I need to preface this post with a few anecdotes.
Last year a local Catholic grade school teacher came into our store asking for a small book that gave a general overview of the Faith for herself. She said that the school had given all the teachers a quiz on basics of the Catholic Faith and she had failed the test. She said that she was a life-long Catholic and thought that she should actually know something about the Faith.
One of my employees recently said that she wished she had a cheat sheet of Catholic terms so she would know what people meant when they called asking for a "prie-deu" and other specialized Catholic items. I realized that most Catholics can't tell you what a thurible, an octave, a relic or any number of Catholic things are.
A CCD teacher sent us a note saying that she had signed up for our Novena Reminder service but was disappointed that the service just reminded you to pray your Novena but since she didn't know what a Novena was, she didn't know what to do with it. We have since updated our reminder service to include an explanation of what a Novena is along with a generic Novena if you don't have one yet.
Another former Catholic school teacher came into our store recently asking for a book that went over basic "stuff" of the Faith because her son had been asking what the difference between the sanctuary and a tabernacle was and she couldn't give him an answer.
Statistics have shown that Catholics contracept, have abortions and divorce at almost the same rate as the general population.
All these things lead me to believe that the state of the Church in this country (and most of the world) is that of countries that had never heard of the Faith back during the age of exploration when Jesuit missionaries came to America and went to the East. While there are pockets where the Faith exists and is strong (Lincoln) and there are places where the Faith is experiencing a rebirth (Phoenix, Denver, Colorado Springs), for the most part our country is a mission territory where Catholicism is more of a social club label than a religion.
I believe that this situation requires a new approach to the way the Church looks at its responsibilities to those in its care.
First, there needs to be a clear admission that the current regime of religious education is a complete failure in most places in this country. Catholic grade and high schools barely teach the Faith. Most "Catholic" colleges are sabotaging the Faith. Most parishes have religious education programs that either don't teach the Faith or teach such a watered down version of it that adults leave the classes with as much knowledge of the Faith as a first grader.
This isn't about pointing fingers. This is about acknowledging that there is a serious problem and that a new approach needs to be taken.
Second, it needs to be acknowledged and accepted that the Church's purpose on Earth is to get people to Heaven. Its purpose isn't to make people feel good or give them a social club. Admitting this leads to the necessary conclusion that the Church has to follow Christ's example and teach people the Truth even if this means that some will leave.
Third, I believe that we need a one-year series of expositions on the Faith drafted by orthodox Catholics that can be given in all parishes after the homily. These talks need to be brief – about 20 minutes, direct and engaging. They need to be given with the knowledge that people are going to get mad and that some will probably leave the Church. I realize that many bishops and priests will ignore any such directives but if it were a national program, it would clearly identify which places truly wanted people to know the Faith and which didn't.
These talks could either be given by Father in place of the standard "Here's how you apply the gospel to your everyday life" or by someone else after the homily. These talks should be tied into the liturgical seasons whenever possible. I have made a brief outline below and would like your input on the ideas. The following uses Cycle A readings.
1st Sunday of Advent (Immaculate Conception) – The coming of the Lord – A talk on salvation and how it isn't guaranteed or a talk on what the Immaculate Conception is.
2nd Sunday of Advent (Our Lady of Guadalupe) – The tree that bears good fruit – A talk on the importance of living the Faith and not just showing up to Mass on Sunday or a talk on pro-life issues.
4th Sunday of Advent – The importance of the Incarnation and what it means for Christ to be God and Man.
Feast of the Holy Family – The importance of the domestic church in the Church and the responsibility of parents to educate themselves and their children.
Epiphany (Baptism of Christ) – What was the importance of the magi coming to worship Christ or a talk on the theology of baptism.
4th Week of January (Anniversary of Roe v Wade) – A talk on the evils of contraception and abortion
Last week of January (Catholic Schools Week) – Importance of a Catholic education.
1st Week of February (Our Lady of Lourdes) – Talk on what apparitions are and what some of the most famous are about.
5th Sunday of Ordinary Time (a beacon on a hill) – The importance of evangelization and how outward manifestations of the Faith – decorations in your home, praying the rosary, a large family – can be openings to discussing the Faith with the curious.
6th Sunday of Ordinary Time (the old law and the new law) – The Church's position on divorce and what an annulment really is.
7th Sunday of Ordinary Time (eye for an eye) – A talk on the virtues of charity and humility.
Sunday before Ash Wednesday – The importance of making sacrifices and an explanation of why abstinence during Lent or any Friday is still a good thing.
Christ the King – Papal primacy and infallibility and what it means to be the vicar of Christ.
Feast of the Body and Blood – A talk on the reality of the Eucharist and our attitude towards it.
You get the idea. A full year of talks like this will reach more Catholics and give Catholics a better understanding of the Faith than any amount of voluntary religious ed classes.
What do you think?
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