Sunday, 7 December 2008


DH is now doing some part-time lecturing. He came home from work the other day with a comment from a student that I found very interesting.

I really like your lecturers. They're depressing and I don't mean that in a bad way. On this topic you are challenging me. I'm finding my view of the world very limited and I'm realising how little I know.

We live in a world where we are becoming increasingly conditioned to have goals in life. To achieve these goals all we need are a step of achievable targets and if we achieve these everything else falls into place and we reach our goals. Universities are now for most students just places where, provided you jump through enough hoops, you get your worthy degree and that is just another target to tick off the list. Thinking for yourself is not on the agenda. Being challenged to alter one's perceptions is an alien concept and one this student had obviously not considered before. The use of the word "depressing" is very interesting.

The effervescent Young Fogey, Fr. Jay Toborowsky has a good post where he contrasts the attitude of parents to catechism classes to attitudes towards sporting commitments. Basically, in general parents will bend over backwards for sporting coaches but not for a priest and his catechists.

Isn't the issue here that the sporting coach has goals, targets and all manner of incentives to get the parents and youngsters motivated. The Church only has the goal of Eternal Life and that just doesn't attract! Few these days seem so motivated. What is wrong with folk??! The Church has the ultimate goal and few seem able to comprehend it because it can't be broken down into bite sized targets that stir ones motivation.

The problem is targets. The journey of the pilgrim is an internal one; getting closer to God in one's heart. It is not something your parents can brag about to the neighbours. You don't get any medals for it. There is no graduation ceremony here on earth. Confirmation itself (the enrollment to the whole proceedings) so often is seen as a cultural rite of passage or just something to please grandma.

Ironically, in yester year the Church had more managable targets; novenas, chaplets, plenary indulgences, pligrimages, Trinity walks, guilds. These are now so unfashionable with the local heirarchy as being somehow primitive and even bad. On their own they probably won't get you to Heaven, but they can't hinder your progress, so how can they be bad?

What do the wise ones give us in their place: Live simply! Recycle some paper and buy some Fair Traid products and think about poor people far far away, cook a trendy meal, have a walk with some friends...lame isn't it? Well it is worthy in a small way, but can all be done without any recourse to Holy Mother Church (Triumphant or Militant)....that is why it is lame. The Body of Christ is almost excluded from the proceedings and the proceedings would probably work quite well without this inconvenience. If this seems like I'm venting my spleen and I'm being unfair, please let me know and I will remove this paragraph.

The Church can't compete with soccer coaches because the language of the Church is now so alien from the everyday speak sporting coaches use:

Souls, resurrection of the body, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, sin, passion, caritas, the Fall, redemption, intercession, obligation, grace, peace...I don't think any of these are on Auntie Adrienne's list of inaccesible works like concupiscence or hermaneutic, but they might as well be as our youth have been strangualted by a curriculum of relevance and blandness that has obliterated their vocabulary.

We just look a like a bunch of weird nut cases....What can we do? Our catechisis can almost seem aimless because the language of salvation is not special, desired or known by our youth.


Anonymous said...

We’d be most grateful if you would post about three forthcoming Latin Masses in Ireland:

Also, we’d be very grateful if you would put our blog on your list of blogs.

God bless you!

St. Conleth’s Catholic Heritage Association

Kirk said...

Sorry for this longish reponse:
A very interesting post Rita. Without making a meal of it I would suggest that materialism/secularism (as personified by the football analogy) provides instant gratification. It is easy and does not require too much effort. Secuarlism is selfishness personfied as it means that you need worry only a bout yourself if you like as there is no 'come back'.
Such things as Fair Trade goods etc while laudable are far enough removed that you don't have to be too involved - not like taking the time to visit an old person on a regular basis (as in your last post) or work with the homeless in your own town.
Just before reading your post I had read an interesting news article on the Herald Tribune (9.12.08). It contained the following:

"Estonia has been bullied into a series of belief systems over the centuries, from Catholicism to Lutheranism to Russian Orthodoxy and Soviet atheism. Seventeen years after gaining independence from the Soviet Union, Estonia is one of the world's most secular nations; in the 2000 census, only 29 percent of its citizens declared themselves followers of a particular faith."

Interesting that this secular newspaper would choose to negatively describe the evangelisation of Estonia by Catholic missionaries as 'bullying'...

Finally I would suggest that the best way for us lay people to evangelise is by example. One time at school I had been helping a student with a particularly tricky homework problem. At the end he thanked me and then said 'you're a Christian aren't you.' I replied 'yes' and he said 'it figures'.
I am no saint but if this child equates my help with the fact that I am a Christian then that is a positive reinforcement in his mind that might bare fruit in the future! Practicing God's presence in this world by practical example and in the practice of our own faith with a cheerful countenance is the way to go. At least that is what I think!

Irene said...

Isn't the issue here one of the Kingdom of God vs. the Kingdom of the world... whose god is mammon.

The kingdom of the world is made very attractive. That is the whole reason for the existance of the advertising industry. And the incentives -- the adrenaline rush, admiration from peers (and parents), the satisfaction of being able to inflict violence on another person and have that violence approved. These are all immediate rewards; death is so far away.

Believe me, our youth want to live, just the same as you and I. But it's very hard for a teen-ager to perceive that he/she one day WILL die. Psychologists always point out how teen-agers think they are bulletproof.

But there is hope. In the pew across from me sits an 11 year old girl who (due to her father's opposition) only recently made her first communion. She is very devout and attentive throughout the entire mass. She currently attends public school, but desperately wants to attend parochial school. So someone has donated tuition, and if that parish has anything to say about it, she WILL attend the parish school... and then Catholic high school and college. There is a good chance that eventually she will find a vocation.

So you see, there is hope. And we haven't even said anything about TV.

Anonymous said...

The Live Simply thing...well, don't start me! Shallow, banal, pointless, Christless, are just some politer words.

I was recently told I needed to lower my standards over my motherly desire to make the children fit for heaven.
I can't Rita. One day I have to stand before God and NO WAY and I going to say I caved on my children's moral and faith upbringing because it got too hard.
But I do wonder sometimes when the Church is going to show any support to families at all. When?