“Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”
Challenges Facing the Catholic Church
“The Religious Formation of the Young”
“How can the Church ensure the sound religious formation of its youth?”
The first problem that we have to face, across the country, is the near bankruptcy in the way children are taught and initiated into the sacramental life. While there are some exceptions, by and large this is the state of affairs. Children are baptized before they know anything about what is going on. They are introduced to First Reconciliation before they have anything much to be penitent about and in a way that almost assumes that their “first confession” will be their “last confession”. They approach First Communion in a better spirit but often within a family context that is more about the “show” then it is about deepening of the family faith experience. Worst of all, our young people receive Confirmation as a kind of “diploma” which ends their religious education just at a time when it should be a sign of deepening discipleship not graduation. In many circles Confirmation has come to be known as the “sacrament after which you do not need to go to church if you don’t want to.
Based on the above portrait there is no way that a sacramental catechesis will attract the young until we as adult Catholics freely engage in a much less passive way in a life of faith and that we approach our faith as wanting to make a difference in the world.
How do we do this? We need to connect worship and mission. Most parishes put a lot of work into their liturgy as well as reaching out to the local community in works of support. But relatively few faith communities pursue the path of promoting structural changes in society. As a church we are not very effective at promoting the overall vision of God’s Kingdom. All too often we focus on making stands on specific issues – abortion, same sex marriage, etc. Rather we must promote human dignity, promote the common good, and promote a consistent ethic of life across the board. These are the pillars of a sound catholic social teaching
While small children should primarily be taught Bible stories, adolescents and young adults need to be introduced to the vision of a Church making a difference in the world. They need to be challenged by the call to daily discipleship – not to the fulfillment of project hours so as to pass a test. Our young people will not be impressed by being told to love the Church or to follow the teaching of the pope. But if they can come to see the Church striving to make a positive difference in the world, with leaders who are in touch with the concerns of everyday people, many of them will make a connection between a Church of integrity and worship.