I probably won’t report on every week of seventh-grade CCD, but I think last night’s class was significant. I invited the parents to stay for class with their students. I sent home a written invitation last week. I called the parents during the week to get their email addresses and remind them of the joint session. I followed this up with an email. Of my seventeen students, thirteen had a parent come to class. That level of participation on a Monday night when the Redskins are playing Philadelphia on television is remarkable.
We used this class time to talk about the family as the “Domestic Church”. I used Cardinal Arinze’s presentation on the Five Pillars of a Catholic Family as the cornerstone of our discussion. I encouraged parents and students to think about and write down how their family was doing in each of the five “pillars”:
1. Keeping the family oriented towards Heaven
2. Family prayer
3. Making the Eucharist the center of the family spiritual life
4. Using the family to teach about true love and charity
5. Continuing Catholic education of both parents and children
They then wrote down ways they could improve in each area. Parents and children shared their perceptions and thoughts with each other. Students who did not have a parent present were encouraged to do this exercise individually and share it with their parents at home.
I encouraged them to keep their ideas for improvement realistic. Small, steady changes are more likely to be successful than are attempts at grand sweeping reformations. Work on getting to Mass every Sunday. Work on getting to Mass on time. Work on getting to Mass early enough to prayerfully prepare and read the Mass readings ahead of time.
Say grace before meals. Say one Hail Mary as a family. Say one decade of the Rosary as a family. Pray an entire Rosary together.
After class I had many parents thank me for bringing them into the class. They really do want to be good Catholic parents. They are open to bringing the faith into their family life. They just need some specific ideas on how to do it.
There was a drastic change in the nature of family life at about the same time as Vatican II. There was a rupture in the transmission of faith from generation to generation. Parents now have to relearn how to pass on their Catholic faith to their children. I don’t think the religious education community has been as sensitive and responsive to this need as it could be. My experience last night tells me that many parents have never been told they are their child’s primary catechist. But if we empower them with knowledge and support, they will teach.