Wednesday, January 30, 2008
The bell rang for class to begin and I had three parents and three students out of my class of sixteen students. I put on a smile and told my brave souls that we were going to wait five minutes before starting so any stragglers could join us in the opening prayer. Well, five minutes later, the floodgates opened. Parents and children poured in until I had 13 parents and 13 children. Glory be! I think the presentation went very well. You can read a summary here. I chose to speak on sacramentals to prepare the families for Candlemas. Candles, statues, icons, and religious pictures help create a Catholic environment in our homes and reinforce our Catholic identity. After class, several parents thanked me for providing these classes. It was very encouraging.
I am actually very encouraged with the progress in adult education at our parish. I have been leading a group study of The Apostles by Pope Benedict XVI. Another group will be starting soon to begin a study of the Catechism using Peter Kreeft’s book Catholic Christianity. Our pastor is on board and wants to eventually see adult education during every CCD session. That would mean some kind of adult education on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday evenings. What a concept!
I think my little experiment with my CCD class has shown the adults are interested. However, I also think they need a personal invitation. Just putting a blurb in the bulletin isn’t going to draw people in. We need to reach out and personally invite folks. I saw the same thing happen with the study group for The Apostles. The dividends of catechizing the adults will be enormous. Parents will provide initial catechesis so CCD class will be an enrichment more than and introduction to the Faith. Well-catechized adults will want and will support an authentic Catholic culture in the parish and in the community. We have a long ways to go before such a vision is a reality, but our fledgling adult education program has tried out its wings. I believe someday we will really be able to fly.
She arrived yesterday. She is a six-month-old Labrador-mix puppy that we obtained from the county animal shelter. She had been a gift to a couple who was expecting a baby and once the baby arrived, there was no time for an energetic pup so they gave her to the shelter. Energetic may be an understatement! The next few weeks we will be engaged in some intensive puppy training so I may not get to the blogging as much as ususal. I feel like I did when I had a new baby. Whenever she is quiet, I scramble around to get things done. If you are getting a puppy, I highly recommend the book Puppies for Dummies by Sarah Hodgson. You can read it cover to cover, but I think it is most helpful as a handy reference for questions that pop up.
Monday, January 28, 2008
So I was very grateful to hear our pastor give the CCD parents and home school parents some credit during his homily. He emphasized that parents are the primary educators of their children. He acknowledged that parents must follow their consciences and choose Catholic school, public school, or home school depending on the needs of their children and their families. Wow! Until yesterday, I had never heard that during Catholic Schools Week--Catholic Schools are one very fine option, but they are not the only legitimate option.
What I would like to see is a parish community that supports and nurtures all their “domestic churches” whether the children are in the parish school or not. Homilies like the one I heard yesterday are a good step in that direction.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Saturday, January 26, 2008
A first fact strikes one based on these references: Jesus does not exclude anyone from his friendship. Indeed, precisely while he is at table in the home of Matthew-Levi, in response to those who expressed shock at the fact he associated with people who had so little to recommend them, he made the important statement: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The Good news of the Gospel consists precisely of this: offering God’s grace to the sinner!
We are all sinners yet each of us is offered God’s grace. There is no sin from which we cannot repent and be forgiven. Just like the woman who committed adultery, Jesus wants to tell each of us, “Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more.”
The annals of the saints are filled with those who started out life in a much less than holy manner yet found their way back and attained sanctity. St. Augustine immediately comes to mind. As I have read various blog posts about the March for Life, I have run across a few comments suggesting many marchers are hypocrites because they themselves have had abortions. (Granted, most of these comments come from abortion supporters.) Rather than making such a harsh judgment, I suggest we rejoice because someone has responded to God’s offer of grace and repented of his sins. Rather than dismissing these voices we should garner much hope from them. We too, with God’s grace, can “do penance, sin no more, and avoid all that leads us to sin.”
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
The Washington DC March for Life was an uplifting and energizing experience for my daughter. She was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the event. The youth Mass and pro-life rally that preceded the March was amazing. They arrived three hours before the start of the Mass. It is a good thing too. By two hours prior to the start of the Mass the Verizon Center was filled to its 20,000 capacity and youth were being diverted to other local churches for Mass. She also had never seen so many Cardinals, bishops, priests, and seminarians in one place. It made quite an impression.
