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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Responsible Preaching

My blog has been a bit quiet lately. I've written posts, and I've taken them down because I decided I didn't like them for some reason or another. Outside of that, I've not felt like writing, or I've just been too busy with stuff for class.

But I've also been spending a lot of time praying, as I always do especially when I'm stressed out. I am facing a while series of things...several events at work converging over the next couple weeks, class, a crazy schedule and my own "issues"

One of the upcoming events that has me worried is something a lot of those of us in Catholic education face at this time of year; a new crop of second grade Parents. That's right: The Sacramental Class.

Last year at this time I was excited at the opportunity to actually "teach", and indeed, I do feel drawn to adult education. I know a lot of non-practicing Catholics come back when it's time for their children to receive the Sacraments, so I was excited at teaching what I perceived (in theory) was a lot like the RCIA class I'd taught the year before.

Not so much. In every place where RCIA was open and curious and questioning,and joyful, well, the already-Catholic parents were closed, uninterested, hostile, and decidedly UNjoyful. It was a physically painful experience. And it got worse in the spring.

I wasn't ready for that. I had never experienced hostility in what was SUPPOSED to be a friendly environment, a room full of brothers and sisters in Christ who loved Jesus and wanted to bring their children to Him because they already loved Him so much.

There wasn't a whole heck of a lot of love in that room. Most of the privation of love was sent like a quiver of arrows in my very specific direction.

So, this year, I'm dreading the start. I have ideas, I'm changing some of the format, and I'm considering a different opener. Some of the things I can head off, for I now know the concerns and questions of the parents, and I learned last year what DIDN'T work, so I won't repeat some of those things.

But...the biggest issue last year was Catholic teaching. I was nearly crucified by vigilantes simply for repeating Catholic teaching. (Stations of the Cross took on a whole new and relevant meaning for me.)

As I struggle with my self-doubt and hesitation, trying to find my courage (since I'm no longer the innocent and naive newbie), I'm hoping it wasn't lost in last year's parish skirmishes. And I keep coming across readings and homilies, or even blog posts that discuss the necessity of speaking the Truth, for it is not men that we are sent to please; it is God.

Father Fox was only the most recent to direct me to this reality, and he stated it succinctly:

Scripture makes clear that pastors and those with a prophetic or teaching role will be held to answer for whether they warned people from a path leading them to danger and eternal damnation. How many souls may end up in hell because I chose not to confront or challenge? And how can God not hold me accountable for that?

While Father Fox was speaking in a specific context with regard to priests, his words convict me as well. For in my job, with my upcoming responsibility, I am in a formal teaching role. I will stand in front of a group of people, who may or may not be hostile to the words and intentions of Jesus Christ (even though they claim to be Catholic), and I will speak the Gospel Truth. I'll be doing this with the authority of my Pastor, who himself speaks with the authority of our Bishop, who speaks with the authority of the Pope...who is the Vicar of Christ and carries the Keys.

I can't stand up there and speak alone. I won't be up there to talk about what I think and give them some made-up listings of beliefs. It will be my job to stand up there and tell them what GOD has commanded, what JESUS has established, and, hopefully, what I'm trying hard to live up to every single day. Even though I often fail.

It's not my job to keep people happy and endear myself to them; it's my job to give them official Church teaching, under the very authority that has entrusted me with this message. And they may not be happy with what I have to say, especially if they're not living it out and would prefer not be reminded of that fact. But, as Fr. Fox so recently pointed out...if I don't provide what I am obligated to provide, I'll be held fully responsible. And BECAUSE I'm in this position, I have a GREATER DUTY to live up to not only the standard of truthful teaching, but righteous living.

So I've been turning over in my mind what I'd REALLY like to go up and preach, if I truly had the spine I WISH I had:

Thank you all, for coming tonight, and I am so glad to see you here! Many of you are now familiar to me, but I've not had the opportunity yet to meet others of you. Many of you attend Mass faithfullly and have called this parish and school home for years. Some of you are new to this parish, and some of you haven't darkened the door of a church since you were baptized or had your children baptized. Welcome back!

I'm going to be very up front with you, as last year perhaps I was not and this caused a certain amount of strife, for which I blame myself. So, this year, I'm going to begin with definitions: I am Catholic, and so are you. This is a Catholic church. Thus, you can expect to find Catholic teaching, and ONLY Catholic teaching here. Being that the Sacraments you want your children to receive have direct bearing on yours and their Eternal Salvation, I can assure you that the teachings you are about to receive are not going to be minced one bit. Should you decide, or if you've already decided that you don't like Catholic teaching, and you disagree with it, this is a wonderful opportunity to ask your questions, air your concerns, and begin your search for Truth.

If you are not interested in Truth but rather in living out your own preferences devoid of Truth, then why are you here? No one is forcing you to be Catholic. The Church is better with you as a part of it, but if your goal is to argue and disagree, slander, libel, and otherwise do direct damage to the Body of Christ, well, you know where the door is and you're free to leave.

