Friday, June 13, 2008

Life is a Highway, Part 1

In my line of work, I get to talk to lots of different people who are at different places in their faith journeys.  I get to talk to everyone from the "pray the Divine Office, attend daily Mass in the vernacular and Sundays in Latin" types, to the "I go to Mass on all the holidays: Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Easter, Mother's Day" types.  

But in general (except among the Latin Mass, Divine Office folks), I get to talk to a lot of people who sign their kids up for CCD so they can "get/make sacraments."  And I encounter an general misunderstanding (miseducation?  misremembering?) of what the sacraments are actually about.  So I've decided we're going to have Back to CCD night and we're going to talk about sacraments: what they are and why Jesus gave them to us.  This talk has been brewing in the back of my head for a few years now and it all just sort of came to me through the grace of God a few weeks ago.  What follows is generally how I'm going to approach this and this is where you come in. 

I need criticism of this approach from any of you who read this.  If you're lapsed from Catholicism, I want to hear from you.  If you're practicing, I want to hear from you.  If you're a priest or religious, I want to hear from you.  If you're looking to "get sacraments," I want to hear from you.  I am interested in challenging ideas people have of the Seven Sacraments.  I know from 5 years of experience, I am going to tick some people off with this talk, but in my line of work, I am always ticking people off.  As long as I'm not ticking Jesus off, I can live with it.  We're both going to be OK.  

And let's remember, this is a parent meeting, not Mass.  Let's start.  

Thanks for coming to Back to CCD Night.  I'm glad so many of you were able to come.  

Tonight we're going to discuss the seven sacraments, what they are and why Jesus gave them to us.  Let's start off with thinking about the following scenario: Let's say that you and your family are going to go on an RV trip around North America.  Gas is 99 cents a gallon (remember those days?)  and the plan is for you to go all over the USA and maybe hit Canada and Mexico while you're driving around.  In your small groups, come up with a list of the sorts of things you would load into the RV so that you had what you needed for the trip.  I'll give you just a few minutes then I'll ask your small groups to choose a person to report back what your group came up with.  

[Now at this point, I would expect answers like: food, change of clothes, soap, first aid kit, sunscreen, money, radio, dvd player, passport, maps (since you'll be going outside of the USA), tool kit, etc.  I'm going to have a backpack or suitcase with props in it on the table next to me that will correspond with some of the answers I'd expect.]

Those are really great answers.  I think you're well-equipped for your journey.  

Let's talk about this journey around North America in a slightly different sense.  Many of you have heard of the concept of faith being a journey.  You're probably not in the same place in your relationship with God that you were when you were four.  And you might not be in the same place 10 years from now that you are today.  Your relationship with God changes as you change.  As you come to rely on Him more, or less, things change.  Most of us don't have the same simple faith that we had as small children.  That's why Jesus reminds us that we need to have the simple faith that children have.  

In my work with families, I have met many people who register their kids for Religious Ed classes so that the kids can "get Sacraments."  I am SO glad that those families are in our program.  There are lots of baptized kids running around today that are not going to RE classes.  If you are sitting here and if your kids are in our classrooms tonight, this matters to you.  And I am glad you're here.  And I know God is glad you're here too.  

When we think about sacraments in terms of something you "get," it sounds a lot to me like they are stamps in our spiritual passports.  And I guess they can be in a sense.  The day of your Baptism or the baptism of your children is a HUGE deal.  Confirmation is a HUGE deal.  First Holy Communion is a HUGE deal.  But I think we're missing something if we think about the sacraments in only the terms of "things to do before I die."  

We need to think about the sacraments not just as stamps in our passports, but in terms of the essential items we pack in the RV so our journey through life into the afterlife goes as smoothly as possible.  

So, you're packing clothes, right?  [pull out a white T-shirt that says "Catholic" on it] Your nice, clean clothes can symbolize Baptism. In Baptism, you are marked for Christ, you are given a share of God's life in the form of the sacramental grace that wipes away Original Sin (the stain on the souls of all human beings-except Mary and Jesus- that is a result of Adam and Eve's first sin) and makes us members of the Church.  

And you're going to need to eat, right?  So you're packing food [pull out loaf of bread] and something to drink [pull out water, juice]? Maybe a little something to make the camping even more pleasant? [pull out a bottle of wine]  The Eucharist, or communion, is something that Jesus gave us to sustain us, to keep us going on Earth so we can get to him in Heaven.  Let's read from the Bible about what Jesus said about this bread that He has given us: [have a volunteer read aloud from John 6, The Bread of Life Discourse].  You're not going to eat only once during your month long trip, right?  You're not going to pack only enough food for one meal, are you?  You won't have enough energy to drive or to enjoy your family or your surroundings, right?  If you're like me, you get downright unpleasant to be around when you're hungry.  The Eucharist is what feeds us spiritually.  The sacramental grace we get from the Eucharist, Jesus' Body and Blood, no longer just bread and wine, is what makes being with the other people in your life even better because it brings you intimately close to God.  You eat His Flesh and Drink His Blood.  It doesn't get more intimate than that.  

But you won't eat with dirty hands.  Of course you wash up before you eat.   So you need your soap [pull out soap labeled Reconciliation].  

Later: Getting cleaned up, and when some healing needs to take place...

Too gimmicky?  On track so far? Reserving judgment until it's all here? Say it in the combox.  


Barb, sfo said...

OK, here's where I'm coming from: we send our kids to Catholic school; we attend all Sunday Masses and I get to daily Mass when possible; secular Franciscan.

I think this is a fabulous letter. I would not be offended by it at all. Yes, it is a gimmick, but sometimes you need a hook to get people to think of something in a different way. I'll be waiting for part II.

Our newly-merged parish is currently doing a complete overhaul of religious ed (which I will label CCD for ease of typing). It will now be held on alternate Sundays at the local Catholic HS where all 800 CCD kids can be educated together, beginning with a mandatory family Mass and then 2 hours of instruction. There will be optional programs for parents and child care for littles. Our pastor announced that fewer than 30% of our CCD kids are getting to Mass on a regular basis. Something is broken and it has to be fixed.

Little Brother asked me the other day if one of the neighbor kids will have to go to the HS to "learn how to be Catholic." He gets it!

Kate P said...

IMO visuals are good, and your words are very positive (but clear) so I think it will engage the audience. Reconciliation soap--hee hee. I think I had my mouth washed out with that once.