point at the very beginning of the chapter that ‘The Catholic Church has ever understood the utility of banding her children into corporations for the pursuit of religious ends. The principle that ‘union begets strength’ in the affairs of the spirit as well as in earthly ones is powerfully illustrated by the numberless associations which have arisen amongst the faithful . . .’
These comments are, of course, self-evidently true; and to the Confraternities and Sodalities and the like one can add such splendid bodies as the Brethren of the Little Oratory, and other such groupings which help to keep Catholics together, and faithful.
However, in recent years it would seem that the membership of such bodies has declined significantly; and this seems to me to be regrettable, particularly at a time like this when the Church is under such constant attack from secularist opponents.
It’s hardly my place to suggest what you should join; that must depend upon your own inclinations, and upon what is accessible to you in your parish : but may I suggest that you may like to think seriously about this and, if you are not already a member, find a Confraternity (or other body) to which you are willing and able to give some allegiance, and a little of your time ? My own experience is that by doing so you will not only help and support the work of Holy Mother Church, but also give yourself a good deal of personal pleasure, as well as spiritual benefit.