Not About Movies

I have a long piece up over on the Catholic side of Patheos. It’s about the sad state of catechesis in the Church today.

Here’s a snip…

“Who can name the Gifts of the Holy Spirit?” It was Pentecost, and our pastor was walking up and down the middle aisle with a goofy grin and tone that said, “Bear with me, here.” There were a few embarrassed chuckles from the congregants who hadn’t already tuned out. Father pressed on, “Come on, anybody?” Again, the people dutifully and lightly snickered. This was supposed to be the funny set up of some point, right? I didn’t think it was funny at all. I raised my hand.

I think our pastor was a little put out because he really hadn’t intended for anyone to speak up. He made a comical face and then said, “Really?” The people laughed. Still grinning but with his hands on his hips, Father nodded at me, “Okay, let’s hear it.” So, I answered using the WUCKPuFF formula I had learned back in the third grade from Sr. Mary Randall, RSM. “Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, Piety, Fortitude, Fear of the Lord.” (Probably because I am a child of the Sixties, I prefer the word “Reverence” to “Fear of the Lord,” but WUCKPuFR just doesn’t work as well as a mnemonic.)

People gasped. Father approached our pew actually shocked. He was intrigued and, I guess, figured maybe I had gotten lucky. “Stand up and say them again. Slower.” So, I did. And then our priest looked around and pointed at me and people applauded. Like I had done something extraordinary. Like I had said something brilliant. Like I was some kind of theological nerd, instead of just a fellow disciple in the pew, delineating something so catechetically pedestrian that seven-year-olds should know it before we ever think of placing the Eucharist in their little mouths. I would have been much more impressive explaining the meaning of all the gifts but Father clearly didn’t want to go that far with his little trivia moment.

At the Sign of Peace, an older woman behind me shook my hand and leaned in conspiratorially. She said with a touch of bravado, “I knew Piety.” I had to force myself not to grimace in dismay. “Peace be with you,” I rejoined.

  • Christian LeBlanc

    I was born in ’57 and Baltimore Catechized. It was fine as long as you didn’t run into someone who wanted to show you that the Catholic religion wasn’t Scriptural. Good luck wit’ dat in the South.

    Back in 1999 my wife and I wrote our own Scripture-based curriculum (w/ pastor’s permission) to replace the gauzy RCIA program we got from our Bible-Belt Diocese:

    In 2003 I moved to catechizing 6th-graders. I eventually chucked the textbook, and wrote a Scripture-based curriculum (w/ DRE’s permission). I followed it up with a book recounting a complete year of teaching the kids the Catholic faith with a Bible instead of a textbook:

    I may be living in a unique part of America, but I don’t see Institutional Catechetics getting the job done well enough to give the local kids a fighting chance of staying Catholic.

  • Mary Emily

    Thank you! You said everything that *needs* to be said about RE in American Catholic parishes. You mentioned Catholic novels? Can you direct me to a list of those required in your program?

    • brnicolosi

      I have a curriculum somewhere and if you send me an email I might just send you a copy. But, for now, we use the following: Silence, Brideshead Revisited, The River by Flannery O’Connor, The Grand Inquisitor, The Lord by Guardini, Man’s Search for Meaning and Till We Have Faces.