You DO NOT have a right to proclaim your own gospel. Yes, you can call Father, you can call my Supervisor, and you can call the Bishop. Yes, if you don't like what I have to say, maybe you could get me fired. That's fine if you go that route. This job doesn't pay me enough to keep my house, anyway. But that will not change Church teaching, nor will I do so in order to satisfy your petty preferences. The Church has stood for over 2,000 years, and will stand long after you and I are gone.

So, to be very honest, this year I'm going to tick some of you off, and you're not going to like me simply because I'm teaching and confessing and professing what Jesus Christ HIMSELF has directed us to do and believe. The Church is here to save our souls, and for some reason, I'm supposed to be helping. I am NOT willing to stand up here and deny Our Lord just because the Truth might make you uncomfortable. It doesn't matter to me whether you like me or not; what I care about is whether or not I'm pleasing God. That's the standard by which we ALL need to live.

My promise to you is that I will provide authentic Catholic teaching. You have the right to disagree. You have the right to reject Jesus in any way that you choose. So did Judas.

Don't expect to come here and meet Judas if you and your children want to know Christ.

OK, no I won't really say that, exactly, but at the same would be so much fun...because if I'm going to tick people off maybe it should be WORTH it!

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, one catches more flies with honey than with vinegar, so this year I'll be swallowing blood from my bitten tongue and pouring on the honey...but the message won't change. Just the delivery and some of the method.

But...if one we could have ONE day to say what we REALLY THINK....

Maybe I should go to Confession for just CONSIDERING this...

I truly hope you priests out there appreciate the agony your staff endures on behalf of your people!


uncle jim said...

may i have permission to use and paraphrase that material

wife & i just took over a high-school confirmation class and some parents are attending regularly we're told. the class meets a total of 36 times over 2 years [twice a month during the sept to june school year].

the dre had been doing it because they could find no one else to step up to do it. we've done it before some years past [different books, etc.] but time doesn't change the essence of confirmation. so at the invitation of some parents, we are taking over the class - pray for us.

we've only done one class this past weekend and it seemed to go well - both the students and the parents present seemed pleased.

but next session I'd like to set the record straight with something like you wrote above.

Anonymous said...

Uncle Jim, you can paraphrase, you'll have to do so a LOT! So, word to the words aren't wise. Not if you're going after conversions. * sigh *

Anonymous said...

Is it ever possible to go completely outside of ones own parish/joined parish religious education program if a parent, seeking teaching truth Catholic catechesis and sacramental preparation (other than what they recieve at home, where the parents are trying to live out their faith every minute of their life) deems the program offered "in-house" to be no-help-whatsoever/potential threat to their children's faith formation?
PS I wrote to you last winter from that southern suburb where the theme park is located

X said...

Adoro - I would pay $1000 admission to see you deliver that wonderful speech! And then I'd give you a standing ovation!

Mark said...

Hi,I just discovered your excellent blog.

I've read other blog accounts written by people similar to yourself who have upset their fellow (so-called) Catholics (and who have been vilified as a result) simply by standing up and teaching what the Church teaches.

It's a pity you can't really make that speech, but I guess that, if you did, it would be you yourself rather than all he dissident Catholics who would suffer as a result.

This probably isn't much of a consolation, but at least you get to teach these courses. If you lived over here in England, I doubt that you'd be allowed anywhere near an RCIA or Sacramental Class.

From what I've heard, in many dioceses over here the last thing the people who organize RCIA want is instructors who might actually try to teach some undiluted Catholicism...

Lillian Marie said...

Adoro - I'll second Angela M's response! I'll even take a road trip to see it!

Your post reminded me of something Fr. Corapi says - 'I won't go to hell for anyone!'

You go girl!

Not only are you trying to save their souls - but your teaching is helping to save their children's souls.

Extra prayers coming your way!

Hidden One said...

I think the first two paragraphs are just fine for a realistic introduction. Then the tone changes, more toward anger & ranting. But those first two, well, I'd pretty much keep them. A word change or two and a friendly tone and... God only knows.

Prayin' for you.

Adoro said...

Jennie ~ You can, but you'll need the permission of the pastor at the parish where you want to receive the sacraments, and the permission of your own of them will have to write a letter to the other. I think your pastor would have the write the letter, actually.

Angela ~ I'd need at least #2,000 as I'd need something to live on after getting fired.

Mark ~ That's a large problem in many parishs here, too.

LM & Hidden One ~ Be assured, I WROTE this as a rant and not a serious speech, and I won't be delivering any such thing to this group. The ONLY thing it would do is chase away the people on the fringes and tick off the stubborn ones who have absolutely no desire to be Catholc at all.

But...if I wasn't chained to a parish, then maybe I'd give such a speech...or just say it on my blog that isn't chained to anything. Yeah...that's the ticket!

Barb Szyszkiewicz said...

