When you were a child did you ever receive a sharp pinch on the inside of your arm from one of your parents during mass? It gets your attention. It sure used to get my attention.
Children are often lost during mass with the constant sitting, kneeling and standing. They get fidgety, antsy, and easily distracted. When it happened to me I got pinched. But a pinch is not an explanation.
Children often look to their parents to explain the mysterious rituals and prayers that take place. Yet, they often don’t get a very good explanation. The explanation I got as a child was, “that’s what we do.” I accepted this answer and left it alone.
Once I completed my First Holy Communion I took great joy in being able to get up from the Pew to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. I finally had at least some sense of what was taking place. When I got older my parents and grandparents said I should receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, because after all, we were a Catholic Family, and you had to make your Confirmation.
Teenagers are Smarter Than We Give Them Credit For
But children turn into teenagers and their world seems to change overnight. Teenagers seemingly question everything their parents do at every corner.
In today’s society, traditional religions are often replaced with what I call, “Convenience Religions.” Where I live, in the Coachella Valley, in CA, new storefront churches pop up in strip malls every week. These churches seem to draw the attention of Cradle Catholics who are now teenagers looking for something more appealing, than our traditional Mass. And it seems to be happening at an alarming rate. Our Sacred Liturgy is being replaced with Drums, Guitars and even Rap music.
The organizers and leaders of these “churches” are often reformed gang members, who appeal to our youth and adults alike. I am not taking anything away from anyone finding the inner peace the Holy Spirit can bring to one’s heart and soul. But such “convenience” can easily catch one who never was taught or given the opportunity to learn the richness of their Catholic faith.
Our youth today, have their smart phones attached to their hands, every second of every waking moment. They see the norms of society by the popularity or “views” a person receives on their social media outlets, the sponsors, and even the general thought processes posted on any given topic. We often overlook this aspect of social media as parents, because we can fall into this trap as well.
The other part to this equation is that the internet provides instant access. If our kids are curious about something they’ve heard, or a specific topic, they simply Google it. When it comes to Catholicism, the flood gates open with every view and idea presented about the Catholic Church. Many search results bring stories of scandal and false information about our religion.
Combating The Misinformation
As a father of four I know this all too well. Even though I am a Catechist and an Adult Faith Formation leader, this is often a daunting task for even me to combat. Once a question about our faith is asked, kids have already read several articles written by those who have never stepped inside of a Catholic Church.
Kids today are reading opinions about religion by those who have left the Catholic Church for various reasons and from those that have different religious beliefs. Needless to say, such opinions do not gel with or are diametrically opposed to the beliefs of the Church. When we compound this problem with the simple answer of, “that’s just what we do,” it can have a negative effect and even turn their curiosity away from the church.
As parents and church leaders, we have to stay ahead of the curve. We have to take the time to remind ourselves what we said, “Yes” to during our sacraments and on Sunday’s during Mass. Luckily, this is an easy fix.
When we are asked what we believe in as Catholics, we sometimes start going through the endless memories and facts that we’ve stored in our minds since childhood. But there is a simple answer to this question — the Profession of Faith. I bring out a copy of the Nicene Creed and read it paragraph by paragraph.
Another resource we can refer to is the Catechism of The Catholic Church (CCC). The CCC can be read online, downloaded as a PDF, or ordered as a book, from your favorite online retailer. Chapter One of the CCC, brings a very powerful and heartfelt definition of the Desire of God: “27 The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.” This powerful statement is a building block to reinforce the teachings we take from Mass and bring home to our families.
Putting It All Together
My parish has a requirement for parents to attend Faith Formation classes while their children attend Sacrament Classes. Parents’ classes are during the same time as their children’s’ classes, thus making it easier for the parents to be involved and to grow as their children do down the hallway. Granted the parents will not learn everything in an hour long class, once a week. But the Mustard Seed of Faith will be planted in their souls.
Yet as a Catechist, I am blown away and saddened by the number of people both adults and youth, that pass through our parish’s Sacrament and Faith Formation classes who often don’t even believe in God. Many are merely attending classes to appease their parents, or to get married in the church.
To truly learn and understand our purpose as Catholics, we cannot simply sit at the edge of the “Holy Spirit Pool” with our toes dangling in the water. We have to jump in and become fully immersed in the Holy Trinity. We have to remember our Baptismal promise to reject Satan and to live by the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Our Role as Catholics, parents, Godparents, and followers of Jesus, has to be a full-time commitment. Much like with a gym membership or personal training sessions, we can’t expect results if we don’t make a commitment. Our spiritual commitment starts in our individual hearts and spreads at home. Making the effort to attend Mass weekly, praying at home, and speaking Jesus’ name, will kindle the burning love of the Lord.
We must all be the faithful servants Jesus calls us to be and spread and nurture our Catholic Faith. As Catholics we must grow into the abundant crop that the Lord has called us to be by His sacrifice on the cross.