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Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's NOT the Children we have to Catechize

...it's their PARENTS.

This week I attended a meeting during which we discussed the needs of children whose parents are clearly taking them through the "Sacrament Factory", never to darken the door of a church again. Ever.

Yet they call themselves "Catholic" and they think they are making their children Catholic...but they are doing so in name only. They are exposing the children and themselves to certain obligations to God and to the Church community, and then they are withdrawing, literally tearing their little Saints away from Our Lord.

And the Sin does not belong to the children...it belongs to their parents. The sin of the parents is compounded when one considers that one day those children will grow up thinking that it's OK not to go to Mass, to claim to be Catholic and support abortion, to claim to be Catholic...but not have the slightest idea what it means to be Catholic. Even when those children grow up and become adults, they can't really be held responsible, for the ignorance of their parents is being lived out in them...the Sin belongs to the parents.

I can't stress this enough:

Parents...don't take your children to religious education classes in school or in a faith formation program only for the Sacraments if you have no intentin of attending Mass and living the Faith. To do this means you are putting not only YOUR soul in jeopardy of Hell, but your CHILD'S as well.

A parent's job is a big one, and a wonderful one; get your child to Heaven! And the same duty will later apply to a child if they are well formed; get your parents into Heaven!

We don't live in a vacuum. God created our society based on inequality; we have to depend on each other for our needs.

Going back to the topic of our meeting the other day, I lamented that while we worry so much about the children (as we should!), our real outreach efforts should be towards their parents.

Sadly, we are a Church of lost generations. I am a part of that "lost generation", one of them, anyway, and as I look around my parishes, I see very few people my age. My peers may be parents, but they aren't coming to Mass. They're dropping their kids off at the curb and driving away, and that's the ONLY time they actually approach the church.

There are a few generations now who have suffered through "catechesis" that consisted of banner-making and crafts sporting the word "Jesus" on it somewhere. I can honestly say that I didn't learn anything about Jesus by doing that, although I'll never forget how to spell His name. And I long to wake up to the scent burning felt in the morning.

All kidding aside, if we as educators, as good Catholics ANYWHERE want to make a difference, we shouldn't be focusing so much on the children; we NEED to bring back their parents. Teachers in Catholic schools (of the few schools that actually ARE Catholic) and Catechists in Religious Ed. programs have the children for a limited number of hours each week. It's not NEARLY enough to reveal the mystery of God to them. Faith is learned in the home.

We could eliminate all religious education programs from the schools and churches...and faithful families will still raise faithful children, and faithless families will still not come to Mass.

I really question what we're doing. We can't educate the children and leave them to the wolves that are their faithless parents. We NEED to reach out to their parents, find out WHY they've fallen away, establish a relationship, and bring them back into the Church. There's very little hope for the children if their parent's refuse to acknowledge God.

People fall away for a myriad of reasons, and some of them are simple; some of them are complicated. But they identify themselves as Catholic, and they need a hand to come back. Maybe it's just a phone call. Maybe it'll take lots of work. Maybe they're angry, or they've been hurt somehow, or maybe it's just a complete lack of catechesis. Maybe they've been so secularized that they don't even know that God exists or WHY they're sending their children to a Catholic school or religious education program.

Yet this is the group that is most difficult to reach; their myriad of reasons for not practicing their faith are legion, and the idea of reaching out to them is daunting. But if we don't do it, well...then we are to blame. They are OUR responsibility. If we identify the problem through their children, then we also have the obligation to find a way to reach out to these lost souls and give them a way to come back.

I'm not saying it's easy, but we have to do it.

I don't care if we're Catechists, Directors of Religious Ed., Youth Ministers, Priests, or the Average Person in the pew...we ALL have an OBLIGATION to our lost brothers and sisters! God has given us all a hand in Salvation, and we ALL know Catholics who are not practicing, or are maybe just floating on the edges. Sometimes all they need is an invitation.

Let me tell you a secret: I was once one of those people. I was DYING for SOMEONE....ANYONE to invite me to Mass with them. I was DYING for a connection, a way back Home. All it would have taken was an invitation. I had invites from Protestant friends, but I wasn't interested. I knew where Home was, but I couldn't seem to get there.

Not ONE. SINGLE. PERSON. ever invited me to go to Mass with them. Not once.

