I had a conversation with my mom the other day. She was urging me to try to find a different parish, because although I love the one we go to, there are at least three youth groups for three different languages and not much of a community for English-only stay-at-home moms with small children. Both of us. It took a lot of repeating for her to accept, or at least pretend to accept, that there simply aren’t that many folks like me in our area. We’re in the Seattle blob; most people don’t have as many as two kids, not before the elder is in at least preschool; those who do live in areas where the homes have more bedrooms for a lower price. Most of our parish has grandchildren or great grandchildren — it shows. On any given Saturday or Sunday, most of the small children will be there with a grandparent, not a parent. For whatever reasons, parents seem to only show up with older children, at least school age. I think I can make a stab at why there are so few my age showing up unless they’re part of a subculture.
When I looked around for a good direct link for the parable of the sower, I found I wasn’t the only one making the connection between that story and modern religious education. It is kind of obvious, given the original point, but musing on it, and having a bit of a agriculture background, I gave it a different twist and took the metaphor in a totally different direction. (Part of the appeal of parables is how well they work for understanding things.) I started picturing the seeds as our members, the ground as the culture/situation they’re in, and that made me think about various seed treatments that could be used. Fertilize the soil? Sites like this do that. Try to work in amendments to improve the dirt? Living our lives well, and trying to form the general culture around us. Probably the best return for effort, because it focuses on the individual, would be dipping the seed in stuff that it will need to get started, giving it an edge even in bad soil. That would be our vast store of literally millennia of Catholic thinking and philosophy, something I’ve only splashed about in.
From conversations, especially recently, with one of the convert Catholic ladies who also writes here, I’ve found out that a lot of our most enthusiastic members were offered a much different religious education than I was; I make jokes that we got Buddy Christ in felt robes, there’s a reason that (rather obscene) movie had the caricature, there’s a hunk of truth in it. I didn’t even know we had a catechism until I ran into it being mentioned in the blogosphere. As best I can tell, parents assume that whoever is doing CCD classes will cover this stuff, and the CCD folks are doing basic “now let’s cut out fish and loaves of bread while we listen to a shortened version of that miracle” type education.
It’s not as if the Church’s theology is not interesting, or can’t be made so. I bug the boogers out of a lot of folks who are around me for too long by finding reasons to plug both Jimmy Akin’s Theology of the Living Dead and Michael Flynn’s two posts, Midieval SciFi and Return of the Dog-Heads. (If the name sounds familiar, it may be that you or someone you know has good taste in authors.) There are even blogs where folks play around with ideas and practice persuasive dialog, speaking of authors.
All of these sites are especially close to my heart because I wish that I’d had access to them, or something like them, as a kid in school. I was challenged on many things I knew the Church taught, sometimes my understanding was rather loose on exactly what they taught, and I had no weapons to defend the Church, or myself. This is a horrible abandonment, something as basic as the common humanity of the unborn that is shared with all other humans, easily demonstrated by science via basic biology, would have been very useful. Good heavens, one of the things that got me going on religious blogging was how many of my geek friends were cradle Catholics who’d been driven out by false teachings from relatives! (Well meaning, I am sure, but they had no right to substitute their prudential judgment for that of their young relatives, especially while keeping them ignorant of the various resources related. If it had been done right, some of the most rabid opponents of the Church I’ve met might be among her most vocal supporters. I probably still wouldn’t agree that Harry Potter is evil, though, which may or may not be more important to them.)
Some of my fellow writers have suggested that the Catholic faith may be something that is easier for the college educated to grasp; they looked at some surveys, and noticed that more education was associated with people who were religious Catholics in the first place staying Catholic. That is actually what first got me thinking about the seed metaphor, applying it to my own life, the sort of folks who are more likely to seek out college are more likely to dip themselves in the growth compound of the Church’s history, even if it’s just by accident like I did. EWTN and various Catholic radio stations are great for this, and I’ve made liberal use of Catholic.com in the last few years as our Church has been frequently challenged on various teachings, and I was shocked to realize how many of my young, brave, web-savvy Catholic cousins (distant, sadly–both in blood and physically) had no idea that there were resources they could use for things like this.
If the very religious parents of my cousins didn’t know to share this stuff with them, then I suspect that the other cradle Catholics that are having little kids now, like me, likewise just…fell through the cracks. Hopefully, they’ve got enough of a grounding in the Church that when their kids are my little cousins’ ages, they’ll suddenly start going to Church more often, but I don’t think they’ll give their kids the tools needed any more than my Youth Group did. It’s important to know that Jesus loves you, yes, but it’s also important to know what He expects — and why.
Got any good recommendations for Catholic websites?