Her group was in the middle of the March. She said she couldn’t see either the beginning or the end of the marchers. There were just waves and waves of people.
The weather cooperated. It didn’t get near as cold as predicted and other than a short drizzle, no precipitation. The forecast had called for snow and sleet. About the time the March was ending my son told me to look outside. There was a beautiful rainbow arching across the sky. I guess it was also visible in Washington DC since Thomas Peters (aka American Papist) has a picture of it on his post. He probably has the best wrap up of the March for Life so go to his blog and take a look.
The pro-life movement certainly made a statement with its very large and very youthful showing for the March for Life. Now comes the hard part. We need to harness the energy generated yesterday and keep praying for an end to abortion. We need to keep lobbying our elected leaders for legal changes. We need to keep reaching out to women who might contemplate abortion and show them they have a much better choice. We need to support crisis pregnancy centers with our time, talent, and treasure. We need to support efforts like the Paul Stefan Home for Unwed Mothers. We need to keep evangelizing that all life has dignity from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Watch live feed from the March beginning at 11:00 EST.
Normally, I just patiently observe these innovations and pray the Chittister-McBrien crowd never become so influential in the American Catholic hierarchy that we follow the same path. However, now the Episcopalians have gone too far. The official web site of the Episcopal Church is now offering a Lenten Liturgy: Stations of the Millennium Development Goals When they parody one of my most treasured Catholic devotions and reduce it to the worst of peace and justice drivel I feel physically ill.
I truly love to pray the Stations of the Cross. I share Christ’s journey to Calvary. I reflect on His suffering. I acknowledge my sinfulness and am humbled He would endure such agony out of love for me and for all mankind. To take Christ’s suffering out of the picture and make this an exercise to reflect on how much I can do to alleviate human suffering is the epitome of arrogance. My own Lenten journey includes the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy but not to the exclusion of Christ’s most perfect work of mercy.
Monday, January 21, 2008
my posts here will be geared to letting those same wise and holy Jesuits know that we know they are wise and holy, and we further know what they are enduring at the hands of not only a hostile world (Satan's fellow travelers) and sometimes at the hands of their more benighted brethren (Satan's useful idiots). But most importantly, that we recognize them as the ecclesial equivalent of The Resistance in a world that smacks of Vichy and we wish to hold them together, "body and soul."
To them I say: you are cradled in more prayers than you know. There is a traffic jam in heaven of near-herniated Guardian Angels ferrying our prayers on your behalf, and you are surrounded by that great, invisible, cloud of saints who will bear you up when things look bleak and hopeless. We're counting on you and your sacrifice -- insignificant or unheralded as it may seem today -- to one day yield the Society for which we all long and Christ's Bride needs.I do not promise that every reader will finish reading every post with a glow in his heart, but I can promise I'll be speaking Truth to Power and, unlike progressives or other enuretics, I habitually recognize these items when I see them
You may be familiar with Karen's other excellent blog, Some Have Hats. I am sure her new venture will be equally informative and entertaining. Give it a look!
Ebeth at A Catholic Mum Climbing the Pillars has honored me with the Spread the Love Award. I am flattered! Ebeth is very right that the Catholic blogosphere has created a supportive community of Catholics that I truly cherish. Ebeth included Sarah and Jackie in her circle of love. I would also include them among my honorees as well. However, I would also like to call attention to Michelle, Barb, Kitchen Madonna, Jen, and Rosemary for their loving service to Catholic evangelization via their blogs. God Bless you all.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Tuesday, we will once again mark the anniversary of Roe v Wade. Living as I do in the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C., the March for Life is a local event. Father challenged us to avoid complacency about the pro-life cause. We cannot grow accustomed to the culture of death in our society any more than we could grow accustomed to racial discrimination in our society. We cannot wearily sigh and lament the evil of abortion. We must energetically and publicly oppose abortion. We must ardently pray and sacrifice for the conversion of our culture to a culture of life. Like John the Baptist, we must leap at the opportunity to point out the presence of Christ in the unborn, the sick, the elderly, the disabled, and all those who are vulnerable and subject to being marginalized.
