Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Calling all Catholics, sort of

Here's the chance to have your say about being raised Catholic. In the next few months, I will be speaking at conferences in New Jersey and Colorado, and, in anticipation of that, I'm looking for input from Catholics -- practicing or non-practicing -- between the ages of 30 and 50, although if you fall outside that window and have something to say anyway, feel free.

My topic is the "lost generation" of Catholics, those people who came of age soon after Vatican II, when religious education was rapidly changing and not always in the best ways. Yes, the Church gave up the harshness of the Baltimore Catechism but they sort of threw the baby out with the bathwater. In an attempt to help young Catholics develop a more personal relationship with Jesus, a lot of the basic teachings of the faith got left by the wayside. I always say I came of age in the Era of the Collage -- lots of cutting and gluing pictures of happy people, not so many lessons on actual faith basics. I got almost all of that directly from my family, specifically my mother.

Since the publication of my second book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Catholic Catechism," I have been hearing from lots of adult Catholics who say that they were never taught many of the things that are contained in the catechism. So my question for you is this: Do you have any recollections of religious education (or Catholic schooling) that make you feel as though you were not sufficiently grounded in the faith? Do you feel disconnected from the Church now because of this? Is there anything specific the Church (meaning worldwide) or your church (meaning local) could do to help you become more involved in your faith or catch up on what you missed out the first time around?

Now remember, this is not a gripe session about specific Church teachings you don't like or don't agree with. This is about the overall approach of faith formation that you experienced and whether you feel you were given the necessary education to understand your faith. If you have children, do you feel they are getting a better education in the faith now than you did years ago?

You can respond via the comment section in this post, by e-mail, or, if you don't like to write and want to talk, email me and let me know and I will gladly give you a call. For those who live close by, I would like to hold a "focus group" within the next few weeks, where I can have some of you over to my house to discuss some of these things in person. Coffee, tea, wine and desserts will be provided, if that helps draw you in.

So please, respond -- write, call, e-mail, send smoke signals, whatever it takes to get you to tell me your Catholic faith story. I will not use any names if/when I incorporate information into my presentations. Everything is as confidential as you want it to be. Thanks!

15 comments:

Roxane B. Salonen said...

When I learned of the Real Presence, I had graduated college and started my life as a professional adult. I was blown away to realize that somehow, this teaching had not penetrated my education of the Eucharist. I truly believed the bread and wine were symbols. My mother's mom did now grow up Catholic, so this might account for some of the gap that my mother experienced, which was passed on to me through non-information. But it just seemed to central and important and I really felt ripped off for not knowing soon. I didn't necessarily blame anyone, but I couldn't believe how I'd missed such an important component of the faith of my rearing. Once I knew, a lot of things began to make more sense.

Roxane B. Salonen said...

A few typos in my comments, sorry! It just seemed SO central...and I felt ripped off for not knowing SOONER. Guess I need to proof more before hitting send. Hopefully you got the point anyway. :) By the way, good luck on the presentations!

Anonymous said...

I have a story similar to what Roxane relates (maybe it's evidence that teaching about the Eucharist was not followed up after the second grade).

At wedding rehearsals I usually begin with prayer and by asking the participants to please remember that we are gathered in a sacred place; I often will point out that we who are Catholic believe that Jesus is present with us in the tabernacle. Some years ago at the end of a rehearsal, a several of the ushers (guys who appeared to be in their late 20's/early 30's), stopped me and asked what I was referring to when I spoke about this tabernacle-thing. (They had trouble remembering the word.) I repeated what I said, added a little bit of Eucharistic theology, and thought that it was a nice opportunity to introduce some non-Cahtolic young people to a uniquely Catholic concept. Was I surprised when, as I walked away, I overheard one of guys say to the others, "Geez, we never learned anything about that in CCD." I had been speaking to CATHOLICS!

Bill said...

