Thinking Outside the Box on Catholic Religious Education – UPDATED

Joanne McPortland posted only two pieces in all of January, but they were both hum-dingers.

Yesterday, she dared to ask “What is really wrong with Catholic Religious Education” and then answered her own question with: “just about everything”. In fact, she says we’re catechizing “the wrong damn people!”

. . .part of the reason the adult formation classes and workshops we do offer are so poorly attended—adult catechesis just not a part of our regular expectation and structure. And adding it to an already overscheduled parish calendar doesn’t seem to be much of a solution.

So here’s my totally immodest proposal, audaciously presented on the virtual eve of the grand ComicCon of Catholic religious education, L.A.’s RECongress: Snap out of it. Let’s just stop catechizing children.

Let’s take the whole Titanic of faith formation–the mechanism of decades, the time and money and energy we spend on textbooks and videos and computer programs and crafts and puppets and afterschool programs and catechist certification and convention receptions with Irish dancers and an open bar—and turn it around so it focuses on supporting adults in their faith formation. Let’s stop expecting 7-year-olds to teach their parents that the Real Presence is not some cannibalistic mumbo-jumbo, or that there’s more to the grace-filled witness of Matrimony than the fact that gay high school teachers get fired over it.

Let’s stop sneering at adults who do Veddy Veddy Improper Things at Mass, and invite them into the splendors of liturgy. Let’s stop expecting Deacon or Father to deliver complex moral theology that’s both impeccably orthodox and eminently practical in under 10 minutes on Super Bowl Sunday, and make support for living authentic adult Catholic lives a part of everything we do. Let’s look at sacramental preparation (for all sacraments) as a parish family affair, in which adult Catholics form and prepare younger Catholics. Let’s make the faith formation of adults a priority, and believe me, their children will benefit.

Read the whole thing. Print it out and bring it to church with you tomorrow. Discuss it in the vestibule before or after mass. Bring it up with your pastor, your DRE, other parents. Find out what people think.

I’ll tell you what I think: parents who are truly excited about the faith — because they truly understand it — cannot help but want to teach it to their children.

UPDATE:
Jennifer Fitz has
more thoughts:

Parents don’t need to be reminded how little they know. They need their questions answered. They need someone to take them seriously. To patiently, and yes, sometimes firmly, teach them how to be that responsible parent who knows the faith and passes it on. Parents need you not to give up on them the seventh, or the seventy-seventh, time they goof it up. Don’t wipe your hands of parents and announce, “I’ll do it all for you then!” Keep going. Keep teaching. The grown-ups are just as hungry for Jesus as the children are.

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