Now here is what I think is the most courageous part of the sermon. Father publicly and emphatically connected the widespread use of contraception with the eventual acceptance of abortion. Pope Paul VI did this forty years ago in his encyclical Humane Vitae:
Consequences of Artificial Methods
17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.
Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.
Limits to Man's Power
Consequently, unless we are willing that the responsibility of procreating life should be left to the arbitrary decision of men, we must accept that there are certain limits, beyond which it is wrong to go, to the power of man over his own body and its natural functions—limits, let it be said, which no one, whether as a private individual or as a public authority, can lawfully exceed. These limits are expressly imposed because of the reverence due to the whole human organism and its natural functions, in the light of the principles We stated earlier, and in accordance with a correct understanding of the "principle of totality" enunciated by Our predecessor Pope Pius XII. (21)
Pope Paul VI was prophetic. He warned us that the acceptance of artificial contraception would pave the way for the degradation of human dignity, for forced sterilizations, and for forced abortions. Imagine the state of our world and the state of the family in society if we had heeded his wise words.
I must also say that while Father did not mince words he also did not condemn. He ended his sermon with a call to each of us to repent and accept God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. He reached out to those who had been touched by abortion in any way to accept the healing power of Christ. He reached out to those who were using artificial contraception to trust in God’s providence. Rather than being burdensome or constricting, aligning ourselves with God’s plan is truly liberating,
Friday, January 18, 2008
So this means you're no longer a Christian, right?
As we move closer to Easter, there are probably thousands of Catechumens and Candidates around the world preparing to enter the Church. Like Mr. Hunt, many of them are doing so at great personal sacrifice. Their witness reminds us cradle Catholics of the great treasure we often take for granted. May God bless Mr. Hunt and all those who are coming home to Rome.
I would like to draw your attention to one passage. As our American election season heats up, these words should be in every candidate’s and every voter’s mind:
Insofar as the reasonable mechanisms are concerned he notes that the issue cannot be reduced to a mere struggle for who gets more votes but must include a “process of argumentation that is responsive to truth” (wahrheitssensibles Argumentationsverfahren). This is well said but it is something difficult to turn into political praxis. We know that the representatives of this public “process of argumentation” are for the most part political parties which shape the formation of the public will. In fact they invariably will seek a majority and will almost always take care of the interests they pledge to protect which are very often partisan and not collective interests. Responsiveness to the truth always takes the back seat to partisan interests. To me it is significant that Habermas should say that responsiveness to truth is a necessary component of political argumentation, since it reintroduces the concept of truth in philosophical and political debates.
Thus the difference between a statesman and a politician. A statesman sees his role as one of service. A politician sees his role as one of garnering and preserving power. As we look at the various candidates, it is important to recognize who seeks to be a statesman and who seeks to be a politician.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Blessed Mother, ora pro nobis
St. Perigrine, ora pro nobis
If you can drive demand you should be able to lower cost. Applying some praise to the "Johns" of the world and some Catholic guilt to the parents sending kids to the public schools is certainly in bounds.
Or how about this response:
On the margins cases exist where the public school is the better fit - learning disability, opportunity to attend a magnet school (fine arts, etc.), severe financial distress.
However, by and large my experience has been that folks are unwilling to give up the pro team tickets or the once a month to Saks. There could be some great family bonding going on during these trips - but there is no harm in asking these folks to seriously think about this choice.
Less a question of fairness – more one of does the shoe fit.
That being said the chance a sermon will ever challenge someone to value a Catholic education over pro sports tickets is as unlikely as one gently questioning voting for a pro-abortion candidate. As such, this is by and large a mute issue.