Another thought about religious education, past and present. A lot of times I will hear people say, "I never learned about this Church teaching in religion class or CCD," and the fault lies not with what was or wasn't taught in the classroom, but when the individual's formal religious education ended. For example, when I worked in our tribunal and answered questions of clients or at information seminars, people were always asking me why they had never heard anything about the theology of marriage or annulments while they were growing up.

Well, those topics or that kind of detail may not easily fit into a seventh or eighth grade religion curriculum, where much more fundamental truth of the faith are being covered. The problem is that eighth grade is where religious education ends for most Catholics. So it's not always the case that the Church or the parish didn't do its job; it could be that a person's commitment (or their parents' commitment) to learning about the faith was lacking.

Bill said...

I meant to add that this is why I think most dioceses are getting away from the idea of aiming all their resources at the religious education of young people and a re thinking more in terms of lifelong "faith formation."

Anonymous said...

My daughter is making her Confirmation next month. She has weekly preparation classes every Sunday morning for two months. She goes to Catholic HIgh School and says all the time--"I could teach the class. I know more than the lay teachers". Also they mix public school and Catholic school kids together and this is frustrating.One public school student asked my daughter what the numbers after each section in the Bible were about.

Michele B. said...

great questions...here's an initial thought: I never attended CCD. I got my first communion out of the normal order when I was 14. I casually met with the Religious Ed Director and he 'felt' I was ready. I hardly knew anything. Years went by before I had what I call my 'real conversion' and then my thirst for knowledge led me to read excellent Catholic resources/ scripture etc. to learn what our Church teaches to be truth. I consider myself a 'self-taught' catholic since I had no formal education. But it was my big 'ah-ha conversion experience that lead me to want to learn more.

#1: I believe it the responsibility of the Priest to provide a constant invitation to conversion. It comes from the helm...He must not just know the truth, but be able to reveal it lovingly to a congregation through his homilies and through his actions. I am thankful for our priests and pray for them daily, but too many of them play it safe in an effort to not offend anybody. This watered down approach to faith formation during the Mass goes Nowhere. The priests with "holy boldness' have alive congregations, full ministries and add'l funds. So the priest holds a great deal of responsibility when it comes to igniting good teaching of our Catholic faith.
#2 - The parents. We cannot pass on that which we don't have. Simply dropping our children into Catholic schools or a formal CCD program will NOT work. It is first and foremost our honor and responsibility to teach our children the faith. Our Catholic schools and CCD programs assist us in doing that. It's a sad reality when a 2nd grader has to learn his/her prayers by the teacher.

I love the protestant approaches to life-long learning. We Catholics can learn a lot from them in this regard.

Anonymous said...

I had to laugh about your "age of the collage" comment because I tell people my CCD lessons in CT consisted, from my recollection, of cutting designs into paper to make pretty snowflakes. The youngest of 7 children, we all dreaded CCD. I went there on and off for about 5 years, once a week for about 2 hours. Because of the constant moves my family experienced, I was not confirmed until I was 16. My father struck a deal with the parish that I could attend the same classes couples marrying into the church were attending- see, I know there's a term for it and I do not even know that. It was there, during 3 quick sessions, that I learned what the Holy Trinity was and I thought it sounded pretty cool. Never before had anything been explained to me. My parents were under the assumption the church was handling these details and I guess the CCD teachers did not enjoy teaching religion to a bunch of bored children. I attended a Catholic elementary school for short time and even in religion class I have no memory of being taught anything about Catholicism. I feel so removed from the church now that I don't consider myself Catholic. In a way, though, I am disappointed I did not learn more about the religion and am embarrassed when people ask me questions about it.

Anonymous said...

Intersting topic, I know I did not "learn" much at all through years of CCD and Catholic Schools. Most probably my fault, as I was not receptive as I felt it was being jammed down my throat. I did learn to live like a Christian from watching how my folks acted, not by going to church. As I have gotten older I see more of the value of the rituals but still know very little of the true Catholic Faith.

Jill D said...

