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Confessions of a Wanna-Be Orthodox Catholic High School Teacher

March 20, AD2013

\"Francis

Have you ever felt like a nobody in the world? To be in the world but not of the world is surely a frustrating reality in the normative workplace environment. But in the Catholic Education world? I never thought it would be such lonely, difficult work to teach, preach, and witness an orthodox Catholic message as a theology teacher in the typical American Catholic High School. Where to begin? The dark stuff.

The problems begin as always in the home. When we went to the other children’s birthday parties and I chatted with the other parents, I noticed in the Catholic elementary schools my own children attended it seemed like more than half were living with the complexity of divorce. I have read that Catholics on the whole have statistical rates for most societal vices on par with non-Catholics. We aren’t leading (morally speaking) even though we have plenty of Catholic “leaders” in our communities and nation.

I also find the divorce phenomena in my high school classrooms, and try to share my own damage assessment from growing up in a divorced home and not being raised a Christian even though I was baptized as a child. The problem is for the kids today, like for me back then, you don’t realize how the divorce thing is harming you on the inside and affecting all kinds of relationships- starting with God the Father and working down to preparing for your own Marital Vocation. “Everyone’s Fine” is the theme for the “Love, American Style” post sexual revolution. Awareness that everyone isn’t just fine is the first step- and for many of the sons and daughters of divorce that awareness doesn’t come until much adulthood has already passed and cycles of dysfunctional relationships continue on until one finally is awakened. The fact is that parents who have divorced have a vested interest in perpetuating the false myth that “the kids are alright.” Few people like to admit fault and fewer still will entertain thoughts that they have harmed their own children.

I would list Divorce as the first cause of the diminished faith of the Catholic school students I have encountered in my decade and a half of teaching experience. The causes of Divorce of course go back to the unorthodox treatment of Catholic teachings on matters to do with sexuality. The litany of anti-Catholic influences and abuses is legion- pornography exposure from early ages, masturbation addictions, premarital sex, same-sex exploration and experimentation, ‘my body my choice’ hardened feminism. These are the diseases that plague marriages from before they even begin. If you add other spiritual sicknesses like general hedonistic life philosophies “Seize the Day!” “If it feels good, do it!”, along with consumerism/materialism, sports and entertainment obsessions and so forth, you really have to wonder how anyone is supposed to live as a typical American and find their way Home to Rome!

If Catholic schools were factories, the end product would be lukewarm Catholics. The Catholic school is already disadvantaged by all of the home and cultural realities that are doing the primary shaping of the young American Catholic mind and spirit. I still believe we could do a heck of a lot more to raise the odds that more of these young Catholics/Christians/Other would find the shortcut to the Way of Christ if only we had our act together as Catholic Education Centers. I could recount many nightmarish stories of how most of the Catholic school educators and administrators I have encountered have been men and women of little or no faith in Christ and Church. Even in the religion departments it is common to encounter ex-nuns who feel the Church is in sin because they can’t be priests, homosexual men who are more interested in defending the lifestyle than in teaching the straight Catholic faith, and a range of those who are in dissent on some or another important Catholic doctrine.

If there are problems of personnel inside the Religion departments, the other disciplines are almost completely immersed in doing exactly what they would be doing in a public school. I have often wondered what small percentage of Catholic high school teachers actually like the Catholic Church. It is obvious that in hiring these folks, the biggest unspoken question is not “Are you enthusiastic about your Catholic faith?” but “Can you tolerate pretending to be on board with the Catholic stuff you will encounter from time to time here?” For the most part, average Catholic school teachers are solid as dispensers of information and want to bond with their students, but there is no real faith present in their hearts, and certainly not in the worldview presented in their classrooms.

Faithless teachers would not be so rampant if those charged with responsibility for the school’s Catholic mission were sincerely focused on a “Faith First” approach and philosophy. I have been at schools where I have spoken directly to administrators about this and to my face I was told that \”only one-third of the parents of Catholic school kids are there for the religious education, another one-third are there for sports, and the other one-third for the safety and academics.\” So, the piecemeal system of making a show of the faith for P.R. purposes becomes the smart strategy for keeping things appearing Catholic-enough for the one-third of parents primarily interested in the faith dimension, but for the two-thirds who are not, there is a wink-wink given that the real show is the academic and sports achievements.

