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.