Well our religious ed classes from what I can remember were basically social hour. I'm sure when I was younger we learned a bit and I can remember one of the priest coming in for confession once or twice. But reality hit on how little I knew about Catholicism when my children started attending Catholic school. They actually had to teach me how to say the Rosary. My son's class went to the local retirment home to say the Rosary w/ some of the residents today and he was very touched by the emotion of it all. My husband was appalled I didn't know how to say the Rosary. He's from old school Catholic parents & was a Squire growing up so he knows way more than I, but I'm learning! As far as the tabernacle, the children will not understand it especially since it not only has been moved from behind the altar to the side of the church, but now its in the small chapel which most Sunday church-goers don't see the tabernacle.

Barry said...

I can remember listening to the soundtrack of "Jesus Christ Superstar" in our CCD classes. This would have been around junior high school age for me, so early 1980s.

Grace said...

Having "grown up" in the same parish as you, just one year ahead of you, it'll be kind of interesting how our recollections are similar or different!
I'll add more later when I'm not so tired . . . I don't think I learned much in CCD . . . I remember the "text" being vague watered down stuff about how to treat other people and form community, rather than actual church teaching.

My most vivid memory at the moment is being disappointed that we didn't get to choose a sponsor for confirmation, that one lady (I don't even remember who she was) was the sponsor for our whole class.
I knew the mass forward and bacwards, simply because I knew what music came where!

much of what I know about the church I leanred as a young adult - because I taught in a Catholic HS and had to teach a religion class or two!

Anonymous said...

I can barely remember CCD classes but I never liked attending them because, to me, they were boring and I rarely felt like I learned anything. I feel like I spent a lot of time memorizing prayers and preparing for commitments but came out on the other end feeling inadequate in the knowledge of my relgion. During my 20's, I moved on from the Catholic religion. I have attended different churches on and off since then but I don't attend church regularly and honestly don't have a desire to.

Anonymous said...

Growing up, I attended mass and CCD because my parents dropped off us off and picked us up afterwards. I got no religious guidance from them whatsoever. My memories of church & CCD consist mostly of the obligation I felt and the lack of connection to the church. I went because I was supposed to. I attended public school and only felt like I learned the bare minimun about my faith and the Catholic Church. I never learned much about or read the bible. That's why it was easy to leave the church during my college years. I did not return until my oldest child was ready to attend CCD. But when I started attendng church again, it was a different church than I remembered. It was welcoming and genuine and felt like home. A big difference for me is the priests. I attended a large parish church when I was a child and felt like the priest and nuns kept their distance from the children. They were stern and strict. The priests I know now take a genuine interest in all parishiners and the community. They try very hard to make the parish a family. I have learned more about my faith in the last few years than I ever learned in the 12 years of CCD I attended. I try to keep my adult children focused on their faith but it is not easy. At least I know that they have gotten a much better foundation of faith amd service to God and community than I ever received as a child.

Amy R. said...

I attended public schools my whole life, so "church school" was something I did during the school day. I remember a group of us Catholic kids waiting in the lobby of my school first period once a week to ride the bus to church. I don't feel like I learned a whole lot attending church school. I have to be honest and geeky and say that I never minded going to religious ed. class. I was always interested, but never asked questions for fear of sounding uninformed or worse yet.....a "bad" Catholic in front of my peers. Although my mother was raised a devout Catholic, I don't feel like I ever received a whole lot of "religious ed" from my mother. But not to put the blame on her solely. I think most of it was my own fear and insecurities of not knowing a lot of what was being talked about.....which resulted in me keeping my questions locked up inside of me. I truly felt I would look bad if I didn't know the Apostle's Creed or The Act of Contrition by heart, like some of the other "good" Catholic kids in my class. I do remember having books that depicted families doing things together and having to draw people I loved, etc. A book in particular was the one I had to use prior to making my First Communion. I honestly must say that I understand my religion more now that I am an adult. I don't feel so "scared" to ask questions if there is something I do not know (most of the time! But I still do have a little fear!). And I also feel that, for me, having children has helped me want to be involved more in my Catholic faith so I can help my girls understand what it means to be Catholic.......I'm no expert, it is an on-going learning experience for me.