Not So Bad

I missed Cathleen Kaveny’s favorably nostalgic look at the 70’s. Maybe we weren’t sleeping on catechesis after all:

My parochial elementary school used the very popular Life, Love, Joy series published by Silver Burdett and written by Carl Pfeifer and Janaan Manternach. My own textbooks have long gone to their eternal reward. But my mother, who taught sixth-grade CCD for many years, held on to her old teacher’s handbook, which I recently perused. The content is surprisingly rich. The series proclaims itself to be “grounded in the traditional teaching and practices of the Catholic Church, while respecting recent developments in the theological and social sciences.” Among the theological developments it reflects is the emphasis on Scripture called for by Vatican II. The theme of sixth-grade religious education was “Growth in the Spirit,” which is explored in units titled: “Abraham and the Mystery of Faith,” “Moses and the Mystery of Freedom,” “David and the Mystery of Service,” and “Jeremiah and the Mystery of Hope.” The series took care to emphasize that these mysteries were deepened and revealed in Christ Jesus, and passed on in their fullest form in the Catholic tradition. A final unit in the book reinforces the Christocentric understanding of the themes by reflecting on the meaning of major Catholic holy days.

Judging by this text, the content of the series was both rich and deep. So what was the problem?

Good question. Let’s remember these authors and the writer’s parish catechists were all formed in the faith in pre-conciliar times.

Still, the skeptics persist. One of Ms Kaveny’s commenters spoke about 33% of  Catholics not believing in the Real Presence and not knowing the Church teaches it. Clearly, that’s not perfect. But what if the pre-conciliar number on that was 40% or even more?

Another commentator, while lamenting the quality of some of the compositions sung at Mass in those days, did look with some longing at the enthusiasm carried over from the 60’s. I recall a lot more verve in many aspects of Catholic culture when I was a teen and a college student.

Today’s university students have more cars, more jobs, and more working hours to get deeper into debt. But they don’t seem to have the time for a full weekend retreat anymore. Even in the 80’s when I was a young adult in a parish, the pastor and staff convinced sixty-some of us to attend a parish leadership and discernment retreat that ran Friday dinner through Sunday lunch.

I think we’ve let the JP2/B16-era frowny culture of complaint to go on for too darned long. I think for the next decade, I’m letting up on blaming poor catechesis. I’m going to say that we, meaning the Church, needed an attitude adjustment in the face of cultural pressures. Forget the sex, people. I want to know who filched our joy.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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7 Responses to Not So Bad

  1. leefstrong says:

    Steubenville seems to be attracting a lot of young people/young adults to retreats – both on campus and in conferences around the country. There are young people out there who are seeking spiritual nourishment and growth.

  2. leefstrong says:

    20 Summer Conferences across the U.S. and Canada!

    The mission of the Steubenville Conferences is to invite young people into a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ through the Sacraments of the Church and the power of the Holy Spirit. This experience of Christ’s love opens their hearts to become His disciples and embrace the mission of the Catholic Church.

    The elements that make a Steubenville Youth Conference so powerful include:
    •A Christocentric message of mercy and love.
    •Impactful presenters that deliver relevant messages.
    •A clear call to follow Jesus Christ as a disciple.
    •Powerful prayer rooted in the Eucharist.
    •Beautiful liturgies that connect with young people.
    •A generous response to the call to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
    •Dynamic praise with holy and talented worship leaders.
    •Time for fellowship and group bonding.

  3. leefstrong says:

    There’s even a Steubenville youth conference planned for next summer in Rochester!

  4. Melody says:

    Leefstrong, I get that whatever is the youth catechesis question, you believe that a Steubenville youth conference is the answer! And I’m sure that it is a very worthy endeavor. However as a parent I would like to express the caveat that there is no such thing as “one size fits all”. Conferences such as this tend to be very extrovert-oriented, and not all kids fit comfortably into that mold. Some would rather have a more contemplative experience, or maybe don’t want to do a weekend camp type of thing. Our parish is doing a program (for high school age) which involves small groups meeting in a host family’s home, not as formal as a class, but involving discussion material and opportunities for questions and sharing. Our kids went through a similar program and enjoyed it and benefitted from it.

    • Todd says:

      There are a lot of introverts out there who find the big conference thing difficult. I am one of them. My daughter’s faith formation experience for confirmation sounded similar to your parish’s. Small groups and topical, too–she could choose maybe four out of six possibilities.

      • Jen says:

        *waves* I eschew big conferences like the plague. Goes double if there’s worshippy/praise things going on. Rather, I can do conferences if I have to (like for a paper I’m presenting), but it takes me a few days to recharge.

        I get the Steubenville model is great for attracting people who’d otherwise be enticed by more evangelical types of worship. But it does the Church’s long contemplative tradition a disservice. I wish there were a choice of “both/and” instead of “either/or.” (Yeah, I know, budget, people, etc.)

  5. Melody says:

    Todd, I agree with you that blaming everything on “bad catechesis” is getting a little old. I have heard variations of the statistic you cite on belief (or lack of it) in the Real Presence, and I tend to question it. I wonder if they factored in whether the people attend Mass regularly, or whether they ever made First Communion or Confirmation. I also think a lot depends on how you ask the question.

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