Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Hold that thought. UPDATED

Cruising, as is my wont, through the America Magazine website, I ran across this entry in their blog.

As you might imagine, I have some comment on the matter in, as Monty Python once noted "my own particular idiom." But, being the sterling and fairminded fellow I have reputed to be, I shan't prejudice your reading of the piece with the burden of my take thereon.

So go read it first, and then come back here.

UPDATE - 4/5/08 12:24am:

OK. You went and you read. (If not, shame on you. Go read it now.)

Here's my thinking:

I was floored by the sense of "resigned to the inevitability." This is not to because
a) I'm shocked that such a thing happens


b) that I am dead-nuts certain this won't happen to my sons as I am SUCH a paragon of fatherhood in contrast to everyone else...because this too worries me,


c) that I would never have been such a child, because I was.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was a rather -- well, not exactly lapsed qua lapsed -- um...dormant Catholic. Some people leave the Church out of some traumatic experience, ideological disagreement, or the lure of a different and more compatible belief system. I didn't. I'm not a "statement" sort of guy.

I "left" the way most people "leave" a gym. I still considered myself a member, I just stopped working out; intending to eventually, some day go back. "Catholic slacker" sounds about right.

The nanosecond I got my driver's license, my Wilderness Years began in earnest. I was fully aware what the Church taught, and even more fully aware what the Church taught sharply conflicted with my plans for wild and unsupervised fun. The opportunities for fun were immediate and anything the Church taught was, well, wa-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-ay over there in the dim recesses beyond my sight.

This was the late 1970s and 1980s, after all. Not only would I have had to swim against the zeitgeist, but I also had to deal with a generational disconnect. My parents (both full-on orthodox Catholics) never bothered with home catechesis because, given their personal history and historical environment, that simply wasn't necessary. In their day, if you were from an observant family and you were sent to an orthodox Catholic school, you were good-to-go; it had been like that since forever.

It never dawned on them what I was planning on doing, so it never dawned on them to prepare me for a future they didn't -- couldn't have! -- envisioned.

I also realize that since humans are all part of the fallen race and we have been endowed with Free Will, there will be some who, despite the best efforts of the best people with the best of intentions, will hurl headlong into a Salvationally Challenged Life.

But that air of resignation won't leave me in peace.

To assume (or even imply) that a falling away is inexorable leads me to believe there is something not quite right here.

Aware of my 15-year long gambol throughout the dissolute fun that is the current idiocy of choice for the young and immature-at-heart in modern Western modern society, I have made it a specific point of actively trying wherever/however possible to innoculate my sons against the temptations of the world at large and not assume that going to Mass on Sunday and sending them to a good Catholic school will prove some sort of invincible, anti-secularist force field.

They have to witness (not just hear) my engagement with my faith. The one big thing, I believe, is regular Confession. Since my oldest was 8, we go to Confession monthly (give or take). I am of the opinion someone who is made keenly aware of the need for God's forgiveness -- sacramentally so -- is someone far likelier to hold fast to his (or her) faith. It helps establish not only a proper perspective between a person and God, but also a proper perspective of the Church's Christ-derived authority. It minimizes the risk of egolatry as the spiritual cornerstone of someone's life. Catholicism isn't something I do, it's something as intrinsic to my nature as the warp fibers are to a cloth.

It's also crucial to explain to a child, and not just as Confirmation draws near, why we believe what we do, how we came to believe it and the matter of believing things that are out of step with society or are difficult to hold. And believing is not just a matter of giving silent assent, but of practice in joy. The modern world paints us as dour, dull* and embittered, so we need to combat that hackneyed view by practicing our faith in "good cheer**." To pray, oh...the Rosary as an act of love (not drudgery or rote) with a child is hugely influential. Happy people who are faithful and committed to a life of belief are as great an antidote to the inevitable Great Teenage Lapse as can be. You can be as holy as they get, but if you're relentlessly angry and frustrated, it doesn't show faith in the best light, does it? Your child, keenly attuned to parental foibles at an age when the natural impulse is to do a half-gainer off the nest has his radar on hypersensitive and will sense the merest trace of "do as I say, not as I do."

Whenever you do some act of kindness or charity, explain why you are doing so as a function of your relationship with a loving and benevolent Creator, in your own (admittedly awkward) imitation of Christ as animated by the Spirit. Whenever you help cook meals for the homebound at Thanksgiving, highlight he fact you're not doing it for the accolades of people, or because you're a "swell guy" but because you're lovingly responding to the words of Christ.

