Monday, December 21, 2015

SAVE THE LITURGY SAVE THE WORLD

"You cannot imagine what it was like to say words like “we” and “our Father” and “us” while standing at the head of a congregation that was turned together in a physical expression of unity. No matter how one might argue to the contrary, it is impossible to say “we” while looking at 500 people and not be speaking to them." - Fr. Richard Simon
A special thank you to Anonymous December 20, 2015 at 9:17 AM. He/she has proposed several points that help us get to the root of the NCW problem - which is not an NCW problem - but a much deeper problem - and one that concerns our salvation and the salvation of our children for whose souls we parents will be held to account. Let us first copy Anonymous' comment in full. And here is the link to the original post on which this comment was made. 



Whoa whoa whoa...before anyone gets beat up with a Nazified purge of volunteer catechist teachers or aides. The situation in Guam is not unique in the way CCD is conducted in the entire USA. I am not aware of other CCD methodologies around the world but at least I am familiar with Guam and US. While there may be aberrations and slacking on the part of some volunteers, it is up to the DRE of every parish to supervise and correct these. And, yes, I agree that catechetical formation starts at home. Unfortunately some parents drop off their kids like in a babysitting class so that they can go grocery shopping, clean house, etc. Would that they are going through Adult Faith Formation simultaneously as their kids to give them the material they need to share their faith. Classes don't end after the session, parents need to supplement these lessons with action.

Secondly, I do not think it fair to compare the Magisterium of the Church with the best practices of a sect. The Catholic Church does not subscribe to 'Sola Scriptura' so she has not put sole emphasis on the rote memorization of scripture passages. Instead emphasis had been on rituals, liturgies and other Catholic identifiers that many fundamentalist and fly-by-night Protestants alike do not understand and refuse to validate. To say that Catholics are not as scripture-savvy as Protestants (who write copious notes on bibles rather than allow them to accumulate dust on shelves) is quite unfair. In fact many Catholic scripture scholars have distinguished themselves in interreligious dialogues and publications. To say, however, that we have plumbed the depths of what we can achieve as Catholic Christians is untrue. More can be done in terms of motivating children and adults to know, appreciate and share their faith. We have to put out money where our mouth is. Is the present catechetical system working? Should we invest in salaried catechists? How about an aggressive adult faith formation? Do we even have to subject our kids in Catholic Schools (who study Catholic Theology on a daily basis) into a parish program? These are only some questions that we can start asking once we get rid of this bigger problem of the NCW, whose interpretations of scripture put more confusion and chaos in this already complicated issue.

The aforementioned comments have validity to start a conversation but these should not condemn or consign to accusation the current pedagogical efforts of our catechists and aides who are sometimes given the least importance in parish programs.

MY COMMENTS FOLLOW

At the outset, let us affirm that the discussion here in no way aims at "volunteer catechist teachers." They are just that, volunteers, and as far as I'm concerned, they are just as much a victim of the same system that has engendered the general mass exodus from the Catholic Church. The problem is elsewhere as I will illustrate.

First, let us begin by recognizing that we have a problem.

As I mentioned in the original post, we had a problem with an exodus from the Catholic Church long before the NCW became a problem - and still today, more "Catholics" are leaving for other faiths or no faith at all, than are joining the NCW.

You are correct. The "situation in Guam is not unique in the way CCD is conducted in the entire USA." In fact, you make my point. The entire Catholic USA is a failure, and Guam right along with it.

Both Pew Research and CARA polls show that Mass attendance - measured in those who attend Mass at least once a week - has fallen by half since 1965 (the end of "The Council), with only 24% of Catholics attending. More eye opening, and relevant to the current discussion is the fact that a whopping 2/3 of Catholics do not believe in "absolute standards of right and wrong."


Meanwhile, and to my point of the exodus to other faiths, a March 2013 Pew article reports:
'Strong' Catholic Identity at a Four-Decade Low in U.S.
http://www.pewforum.org/2013/03/13/strong-catholic-identity-at-a-four-decade-low-in-us/

...while those with a strong Protestant identity has jumped to 54%:



So yes, you are correct, Guam is no different than the rest of the U.S. Apparently we are all going to hell in a hand basket together. And so far, the solution appears to be what you offer here: more of the same and a personal defense of individual volunteers. That's nice, but not only does it not address the problem, it enables it. I will explain. In fact, you illustrate the problem here when you say:
"I agree that catechetical formation starts at home. Unfortunately some parents drop off their kids like in a babysitting class so that they can go grocery shopping, clean house, etc. Would that they are going through Adult Faith Formation simultaneously as their kids to give them the material they need to share their faith. Classes don't end after the session, parents need to supplement these lessons with action."
Let's work backwards. Just WHAT Adult Faith Formation are you referring to? Other than RCIA for those coming into the church, and mandated classes for new godparents and engaged couples, WHAT Adult Faith Formation is there? 