Excuse me? Catholic guilt for sending my children to public schools? I don’t think so. My response to “anonymous” in the com box was:
I think you are being very unfair by insinuating that Catholic parents should feel guilty for not sending their children to Catholic schools. It is incorrect to assume that Catholic parents who utilize public schools are too lazy to sacrifice and just don't value their faith enough to send their children to Catholic schools. It is this very attitude that turns the parish CCD program into an afterthought of parish religious education because "Those families aren't really Catholic or they would send their children to Catholic schools." The truth is faithful Catholics choose public schools for very legitimate reasons. This parental decision should be respected and supported.
I might also add that over the last twenty years I have had children in public schools, private secular schools, and Catholic schools depending on the military assignment and the family circumstances. I never found that I was more likely to find more faithful Catholic families or more Cafeteria Catholic families in one setting than the other. The only group I have seen that seems to be more consistently faithful is the Catholic home schoolers.
In spite of this reality, the parish perception persists that the “real Catholic families support the Catholic schools.” Of course, this brings me back to my never-ending rant that when a parish has a parish school the CCD program gets short changed. I suppose I shouldn’t say never-ending rant. I am seeing hints of progress in my own parish. But as long as the bias that public school families are somehow “second-class Catholics” remains ingrained in our parish communities, the struggle will continue.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
But there is yet another story that I would like to relate today involving our own country, the United States. We are troubled by a war, by poverty, by white collar and conventional crime, by infidelity, by drugs, by terrorism, and by many other problems. To borrow from Michael P.’s question: “will someone please tell us what the… bishops of the Catholic Church—my Church, our Church—were doing during” in these times? But this question should not be restricted to the successors of the Apostles since it involves all of us. Archbishop Burke’s formulation of the question seems more appropriate to me: how can the people of our beloved country permit such horrible evils to happen at all or to go on for so long? Again I will suggest that people tend to do what they can. Individual bishops, individual dioceses, individual parishes, individual priests, individual religious, and individual members of the laity do what they can and what is proper to their calling to address the evils of our time. The fact that we individually and corporately may be doing something is not to say that we are doing everything that we can.
I would like to conclude this posting with this thought. I, for one, think that one of the greatest evils that has been going on in this United States is the wake of Roe. I suspect that I have not always been welcome by colleagues in the teaching profession because of my views on this grave matter, but I try to do what I can to stem the tide of this evil even though my actions are at best very modest. But I must acknowledge that other brave souls have shown me how to use the tools of reason and explanation to meet the challenges of this calling to which all of us have been summoned and to which some of us have responded. As of the most current count, there have been over forty million abortions performed in the U.S. since Roe was decided. That is a lot of death with no end in sight despite the claims by some persons in or seeking public office that the nation must keep the procedure legal but rare.
What can be said of those who are haunted by this iniquity? And how can the people of our beloved country permit “such horrible evils to happen at all or to go on for so long”? Let us begin by realizing we do what we can do and what we cannot, but let us also not fail to ask what more can we do? We can be a minister to Christ, that is what we can do, and there are many ways of responding.
Please read his entire post. Then reflect on it as we approach the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Reflect on it as we approach the season of Lent. Are you responding? Are you a "Minister to Christ"?
Monday, January 14, 2008
Now many use Lent as a vehicle to jump start their flagging New Year’s weight loss resolutions. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this if the focus is on cultivating the virtue self-control and banishing the vice of gluttony. However, if the goal is really to look good in our Easter finery, this strategy seems a bit spiritually lacking. Feel free to lose weight during Lent, but why not also try on some of these Lenten goals for size:
* Feed the hungry
* Give drink to the thirsty
* Clothe the naked
* Shelter the homeless
* Visit the sick
* Visit the imprisoned
* Bury the dead
The Spiritual Works of Mercy
* Admonish the sinner
* Instruct the ignorant
* Counsel the doubtful
* Comfort the sorrowful
* Bear wrongs patiently
* Forgive all injuries
* Pray for the living and the dead
We need both the Corporal and the Spiritual Works of Mercy. There are countless ways to address both of these, but I would like to offer a few thoughts.