I totally understand your frustration. It is born out of a desire to teach the truth and a love for Christ and the Church, and your parish is blessed to have you because of that desire and that love.

My parish has lost a bunch of families this year because the pastor decided that he had to do something about the fact that under 30% of kids in religious ed attend Sunday Mass. So this year, RE is on Sundays, twice a month, after Mass. The kids and parents must attend Mass together. Afterwards, kids go to class for 2 hours and parents can go to classes for themselves, stay and volunteer, stay and socialize over a cup of coffee, or have 2 hours on their own. People are angry that they have to go to church to have their children in RE. So they are bailing....

Praying hard for all religious educators who are in your boat, and for the families who are not on board with what it's all about.

uncle jim said...

and, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord...

i would eliminate the rants

and tone down the points - but make them

not to chase anyone out, but to confirm for them that they will be getting the real deal and not something else

Anonymous said...

Barb, fso-- I said a prayer for your pastor, who's clearly on the ball!

Adoro, I agree completely with the sentiment. But when I get angry with the slackers, I pray to see them as God sees them. You might give it a try, because it always helps me--and the passage about how Jesus responded when he saw them "like sheep without a shepherd"--he taught them out of pity. Sometimes I write at the top of my speaking notes, if I might be tempted to rant, "It's the GOOD News!" just so I don't stray away from that truth.

Anonymous said...

Anon ~ Actually, I DO do that. And that's yet another reason I won't say what I really think.

And that's why I have a I can safely rant and get it out of my system.

Anonymous said...

Uncle Jim, you can paraphrase, you'll have to do so a LOT! So, word to the words aren't wise. Not if you're going after conversions. * sigh *

I don't know. Jesus converted St. Paul by striking him blind and knocking him off of his horse. :)

Anonymous said...

Yeah...but I'm not Jesus!

Adrienne said...

Priceless and oh so true!!!!!!!!

Adrienne said...

oooops - forgot - come and pick up your award.....

Lillian Marie said...

Adoro -

You may not be able to say it to the parents ver batem, but it sure is nice to think about these things once in awhile. *grin*

And...commenting on what Tony stated - it IS the year of St. Paul. *grin*

ignorant redneck said...


Titus 1:9

And, what you say is true. I would be so proud if more Teachers in our Church showed that kind of spine. and, that kind of spime would keep more people in the Church. Every single Catholic I know wh left for the evangelical or mega-church movements did so because they heard not truth, but expediency and relativism.

God Bless you!

The Ironic Catholic said...

Adoro, as someone in a similar spot--

what I do, and can live with, is to really SELL it. Even for the best reasons, people don't like being lectured to (I'm not saying you're doing that. I'm saying I've done that!). But if you exude your own joy with the faith, your own gratitude for the Eucharist, you can hope it is catching! And hope and joy spreads.

Personal story--your own or someone else's--tends to draw people in as well. You can, if you're comfortable, talk about your own middlin' religious upbringing (as you have said), and how the Church wants its children to receive the gifts of God with happiness and understanding. And that's where THEY come in!

Good luck. I fully appreciate what priests and staff have to go through...but remember you have the best gift in the world to give them, and it is always worth trying to give it!

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Adoro: I hope that you don't mind me borrowing this, I've actually given a speech to this similarly, not because I wanted to, I had no choice to do so.

I would love to hear this speech from you in person, but I have a feeling I'm going to have to give this speech a few more times in my life.

Adoro said...

Joe ~ I know you're from Mahoneyland, so I can understand some of your was your speech taken? What do you mean that you had no choice?

I think we always have a choice; it's not our job to convert people. That job belongs to God. We plant seeds, we "sell"...and turn it over to Management to close.

But...I'm DYING to know your circumstances...

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

My speech wasn't taken that well... (at least by those present, but one of my students took it very well(whom i later told the speech to))I was confronted with a situation (by the youth minister at the Roman Protestant parish that was my old Church) (and this was NOT the only situation where this came up, but it was the only time I gave the speech)...Basically she straight up said to me that it's better to teach heresy and the kids understand, then teach the Truth and the kids not completely get it...I then proceeded something similar to this speech to her and a few others that were in the room that day...Long story short...the pastor agreed with the YM...i was told to leave...and now I'm blessed to be at a new parish where I can teach the Truth freely.

You are absolutely right it's not our job to convert anyone. That's the Holy Spirit. The only thing we can do is present the Truth, and hope their hearts aren't hardened to the Holy Spirit.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

There are other situations, which I'll address in an e-mail to you :)

Adoro said...

Wow...good for you. Sounds to me that the YM NEEDED that! And so did you! lol...whatever works to get you out of heresy!

It's a sad state of affairs, though, when people prefer Heresy to Truth.

I'm so grateful that I'm connected with parishes that teach good stuff! (Especially my work parish..where I have to teach the good stuff!)

And I am interested in hearing more horror stories...