Friday, September 18, 2009

Ima Let You Finish But: A Reflection on the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Would someone get a note to my wife and tell her to keep a careful eye on me this week-end at mass. I'm afraid that during Fr. Matthew's homily, I may pull a Kanye West and rush up front, take the microphone from him, tell him, "Ima let you finish but . . ." and then go into a schpeel not about how great Beyonce is but about a line from this week-end's gospel reading.
Jesus tells his disciples "Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me." (Mark 9:37) This line speaks to me because of personal experience. This week-end is my parish's first confirmation class of the year. I've taught confirmation and been in high school youth ministry for about nine years now and I have to tell you something--our children do not know their faith. I think we have failed our children. We haven't received them in Jesus' name and passed our faith onto them.

I'll take it a step further. I'll say there are at least two generations of catholics who are ignorant about their faith if not more. I don't mean they aren't able to hold theological discussions with someone or that they can't sling bible verses around. I mean they don't know basic foundational items. They don't know basic bible stories. They don't know about the sacraments.

While I am by no means an expert, I have an amateur's theory and would like to hear your ideas. Take this with a grain of salt cause I'm going to throw out some generalizations and stereotypes. Prior to Vatican II, which occurred in the 1960's, a lot of catholics learned by rote memorization and a mentality of going through the motions because things like going to mass or confession were obligations. After Vatican II, things went completely they other way and a mentality of "Buddy Jesus" came into play. The mentality of "rules are too strict" or "the church is too legalistic" seemed to rule the day. Instead of kids learning facts from the Baltimore Catechism they did arts and crafts. Instead of praying the rosary they painted it.

Now, I don't believe that mere rote memorization is the way to go either. I think it neglects the spiritual side. Knowledge without a relationship is just as bad as a relationship without knowledge. There are so many wonderful spiritual saints that we can learn from such as St John of the Cross or St. Theresa of Avila. We must strive for both--a basic knowledge of God as well as a relationship with him.

What do I think needs to be done? Honestly--I don't know how to do it but we have probably about a 40 year span of people that need to be educated. First, the adults need to be a good solid education of catholic doctrine (not Nancy Pelosi Catholicism) because they are the ones who are supposed to be the primary educators of their children. We have to someone ensure that our young adults--those 25-45 are knowledgeable about their faith so that they can educate our youth.

From there, we have to make sure each group from there down is also well grounded in catholic doctrine. Those young adults 18-25 need to be educated. Our high schooler's need to be educated. Our middle school kids and our elementary kids need to know their faith.

Let's take care of our kids. Let's make sure we lead them to Jesus. We can't leave that responsibility to the PSR teachers (Parish School of Religion) or to our catechists. It is our responsibility as parents to educate our children. I'm going to sit back down now.
What are your thoughts? Opinions?

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Jamie! There's so much to unpack...
    Where to start...Push back "ready-or-not" 9th grade Confirmation? Change to a family-based model of religious education? Usually, parents need to care before children will. Without some kind of spiritual component to family life at home, our work as religious educators and ministers to youth can seem futile, if not impossible. Until the bishops wake up, like it or not, Confirmation will continue to be viewed as a rite of passage, after which teens don't feel compelled or obligated to darken our doors until the next sacrament (marriage, baptism of their children...). I currently have parents who are resentful that I have a youth program because it's not really "required" and their teens have other "important" commitments to attend to! However, I won't blame Vatican II for this situation. The post-Vatican II experience only proved that we weren't previously doing a great job of teaching, modeling or motivating a mature relationship with God. Teaching an affluent church to respond to God from primarily love rather than fear, is a more mature yet tougher sell. And I'm afraid we're globally not very good at it...yet.