Sacramentalized But Not Evangelized? Maybe You Just Forgot!

Sacramentalized But Not Evangelized? Maybe You Just Forgot! June 13, 2015

Sleeping studentsI hear this all the time, on Catholic radio and in Catholic Facebook groups: A majority of American Catholics have been “sacramentalized,”  but never catechized or evangelized.

That is, they’ve gone through sacrament prep classes for First Communion and Confirmation, rote courses, but have never really been given the tools to understand what the Catholic Church teaches and why. That’s why they can’t be blamed for not knowing what the Church says about, say, abortion or birth control or any of a number of seminal topics. They don’t know:

Is it necessary to attend Mass on Sunday? You’re pretty sure it doesn’t really matter, or surely your second grade teacher would have said something about it.

Is masturbation always wrong? Well, Miss Snively never mentioned it.

Can you take the Pill if you already have a couple of kids? I mean, raising kids is hard these days, and college is expensive! The Church understands, right?

Is it okay to live together before marriage? I mean, everyone’s doing it! It saves a lot of money, and my gym teacher never warned us against it….

You’ve never learned what the Church teaches? Are you sure you weren’t just fooling around in class that day?

*     *     *     *     *

Catholic apologist Marcus Grodi tells a story about his conversion, and how he wondered why no one had ever told him these things–these important things about Catholic theology. I forget the exact details, but basically, he found a box in which his mother had kept papers from his childhood, and there they were! The answers to all his questions! He had been told, but he had not been ready to hear.

I think we’re all like that. I was a student in Catholic schools for twelve years, but as a young adult I was sure I knew better than anyone!

Later, as a catechist, I was sometimes frustrated because it seemed our textbooks cycled through the same old things again and again–spending time each year on the same old facts, when there was so much else to read, to study, to understand. Looking back at it, I understand why the curriculum was constructed in that way: It works because in the classroom, some of those bright-eyed students are tuned out, thinking about football or the latest fad or the cute boys in study hall. Maybe next year, when a teacher tells them again, the Good News will fall on good soil and will stir their hearts to Faith.


Image credit: By Love Krittaya (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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  • I haven’t used the textbook in years.

  • Colleen Vermeulen

    I think you’re mixing terms. The title reads that the phrase under question is “sacramentalized but not evangelized.” But, then in the body of the post it changes to “sacramentalized but never catechized or evangelized,” defined as, “gone through sacrament prep classes for First Communion
    and Confirmation, rote courses, but have never really been given the
    tools to understand what the Catholic Church teaches and why.” Based on this description you give, I think you’re clearly talking about “sacramentalized but not catechized.”

    It is possible to participate (quite “successfully”) in catechetical experiences without being fully evangelized (usually it’s pre-evangelization and/or the initial proclamation of evangelization that are skipped or presumed). Catechesis is part of, but not equivallent to the Church’s full cycle of evangelization (

    Another reason it doesn’t seem that you’re actually talking about evangelization (as initial proclamation) is that if one forgets the initial proclamation and their own essential, personal response to that Gospel of salvation–then it wasn’t responded to fully. Pope Emeritus Benedict describes response in belief as something that gives life a new and decisive direction–that’s not information that you “forget” and are reminded of the next year.

    “Sacramentalized but not catechized” seems to be your main point, explained well through your experience. Maybe change the title so that “sacramentalized but not evangelized” (an entirely different conversation) doesn’t get conflated?