And, now after a brief flurry of pressure coming from the Bishops for re-establishing a “Catholic Identity” in our Catholic schools, the primary focus around the country is on getting technology into the classrooms at breakneck speed. There is even a strange development whereupon in Communist China, the buzz is that Catholic schools are the best schools in America, and for the children of the elite who do not do well on their placement tests, they are coming to American Catholic schools so they can go to American universities and bypass the more difficult to get into Chinese universities. The Chinese students come here never hearing the name Jesus Christ before. This could be an excellent opportunity for evangelization, but evangelizing was never spoken of as part of any serious plan. Just drop them into religion classes with everyone else, and they end up being exposed to a very lukewarm variety of Catholicity- makes them probably wonder what the big fuss is back home, the faith doesn’t seem to alter the lifestyle of typical American Catholic students.

I have tried to make noise about all that I have written above. I’ve sent my letters to Superintendents and invited Bishops to dinner, but all I have received has been either polite thanks, or direct negative consequences. But here are my recommendations anyway:

1. Catholic identity is #1- hire right. Seek and find enthusiastic wanna-be orthodox Catholics to fill in the ranks of at least 90% of the faculty and staff positions. Help the teachers out by getting serious about locating textbooks that include positive Catholic worldview even in non-religion subject areas. As it stands now, the textbooks outside of religion classes are the same one would see in public schools, with all the problems of the culture seeping in.

2. Praise and worship should be given primary place in school activities. The mainstream music that is played throughout Catholic school sporting events, dances, gym classes etc. is the same junk that is being played everywhere, songs full of obscenity, sexual immorality, violence and despair. Why can’t Catholic schools be bastions for Christian music promotion? One only has to attend a sporting event, a dance or a school play to assess the strength of an actual Catholic influence and identity.

3. Catholic schools should be centers for Eucharistic Adoration. They could offer Theology of the Body classes, Pro-life activism, Catholic Relief Services, Fair Trade marketing, nurturing future community and political leaders with our full Catholic social doctrine and sexual ethics. Wow!

4. I have seen that the male-female interactions of the current generation are just not very healthy. One of the sad results of the Sexual Revolution is the pressure on young girls to get involved in sexual relationships, and even regard themselves as sex objects to match the mainstream culture. With divorce comes along a lot of girls who are going without a daily dose of a father’s affectionate love. They turn to the boys who often are addicted to pornography and don’t comprehend chastity. To combat this we need return to more traditional schools of all-boys and all-girls, or at least have classes separated into boy and girl classrooms with teachers best suited as role-models teaching one gender or the other.

© 2013. Francis. All Rights Reserved.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

I am an adult convert to Catholicism. I take on the name of Francis to honor Pope Francis I, and to acknowledge my place of theological studies. St. Francis is a Saint who inspires so many of us, and in all of my travels, Assisi is one place I felt such incredible peace. I am now a Catholic school educator with a wonderful wife, and adorable children. I am keenly interested in promoting the Social Doctrine of the Church, having some experience on the campaign trail, and some leadership background with a pro-life organization. As an educator who is trying to assist in the reform of Catholic education, I find it necessary to conceal my name so that I can be as honest as possible without jeopardizing my professional career. I am focused on issues relating to family, to education/evangelization, and to political activity with the goal of promoting the universal common good.

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  • Children are images of God. It is our secular society who is obsessed with sex. In the name of so-called freedom for women, the pill and contraception, children are the ones who have paid. Nobody has become freer by going away from traditional Catholic teaching. http://spiritedteaching.com/reflections/images-of-god/

  • You are so right. I just completed my first year as a fourth grade Catholic school teacher. This is a difficult age to talk about divorce, but I was actually glad to see the topic in our new text book, Images of God. How do you talk to kids who already have divorced parents? It’s a sensitive issue, but I felt it was so important to convey the message and gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not what he wanted.
    http:/spiritedteaching.com

  • NDXUFan

    Good point, JT.

  • NDXUFan

    One of the reasons for divorce is current obsession of one parent or both parents with children. Yes, I like children. Yet, too many couples do not work to make the marriage healthy to prevent divorce, which hurts “The children” more than anything. In fact, the vast majority of people in jail, did not have a father.

  • NDXUFan

    John: You need to start taking care of an individual in that condition. Then, you would not run your mouth. Yes, I did the job for many years, it is 24/7. Jesus said, “As you do to the very least of my brothers, you have done unto me.” I will go with the Son of God.

  • NDXUFan

    Fr. J, outstanding post, I have seen what you are talking about for many years, sadly.

  • NDXUFan

    I am glad that you have a wonderful wife, good for you. However, many are not as lucky as you happen to be. As a former county officer, most women seem to be interested in losers, bums, or jerks. Yes, I have seen that in 30 years of experience. Yes, I do agree with many of your points. Yet, before moralizing, please walk the same road that you are asking us to walk, it will open your eyes.