When meeting the corporal needs of your neighbor feel the sacrifice of your giving. For example, give up your coffee house lattes and donate this money to a favorite cause. Make it a family affair and give up the after-Mass brunch at a restaurant in favor of a donation to Catholic charities. If you are blessed with abundance, it is very easy to generously write a check to the soup kitchen or the crisis pregnancy center and not really think about it afterwards. Lent is a time to strip away some of our luxuries and humbly present ourselves to God.
It is common to add extra prayers or Daily Mass attendance to our Lenten spiritual life. Here is a Spiritual Work of Mercy challenge: offer these prayers for someone whom you find difficult to include in your prayers. Maybe there is a co-worker or neighbor that just drives you crazy. Offer one decade of your Rosary for this person. Is there someone who has hurt you deeply? Pray for them after you receive the Eucharist at Mass. During this election season, there may be a candidate that vehemently opposes your Catholic beliefs and values. Don’t just hope for this person to lose the election. Actively pray for his or her conversion.
Blessed are the merciful: They shall have mercy shown to them.
Friday, January 11, 2008
I started decorating cakes when my oldest was two years old and my second son was six months old. At that time both my husband and I were in the Air Force and we had just been stationed at two different bases. I was in Georgia and he was in Florida. I had the kids and after a couple of months, knew that I needed to make some time for just me. I splurged on a sitter once a week for about six weeks and took the Wilton cake decorating class at the local J.C. Penney store. In addition to saving my sanity at that time, that class paved the way for some great family memories. Now somewhere around age twelve, my older boys decided they preferred homemade pies to frosted cakes when it came to their birthdays. So we have many pictures of strawberry, apple or blueberry pies with candles glowing. My youngest son graduated from decorated cakes to cheesecake at about age ten. Only my daughter continues to appreciate the creativity of a decorated cake.
So as I lay in bed last night, I thought about how I had baked and decorated a cake for every one of my daughter’s birthdays except for the year she turned two. That year we were traveling along I-10 en route from Moody AFB in Georgia to Edwards AFB in California. Family friends in Phoenix supplied her cake that year. I realized that this could be the last year she has a birthday party at home. I just couldn’t let her last birthday party at home be celebrated with a store bought cake. This morning, I got busy as soon as the kids left for school. I put on my Kitchen Madonna apron and was the picture of domestic efficiency. I was able to get all the decorations put away and bake a cake too. What do you think? I had icing left over from Christmas cookies so I combined colors to get the shades I needed for this design. I did have to make a batch of chocolate decorator frosting but otherwise most of it was already done. While she has outgrown most of her childhood favorites like Barney and Thomas the Tank Engine, my daughter still has a soft spot for Simba. I had done a Lion King cake for her when she was much younger but it had Simba as a cub. I decided that now that she was all grown up I would do a grown up Simba. She was so excited when she got home from school and found the cake. I am so happy that I could provide one more special birthday memory.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
My second observation is this: everyone has a 'full plate': All have a litany of family and extended relations, duties, and activities: enough to choke a horse. The number one question discussed in the 'vortex' is where does God fit in with all these elements of daily life?
The answer: God doesn't fit on the plate - God is the plate. Or to state it more accurately: our relationship with God underlies and affects every aspects of our life. Hence, a small but consistent amount of time and attention devoted to Christian formation works wondrous results.
We moms need to hear this. We are instruments in God’s hands and channels of His Grace. However, it is still His plan. We are called to cooperate with God and give our children the religious formation that allows them to hear His call. But we do not shoulder the burden of completely shaping them. Of course you want to be the perfect mother, but it is God who perfects what you have started. So relax, it is not all up to you!
In some ways, it is easy for me to say relax. Three of my four children are now eighteen or older. The blur and fatigue of their all being so physically dependent on me has faded. Perhaps, because of this perspective, I can laugh a little at the things I stressed over in their younger years. Some of my measurements for success now seem so irrelevant. Guilt over store-bought muffins, ready-made Halloween costumes, and planting toddlers in front of a video when I really did need a few moments of peace and quiet seem absurd. On the other hand, some things that I made a priority seem worth every ounce of effort they required. Weekly Mass attendance without fail, family catechesis, not subscribing to cable television, and no video games in our house, are initiatives that bore much good fruit.
