Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.”
Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.
But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!”
Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” (Luke 15:25-32)
Many human beings have a fine-tuned sense of the unfair. It begins at an early age. And for some, it never seems to let up. It intensifies, and in such cases, causes an elaboration of family, work, and church conflicts. After further reflection on both the LCWR and their more bitter critics, plus a few of the sisters’ more vociferous defenders, I’m convinced that there’s a broad commonality across this political divide. Many Catholics are playing the elder brother. And there’s a delicious irony about how widespread the protest of unfair! actually is.
I’ve seen the protests about the LCWR investigation. The bishops have cost the Church billions of dollars by mismanaging sex predators. Who investigates them? Clergy ordinations are down as much as commitments to religious life. Who investigates that? Parishes are mismanaged financially. Who investigates that?
And on the other side: I faithfully pray the rosary every day, so why do women religious have workshops on yoga, the enneagram, meditation, creation spirituality, feminism,and the like? None of that is Catholic! Why do they get away with it, when I am so gosh-darned faithful?
The women religious themselves, to their credit, are indulging in very little of the unfair-speak. Mostly, women religious want to be free to follow their community charism, and contribute to their parishes and sisters’ well-being with their individual gifts as much as they are able. Interference from people who largely have no experience in religious life can be a challenge. Pile on that few investigators have explored the notion of apostolic religious life–how many still refer to all sisters as nuns? It’s not just the secular media.
That’s not to say that people outside of religious life might not have apt perspectives to offer such communities. My own take is that adults can assess their discernment in community far better than isolated clergy who are largely bereft of daily community experiences, who seem to keep their own counsel when they reach the Top, and seem to lack the basic curiosity about what makes vowed religious life tick. The pope and cardinals and bishops seem more like elder brothers in this light, sneering at choices they would not have made, and sowing seeds of suspicion amongst themselves.
The parable of the prodigal and faithful sons is extremely illustrative. What a brilliant microcosm of human alienation. The elder son makes a demand of his father: “Listen!” Then he goes on his rant, not even acknowledging his relationship with his brother, referring to him as “this son of yours.”
The father does indeed listen, and reminds his elder child than the person in question is a “brother of yours.”
The ideal result is not the prim smug expression of the elder brother when the younger sibling gets what’s coming to her or him. My mother was fairly strict about sibling punishment not being a spectator sport in our house growing up. I don’t think the blogosphere is contributing much of good health to the CDF-LCWR divide.
Myself, I don’t enjoy seeing the hierarchy being made into mincemeat over this, either in church circles or in the secular press. A weakened college of bishops is a weakness in the Body. My friend Dale Price wondered if I’d prefer Rome and the bishops muzzled. And no, I hope that doesn’t happen. I think the kind of leadership I’d hope to see is more along the lines of the father than the elder brother. The father was willing to meet his younger son halfway up the road. The father exits the house and leaves the party to greet his elder son who refuses to enter. It is the ministry of a father (or a parent) to move to where the children are. We do not hold court. We must demonstrate the lengths that should be gone to in order to reconcile a family and restore relationships.
Whether anybody likes it or not, it is the task of Archbishop Sartain, and his brother bishops, to meet the LCWR where they are. If, that is, they believe they are true fathers, and if they believe the sisters are authentically wayward. It is those kinds of gestures that demonstrate true ministry, true respect, and true hope for reconciliation. Lacking that, I would take it as a sign that my suspicions are more aligned with the LCWR crackdown being a bunch of bitter old men resentful over two generations of hurt. In which case, it would be time to grow up. To grow into the role of a true father. To learn a lesson from the Lord, Luke 15:11-32- like.
Let’s wrap up QS with its eight prescriptions for the Church:
After careful deliberation on all these points, this Sacred Congregation of the Discipline of the Sacraments, in a general meeting held on July 15, 1910, in order to remove the above-mentioned abuses and to bring about that children even from their tender years may be united to Jesus Christ, may live His life, and obtain protection from all danger of corruption, has deemed it needful to prescribe the following rules which are to be observed everywhere for the First Communion of children.
1. The age of discretion, both for Confession and for Holy Communion, is the time when a child begins to reason, that is about the seventh year, more or less. From that time on begins the obligation of fulfilling the precept of both Confession and Communion.
Note that the seventh year of a child is age six. “More or less” places the age of First Communion at five to seven, approximately the K-2 range. The current US practice of second grade seems to lean on the “more” side of the seventh year, sometimes by as much as twenty-four months. What to make of that? I’d say Catholics are still squeamish about going “too” early.
2. A full and perfect knowledge of Christian doctrine is not necessary either for First Confession or for First Communion. Afterwards, however, the child will be obliged to learn gradually the entire Catechism according to his ability.
3. The knowledge of religion which is required in a child in order to be properly prepared to receive First Communion is such that he will understand according to his capacity those Mysteries of faith which are necessary as a means of salvation (necessitate medii) and that he can distinguish between the Bread of the Eucharist and ordinary, material bread, and thus he may receive Holy Communion with a devotion becoming his years.
This basic understanding would definitely place First Communion at an age earlier than the eighth or ninth year.
4. The obligation of the precept of Confession and Communion which binds the child particularly affects those who have him in charge, namely, parents, confessor, teachers and the pastor. It belongs to the father, or the person taking his place, and to the confessor, according to the Roman Catechism, to admit a child to his First Communion.