Catechize at home and teach by (good and loving) example. And pray together. God knows (literally) there is enough stuff that requires prayer. Aunt Muriel's phlebitis, Cousin Muffy's college applications, Grandpa Wilbur's lycanthropy are not just worries, they are little wake-up calls from God to harken unto Him in prayer. Not just free-form prayer (which is also important) but the various prayers and devotions of the Church. As always, explain, explain, explain.

Lastly, beware of self-fulfilling prophecies...if you argue in favor of that to which you are resigned, chances are you will (sadly) win the argument.



*As someone who has seen my choices in trouserings, Karen can readily attest to the fact I am none of the above.

** Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world. (St. John 16:33)


  • At 11:00 PM, April 04, 2008 , Blogger Joseph Fromm said...

    Stunned silence after reading that blog post.

    The mother seems like she resigned to the fact that her children will not practice their faith in adulthood.

    She sounds like her twenty year service to the Church was futile.

    She never gave any reasons for her childrens lack spirituality.

    My first thought was, "What were you teaching?"

    My second thought was, "What was the percentage of other children that did not make it?"

    And finally, if she taught a faith that hedged its bet, a faith that was alway scratching below the surface of the Truth, the Bible and the Sacraments. Who is really to blame?

  • At 11:52 PM, April 04, 2008 , Blogger Joe said...


    You've been paying attention, haven't you?

    What really jumped at me was, precisely as you said, her air of resignation. Of surrender to an inevitability.

    More to ensue,


  • At 3:14 PM, April 05, 2008 , Blogger Joseph Fromm said...

    I love your analysis, because it really causes a self criticism of the relationship between our own parents and our children, even our grandparents and our aunts and uncles. In my own life and reviewing the spiritual health of my own extended family. Which I would characterize as, "On spiritual life support". A living faith by one member of a family will re-evangilize an entire family. Years of lukewarm and sometimes detrimental St. Anthony Messenger Press handouts, will surely destroy a faith. Good moral training is vital to a living faith, one focused on Salvation instead of how not to be "judgemental".

    Joseph Fromm

  • At 4:30 PM, April 05, 2008 , Blogger Joe said...

    What I find to be key is to live a life that is both joyful and faithful as the ultimate evangelization/catechesis tool.

    I didn't mean to slag my mom & dad. It never occurred to them that I'd ever go wander off drowsily. We live and learn and, ideally, apply the lessons learned the hard way.

    What boggles my mind is the befuddled shrug, the "rolling over" in the face of such a situation.

    Families in danger of this, deserve our unstinting prayers.



  • At 8:15 PM, April 06, 2008 , Blogger Robin said...

    Things never end up the way we think they should. I have tried to be the best example for my son, we sent him to Catholic grammer and high school and now university. He is even a Catholic studies major. He was an alter server, Squire, now a 4th degree which he uptained by 19. I am a lrctor and confirmation teacher as is he. But then he needed surgery on his knee. Then complications set in and we didn't know if he would live through the weekend. Our Parish Priest didn't have time to see him and he waited all weekend to speak the him.He jut kept watching the door! When he was younger he wanted to be a Priest then teacher but was never encouraged by males around him even those that are Catholic. He then decided to be a state trooper and what did he hear... oh great do you know how much money you will make. Every one seems to just see the money and material goods that's it. He seems to talk like one of the guys now his speech and his behavior is like the world. I don't see the example from so many adults that we did when we were younger, my parents were from the generation before the boomers and I'm after. We need to find out how we change things so this won't happen to other young men or we won't have any more Priests. We need alot of prayer.....

  • At 1:09 PM, April 07, 2008 , Blogger Aunty Belle said...

    We all have our stories...our eldest went to a Jesuit college where his "naive" faith was assailed. He has not left the faith, rather has "tabled it" until the "pope kicks a few butts."

    Joe, you wrote: "It's also crucial to explain to a child, and not just as Confirmation draws near, why we believe what we do, how we came to believe it and the matter of believing things that are out of step with society or are difficult to hold. "

    I told ours that the the toxic culture is attempting to strip their faith (and Western Civ) from them. Their mission is to outwit the dastardly liars and to be cheerful in the outwitting.

    Kids love a serious challenge.

  • At 8:16 AM, April 08, 2008 , Blogger Joe said...

    Again, I'm not holding to the view that "only kids with lousy parents" lose their faith, because parents could do EVERYTHING right and the child wind up being a wild-eyed heretic.

    An advantage the children of those people from my generation (late Boomers and onward) have is the fact we KNOW there are idiots out there who will assail a student for "naive faith" and we can therefore prepare them.

    My parents would have been stunned catatonic had such a thing happened. It simply did not exist in their worldview and it made no more sense for them to prepare my sister and me for that contingency as it would have for them to prepare us to fend off an abduction by UFO.



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