Well, another confirmation weekend has come and gone and I’m left to wonder, how many of those young people will continue to practice their faith. I have been teaching and sharing my faith with almost every confirmation class for about 25 years now. While there is always bright spot with some of the kids, the vast majority, simply drift away. This leaves me very discouraged and to be honest, doubting whether or not what we’re doing is having any effect. Now granted, there are those who drift away, but then come back. I get it and I’m happy for them. Because I know, that people come to the faith along many different paths and the seeds that we planted might have just needed to be in the ground a little while. But what about those who we never see again.
First, it makes me question, why they’re doing it to begin with. I mean, you wouldn’t join a soccer team if you didn’t intend some day to want to play. I would venture to say, many of the young people are in confirmation prep because that’s what their parents or grandparents want. I’m sure if we flashed back 75 years, the average young person at that time probably felt the same way.
Second, as I have all through my catechetical time, question the method that we use. We teach about the faith. Great. But where we fail, miserably is allowing the kids to have an experience of Jesus that they want to keep coming back for. In other words, it gives them and experience that is like nothing else in their lives and the experience makes them feel good about themselves, about their friends, their families and everyone else.
So, we can’t do anything about the first point until we do something about the second.
As I get older, I am more and more an advocate for the restored order. I mean, they’re not staying anyway, so why should we continue to agonize over it. Let’s come up with a program or a method of instruction that is not tied to keeping them captive for the sacramental years, but treats them as seekers, very similar to what someone in RCIA would do. And, given that the majority of the parents (and pretty soon grandparents) are not going to have this relationship with Jesus, let’s treat the whole family as seekers.
The Word of God
We are to spread the Word of God to everyone. For many of us, especially if we have never really had any formal training in Scripture, that could be pretty intimidating. Growing up, Sunday Mass attendance and devotions such as the rosary, were certainly very important in my house, but actually sitting down and reading from scripture was something foreign to us. We learned our Bible stories from Sunday Mass, or even watching movies like the Ten Commandments where you could get the whole book of Exodus in a four hour feature film! But the times are different and today we are asked to be those evangelizers and go out and spread the Word of God. So, how do we go about doing this?
Well, first I think we have to follow the words of Kurt Vonnegut who said “we have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” In other words, the first step of being an evangelizer is to jump into the fray. That could be scary, because as Jesus tells his disciples, “I am sending you like lambs among wolves.” Today, more than ever at times, being a follower of Jesus can be met with resistance and even intimidation and violence by others. That quote of being sent as lambs among wolves is truly quite literal.
The first step for us is how we frame our attitude about scripture and being an evangelizer. Our attitude needs to be one of joy and excitement, even though we might not feel adequate enough to spread that word. It can simply be by our joyful disposition that people can become excited about what we have to say. If we look at Nehemiah, we see Ezra bringing the book of the law down and people sitting from daybreak to mid-afternoon just listening to the Word of God. They were enthralled because they came with an open heart and allowed these words to transform them. But it is with a reverence that the Word was handled. The people realized through the passion of Ezra and the Word that was different than anything they had heard before, that this was something special. That is how we can present the Word to others. Plus, we have to remember that the people have an option on whether or not to accept this Word or not. By the setting the right tone, and saying as Jesus says, “Peace to this House,” we come in with calmness and meet the people where they are.
It is vital, especially in this day and age, not to weaponize the Word of God or just to take snippets of it so we can apply it to our own agenda or our own motives. The Word of God must always stand on its own because we always have to remember it is God speaking through us and using His words, not ours to bring others close to Him.
We also must recognize that the Word of God is something of beauty. It is a wonderful gift from God. When we make room for God in our lives, we want to have a party- where there is food and celebration where we can give glory to God. We often forget, how great of a gift this is and how much we can be changed by following it and by spreading it to others.