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  • JQ Tomanek

    JD, wow lots of love for you here. Isn’t it wonderful that the internet can draw so many people together to encourage brothers and sisters? It reminds me of St. Paul’s letters encouraging the different churches.

    I have experienced some of the things you mention as well. I have also seen faith lived out among my brothers and sisters in Christ and these events continue to inspire me and give me hope. I still have many faults and sins that I personally struggle with and with the grace of God and His Sacraments, especially Confession and the Eucharist, He beckons me to come closer to Him.

  • Francis

    JD- absolute wrong move to make in protest of the lukewarmers. If you have accepted the church as Mother then you know you can’t allow the bad behavior and attitudes of your siblings to adversely affect your own relationship with your Ma. She needs you even more- if you walk it breaks her heart. Jesus has one Bride- you can’t get closer to Jesus by storming away from His Bride. The problem you have is with your siblings- if your problem is with the official teachings of the Church- then you have a big big problem- I don’t get the impression that you are an unorthodox dissenter. You are just going to have to deal with your rebellious siblings- that’s family- can’t just walk out on family like a dead-beat and pretend Jesus wants that. That would be like a man taking a powder on his wife for his young secretary and blaming “love”. Keep working on your relationship within the family- not outside. Go ahead and vent but never leave.

  • What you describe as your predicament reminds me of the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life,” which I would guess you have seen.

    From a philosophical perspective, not a theological one or religious one, a corrective is offered in that movie. It’s a “what-if” sort of approach. What if you do leave? Who will they get to replace you? Who will the few students you are, even unknowingly, touching turn to?

    I have found rejection of my Catholicism in many circumstances, including in a Catholic hospital. In one of the worst rejections, I felt pain like never before. Then I got it. Jesus himself was rejected — big time — by the powers that be when he was teaching.

    Of course, we all have different missions and we can’t save others in the way Jesus does. We may step off the beaten path for a time. I did for a variety of reasons for a time. But at a crucial juncture, I stepped back on the path and realized how much stepping off helped me value what I came back to.

    For God’s sake, the “lost years of Jesus” could literally mean he was lost to others, though not to himself, as he developed his human ways of expressing the truths and the Truth he later gave unto our trust.

    Given the depth and breadth of your concerns, I wonder if your “leaving” might not take the form of a silent retreat of some extraordinary length. I took an 8-day silent retreat at the Jesuit Retreat Center at Grand Coteau, Louisiana. The experience changed my life. I had gone there to face my loneliness and see if that was all there was in the midst of the confusion around me.

    To my surprise, I discovered that I was indeed not alone.

    In terms of the movie, going on the retreat was my way of jumping off the bridge and having Clarence Hardbody (the angel) pull me out of the waters.

    Dare you risk such a retreat? Is it time to “look before you leap” or to heed the opposite advice: “He who hesitates is lost”?

    In matters so significant at the one you present, it’s not a simple choice, nor a hypothetical judgment (“What-if”) in the end. You are facing an issue that calls for a decision.

    Since I am writing about decision-making for Catholic Stand, I offer you the opportunity to contact me directly via email or phone to discuss this further when you want to: john@darrouzet.net; 214-395-6145.

    Meanwhile, God be with you, always!

  • JD

    The drinking, the gambling, the sex scandals (Catholics living with non-Catholics, out of marriage and taking communion), the social justice agenda…..that of the devil. Yet, the Catholics love it. Every parish, in my diocese, has drinking contest at every parish festival and event. It’s to the point I am afraid to bring a non-Catholic, let alone an unbeliever. The Bishop refuses to do anything about it.

    If I leave the church, it is because of my love for Christ, so I can grow and mature in Him. Will it be perfect? No. But, I believe I will lose my soul if I remain in the Church.

    • Mary Ann

      JD, the things you mentioned are external to yourself. They are the sins of others. While it may be disheartening to watch the bad behavior of those who call themselves Catholic, even the bad behavior of some priests and bishops, it’s important to remember that their sins should not cause you to lose hope in the entire institution of the Church that Jesus formed! Jesus does ask the question that when He returns, will He find faith on earth? Each of us is responsible for our own commitment to the Faith. No one is perfect, and although other denominations appear to have it all together as far as the “externals” they lack the most important gift that we could ever receive on this side of heaven… the authentic Body of Christ in the Eucharist. Spend a lot of time contemplating such a dramatic, life changing choice.