So to the point. Individual priests have made periodic stabs at this (and thanks be to God for at least that), but the NCW aberration is (sadly) the only thing out there that offers a systematic diocesan-wide program of "Adult Faith Formation." 

One wonders why the Sister Marian Arroyo-led Office of Faith Formation even exists, and more so, what does she do with all the money she gets from the Catholic Extension Society for this supposed "Faith Formation!" 

In short, THERE IS NO systematic and generally available Adult Faith Formation. 

Now, before we go on, I am not proposing that we do anything like the NCW or even institute a regular classroom type program for adults. I will explain later. 

Meanwhile, let us address your gripe about parents dropping off their kids and essentially using the CCD program as a baby-sitting service. 

Again, you are correct. But now hang on. Whose fault is that? By demanding attendance at a certain number of classes and Masses and retreats and whatever else in order that one might receive the sacraments, we have essentially taught parents that they are not good enough to educate their own children. We have effectively taught them that they must leave said education to "the professionals." By demanding attendance, our parish educational systems have usurped the God-given authority of parents and the right of those parents to educate their own children. 

They don't know that they have the authority and the right because they have not been taught, and are forced into believing that their children must be "approved" by CCD system authorities in order to receive their sacraments.

And given the forty years of this mess, they are probably victims of the same parental-rights-usurping system - having been forced to sit through a series of attendance demands in order to receive their own sacraments. 

Essentially our system turns reception of the sacraments into a series of graduation rituals, and once graduated, guess what? They see themselves as DONE - and as empirically demonstrated - most of them act as such.

But worse, our system destroys families by robbing the children from the "church of the home," and forcing them to sit through a forced scenario which parallels a school system that most already resent. 

Compare what we do with what St. John Paul II reminded us of what we SHOULD do:
APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION: CATECHESI TRADENDAE OF POPE JOHN PAUL II, ON CATECHESIS IN OUR TIME
Family catechesis therefore precedes, accompanies and enriches all other forms of catechesis. … "the church of the home"remains the one place where children and young people can receive an authentic catechesis. Thus there cannot be too great an effort on the part of Christian parents to prepare for this ministry of being their own children's catechists and to carry it out with tireless zeal. Encouragement must also be given to the individuals or institutions that, through person-to-person contacts, through meetings, and through all kinds of pedagogical means, help parents to perform their task: The service they are doing to catechesis is beyond price.
It is very clear. Children are to be educated in the faith in the "church of the home," and institutional encouragement and "pedagogical means" (that's you) is to be given to the PARENTS. 

Our Church has always taught this, despite its almost inverse implementation in most dioceses by the "professional church" - defined as a whole new class of titled gatekeepers: people, mostly well-meaning, who decide whether your child receives the sacraments or not based on accounts receivable and attendance sheets. 

I've long maintained that the dismal failure of our system (empirically that cannot be argued) is due to our "locking up the Holy Spirit." It is clear that the Holy Spirit, as heard from Genesis to the latest Apostolic Exhortation, has given the duty of their children's salvation to the parents. And so long as our system takes children from the parents, the Holy Spirit, i.e. the Will of God, his plan for the family, is stymied if not shunned. 

Before we go on, I want to say that I am dreadfully familiar with the argument that parents are invited to attend the CCD classes with their children, etc. Sigh. Is that the "church of the home?" Really? Who do the children see there as the authority, as the source of instruction? Certainly not the parent. In fact, the parent is degraded into nothing more than another attendee or at best, an aide. That is NOT the "church of the home."

I will address the second part of your comment in another post. For now, I would like to press on to a solution. Surprise! Why don't we actually try doing what the Church instructs? Why don't we send the children home where they belong and "through person-to-person contacts, through meetings, and through all kinds of pedagogical means, help parents to perform their task"??

In short, WHY DON'T WE JUST DO WHAT OUR CHURCH SAYS TO DO instead of constantly running to the defense of a demonstrably failed system which is really nothing more than running to the defense of this or that person so that feelings may not be hurt?

There are few things that people take more personally than their "volunteerism," regardless of the cause. So I am well aware of the number of enemies who will be added to the list with this post. However, I am really on YOUR side. You have been duped into this by a "professional church" that prefers to delegate and administrate rather than do the hard "person to person" work of leading souls to heaven one soul at a time. 