Finally, we have to remember that when God sends us out, He tells us to go two by two. In other words, we have support, not only from Him or the beauty of the Word, but from our fellow disciples. This means we should rely on each other for support, for establishing joy as we evangelize and for help in discerning when it might be time to move on and let the work we have done simmer a bit.
For today, let’s all think of one person in our lives, that needs to hear the Word of God. Certainly not preached to them, but who needs to have a seed planted in their hearts. Let’s go to that person and plant that seed and see what God can do with His infinite grace.
People Are Struggling
Ever since the end (or waning) of the pandemic, I have noticed a marked shift in people’s attitude. What prompted this thought is a motorcycle accident that happened this weekend in which a young man was killed. On my two mile stretch of road, in the last three years there have been five fatalities. I have been telling my wife and anyone in my family who drives, that people are driving much more aggressively than they were before the pandemic. Now, the point of this post is not to comment on people’s driving, but to communicate my observation that people have almost an, “I don’t care,” type of attitude when it comes to many things. They want to do what they want to do, when they want to do it and never mind about the needs or issues of anyone else. I need to get to point A right away. I need to cut into this line right now. And so on.
Now, to me as a religious person and who tries and brings others to the faith, I see this as a consequence of the lack of the presence of God in their lives. When you have a faith, (no matter what that faith is), there is always an awareness of the “other,” or an awareness of something bigger than ourselves. This is all the more reason why people today need to find or re-discover the presence of God in our lives. And which is why, after the closure of so many of our churches during the pandemic, religious leaders need to work all the more diligently on bringing people back. What the answer to that in my faith tradition or other’s faith traditions is, I don’t know. But we better find out quick.
Clicks or Faith
Recently, I have heard of many people contemplating getting off of social media, specifically Facebook and X (formerly Twitter). They’re doing it to preserve their own mental health. I can’t tell you the amount of times in the last few days even, that I have encountered non-Christian, abhorrent behavior by so many people. Now, granted this behavior both verbal and in some cases physical is coming from a non-Christian crowd. But, unfortunately, in many cases this verbal diatribe that goes on via social media has its origins in people who profess to be Catholic and faithful followers of Jesus Christ.
Even posts that purport to simply being contributions to the debate, always seem to have an edge to them. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence can see that many times there is an agenda. The arguments or discussion never really goes anywhere. It seems as if there is argument just for the sake of argument. Rarely, do I see two people sparing with each other and one actually admitting that their opponent makes a good and valid point. The arguing simply is for the sake of arguing.
Which then leads me to believe, as the title of this post suggests, that people are doing it for clicks and certainly not for faith. This happens on both sides of any debate. We fail as people and as followers of Christ when we disparage someone’s dignity. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was speaking to my seventh graders in religion class about how we always, no matter where we stand on any issue, need to respect and honor the dignity of another person because at the core they are made in the image and likeness of God. That is sorely lacking in today’s social media world.
And, within Catholic circles as the Synod on Synodality gets closer and closer, the debate and uncharitable posts seem to be ramping up. Again, for clicks or for faith? I can only imagine what Catholic social media will look like a month from now. But that is a topic for another day.
For me, personally, I guess I have to make a decision- to stay or to go. Only time and hopefully some prayer and discernment will tell.
A Follow Up
This post today is a follow-up to the post on clicks and faith. Perhaps a possible solution involves an attitudinal shift on the part of all faithful Catholics. That shift involves thinking of our fellow Catholics as Catholics and realizing that perhaps all people want what is best for the Church. Maybe it involves returning to the civil way of disagreeing with someone, but still allowing them to be your friend. This would never diminish your stance as well as the stance of someone else. I have met many people in my life who I disagree with, some in a very fundamental way. But, I would always take the attitude that I would listen to them and then maybe just agree to disagree.
But I am increasingly convinced that the dialog needs to happen face to face and never behind the anonymity of a screen. Social media or even online conversations just cannot happen when there is such disagreement. Talking with someone fact to face would probably do all of us some good at times. Maybe something to try…