This perspective also allows me to see the wisdom of Danielle Bean’s response to Dr. Greg Popcak and his promotion of Attachment Parenting as the only moral choice for parenting. This is not a judgment on the concept of Attachment Parenting. This is a response to the presentation of Attachment Parenting as the only good idea rather than one of many good ideas. As parents we are bombarded by the information of lots of “experts” about how we should raise our children. However, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. I can tell you that one of the great epiphanies of parenting was after I had my second child I realized many things I thought I had learned the first time around didn’t apply because this second child was a different, unique, individual and not just First Child version 2.0. There are lots of general principles, but very few absolutes when it comes to raising children. There are innumerable options: breast feed vs bottle feed; home school vs Catholic school vs public school; work outside the home vs stay at home. And the right choice may vary from one child to the next. It is not like we make these decisions once and they are then inscribed in stone.
Families change. Circumstances change. What was right for the family five years ago may not be right today. And believe me, the voices of experts change. Twenty-five years ago, when I first started practicing medicine, babies were put to bed on their stomachs or sides because it was “safest”. Today we have markedly reduced the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by putting babies to bed on their backs. My second son weighed nearly ten pounds at birth. At that time Nelson’s Textbook of Pediatrics said no child should be given solid food of any kind until he was at least six months old. Therefore, I was still breast-feeding and supplementing with formula this baby that was over twenty pounds when he was five months old. Rice cereal did not touch his lips until he was exactly six months old. What a relief! He was so much happier. He slept so much better. I accomplished nothing by rigidly adhering to the advice of experts when my situation clearly called for a different response. Therefore, beware of anyone who says there is only one way to parent. God gave your children to you, not to the experts. Pray. Learn. Discern. Then give it your best shot. That is all God asks of you.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
.....and also to my darling daughter. I can't believe you are all grown up. It seems like yesterday that you were a baby in my arms. Now you are a young woman preparing to step out into the world. Just remember that flying solo doesn't mean flying alone. God will always be by your side. Blessed Mother and the Communion of Saints are ready to intercede on your behalf. My prayers for you will be perpetually lifted towards Heaven. So stride forward with confidence, but remember you always have a safe haven at home.
Sunday, January 06, 2008
Thursday, January 03, 2008
In light of my discussion below about the importance of living the liturgical calendar, I view this as an extremely ill advised decision. What is the pastoral message that is being sent by this move? It says all your parties, football games, and hangover recoveries are more important than meeting and receiving Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. It says that your faith is something extraneous to everyday life and can be set aside when it is inconvenient.
The truth is our faith should be front and center. Everyday life is supposed to revolve around our faith, not the other way around. Sure it would be great if everyone spontaneously felt called to Mass on January 1st. And the good news is that many people in California did attend Mass on the Solemnity of Mary even though it wasn’t required by their bishops. In the ideal world we wouldn’t need the phrase Holy Day of Obligation because everyone would cheerfully celebrate these days as Holy Days of Opportunity—the opportunity to attend Mass and mark such a special feast day. But we are not there yet. Like rebellious teens, many of us chafe at the idea of rules telling us when we should be in church. Yet like teens, some of us need that authoritative nudge to keep us headed in the right direction. We do not need bishops to behave like over indulgent parents who never instill a sense of discipline or direction. As adults, we now understand and appreciate the boundaries our parents set during our teen years. Likewise, I can say in my own case, that as my faith matures, the rules and precepts I once viewed as arbitrary now seem brilliantly wise.
Therefore, the more pastoral though admittedly more difficult response of the bishops of California should have been to help their flocks see Holy Days as gifts to be enjoyed. Instead they chose to reinforce the perception that Holy Days are annoying intrusions. Let us pray that each of us will grow in the ability to view our faith as a source of joy rather than as an onerous burden of obligations.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
The problem is that when you look at Catholic history, the faith has never been passed on predominantly in classroom situations. The faith has been passed on in families and in parishes and in communities. You can have really nice catechetical materials in which you have kids learn about a saint each week and you introduce them to various devotions, but if all of that is absent from parish life, and if all of that is absent from the life of Catholics, which it is for the most part…It's something that any teacher of, particularly, the humanities can sympathize with. Think about the poor teacher trying to teach Shakespeare or Chaucer to kids who go home and are on the Internet for four hours and then are playing video games and doing all kinds of other things. It's not just a religious ed problem; it's a cultural problem. What we are trying to transmit in a classroom setting isn't reinforced culturally.
