Thursday, March 11, 2004

I'm at a total loss
I really don't think I am terribly naive or ridiculously optimistic, but certain things simply are not conceivable on the radar of my world vision. Fr. Tharp can tell you how very often we have a conversation in which I express surprise, outrage, disbelief at something (not necessarily always church related). Usually, after I spit out whatever I find shocking, once I get the issue out on the table, he usually says something like, "And you find that surprising?" And then I know it is another one of those conversations where I must appear really naive.

Before I reveal the latest thing to bring out my surprise, allow me to direct words to any reader who may be a current parishioner: understand my words are motivated from a shepherd's heart who really fears for his people, especially for the younger generation. I do not intend this post to be a blanket condemnation of any parent or religious education teacher here. Sadly, I guess I am realizing, this is probably not a unique situation. Okay, on to the meat...[Dope! It's Lent].

Last evening I led our 7th and 8th grade youth group through the Stations of the Cross. They have two very dedicated teachers. It always impresses me when RE teachers ask a priest to spend time with their classes and suggest pious prayers and devotions. So I happily gathered in the church with the kids. I had prepared a brief statement about the devotion of the Stations, explaining a bit of its history and the notion of a spiritual pilgrimage. I gave a general run down of what we do at each station and practiced with them singing the Stabat Mater (in English). Now, I recognized a good portion of these kids (sadly, I can't say that of them all) as ones who attend Mass. Of the group, only three had ever been exposed to the Stations before. That is sad enough. It got worse.

As we began with the first station, I discovered many of these kids didn't know what the direction "genuflect" meant in the Station booklet. They had no idea what the word meant! It is something we learn from a very early age, something we do each and every time we enter and leave church, and yet they had no idea what the word meant? How is this possible? If these were small tikes, I could understand. These were 7th and 8th graders. It is simply unthinkable to me that one could grow up Catholic, be raised Catholic, and not know the word "genuflect" and the accompanying action it calls for. I was utterly astounded.

It made me re-think not just everything I had said to them that evening, but almost the entirety of my share in Christ's teaching office. I mean I had just spoken briefly about spiritual pilgrimage and Franciscans developing traditions and these kids don't even know what a genuflection is. What incomprehensible niceties the people must be hearing when I homilize (no jokes, please!) because I assumed we at least had genuflection down. How much lower can I set the bar? Can it even be truthfully said, in any sense, that these kids are being raised "Catholic"? And please don't think I am pointing fingers at parents who do all they can, only to have children leave the faith, but if I were a Catholic parent and my teenage child didn't know what a genuflection was...I would be worried for my salvation. I certainly knew we had lost generations to extremely poor catechesis, but I thought we at least had the genuflection down.

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