Thank God He sent me an anti-Catholic, otherwise I fear I'd be dead right now, in mortal sin and maybe physically. I never got an invite; instead I got a bullwhip. (Which, as Isaiah points out...the Ox and the Ass know their Master...)

It shouldn't take an attack; all too often, those attacks against faith pull people away from the Church, into error and apostasy. Therefore, we should be out there inviting, reaching out, living our lives as a witness. And let me tell you....living it sometimes isn't enough. Evangelization may be quiet sometimes, but other times actually demands something of us, and that "something" is literal action.

Offer to drive your fallen-away neighbor to Mass, even if it's not convenient to your regular schedule. Invite your cousin or friend to Mass with you. Sit down with your friend and talk about faith...and see if you can get to the root of their anger. You don't have to have the answers; you only have to provide your ear and maybe a shoulder. And if your friend needs to beat on someone...offer yourself. Hold your tongue and just listen.

Volunteer with your parish to head up a committee to reach out to fallen-away parishioners. Where to start? Maybe those who don't contribute financially. Some of them are in need of services and would never ask for help and are ashamed, but would be grateful for an offer. Others maybe have moved. Others...just feel estranged and never attend. Others maybe attend but don't use the envelopes, and your conversation with them could make a huge difference.

Figure something out. And then do it.

It's not about you, it's not about me...it's about the fact that the Church is here to save our souls, and we are members of the Church.

The burden, the weight of that responsibility falls upon ALL of us, not just our Priests. It is their job to instruct us in how to be holy; it is OUR job to carry that holiness into the world. If we don't do it...no one will.
*

16 comments:

pml said...

Thank you for posting these sentiments. I can write a few chapters on this topic, but let just say reading this post I thought I was hearing an echo.

I cannot begin to count the number of times I have tried to just bring this matter up for discussion ... the results seem to fall on ears that just want the hipness of youth ministry. But the problem with that as you stated is all of this energy, money and time is not making the family whole or growing as a family in faith. Many of the children and teens go home to parents who won't support or feed the seeds that had been planted. Of course I hear to the counter of, someday perhaps when these young folks are on the own they will remember.....

I find this response not acceptable. The other area as you correctly listed is how all ministries are to be working together on such a mission.

Example school administration practices (including teachers). Do their discipline practices take over parental responsibilities, or do they encourage and help instruct healthy Christian parenting and reinforce parental involvement?

Anyway, thank you for expressing your thoughts on this topic.

Adoro said...

pml ~ Thank you for your comment...you said it MUCH better than I did!

And it's true...maybe the seeds we're planting will take root one day...but maybe not. And you're right that this answer is unacceptable because we are recognizing a problem and not doing a thing to change it. THAT'S what makes it unacceptable.

:-(

Angela M. said...

"The Sacrament Factory" - I will be rememberting this one!

Hidden One said...

Hmmm... Conversion and then this post, not so far apart... I'm glad I still read blogs!

uncle jim said...

glad i read the newer post in time...it was equally as good.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: Honestly, I'm not sure that telling parents NOT to bring their kids in at all even if the parents are not practicing is a solution. However, I don't like the indifference either. What's worse? Bringing them and undoing it or not bringing them? I think they are both equally bad.

Just thinking aloud.

You are right though. The parents' sin is serious. Our failure, even as believing Catholics, not to evangelize our Faith when we have opportunities is a serious failing too.

I often fall on my face in the later regard. I can talk on the blog but maybe I don't always do it in person.

Very thought provoking post, my friend.

Ray from MN said...

I run into similar situations at the hospital.

I have a young man, maybe 30, who wants to become a Catholic. He was raised a protestant, but was never even baptized.

I have a man in his 70s who married a Catholic and finally after a heart attack ten years ago, he was baptized. But he has never received any instructions whatsoever.

What would be a good tool for them to begin with?

I find the CCC Catechism and the Compendium to be too long and difficult.

I did give Father Hardon's catechism to the older man. But even that is too long to start with.

Maybe Catholicism for Dummies, or Father Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, or maybe the Baltimore Catechism No. 1 or 2?

Any thoughts Adoro?

Adoro said...

Cathy ~ The problem is that the Sacraments create certain obligations of the parents AND children...thus, if they have no intention of practicing their faith, then they're paving their way to Hell by pursuing this lackluster course of action.

