The 2015 First Holy Communion Class. From left to right are Eden Stapleton, Yuriana Reyes, Addison Nolan, and Reagan Skidmore. Behind them are Noah Lewis, Ayden Stapleton and Fr. Thomas Hamm.
Who is primarily responsible for passing down the faith to the next generation? Priests? Nuns? CCD teachers? Wrong on all counts! According to Canon Law and as St. Pope John Paul II in his 1994 “Letter to Families” brought out, it’s us; we "Parents are the first and most important educators of their (our) own children”. It’s an inalienable right and duty. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1653) reiterates that. OUR MOST IMPORTANT JOB AS PARENTS IS TO PREPARE OUR KIDS FOR ETERNITY.
In a moving homily Fr. Thomas Loya gave at the funeral of his father, an Archie Bunker type, he recalled him telling his five children: “I have one purpose for being on this earth—to bring you kids into this world and into the Faith and help this family get to Heaven.” Parents, that’s what it’s all about!! For a copy of this homily and a glimpse into the agony and the ecstasy of Joe Loya’s 61 years of marriage, go to my blog #129.
Are we faithful to that great mission on which we will be judged when we die and face our creator? If we don’t do our jobs, the salvation of our children will be in danger. Many will fall away from the Church and eventually America will become a godless secular society with little or no religious freedom left. Christ commanded us to “Teach all nations……” (Matthew 28:19-20) before ascending into Heaven. That includes first and foremost…….our kids. Every mother and father is a domestic missionary with the mission of transforming their homes into domestic churches and passing down the faith.
Do we meet our grave responsibility by simply dumping our kids off at CCD and then picking them up after shopping? Then with a secular environment we do no follow-up until next week when we again dump our kids off at CCD? Job done; mission accomplished? Absolutely NOT! According to the letter of the law, maybe. According to the spirit, absolutely NOT. The “preeminent role” of the Parish School of Religion (PSR) is to help parents meet their critical responsibility. One hour a week of CCD is only a small although very important part of the spiritual formation of each child……a supplement and reinforcement of what the parents are supposed to be doing at home.
We are in a vicious cycle that we must stop. Teachers do their very best to prepare the children for first Confession and Holy Communion. Then some disappear for a couple of years and return for Confirmation class. Once confirmed, some kids see the sacrament as a passage into adulthood and an end to catechesis…….”I’m done; I graduated”; and then you don’t see them again. Years later it repeats with the grandchildren. No wonder there are so many fallen away Catholics! When they become parents, the cycle repeats if they are still in the Church. PARENTS, WE TOGETHER MUST BREAK THIS VICIOUS CYCLE. Parish school of religion (PSR) classes are only the beginning of learning the faith and must be followed up at home, college (Catholic school or Newman Club) and beyond for the rest of our lives. We love our sports and traveling teams, but so much more important is passing on the faith. Sunday games should never prevent our kids from attending Mass (there’s Saturday too). OUR FUTURE IN ETERNITY DEPENDS UPON IT.
Some kids come into PSR already well versed in the faith. Their parents are doing a wonderful job! But sad to say, most kids come to CCD knowing little or nothing about the faith. They don’t know their prayers and have no idea regarding basic concepts of the Faith that they should have learned at home. Teachers must start at point zero and teach these concepts over and over again because the kids forget from one week to the next. Frustrated teachers complain about this again and again. Then the values and virtues they teach are often cancelled out by the public schools, television, movies, friends in the neighborhood, and other aspects of our secular culture where even our constitutional freedom of religion is being eroded.
It always makes things so much easier and more effective if parents help the teacher……review the concepts taught in class with the kids. Practice the prayers from class at nightly family prayer. Parents are welcome to sit in on CCD classes and help the teacher. It would be a HUGE help if the parents would go over with the kids the outlines, handouts, and pages of the book which are covered in class. Teachers desperately need reinforcement at home and help from the parents. It would be so much easier to cover more material in the precious little time available to teach the faith if the teachers could give the children modest homework assignments and reading selections while the parents conscientiously make sure that the kids do them. In days gone by, most Catholic kids went to a Catholic school staffed by an abundance of priests, sisters, and brothers. . They had Religion class five days a week and the faith was integrated into all subjects. On top of that, there was a Catholic culture at home. The teachers in our Parish School of Religion cannot do it by themselves in one hour a week. Parents, HELP!
