Skip to main content

St. John Neumann: Pray for Catechists

In addition to being the Twelfth Day of Christmas, today is the feast of St. John Neumann.The collect for today reads:

Almighty God, you called St. John Neumann to a life of service, zeal and compassion for the guidance of your people in the new world. By his prayers help us to build up the community of the Church through our dedication to the Christian education of youth and through the witness of our brotherly love. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

St. John Neumann was the fourth bishop of Philadelphia and a great promoter of parochial education. He knew that the future strength of the Church depended on the proper faith formation of the youth. Unfortunately, the zeal for catechesis has waned in recent decades. Catholic schools are closing and religious education programs are struggling. A large number of our Catholic youth never complete the three Sacraments of Initiation. While most receive Baptism and First Communion, the Sacrament of Confirmation lags behind.

As a seventh grade catechist I do Confirmation preparation. About one third of my students attend Mass regularly and have received a solid education in their faith at home. Another third of my students attend Mass occasionally but their families have no interaction with the Church outside of Mass. Catholicism seems largely irrelevant to them. The final third of my students rarely attend Mass. They may go to Mass on Christmas and Easter. Several have expressed open hostility to the Church.

The grace of the Sacrament of Confirmation is for each of these groups of students. Certainly, the better prepared students are better able to cooperate with the grace of the Sacrament. The second group is still open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. There is a spark of faith that can be fanned into a flame. It is tempting to throw up my hands and give up on the third group of students. Yet these children need the grace of Confirmation more than the others. It will only be by such grace that they will find Christ. They are floundering and trying to steady themselves with material pleasures. Sex, power, and wealth are their gods. Every single one of these thirteen-year-olds has a cell phone. Several have iPhones and Blackberries. They have never known want for any material good.

Tonight I asked for the intercession of St. John Neumann as I taught my class. It is vital for the souls of these children that they receive a solid Catholic education. Yet my little hourly session every week seems woefully inadequate. But then I think about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. I will give this hour to Christ and trust him to multiply it enough that it satisfies the well-catechized, the lukewarm Catholics, and those who resist or reject the Church.


Michelle said…
This is why I am opposed to delaying Confirmation until older - 11th grade when I lived in the Diocese of Richmond in the 80s (my older brother refused and was never confirmed, and, no surprise, is a fallen away Catholic), and 10th grade at Fort Belvoir right now. It sounds like even 7th/8th grade is getting too late to effectively reach the majority of Catholic children. They need those graces and fruits.

Popular posts from this blog

Parent Letter from a Catechist

I am going to be teaching seventh grade CCD this year. We do most of the preparation for confirmation during this year since Confirmation is usually scheduled for the fall of the eighth grade year.I have composed a letter to the parents to try and keep them active in their children's religious education. I thought I would post it here and get your feedback before I send it out in a couple of weeks.

I am privileged to be your child’s seventh grade CCD teacher for the 2006-2007 school year. This is a very important year. We will focus on your child’s preparation for confirmation. Of course, you have already been preparing your child for this sacrament for many years. You are the primary catechist for your child. You show how important your Faith is by making Mass attendance a top priority and by family prayer.

Confirmation is one of the Sacraments of Initiation. It is a beginning. It is not a graduation. This year we will work to solidify the foundation of your child’s Catholic Faith.…

United Breaks Guitars

This guy is really talented and what a creative way to get your message across. I think he captured the "indifferent employee" perfectly. They don't just work for airlines. I think I ran into them at Walmart on Friday!

Dispelling the Myth of the Travel Dispensation

One of the fun things about having a site meter on my blog is I can see which posts garner the most attention. I can also see how people find my blog. One of the most read posts from my two years of blogging is this one that discusses finding Mass while traveling. I would like to think this post is so popular because it is so well written. The truth of the matter is that it generates so much traffic because I use the words “travel dispensation for Mass”—as in “There is no such thing as a travel dispensation for Mass.” I would guess that nearly a dozen times every week, someone googles “travel dispensation for Mass” and finds my blog. I wonder how many of these folks are poor souls trying to assuage their Catholic guilt with evidence of a justification for missing Mass while on the road.

I know that when I tell my seventh grade CCD students that attending Mass every Sunday is a commandment (one of the top ten!) and not just a pretty good idea they are amazed. Missing Mass has become so …