Real Religious Education: A Seemingly Rare Species in the Catholic Parish Jungle

I only live about an hour and a half away from home. I visit home often and go to mass with my family. I even started going to CCD with my fourteen year old sister out of curiosity.

Before I went with her, I found myself reminiscing on how I was taught in preparation for Confirmation. But the more I thought about it, the more I was saddened at how little I was actually taught.

Mostly we were talked at by adults who dwelt more on obscure trivia of Church history than actually preparing us to take responsibility for our faith and for our souls. Social issues like abortion and gay marriage were never discussed; neither was contraception or Church teaching about sex. They never talked to us about challenges we would face once we got to college, and there was no bridge to getting to Catholic Campus Ministry programs. We weren’t even taught elementary things about the Bible and salvation history. All they cared about was teaching us when the Church calendar started and making us close our eyes and imagine sitting on a hill and talking to Jesus about our problems.

Seriously? Is that really the best you can do. I can only pray it isn’t like this in all parishes across the U.S.

My sister is not quite in Confirmation classes yet; for her that will come next school year. But I was still quite disappointed at the diluted teachings they were receiving, and how unequipped most of the Catechists were to teach. It seemed like most of them didn’t even really care! But I guess how much can you really teach indifferent, obnoxious middle school kids? Still. When deadpan, monotone adults stand up and ramble on at you about the Bible, how can you not expect the kids to be indifferent and obnoxious? How can you expect kids to be excited about their faith if 98% of the adults (including parents and young adults) aren’t excited about their faith!

I also should mention another disturbing trend. Parents put their kids in CCD around First Holy Communion then they take them out and then put them back in around Confirmation. On top of that they won’t even come to mass! Can you believe that? What is the whole point of all this absurdity!

I also wonder if the Catechists are even trained or selected. Or do they just pick them randomly? Do they just take whatever they can get? I believe that being a Catechist is a vocation in and of itself. You should not be a Catechist if you don’t feel called to it. 

After reflecting on my own religious education, I talked to the woman in charge and told her I wanted to come in and talk to the older teens about their faith in college. She agreed and we’re working on planning a time when I can come in. I was also hoping to do a theology of the body talk…but that might be asking for too much!

Has anyone else experienced frustration like this about religious education on the parish level?

new church woes

Does anyone have any tips on breaking into a church community? I finally found a new church I like, but I’ve been going for about 7 weeks and people still introduce me to other people as a visitor or forget they’ve already met me before. 

I try to talk to people, but they just don’t seem interested in getting to know someone new. I don’t know what to do at this point and I feel like I’m on the edge of no longer trying and just skipping coffee hour because it’s awkward. 

They also don’t seem to have any events, Bible studies, or small groups going on right now, either. There’s a kid’s catechesis class, but that’s it. 

Does the Catholic Church Have a "Man Crisis?

From Kaya Oaks at Religion News Service, in response to Cardinal Burke’s accusation that girl altar servers are ruining the church for men:

Irony is perhaps the bottom-line takeaway from Burke’s ideas about gender. It is ironic that a man who wears silk and lace chooses to lecture men on what it means to be masculine.

It is ironic that the same man blames women for the drop in vocations to the priesthood when many of those women would make excellent priests.

It is ironic that women are considered a threat to a Church that refers to itself as the “Bride of Christ.”

It is ironic that women who do the majority of catechesis at parishes, who educate priests, who write landmark works of theology, and who give birth to cardinals, bishops, and popes are still not able to be leaders in the Church. Because, according to Cardinal Burke, we’re just girls. And everyone knows girls are icky.

I was taught the faith in Catholic schools using materials that were weak and insubstantial. I wasn’t being taught my faith. The liturgy suffered from experimentation as well. When I speak about this publicly, invariably people of my generation come up to me to agree with what I’m saying. This includes many bishops. My generation raised up the next generation. Since we weren’t taught the faith, we raised children who weren’t either. We need a renewal in catechesis.
—  Bishop Alexander Sample (Marquette)
The Word of God is the holy of holies, yea, the only holy thing we Christians know and have. Although we were to gather in a heap the bones or the holy and consecrated garments of all the saints, they could not help us; for they all are lifeless things that can sanctify no one. God’s Word, however, is the treasure that sanctifies everything. By it all the saints themselves were sanctified. Now, whatever be the hour when God’s Word is taught or preached, when it is heard, read or called to mind, the person, day and work are thereby sanctified; not because of any outward work, but because of the Word, which sanctifies us all. Hence, I constantly repeat that our whole lives and works must be guided by God’s Word if they are to be pleasing to God or be called holy. Where they are so guided [the Third Commandment] exerts its power and is fulfilled.
—  Martin Luther; The Third Commandment, The Ten Commandments, Luther’s Large Catechism, Augsberg Publishing 1967, p. 28

“He must increase, and I must decrease.” - St. John The Baptist

Ian lays down some information about John the Baptist on this day when we celebrate his birth. 



Who among us has not experienced insecurity, disorientation, and even doubt along the path of faith? … [I]n these difficult moments it is necessary to trust in the help of God, through filial prayer and, at the same time, it is important to find the courage and the humility to open ourselves to others. In this communion – because communion means common union – were are a great family, whose members all help and support one another.
—  Pope Francis, October 30, 2013

You have seen the bumper sticker, “If you can read this, thank your teacher.”

If there are cars in heaven, the bumper sticker will read, “If you are reading this, thank your catechist.”

Bad news from the studies is that people are less than excited about “religion.” Good news is that they are eager for meaning, purpose, “spirituality” and belief.

Our catechists connect the dots: meaning, purpose, spirituality and belief are found in Jesus and His Church.

—  Archbishop Timothy Dolan (New York)
Prayer (CCC 2729)

The habitual difficulty in prayer is distraction. It can affect words and their meaning in vocal prayer; it can concern, more profoundly, him to whom we are praying, in vocal prayer (liturgical or personal), meditation, and contemplative prayer. To set about hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap, when all that is necessary is to turn back to our heart: for a distraction reveals to us what we are attached to, and this humble awareness before the Lord should awaken our preferential love for him and lead us resolutely to offer him our heart to be purified. Therein lies the battle, the choice of which master to serve.

It is important, when we feel we are sinners to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Someone might say: ‘But I am afraid that the priest will chastise me.’ No, the priest will not chastise you. Do you know who you will encounter in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? You will encounter Jesus who pardons you! Jesus is waiting for you there; and this is a Sacrament that makes the whole Church grow.
—  Pope Francis, November 6, 2013

2MC: Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul

For the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Ian teaches us quickly a few ways to identify these two important Church figures when we see them represented in Church art.