Ray ~ The thing to do is get them plugged into a parish where they can develop a support network. REading and instruction alone don't do much; if they aren't part of a community, it won't matter one bit. They need to go through RCIA. Get them in touch with a good parish, that parish will get them sponsors. Or you can sponsor them yourself.

But don't throw a book at them and expect that it'll "take". Christ created the Church as a community; we can't operate on an island, and we can't stay afloat without fellow Christians to help us on our way to holiness.

Simplex Vir said...

AMEN, AMEN!

Potamiaena said...

AMEN, Sista!!

It hurts my heart to see the apathy of the parents regarding their faith. I cannot throw stones as I am/was the same way. Why are we continuing this way?

My current beef are the Catholics who attend Catholic school and want all the perks of being Catholic without doing the hard work of their spiritual life. They want the community, the Church in times of need, the education for their children, the priests and religious. . . but they don't really want to practice their faith. I guess they are too busy chairing the auction and working at Oktoberfest!

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!

Angela M. said...

Adoro - you have won an award - come to my blog to collect.

gman59 said...

I certainly can atest to this from experience. I was one of those kids just brought in to get the sacrament and then back out. It was like being a mercanary and dropped into a war and mission accomplished go back to base.
The only problem is I became one of those parents when I grew up. I too thought I was the great catholic parent, kids in catholic school, (catholic school is a seprate topic of discontent also)go to Mass on Sunday as they prepare for a sacramnet and then no more.
I certainly as my life changed and grew older (not wiser!)regretted one not having the chance as a kid to go to Mass on a regular basis and learn the teachings of the church and later I really regret not taking my kids. Not only are they left out in the cold so to speak but I feel I have not only denied but robbed them of something important in their lives.
I also see it at my parish where no to very few kids are present only just at holidays. Parents please don't go down the part time catholic route and think that you are good catholic by just showing up for the sacraments and then every once in awhile show up at a holiday mass and think that it is enough. Do not deny your children the beauty that lies in attending mass regularly and learning about our church through experiencing it and a regular basis. This should be a cornerstone of their upbringing.
Thanks for a very eye opening post!

Courageous Grace said...

Adoro,

You can be sure that hubby and I are bringing our son up to know and follow church teachings. Although we are Anglicans, I do agree with most of the Catholic teachings. His spiritual growth is just as important to us as his physical and mental growth. Of course we have a bit of extra help in that his godfather is one of our parish priests. :D

Thank you for sending this message, hopefully it will reach someone who desperately needs it.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Thank you for this post! I've been saying this for years off blog bur reading it just reminds me of what tasks I have ahead of me if I do get the job as youth minister.

brotherjuniper said...

I have bene thinking about this topic as well.

Being a convert and coming from a traditionalist Catholic background, I wonder how it is that we are supposed to keep the faith alive and burning in the Church's lost sheep.

I figure that blogging is one way to do it because people do read what you or I write. The thing is that the means is almost always the message. But pamphleteering is also a good option as well. Little pieces of paper can impact lives, I assure you although I may never know whose life the little sheets of paper touched.

As for parents and children, I am often reminded me of something that I read in a book about Italian Americans. Namely that the women were the one that attended the church, while the fathers stayed home on Sundays. So how do we reach out to them and bring them back? What can we do to educate them and help these women?

I honestly don't have answers, but I just thought I would contribute.

God bless,

Brother Juniper

Adoro te Devote said...

Potamiaena ~ Nice to see you again! And well said..you just described the vast majority of Catholic School Parents. They volunteer for lots of stuff...but if it involves the parish itself they make themselves scarce. But have no problem reaping the benefits. Especially if it doesn't involve doing things like going to Confession or truly giving their hearts to Christ.

Gman ~ Keep working on those you know...you might be the person, given your own history...that helps conver a parent just like you!

Courageous Grace ~ What's keeping you from swimmimg the Tiber? :-) We'd LOVE to have you in the Church...we're not complete without you!

Joe ~ I hope you get the job, and good luck with the parents!

Br. Juniper ~ Thanks for your comments, and I think that's true not just in Italy, but here, too. We see far more women in the church on Sunday, although there's been a big push to get more men involved, and they're responding.