In fact, even many pastors are victims of this system, having been made to feel inadequate by the "professional church," by degreed persons with letters after their names. Such persons certainly have a place and may be useful, but the real DRE - the Director of Religious Education - is ALWAYS the pastor. He does NOT delegate that duty. That is why he is called PASTOR. He can be helped by religious education coordinators and other persons willing to help, but he is the DIRECTOR, and he is ultimately and eternally answerable for the souls placed in his care. 

So now we get to the main deal. 

REAL catechesis starts in the liturgy. Lex orandi, lex credendi. The law of prayer is the law of belief. Or further paraphrased: as we pray, so shall we believe. There is nothing so "catechetical" as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered as if it really is (and it is) a Holy Sacrifice: reverently, solemnly, prayerfully, heavenly - in short, where ALL the focus is on Christ and his pure offering to the Father. 

Early in our family's life, I sought out such an experience of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for my children. I wanted a sacrificial sacrality to seep into their consciences from the moment they had a conscience. I wanted them to be wrapped in the experience of the Holy. I wanted them to kneel before the Savior of the World made flesh and blood and placed on their tongues. I wanted Jesus Christ himself to be their "catechist" from the cross as we kneel at the foot of that cross on Calvary every time we place ourselves in the presence of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 

I knew that despite my personal failings as a parent, Christ the catechist, Christ from the cross, in the Flesh and Blood poured out from that cross at each and every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, would suffice and make up for the gaps in my parenting. 

It does not take an exceptional priest to do this. It only takes a priest who will "say the black and do the red," and a priest who is willing to "get out of the way," so that it is not the priest we see or hear in the Mass, but Christ himself. It helps if the priest is also a good homilist (as ours is), but no homily - however good - will ever supplant the One Homily of "this is my body, this is my blood...poured out for you.

EVERYTHING flows from this. 

Thus while the meetings and pedagogical means advocated by Pope St. John Paul II are to be pursued, it is not necessary for priests and pastors to add even more to their frantic schedules by running about recruiting ever more "volunteers," hiring more "DRE's," or even offering classes themselves - which I'm sure would be much appreciated and well attended. All that is necessary is already found in the absolutely HOLY celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Without this, there is nothing. 

I thought about ending with the above, but can already hear the criticisms of "who are you to judge" - be it from priests or people - relative to the degree of holiness of which the Mass is celebrated by this or that priest and this or that congregation. 

I can only refer you back to the data. As this CARA research shows, there is an absolute and consistent decline from 1965 to 2015 in everything Catholic, except for the number of Catholics which has gone up largely due to Mexican immigration. 

The irrefutable decline is usually blamed on "the times." But that's a coward's way out. Christ was born under Herod. The Church was born under Nero. As the Liturgy goes, so goes the Church. And as the Church goes, so goes the world. Not to believe that is not to believe that Jesus has conquered the world.

Fight back against the Herod's and Nero's (and the Kiko's) of our age. Save the Liturgy, save the World. Meanwhile, send the kids home. We're losing. 

6 comments:

  1. Thank you, Tim, for such an exhaustive and passionate exposition of the current CCD dilemma. I wrote the comment you quoted and had wanted to open up a meaningful discussion. I had earlier included my name in my comments but was told to desist because of the institution with whom I am affiliated. Out of respect I acquiesced. Thank You for your reply.

    I do agree with all the points you mentioned. You certainly did not make an enemy out of me but affirmed a sneaking suspicion that your great love for the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church drives you nuts when you encounter these clueless and unnecessary activities generated by a so-called Office of Faith Formation, et al. We started out this topic with scriptural interpretation or the "bastardization" of such important resource. Then it moved to Protestant vis-a-vis Catholic methodology of teaching Holy Scripture. Then it evolved into the entire CCD system. I believe and I do agree that we need to stay out of the Holy Spirit's way and that church teaching needs to be placed in the hands of parents. I could not agree more: I was raised up in a household wherein my parents did the teaching through their words and action. We did not attend CCD classes per se. They made sure we had family prayer daily and before going to bed. Boy Oh Boy, was I so fortunate when I now think about it! Yet therein is the opening of Pandora's box! Yes, Christ was born under Herod. The Church was born under Nero. But...

    How many of our youth have parents who remain married to each other and are in the same household? How many of our kids having kids really know their faith well enough to have the confidence in sharing? Do they even demonstrate moral authority in their own homes? For some it comes down to economics and so they delegate religious and moral formation in the pedagogical setting. For some, religion is nothing but a grudging Sunday Mass attendance, an obligatory rosary for a deceased family member, etc. Many, thank goodness, have fought the inclination to relinquish their authority and power to instruct their kids through personal example and words. Thank God for the latter group's perseverance and creativity, I remain hopeful. Could it be that an archdiocese can be reborn under NEO???

