The religious education of our children is a very important
concern of mine. With Catechetical Sunday upon us (September 20, 2020), I think it is good to reflect on the
faith of our children and young adults.
What is frustrating to religious education teachers, to priests
and to others involved with the religious education of youth is the “disconnect” often
present when it comes to formal religious instruction and to living out the
faith on a daily basis. Too often, in so many of my former parishes,
students were dropped off for class but were not present in church for Mass on
a regular weekly basis. Let’s face facts. We inevitably
do not see anywhere near the same number of children at Mass as we may
see registered for and coming to religious education classes. Their
absence is even more apparent during times like summer vacation and especially
now during this unprecedented coronavirus pandemic.
What do we do? An hour or two of religious education
each week for several months each year is not and has
never been an adequate solution. The Church has said
continually that parents are the first educators of
their children when it comes to religious faith and practice. When
we bring a new life into the world we realize that we have to feed, clothe, and
educate our children. We want the best for them if we love
them. Hopefully we realize that we are
also responsible for an immortal soul and the eternal
salvation of a person as well. We cannot leave this
responsibility to chance in an often amoral--if not
Do I teach my children to pray and pray with them at various times
daily? Do I read Bible stories to them
or teach them what Jesus said and did?
Do I take them to confession and show them (by my own example) that the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation
is important? Outside of these
extenuating circumstances, do I normally take them to Mass weekly? Do my children understand that Jesus is truly
present in the Most Holy Eucharist?
What has been said for students in religious education programs is
also true for our students who attend a Catholic school. There must
be a connection with the local parish, with weekly Mass
attendance and with the everyday living out of the Catholic faith.
I have been a priest long enough (over three decades) to see the
rapid decline of those who actively participate in the faith life of their
parish. (I also understand there may be
multiple reasons for this.)
Unfortunately, however, each subsequent generation seems to know less
and less about even some of the essential teachings of the Catholic
faith. This should be troubling for all
I always welcome your ideas and suggestions concerning how we can
continue to close this gap and have our young people more active and involved
in the life of the Church.