In the Catholic setting, that means it's not reinforced in most parishes. There's no Catholic life that continually reinforces the Catholic faith. Our churches are bare. Kids don't have the opportunity to study murals and pictures of stained glass and they get bored.
Catholic education is getting better in the classrooms but we haven't grappled with the bigger cultural issue of a community's responsibility to transmit the faith outside the classroom setting.
Getting back to adult ed for a minute, it's a real problem in the Catholic Church. I think it's a crucial problem that we have to deal with. In Protestant churches, there is a tradition of adult Sunday school. I have Protestant relatives who hardly ever went to church service but they always went to Sunday school. We don't have that tradition, we don't have that expectation. We associate religious education with schools. So once you get through eighth grade, or once you graduate from high school, or once you get confirmed, that's it. We don't communicate to people that they have a responsibility to continue to be formed in their faith. Talk to any religious ed person who works with kids. They will say, "We don't need the kids once a week for an hour; we need the parents once a week for an hour."
Do I hear an “Amen!” to that last sentence? I also want to loudly second the idea that the faith has never been passed on predominantly in classroom situations. The faith is passed on in the Domestic Church, the family. The parish and religious education programs support and supplement this process, but they don’t replace it. If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know this is a recurring theme of mine.
So how do we get religious education back in the homes where it belongs? It is going to take slow and steady progress. My hope is that by the time my children have children, family based catechesis will be the norm. That is the kind of timeline I am looking at.
Where do we start? I think the first thing to do is to put more emphasis on the liturgical calendar. I’ve been to parishes in Northern Virginia, Memphis, and Ft. Lauderdale during the last month. Every single one of them was giving out church calendars. As a parish community, we need to do more than just hand out the calendars. We need to support living the liturgical calendar. I invited the parents of my 7th grade CCD students to a class at the end of November and discussed this very topic. You can read a summary of my presentation here. My next group presentation will be at the end of January. I will talk to them about sacramentals. Just as statues, stained glass windows, and icons in our churches enrich our worship and strengthen our faith, sacramentals like statues, pictures, and devotional candles in our homes strengthen our family Catholic identity and faith. The timing of this presentation is not accidental. February 2nd is the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord, or Candlemas. This is traditionally the feast when the Church blesses the candles that will be used during the coming year and when families have their devotional candles blessed. This year Candlemas falls on a Saturday, so it is a perfect time to encourage families to attend Mass and bring their candles in for blessing. Talk to your priests now and see if your parish can publish a brief summary of this feast in the parish bulletin in January 27 and have a priest available to bless candles on February 2nd.
We also need to build a culture of adult education in our parishes. It can be very frustrating to try and establish this within a parish. The religious education office is usually overwhelmed trying to manage the sacramental preparation of school children as well as the usual CCD programs. It is tempting to just gather a group of like-minded adults and to proceed independently of the parish. However, by working through the parish structure, the catechetical efforts are more visible to the entire parish. The parish endorsement makes adult religious education seem normal. Adult religious education needs both your leadership and your support. In a previous blog post I polled readers about what factors seemed to make their parish adult religious education efforts successful. Three factors stood out:
1. Content filled program: People long for real knowledge. They are not looking for nebulous “What the Bible Means to Me” programs.
2. Child care: Many parents want the support of other adults as they learn about their faith but finding a baby sitter is too burdensome. Can you help organize high school students or others who could provide this service?
3. Food: Adults want content filled programs but they also want fellowship. Catechetics organized around a pot-luck dinner seem to be very popular.
So here is my New Year’s challenge to each of you:
Participate in an adult education initiative in your parish.
Support the adult education initiative in your parish by helping with food or babysitting.
Let me know how things work out!