    My point is that we have opened up a can of worms that many refuse to look because we have neither the desire nor the will to throw out. Not everything fits the bill. I still believe in the basic unit of the family as the ideal but the reality points to diverging awareness of our situation. Can we find reasonable answers and concrete solutions? One practical solution you pointed out is to bring back the beauty and appreciation of the Sacred Liturgy as instructed in the Roman Missal. Second is to send the kids home to mom and dad, if ever they are available...or at least one of them. In the background of this chaotic tapestry I want to believe in the ever-vigilant gaze of the Father, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the work of the Beloved Son whose coming we welcome with open hearts.

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    1. Thanks for the support. I must caution you that I am not advocating for the restoration of the liturgy as "one practical solution," nor am I advocating for "bringing back the beauty and appreciation of the Sacred Liturgy." I'll have to explain later.

      Also, the despair over the family situation will not be resolved by continuing to separate them from their parents, no matter how bad the home situation.

      More later.

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  2. i wholeheartedly agree, tim. the failure of catechesis is a widespread and deep problem whose solution for decades has been focused on the wrong things.

    from my own observations, the only domestic catechesis for children that i've seen happening on guam is the basic guidance provided, not by parents, but by aunts and grandmas. usually there's an older aunt or grandma in the family who's devout and who would take on this role. but such catechesis is very basic--the prayers, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. surely this needs to be built up.

    as i mentioned in another comment on another post, i read the book "forming intentional disciples" on the long flight back to guam a couple of days ago. the author, sherry weddell, cites the same statistics you did. i hope to write up a summary/review of the book at some point soon. but for now, i'll say that i was swayed by her main premises in the book, the core of which points out the root cause as not the lack of catechesis but the lack of *evangelization*. as she says in the book:

    "We learned that our first need at the parish level isn’t catechetical. Rather, our fundamental problem is that most of our people are not yet disciples."

    "A failure of catechesis may have been a major factor in the 1960s, but we are now two generations past the council. The situation in the West today is far beyond a failure of catechesis."

    "Catholics who become Protestants say that their strongest reason for doing so was 'that my spiritual needs were not being met.'"

    "The majority of adult Catholics are not even certain that a personal relationship with God is possible."

    "The majority of Catholics in the United States are sacramentalized but not evangelized. They do not know that an explicit, personal attachment to Christ — personal discipleship — is normative Catholicism as taught by the apostles and reiterated time and time again by the popes, councils, and saints of the Church."

    to me, those last two quotes are crucial, because they've provided a great opportunity for the ncw and evangelical protestants to pull many people away from the Catholic Church.

    the beauty and drama of the Liturgy can draw and attract people to the Church (i've heard stories of this happening in our parish in seattle--and it's not even an extraordinary form Mass). the Liturgy will help keep them in the Church. but what needs to happen in between those stages is the question.

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    1. Rey, I would be careful with that book. This sentence: ""The majority of Catholics in the United States are sacramentalized but not evangelized" is right out of Kiko's manual. I will speak more to the idea of "evangelization" later.

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  3. Unfortunately; no, it is not just unfortunate, but it is extremely sad that not all, but many of the pastors in our island parishes function and view themselves primarily as “CEO’s” of their parishes. They are chiefly focused on their administrative roles and duties while ignoring canonical duties and expectations. Their concern about the perdition of the souls entrusted to their care, woefully, is secondary! This is the description someone used to describe some of our pastors, based on observances and the quite obvious lack of pastoral commitment. We agree! It is true! It does sadden many of us especially those of us who have seen a time when Catholicism was reverently celebrated; when our Catholic Faith was spirituality nurtured and led by example by the pastor and so, it was devoutly practiced and observed. Our Faith was also profoundly taught and therefore understood, welcomed, loved and accepted! The remnant Church will not despair however; but it is entirely up to us to take up the slackness, in spite the fact that there are fewer of us than there are the lukewarm of us.

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  4. Again, all these against the backdrop of a failed leadership on the edge of an embattled citadel. Apuron has to go so the people of God can move on with new pastorally-oriented leadership. If ever an Archdiocesan Pastoral Convention rises out of the ashes of neo-tainted Church, we have to be ready in expressing our deepest desires, staunchest aspirations and heart-felt expectations on the Church we build and on the pastors that lead us. These should form the mission and vision of a renewed Catholic Church on Guam. Leave Guam, NCW and Apuron and cohorts, we have a Church to build.

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