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 time...it 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!