Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Catechize me

I've heard numerous Catholic commentators claim that, for the past couple of generations, there has been a serious deficiency in the religious education of Catholic children. They say that for about the past 40 years, most Catholics have grown up knowing hardly anything about the Catholic faith. As a product of Catholic religious education in the '90s, I can see why they're worried.

I think I was one of the lucky ones, relatively speaking. My parents taught me to say my prayers every night from an early age, my mom always brought my brother and me to Mass with her on Sunday mornings, and I was never allowed to skip a Wednesday evening CCD class. And by the time I was confirmed in eighth grade, I still had virtually no appreciation for or understanding of the Catholic faith!

I'm not sure exactly where the disconnect was. All my CCD teachers were wonderful, faithful people, and boy were they trying! But like I wrote once before, I remember hardly anything that they tried to teach me.

And I know I'm not alone. We never even sufficiently learned about the liturgy of the Mass, which became painfully obvious after my own Confirmation Mass. You see, I was assigned to read one of the Scripture readings during the Mass, and I cannot tell you how many of my fellow confirmees came up to me afterwards and complimented me for giving a good speech!

So yeah, if you ask me, something is lacking in Catholic religious education. My intuition is that what's missing is a combination of solid catechetical resources and sufficient time to use them, and that's a shame, because the Catholic faith is a beautiful thing, and children are being done a great disservice if that isn't being adequately conveyed to them.


Tim said...

Speaking from no experience whatsoever with formal religious education apart from my family and what I got through singing in an Episcopal church choir, I might venture a few guesses.

First of all, I would guess most middle school kids are not mature enough to appreciate the full age-old power and beauty of Catholicism, especially with so many other things competing for their attention in society today. Also, I would suppose it would be difficult for a middle schooler to be excited about being dragged to CCD classes every week in addition to school, which in general he's probably not psyched about. And then it doesn't matter how good a teacher is or how good the materials are, if the kid doesn't want to be there and doesn't feel like learning, he won't.

For me, what kept me coming to (and wanting to come to) church, which eventually led to an ingrained (as opposed to instructed) appreciation was my involvement in the music and the fact that my two best friends were in it with me.

So basically, I'd guess that it's very difficult to teach appreciation of the Catholic faith. You could maybe teach things like the structure and history of the mass and such, but again only to people who care, which probably the majority of middle schoolers today don't. I imagine real appreciation, or at least an ingrained appreciation and a desire to pursue further inquiry, can best be attained through prolonged exposure in a positively stimulating setting at a young age. I don't know what this means in terms of recommending a strategy for the Catholic church, but it's all I got right now.

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