    • JD – – – – thank you for the courage to expression your opinion here. This is what Catholic Stand is all about.

      First, let me share that leaving your Catholic faith, because of a parish, or group of people is sad. Your first and foremost priority should be that you are Catholic for a reason. A Catholic by conviction not convenience. Sadly, not all parishes are equal. If your parish is lack luster or falls short of Catholic doctrine, you should leave and find another parish. Even if you have to drive an hour to get there. But if you will recognize that God has placed you in a place for a greater purpose….and you have the courage to accept the challenge….with Christ all things are possible.

      Stay with me on this for a moment. I have traveled your journey. – – – –

      When I worked with Catholic Online, my family belonged to an outstanding 150 year-old parish with a vibrant community that was Magisterium-based….you walked into the sanctuary and felt the Holy Spirit. You could hear a pin drop when the church was full. No one even coughed. Then – – -we moved out of state and joined the only parish in town that the local Dioceses referred to as the “Protestant-ized Catholic Church.” Too lengthy to share all the details here….but the sanctuary was being used as a meeting hall with dances on the altar….no crucifix in the sanctuary…..the tabernacle was placed in the chapel where the assembly had their backs to the tabernacle during Mass….the music was very contemporary, using secular tunes like songs by John Lennon (atheist) and show tunes from Broadway musicals (Wicked). I didn’t want to join this Church. The priests at Catholic Online advised me to leave and find another church for fear that I would be corrupted. – – – – – I prayed. God spoke. We stayed.

      And I continued to pray that this parish would become an accurate image of the Catholic Church. Let me be perfectly honest with you here…..it was HELL! I wanted to leave. Didn’t enjoy attending Mass there. I often attended Mass at other parishes, just to retain my focus…until I changed my focus. The Eucharist was my inspiration and focus. Nothing else.

      I put on my spiritual armor and launched a Reformation of my own. And trust me….I was not alone. I kept praying that God would bring us a strong Catholic priest who would respect the Magisterium….Catholic Tradition and Doctrine and bring this Church back to where Christ wanted this parish to be. Sadly, and certainly NOT because of my prayers….the pastor died from cancer…..and a temporary pastor was assigned. Immediately, I formed the Respect Life Ministry…..members chastised me for being insensitive to the Pro-Choice members………I became a choir director and changed the music….I was treated horribly….choir members talked horribly about me in email messages and quit, saying that I was too Catholic…..….a compliment, I think….there was NO YOUTH MINISTRY….I started the Life Teen Ministry. We had 300 kids the first night! I taught the WOMEN OF GRACE series for 4 years….and was criticized again for being TOO CATHOLIC! Yes….Christ was using me to get their attention. Meanwhile, I was raising children and working. I kept praying that God would bring a vibrant Catholic priest who was strong enough to stand up against the parishioners who felt that they controlled the money and the clergy. Enter Father “M.” Prayers said. Prayers heard. Prayers answered. This is not the same parish we joined 12 years ago. Praise God! He is an Amazing God! Great song, by the way!

      My advice to you in this —-you don’t leave your faith, because of what you don’t like about in a particular parish. You stand firm in conviction and work to do God’s work DESPITE the adversity. I did not see that at the time of my conflict, but I see it clearly now. As Father “M” recently reminded me….“Thomas Kempis once wrote in his great spiritual masterpiece The Imitation of Christ — -“Don’t care much about who is with you and who is against you; but make it your greatest care that God is with you in everything you do.” We must remember that in the end…what others think about us doesn’t really matter. We will not stand before them at the final Judgment. What God thinks about us does matter, and matters greatly, because we will all stand before Him…and He is sure to get it right.” – – – –

      JD, embrace your Catholic faith. Be a Catholic of CONVICTION not CONVENIENCE! Find a parish where you feel the Holy Spirit. If you can’t find one, ask God to help you bring the Holy Spirit to them. Remember, the disciples were not welcomed into every community. You are here to do God’s work…..even if those who are in the same parish don’t recognize God’s work anymore.

      Peace be with you, my friend. P.D. ^i^

    • JD….had to come back and say…..God is using you. Please be open to His Will and abandon your own and watch what happens. “I consider that our present suffering is not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Paul’s Letter to the Romans 8:18

      Need some inspiration. Listen. Help Me Find It (Sidewalk Prophets)

  • JD…Remember the words of Jesus as He turned to his apostles and asked, “Will you leave me too?” And Peter said, “To whom shall we go, Lord?”… Don’t fall for the devil’s trap. Find a holy parish if the one you are going to is not giving you the fullness of our beautiful Catholic faith! I did this and found everything that you described above but are missing out on – and I was filled with peace and an abundance of grace. Stay strong…not sure where you are located but if you email me I will find you a good parish! Email debi@cogforlife.org

  • Mary Ann

    JD, don’t leave the Church. I know it’s frustrating, but don’t ever let the sins or apathy of others convince you to abandon the Church that Christ founded! There is so much at stake here, and nothing on earth should make you choose to give up receiving the very body of Christ in the Eucharist… it’s vital for spiritual survival.

