It isn't just that they will stay until the end - people will go to any function, regardless of weather, except church.If it is threatening to rain or snow, its a light house, but nothing will stop the tailgate before the Jets game, or the kids soccer or football games, even sitting in the chilly rain.It's human nature....anywhere but comfortable and safe in the Lord's arms.
This reminded me of an article written almost a decade ago by Bishop Thomas Tobin (now in Providence, but then in Youngstown, Ohio), in which he lamented the state of the Sacrament of Marriage in all its brutal reality.
But I digress. This e-mail sent to me prompted an impromptu reply, which I've embellished a bit as I've had time to ponder it:
- If a football coach tells parents their son needs to memorize plays to be on the team, the parents agree. If a priest tells parents their child needs to memorize prayers or facts about their faith to be a better Catholic, the parents argue.
- If a soccer coach tells parents they need to get their child to team practices three times a week, the parents change work schedules and arrange carpools. If a priest tells parents they need to get their child to a practice before a big liturgy, the parents complain.
- If a cheerleading coach tells parents that they need to raise money so the team can go to a competition at Disney World, the parents sell candy bars and wash cars. If a priest tells parents that they need to raise money so the altar servers can get new robes, the parents remark that "It's always about money".
- If a school teacher isn't pushing his/her students to read and do math beyond their grade level, then he/she isn't thought to be doing their job. If a religious education program pushes students to know and understand their faith beyond their grade level, then the program is thought to be "unrealistic".
Sports parents see the connection between practices and "the game"; they understand that to play better during games, their athlete needs to attend practices in order to reinforce things already learned, as well as to learn new things. Sports parents understand that if their child does not attend the practices, chances are they will not play in the game. Parents will even send their children to special sports camps in order to get them advanced coaching and skills, so that their child can do something on the field that the other players cannot.
A significant amount (but certainly not all) of Catholic parents don't see the connection between their child(ren)'s religious education classes and Sunday Mass. Some think it is sufficient to send their child(ren) to the classes, but not attend Mass regularly. Religious education is a service they pay for and expect to be done for them but not by them. Like hiring someone to teach their kids to play the piano, some parents think that religious education programs are there to teach their children to have faith. But back to kids who attend religious ed. but not Mass: Can you imagine signing little Johnny or Judy up for soccer, taking them to the practices during the week, and then not taking them to the actual games? Do we tell them they should just be happy attending the practices? That's neither fair to the child(ren) nor to the team. Unlike the goal of youth athletics, which is meant to help the athlete be the best player they can be while still understanding they are a part of a team, the goal in most religious education classes is to know exactly what the other kids know, and no more. Religious education tests are largely "fill in the blank"; essay questions are a rarity. We never give a child a topic and see what they can do with it. Instead we ask them to name the 12 apostles, the 7 sacraments, the 3 Divine Persons, the names of the Pope, the Bishop, and the Pastor (and sadly, if they can do that we're astonished), and they're done. Ask them what the Apostles did for us, or what the Sacraments do for us, etc., and you get the blank face. Yet THAT'S what will get them through the "game times" when life experiences have them pressured or down, and they could use their Catholic faith to help them through the storm. I'm not even getting into the question of the current obsession with "community service hours" that is now been grafted into Confirmation preparation programs. I mean, isn't community service what the justice system gives to offenders as a punishment?
OK, enough ranting on this.