Home » Behind the Catholic Counter » Rebuilding Catholic Culture

Rebuilding Catholic Culture

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?


  1. I agree with you. I think it is very interesting that many CCD and religious ed teachers are ignorant of their faith, and that those who know their faith don’t volunteer to teach in their parishes & schools (or are not allowed to). I wonder why that is?

  2. We had a priest at our former parish who told us that homilies must be about the readings and should never be about Church Doctrine-as if they were mutually exclusive!

    I worked at one time with a church-going, but only marginally educated (in the Faith) Catholic. One day he pulled me aside and told me, “I have been on the fence about abortion for years-until I heard Fr. Kendall’s sermon last Sunday. Now I know why its wrong.”

    Both stories reinforce your observations. I am not sure an additional 10-20 minute talk after the homily with grab most of the congregation’s attention-however, the homily can (and should) be used to re-educate the faithful-while still discussing the readings.

    (Another instance, how many priests, quoted or even mentioned Deus Caritas Est in Jan-Feb this year. John Paul’s letters were seldom mentioned from the pulpit)

    They say that upwards of 90% of the conversions that Jehovah Witnesses get are not from door-to-door visits, but from family and friends.

    It is the slow road, but I daresay after the pulpit, personal friendship/relationships are often the most effective evangelization.

    Oh yes, the other way is through the children. We started saying the daily rosary in our house because the kids watched the CCC video on Fatima and asked us why we didn’t say the rosary daily as requested by our Lady-needless to say we started.

    Good Catholic education of the children can lead to a conversion of the adults. Of course that means you can’t just pick any live body off the street to teach and the material used must be solid.

    Just some thoughts…

  3. I see this often on blogs – why don’t I ever hear it from the pulpit?

  4. I enjoyed being a CCD teacher during our stay in the US, it was a great way to share the faith I had learnt when I came back into the faith.
    It isn’t just the content that is the problem. It is the reason. I was taught that faith can be placed “over there” whilst “real” life is over here. We try our best to show that being Catholic is fun and fulfilling and – at the end of the day – no choice if you are committed to following wherever the Truth may lead. I encourage anyone interested in the faith to listen to conversion stories. There are lots available for free.
    Having an information night with talks may work – but only if the Parish Priest is fully behind it. But then if he was fully behind it he would be preaching the faith from the pulpit and it wouldn’t be needed!

  5. It should not be a separate talk. It should be the homily itself. I would love it if you could come up with an outline for every Sunday during the B and C cyles beacuse that is where we are at the moment.

    Last Sunday I spoke on the Trinity, and the reverence that is required of us before such a tremendous mystery.

    We are spending a whole year focused on the Encyclical, and have even invited Bishop Vigneron to come give the talk to the parish on the Encyclical.

  6. Great post. I couldn’t agree more passionately.

    I went to Catholic school for 13 years and pride myself on being a relatively knowledgable Catholic and I am often ashamed at the details I do not know or the terms that I have let float past me without understanding.

    I am most often put to shame by converts to the Faith who have a much better grasp on the particulars than I do.

    I have many Catholic friends who have sought artificial reproductive technology, or use birth control pills (which is not merely contraceptive but occasionaly abortifacient) never realizing that they have gone against a serious Catholic teaching.

    I have always wondered about the Church hosting more educational series–and celebrating Catholic philosophy and art.

    But then I realize that people probably try to do these things and they are ill attended.

    Is adding it into Mass the answer? Maybe. Thoughtful stuff.

  7. Ian,

    I just posted this on the Catholic Herald blog and thought I’d repost it here…

    I like Ian’s idea, but I don’t like “after the homily” or “instead of the homily” reflections. It just drives me nuts.

    According to Redemptionis Sacramentum:

    “The homily…’should ordinarily be given by the Priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating Priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to a Deacon, but never to a layperson.” (no. 64).

    “the homily on account of its importance and its nature is reserved to the Priest or Deacon during Mass.” (no. 161)

    “The prohibition of the admission of laypersons to preach within the Mass applies also to seminarians, students of theological disciplines, and those who have assumed the function of those known as ‘pastoral assistants’; nor is there to be any exception for any other kind of layperson, or group, or community, or association” (no. 66)

    It should be done after Mass or before, not during. There is an exception “for serious reasons” to includes such instruction during the Mass “after the Priest has proclaimed the Prayer after Communion,” but it should not become a regular practice. Thus, Redemptionis Sacramentum states:

    “If the need arises for the gathered faithful to be given instruction or testimony by a layperson in a Church concerning the Christian life, it is altogether preferable that this be done outside Mass. Nevertheless, for serious reasons it is permissible that this type of instruction or testimony be given after the Priest has proclaimed the Prayer after Communion. This should not become a regular practice, however. Furthermore, these instructions and testimony should not be of such a nature that they could be confused with the homily, nor is it permissible to dispense with the homily on their account.” (no. 74).

    “As regards other forms of preaching, if necessity demands it in particular circumstances, or if usefulness suggests it in special cases, lay members of Christ’s faithful may be allowed to preach in a church or in an oratory outside Mass in accordance with the norm of law.” (no. 161)

    Is such layperson, acolyte, and/or seminarian reflections common in the diocese? Yes. But it seems to me it shows either a lack of understanding of the instructions clearly promulgated by the Holy See on the matter, or simple disobedience.

    With regard to Ian’s idea, we are attempting to start a local chapter of Catholic United for Faith, and part of our effort is to conduct presentations of this sort. See more here:

    We can use all the help we can get.

    God bless,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.