Friday, October 03, 2008

Baptized (and soon to be Confirmed) Pagans?

In most dioceses of the Catholic Church, the catechetical system (especially in the years before Confirmation) is set up in such a way that it presumes that the child is already a believer in God and in Christ Jesus. It presumes that the child is already a Christian and the function of catechism is to help the child mature in the faith. It presumes that the child is convinced of the truths of the faith as captured in the Creeds and taught and professed by the Church.

So, the system strives to give the child lots of 'head knowledge' about Jesus and His Church and the Sacraments which He instituted etc. There's also a lot of pressure to finish the syllabus. The books and the syllabus are excellent, no doubt about it. If memory serves, Salvation History is covered, together with the Creed and morality and the Sacraments and Mary and the Church and a bit ecclesiology thrown in as well.

If a person is a Christian believer at heart, fully convinced of the claims of Christ and of the Church, then that would be a reasonable method to teach catechism.

But that a really really big if.

After teaching Confirmation year catechism, I'm beginning to think that this assumption of prior faith might be wrong. And if that faith in Jesus is not there, then we are building on a foundation of sand and great indeed will our fall be. By filling these kids with head knowledge are we making these kids into authentic disciples of Christ?

The Catholic Church, with her vast intellectual resources (which is called upon less and less nowadays, sadly) has always been great at catechesis. But in our time, I can't help note that Her evangelization, especially of those born into Catholic families is not something to shout about.

We need to be making disciples. We need to call people to faith in Jesus. We need to first convince them of the truth of the Christian world view, that there is a God and that we're pilgrims on this Earth, on our journey to the City of God, the Heavenly Jerusalem. We need to teach them the basic truths of the faith and re-emphasize it again and again and again. We need to convince them of the truth. We need to guide them to a personal conversion experience, a personal encounter with the Person of Christ Jesus. We need to teach them to encounter the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Peter and Paul. Many of them have made up their own god. Is that not idolatry? We need to teach them to pray and to emphasize the importance of prayer. All of this is sorely lacking in the kids of today.

This is such a daunting task that one might almost despair, but for the sustaining grace of God.

Of course not everyone will encounter God in a Burning Bush like Moses, or have Christ appear to knock him off his high horse like St. Paul, or have Jesus allay our doubts like St. Thomas. But somewhere and at some point in our lives, God moves from an abstraction into a real and personal Father. Our kids need this transformation of belief so that their lives may be transformed as well.

I pray for the strength to lead the kids whose faith formation is entrusted to me, that with God's help, I might lead them into a true and authentic encounter with Jesus. I pray that they may know Him and love Him and follow Him all the days of their lives and that they may meet Him face to face in the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb at the end of days. So help me God.

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