5. The pastor should announce and hold a General Communion of the children once a year or more often, and he should on these occasions admit not only the First Communicants but also others who have already approached the Holy Table with the above-mentioned consent of their parents or confessor. Some days of instruction and preparation should be previously given to both classes of children.
The option for a First Communion more than once a year is interesting. Most parishes might split between children enrolled in a school or another faith formation program. Some places hold two or more to accommodate numbers in the church building. But most often it takes place during the Spring.
On some other points, daily Communion is encouraged:
6. Those who have charge of the children should zealously see to it that after their First Communion these children frequently approach the Holy Table, even daily if possible, as Jesus Christ and Mother Church desire, and let this be done with a devotion becoming their age. They must also bear in mind that very grave duty which obliged them to have the children attend the public Catechism classes; if this is not done, then they must supply religious instruction in some other way.
Tighten up the practice of Reconciliation:
7. The custom of not admitting children to Confession or of not giving them absolution when they have already attained the use of reason must be entirely abandoned. The Ordinary shall see to it that this condition ceases absolutely, and he may, if necessary, use legal measures accordingly.
Pope Pius X and his curia seem very bothered by the denial of Viaticum and Anointing to children:
8. The practice of not administering the Viaticum and Extreme Unction to children who have attained the use of reason, and of burying them with the rite used for infants is a most intolerable abuse. The Ordinary should take very severe measures against those who do not give up the practice.
His Holiness, Pope Pius X, in an audience granted on the seventh day of this month, approved all the above decisions of this Sacred Congregation, and ordered this Decree to be published and promulgated.
He furthermore commanded that all the Ordinaries make this Decree known not only to the pastors and the clergy, but also to the people, and he wishes that it be read in the vernacular every year at the Easter time. The Ordinaries shall give an account of the observance of this Decree together with other diocesan matters every five years.
Anyone remember this decree being read? Or your parents or grandparents?
I might fuss about the residual taint of jansenism with the American age of First Communion drifting up to the ninth year, but this was likely the most realistic reform that could have been accomplished at the time. Reworking Confirmation, or moving all the initiation sacraments to infancy is still a struggle today. I imagine it would have been faithfully resisted a hundred years ago. I do think that Sacra Tridentina and Quam Singulari were positive developments that rid the Catholic experience of long-standing but problematic practices. It’s too bad that the Roman focus has drifted to matters more political than sacramental or mystical. I can’t imagine we are living in an age with any sort of openness to exploring the nature of sacramental grace in very young Christians. Likely we need at least another century or two to sort it all out.
The next twenty numbered sections cover Part Five’s CHAPTER II, “Formation for the service of catechesis.” Today’s section is titled, “Pastoral care of catechists in a Particular Church,” and offers seven points. Frankly, some of these are very interesting, and I’m not quite sure what to make of these suggestions. Perhaps the readers here might offer some commentary on this. First the text:
233. To ensure the working of the catechetical ministry in a local Church, it is fundamental to have adequate pastoral care of catechists. Several elements must be kept in mind in this respect. Indeed efforts must be made:
– to encourage in parishes and Christian communities vocations for catechesis. Today, because the needs of catechesis are so varied, it is necessary to promote different kinds of catechists. “There is therefore a need for specialised catechists”. (Guide for Catechists 5) In this respect selection criteria must be established;
– to try to provide a certain number of full time catechists so that these can devote their time intensely and in a more stable way to catechesis, (In missionary territories (Catechesi Tradendae 66) the Second Vatican Council distinguishes two types of catechist: full time catechists and auxiliary catechists (cf. Ad Gentes 17). This distinction is taken up in the Guide for Catechists 4, which refers to them as full-time catechists and part-time catechists.) in addition to fostering part-time catechists who are likely to be more numerous in the ordinary course of events;
– to organize a more balanced distribution of catechists, among the various groups who require catechesis. Awareness of the needs of adult catechesis and catechesis for young people, for example, can help to establish a greater balance in relation to the number of catechists who work with children and adolescents.
– to foster animators of catechetical activity with responsibility at diocesan level, in regions and in parishes. (Cf. Guide for Catechists 5)
– to organize adequately the formation of catechists, both in relation to basic training and continuing formation.
– to attend to the personal and spiritual needs of catechists as well as to the group of catechists as such. This activity is principally and fundamentally the responsibility of the priests of the respective Christian communities.
– to co-ordinate catechists with other pastoral workers in Christian communities, so that the entire work of evangelization will be consistent and to ensure that catechists will not be isolated from or unrelated to the life of the community.
This is one of the first times I’ve run across the connection of “vocation” with a particular ministry role. The authors of the GDC certainly take the role of catechist seriously.
Consider “a certain number of catechists.” Does that mean a minimal complememnt in eveyr parish, and does it foresee multiple “professional” catechists in a parish?
What would that “more balanced distribution” look like? In my last parish with a school, consider that about thirty educators served about ten percent of the parish population; one staff member devoted about a fourth of her time to about two dozen people in RCIA. The numbe rof people dedicated to adult formation was closer to the latter catechist number than the former. We know the GDC is quite serious about adult formation. Would the typical American parish, with or without a school, be considered to have a “balanced” approach to catechesis?