Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A worthwhile rant

As a DRE I very much appreciate the Ironic Catholic's rant this morning about Youth Ministry, which is also applicable to children's religious education. It makes me happy that I am purposefully the least programmatic religious educator I know. Nonetheless, I empathize with the discouraged Youth Minister. The trouble is that as catechists we often accept more responsibility for the people we teach than we ought to, especially young people who have Christian parents. This why I love the IC's point, which isn't emphasized enough and can't possibly be, that as parents we are the primary catechists of our children. This cannot be abdicated or delegated, but only augmented by parish and school catechetical programs, which, at best, provide us with some structure, form, and content. Parish and school programs can never replace parental responsibility and were never meant to.

It is a grave error with staggering consequences that too many parents, catechists, catechetical leaders, and even pastors think that these programs are the primary means of passing on the faith to new generations. Well, all who think that are wrong. To be a Christian is to be baptized, immersed, into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, to receive new life from God, who is Love. Hence, it is a way of life, not a set of propositions to be mastered, or a certain number of service hours to be accumulated. A way of life cannot be communicated in a classroom an hour at time either once a week or several times a week.

In order to have children baptized as infants, the church makes it a condition that the parents, along with the godparents, both profess their own faith in Christ and solemnly promise to raise their child in the practice of their Christian faith. It is a promise made several times throughout the rite. Hence, it is important that these promises not become pro forma. This is what makes the suggestions put forward by the IC so very vital, that is, necessary for life, Christian life, abundant life. What shall we communicate as parents? I suggest this: "for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith. Who (indeed) is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (1 Jn 5,4-5)?

I will confess to worrying about how to reach young people, especially those who are on the margins of the church, the ones whose parents rarely attend mass, etc. This is why, increasingly, I see our adult programs as more important than our children and youth programs. Teach the Gospel, strive to live as a disciple of the Lord by practicing the spiritual disciples, which I plan to revisit on this blog in a big way soon, no later than Advent, communicate your joy in knowing Jesus, and let the Holy Spirit deal with the rest. That is my prayer today.

2 comments:

  1. I agree it's worthwhile!

    B/t/w, I left a comment on your post at CP

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  2. This may not be your week's most insightful comment, but some time ago I heard a homily that forever changed the phrase "adult faith formation" in my mind. As in, the USCCB has stated that adult faith formation needs to be the catechetical priority here. And the comment was to this effect: Adult faith formation means not just to sit adults down at programs and bring them slightly beyond the 2nd grade level of understanding of doctrine. (I.e. the "adult understanding of the faith," as I always hear it being talked about.)It means to form human beings who live their faith in an adult way. Not swayed by emotion, sentiment, bursts of willful desire to "do good" or anything else that ebbs and flows, depending upon which way the wind blows. But life based on the experience of Christ and the conviction that one must follow Him.

    I think I might just need to link to IC's rant as well!

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