Bedtime stories that promote virtue and others based upon the Bible and the saints are a must and the kids read them for fun. Our own parish library has many such books for children which you can borrow by simply signing them out. Catholic books, magazines, and newspapers are easily obtained for the home; some are available free in the back of our church. Musts in the family library are a Bible and the official Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).
The most effective teaching is the example of parents conscientiously living the faith. On the other hand the example of parents neglecting their faith does immense harm to the children, perhaps for the rest of their lives and eternity too. Most effective in the spiritual formation of young Karol Woytyła (now St. Pope John Paul II) was observing his widower father fervently praying late at night. Dr. James Dobson, told his children: “I’ll be waiting for you in heaven. You be there.” Grandparents also have an important role in handing down the faith with their example, stories, and advice, especially if the parents are failing in their duty.
Another big problem is that many parents don’t know the faith either and for that reason do a poor job with their kids and do not volunteer to be CCD teachers. Statistics show the sad reality is that the average Catholic in the pew does not know his or her faith. Our parish has a solution for that. Our pastor, a walking encyclopedia of knowledge, gives great classes for young and older adults every Wednesday while the kids have CCD. It is scheduled for the same time as PSR so that parents could drop off their kids for CCD and stick around for the class instead of going to Walmart.
|The Future of the Church|
We all can learn more about the faith through daily Bible reading, conferences sponsored by the diocese and the annual youth rally. The diocese organizes great catechetical workshops for school and CCD teachers, marriage seminars, men’s conferences, women’s conferences, right to life seminars, etc. The featured speaker at the October 11 diocesan Youth Rally is a fabulous speaker, Leah Darrow……a top model who underwent a profound conversion to become a role model on dress and chastity. There are so many opportunities for adults and youth to become knowledgeable regarding the faith, but we must take advantage of them. Of course there are good Catholic books, newspapers, magazines, internet websites, CDs, etc. Our parish website has an archive of Fr. Tom’s excellent columns in past bulletins at stlouiscatholicchurchgallia.org. My blog at paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com has this article and all of my past bulletin inserts.
Our kids are the future of the Church and the entire USA. The Country needs a moral Society in order to function. A country cannot be a moral society without Faith. Otherwise, we would need a policeman on every corner to maintain order and public safety because everybody does what is right in his/her own mind as their own popes. George Washington saw “religion and morality” as “indispensable supports to political prosperity.” John Adams, our second president, observed: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion…….Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people."
Our children depend so much upon their parents to pass down the faith especially in secular America**. When our homes with the help of our pastor become domestic churches within The Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, parish renewal will be complete and our after-Mass prayer for renewal will be answered in full. No family has achieved the ideal domestic church, but we can aspire to it. Only a step to two in that direction is progress.
**St. Pope John Paul II foresaw secular societies as ours in Catechesi Tradendae (see http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2CATEC.HTM), a wonderful summary of Church teaching, wrote in 1979 (#68): “…in places where widespread unbelief or invasive secularism makes real religious growth practically impossible, the ‘Church of the home’ (Domestic Church) remains the one place where children and young people can receive an authentic catechesis. Thus, there cannot be too great an effort on the part of Christian parents to prepare for this ministry of being their own children’s catechists and to carry it out with tireless zeal.” Of course a good Parish School of Religion is a big help, but we must take advantage of it. We owe it to the kids to become knowledgeable of the faith by taking advantage of such opportunities as Fr. Tom’s Bible Study, catechetical workshops, marriage seminars, men’s conferences, women’s conferences, right to life seminars, etc. as well as reading, CDs, EWTN, and Catholic websites.