Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Exxon Valdez and Catechesis

I have to talk about catechesis in the Church today, since Arthur brought it up. As you can tell from the URL, I am a DRE (Direector of Relgious Education) in a large-ish (3000 families) parish in NJ. We have 620 kids in our CCD program, which is 200 more than in the thriving parish school.

I find that our families and children need evangelization with their catechesis. I ask: what good is it to know the definition of transubstantiation if you don't believe that Jesus is God, that He loves you so much that He became a human being and died for you and that he gives you Himself in the Eucharist at every Mass?

We had first grade parents sitting in on classes this year to learn how to talk to their kids about God. Those parents in that class were the bravest parents of all those in our program. Know why? They were willing to acknowledge that they didn't know as much as they thought they should about Christ, and they were trying to get the message, too.

It is my firm belief that most parents want to talk to their kids about God, but they don't know how. They don't feel qualified because they are not priests or nuns, who, they feel are the only ones with a lock on God. These parents don't really know God themselves. These are men and women who were not well catechized. They are searching, but they aren't sure, so they don't talk about Him at all.

A colleague at another parish told me about a lady who called her from Minnesota because she wanted her daughter confirmed at the NJ parish. After 2 different telephone conversations, my colleague came to find out that the family had been attending a nondenominational church in MN and that the child had not been in Catholic Religious ED since her First Communion. "Why," my colleague asked, "do you want her to recieve Confirmation, if you're not even worshiping in a Catholic Church?" "Because it's tradition," was the reply. NO. It's NOT tradition. It is a Sacrament (an efficacious symbol institued by Christ to give grace)!

Some complain that the kids leave CCD without knowing anything. Well, if their parents don't foster a sort of home life will allow a child to grow in Christ, what are we supposed to do? There was a 3rd grader in our program this year who has a very troubled home life. One of his parents registered him for CCD. The other one would HIDE HIS TEXTBOOK and the Rosary the teacher gave him, and tear up the works he colored in class. When he was asked at the end of the year what he had learned, he said "that they care." Who? Jesus and Mary. I don't care if he didn't memorize the Apostle's Creed-that boy knows he has a Mother and Father in Heaven who love him and will protect him. That is a triumph.

I had a little girl tell me that her mom dropped her and her sister off early for class because she had to go to her friend's house to see if they could sleep there that night. We are not simply religious educators. We are also social service agents.

I think that some in the Church took the wonderful opening of the windows of the Second Vatican Council to the wrong extreme. The truth was diluted and the relativism that JPII and BXVI talk to us about crept in (and let's not forget that some let Satan creep in too.). "All Christian Churches are basically the same," some were taught. "Jesus is equally present in the assembly and in the Eucharist," others heard. And now those of us in professional catechetical ministry have a lot of cleaning up to do.

But we need the help of the faithful in the pews. I cannot teach 620 kids by myself. I rely on 35 catechists to help me do it. There are many who would criticize those of us in catechetical ministry, but how many of them have taken it upon themsleves to approach the DRE at their parish to offer their time as a catechist? All you have to do is love Christ and His Church and be willing to share that love with the children and their families. We can teach you how to teach. But the kids need the example of teens and adults who will say to them: "I have experienced God's love, and I want to tell you all about it." It takes about 2 or 3 hours in a week to prepare and teach the class. And you get your summers off to recharge.

Yes, we catechists have a lot of cleaning up to do. The "It's all ok beacuse Jesus loves you" catechesis of the 70's and 80's is rather like the Exxon Valdez disaster. It caused a really big mess and it takes many years and giving one duck at a time a good bath to get it cleaned up. The question is, who is going to get in here with us DREs, a bottle of Dawn, and a toothbrush to scrub these ducks?

1 comment:

Der Tommissar said...

Keep up the good work.

I taught one year of CCD in a parish in South Jersey many years ago. I remember asking the DRE what she would recommend me reading to help me do my job.

She replied with "Hans Kung and Edward Schillebeecx have a very deep theology."

"Yeah, it's a long way down to hell."

"What was that?"

"Oh, you have any of their books to sell?"

I've met some of those kids in my year of teaching as well. You do what you can and leave the rest to God.