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Was I too harsh?

Today I prepared for tomorrow's 7th grade Confirmation prep CCD class. This year I do not assign the students written home work. I do have them read the one or two chapters that we will cover in the next class. This usually amounts to five pages or less. After our introductory prayer, I give the students an open book quiz on what they were supposed to read. Even if they did not read the homework at home, the quiz is short enough that they could read the assigned reading while they do the quiz. As I prepared their semester grades I noted an interesting correlation. Those with the highest scores were those who reported weekly Mass attendance. Those with the lowest scores were those who report rarely if ever going to Mass. Because of this, I sent the following letter to the parents:

I will be giving your child a grade as a percentage. This represents his/her composite score for the weekly quizzes. Every week the students are assigned one or two chapters to read for the upcoming lesson. Upon arrival in class, they are given an open book quiz. This quiz is very straight forward. It comes directly from the assigned reading. Even if they did not read the assigned reading at home, the quiz is short enough that they can read it at the beginning of class and find the answers for the open book quiz. Some of the students have done extremely well. Extra credit is given based on Mass attendance and being able to answer questions about the liturgical calendar. (example: What was the feast day on Sunday? What color were the priest's vestments?) The high end of the class scores is 107% Unfortunately, not all students have done so well. Scores reach down to 60%. These low scores correlate with two factors. The first factor is lack of effort. Some students do not take their preparation for Confirmation seriously. The second factor that seems to correlate with these low scores is failure to attend Mass regularly. This also contributes to the first factor. If Mass is not a priority, then it is difficult for students to see the relevance of Confirmation.

Below you will find the Precepts of the Catholic Church as written in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. These are the bare minimum requirements put forth by the Church for Catholics in good standing. Please note that the very first precept of the Church is to attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. As we begin a new calendar year, perhaps adherence to this commandment of the Church would be a good New Year's resolution.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me.

1 The first precept ("You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor") requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharist

2 The second precept ("You shall confess your sins at least once a year.") ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism's work of conversion and forgiveness.

3 The third precept ("You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.") guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord's Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy.

4 The fourth precept ("You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church") ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.

5 The fifth precept ("You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church") means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability. The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2041-2043

Now I am wondering if I was too harsh. I've tried to be supportive. I send home notes and emails with suggestions for bringing the faith into the home. My introductory letter let them know that parents are the primary catechists and I am there to assist their efforts. I maintain a web site with lesson summaries and reading assignments. I guess I just felt the need to be a little more direct. We shall see if our DRE gets any phone calls.


BlessedMom said…
Hi there. I just began reading your blog. I was in search for a Catholic mom blog and came across yours!

I applaud you for sending home this letter. The Catholic church has lost so much of it's meaning. I just heard yesterday from Father Corapi that 75% of Catholics in the US do not even attend weekly mass. It is our job as parents to be our children's primary faith teachers. We need to be the first example.

Devon - Birmingham, AL
Rosemary Bogdan said…
Sounds pretty straightforward to me. It will be interesting to see if you get a response. Thank you for your offer for the March for Life. I believe we will come but we will probably stay with my good friend with whom we stayed last year. It's great to know we have a back-up plan too though. Thank you!
JenE. said…
Hi Denise,
I've been reading your blog for a year or two now. I thoroughly enjoy it and have learned a lot. Thank you.

As to the letter you sent, I do not think it was too harsh. I thought your points were clear, straightforward and instructional. All things necessary in your role as a catechist. Besides, what will the parents say if they call to complain? "We want you to confirm our child in the Catholic faith but we never attend mass. We have no plans to change that behavior and are highly insulted that she pointed it out to us! How dare she state the truth!" You were not insulting or judgemental. You presented the information in a very diplomatic way and hopefully it will have a positive impact. Keep up the good work. In both your 7th grade class and on your Blog! Take care and God Bless. Jenny
Denise said…
Thanks to all for your supportive feedback. JenE: That is exactly the kind of phone call our DRE has gotten in the past. It went something like "Could you guys quit telling my kid she is supposed to go to Mass every Sunday. She won't stop pestering me about it and I am sick of it."

Another reason to pray for all families.
Barb, sfo said…
Shamefully, our DRE has told me that she gets the same kinds of calls. Our church has religious ed. on Sundays twice a month and incorporates Mass. The Confirmation class was participating in a service project so all the kids had to sign up for what Mass they'd attend (and do service afterward) on a non-CCD weekend. Parents complained that their kids were being made to attend Mass more than the twice-a-month minimum. And they see nothing wrong in doing so.
kkollwitz said…
Wow that's a great letter....doesn't seem too bad.

I bet less than 1/4 of my kids attend Mass regularly.

Do you invite the parents to come to class? I do that, I've had 3 parents come; one comes regularly...she likes the class.

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