    That being said, always remember that evangelization is an uphill battle; people are distracted and tempted to resist the message you are offering every step of the way. But fight the good fight and keep trying to change hearts in your own sphere of influence – just like you are doing! You are most definitely having a positive influence. And even if the results of some of your efforts are not be immediately apparent, remember that God sees it all and His Holy Spirit can pick up where you left off.

    Lastly, remember that people resisted Jesus’ efforts to change hearts even when He walked the earth. And if He, being God, could not convince everyone, we should not be discouraged either. God bless!

  • JD

    I have tried to get two jobs in Catholic schools as a religion teacher, outside of my diocese. Let’s say they just didn’t pan out, and interview process has left me to seriously wondering if I should leave the church. Why would I leave the Church? 1. There is no passion. People are not passion about Christ! Simply. 2. No evangelization. I have numerous experiences of bringing Muslims to Christ, and I share this my Catholic church members, and I am chastized. 3. Prayer and Bible studies. There are none, unless, you don’t have a job or are a popular person in the church. 4. The number of divorced people, people who promote abortion, homosexuality, etc. and are honored for their work in the church. 5. The priest who care more about raising money for computers to take state testing then telling people how to live. I throw me hands up, and I quit!

    • St Donatus

      Don’t quit. I have experienced the same thing. I left the church for thirty years. I had joined a very evangelical group but sad to say, they didn’t have the truth. I think what you are experiencing is similar to what the apostles had to experience. When I came back, I started to go to a parish run by the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter. They use the 1962 missal and thus say the Extraordinary form of mass.
      1. PASSION: There is lots of passion, some times too much in fact. When we are involved in anything, at least half the parish turns out. I witnessed this at a Abortion demonstration where our parish alone had more than the rest of the city and we weren’t even the organizers.
      2. EVANGELIZATION: We do a lot of evangelizing. In fact, there are multiple conversions every year, about half are converted by friends from work. At this point, about half the congregation were raised in some other religion.
      3. STUDY: We have mens and ladies groups for extra Bible study that meets once a month or more. There are also smaller studies available.
      4. No one who is living in mortal sin is allowed to receive communion or volunteer fro work in the church.
      5. The priests are paid a minimum amount. The only time I remember a request for money is when the Sewer line to the street broke and they needed $10,000 to have it repaired. Almost all the maintenance and remodeling is done by volunteer church members.

      Otherwise, it is just like the Catholic church was for almost 2000 years until the last 50 years or so.

      I drive an hour each way for mass and other activities. The Masses are holy and reverent. The priests are all holy men. The parishioners generally arrive 15 minutes or more prior to mass and 15 minutes or more after mass to pray. Everyone genuflects, no talking in the Nave, kneeling for Communion, long Confession lines, and on and on.

      While the ‘liberal’ parishes are dying out, the conservative and reverent parishes are booming. Try to find a good Latin mass church or a good and reverent English parish. God will give you what you need for a parish. As far as the school, sometimes I think the Catholic School system is lost but I have heard of some that are very good but they are in more traditional diocese like Lincoln Nebraska and places like that. Some people have moved to be close to my parish because they felt their faith was at jeopardy at their old parish. For God we must be willing to do anything.

    • Howard Duncan

      JD,

      Before I converted from agnosticism to Catholicism, aside from reading about the faith and listening to Catholic radio and TV, I had conversations with a relative and cradle Catholic who worked for the diocese in order to find out more about the church. One conversation was by cell phone from this person who was speaking during a break while visiting someone in a Catholic hospital. The subject of abortion came up and this person asked me why I would object to abortion under certain circumstances such as rape. “But why should a woman suffer in this case?”

      I was driven further towards the Church by this comment. The truth of something can be illustrated to me very forcefully when we listen to the counter-truth expressed with nothing to back it up but vague feelings, ignorance, and willful disregard.

      Not being as strong as St. Paul when dealing with the Corinthians, for strength I gravitated towards others in the Church that shared my devotion. It also helps to understand that patience is also an expression of trust in God.