Summertime has given me time to reflect. When the RCIA class I monitored ended in May, I was left feeling some disappointment. My idea of what catechumens need was much different from what was being presented in class. I was supposed to be a catechist, but I did very little catechesis. Our priest often ventured into deep theological, philosophical, and sociological lectures during the class. I remember in particular a talk on utilitarianism near the end that left everyone looking dazed. At the end of our last class, Father asked if there were any questions. A young lady spoke up asking about how and when to genuflect. Unfortunately, we never got around to some of the basics.
Now, Father has asked me to teach a 6th grade CCD class beginning this fall. I much prefer working with adults, but this will give me an opportunity to take a more active role. My daughter, who will be starting a job as a middle-school math teacher, is going to assist. In reality, she will probably be the better teacher since the generation gap between her and the students is much narrower than mine.
I would like to invite the parents to attend the class with their children. Some might say having parents in the same room could inhibit the 12 to 14 year-old students from speaking their minds and asking touchy questions. While that does concern me, I also think it would be good to let them see faith formation as a family activity. One of the problems we face is that many of the parents have themselves been poorly formed in the faith. Some of them drop their children off for class and never attend Mass with them. Might this be an opportunity to touch them also.
My biggest goal is not necessarily to have them grasp every tenet of the Catholic faith. I cannot possibly teach them everything they need to know in the short amount of time I will see them each week. Rather, I want to get them excited. I want them to attend class with anticipation and not dread. I want to pique their curiosity and desire to learn more. I want them to understand how fortunate they are to be Catholic. I want them to be confident and wear their Catholic faith on their sleeves. In fact, I was thinking about having t-shirts made with the word Catholic on the sleeves.
I am concerned that Sunday Mass attendance at our small parish has noticeably decreased since Easter, so much so that our pastor posted a sign on the marquee saying, “There’s no vacation from God.” Some of our parishioners are attending other parishes for reasons only they can explain. Others just don’t see the necessity to attend Mass on a regular basis. We are not doing a very good job of spreading the gospel. Our church is by far the tallest building in town, yet we seem to be invisible.
I just finished reading a book by Dion Dimucci and Mike Aquilina called Dion: The Wanderer Talks Truth. For you youngsters out there (as Ed Sullivan used to say), Dion was one of the great rock singer-songwriters of the 1960’s and beyond. Like many of the rock stars of that era, his life has been a wild ride that occasionally veered out of control. Unlike many of the rock stars of that era, Dion survived to find God and peace in the Catholic Church.
Although Dion grew up in a family that did not practice the faith, he was influenced as a young rebellious teenager by a priest who would often stand in front of the church and ask Dion thought provoking questions as he passed by. Though not taken seriously at the time, the priest made an impression that stuck with Dion for many years. He was also struck by the sight of his father-in-law kneeling in prayer. We Catholics, both laity and clergy, need to be a visible presence in our communities. By projecting a positive image, we may plant a seed that will bear fruit many years down the road, as it did in Dion’s case.
I hope to have a positive influence on the young students in the CCD class. I do not expect them to be completely receptive at this age, but maybe something will stay with them as go through life. Their faith will be challenged in this world where relativism is running rampant. Following Christ and His Church runs counter to our politically correct society. We need to arm our children for battle before it’s too late.