The majority of my adult years in solid Catholic practice happened to have taken place in two settings. One was in an Ocala, Florida parish run by a firm, loving and orthodox priest. His name is Patrick J. O’Doherty and we have some of his audio talks posted on our Catholic Vitamins website. In part, my firm reversion to the faith came about due to Fr. Pat’s leadership and the graces of the Sacraments that came through Father’s work in that parish.
The other place where I had equally good... no make it great leadership was in the Archdiocese of Denver under his excellency, Archbishop Charles Chaput. During our time there, we went through four years of deacon formation. It changed me from a marginally trained and formed Catholic to one who recognized his shortcomings, and the power of the Sacraments in the setting of active and faithful participation in the Church. I went from opinionated and more wrong than not -- to opinionated and often going to Confession for it. I became a daily Mass goer -- and may it please God that I never become anything but.
What all this is leading to is that in the last 15 years, I’ve seen some church and diocese situations where the young people are formed in a mixed bag of truth and love but without much excitement or worry about orthodoxy.
The parish CCD programs have been okay; well, perhaps with a bit too much of cut-outs and coloring exercises; the later classes have been a bit better but with not enough emphasis on lively, joyful faith practice.
During deacon formation program, one of our books was Patrick Madrid’s Search and Rescue: How to Bring Your Family and Friends Into, or Back Into, the Catholic Church. I loved the book and still have it on my shelves. It’s very gentle. Near the beginning, Madrid says that everywhere he goes, he asks the question how many of you have family members who aren’t practicing or have left the Catholic Church? Invariably, the majority of hands are raised.
In a May 6th, 2010 article by Kathryn Jean Lopez, she wrote about this topic under the title WHY YOUNG CATHOLICS ARE LEAVING THE CHURCH. She said that there are a number of reasons: hypocrisy, damage from those in authority, disagreements with the teachings, etc. I’d like to agree and disagree.
For Catholic parents who care about the faith and about their young people staying with the Church -- what can be done? In Kathryn Jean Lopez’s article, she shared the following:
Conservative radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt, who is author of The Embarrassed Believer: Reviving Christian Witness in an Age of Unbelief, says he's "on leave" from the Catholic Church. He argues, "The American Church... needs a reformation." But, he despairs, "none is even remotely close to occurring." Hewitt points to the cathedral in Los Angeles as "the perfect expression of the American Church today -- so sterile it could be an air conditioning plant and designed to please non-Catholics with the taste of the leadership."
From my perspective, that kind of observation may have legs about things going on (or NOT) in the Church at large. But the problems that bring our children to the point of abandonment have more to do with the way they are faith-reared in their homes, and in their faith education programs in their parishes.
About a year ago, we interviewed a family from our parish. It turned out to be a two-part show. (Catholic Vitamin F: Family) and we’ve gotten so much feedback concerning that family. They raised 13 (yes, thirteen!) children to know, love and practice the faith. There were evening rosaries, bible readings, statues and images of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. There were Holy Days of Obligation and daily Masses whenever possible. Those children left the family firmly grounded in their faith.
Now to be honest, not all of them have stayed active as Catholics. But from what we hear, they are Gospel-activated Christian adults. They are people who have God in their hearts. And they carry that witness to others, especially the poor.
The parents of that family didn’t and don’t make any apology for or excuse for raising the kids as REAL CATHOLICS. In one case, I seem to recall that the parents took the kids out of a parish religious education program because it was heavy on felt banners and Kumbaya, and light on real Catholic teaching. In one example of a problem - the teacher wasn’t going to teach the children about mortal sin. What’s that about?
I wonder if you feel that you are doing the best at faith witness and leadership for your children. May it please God the answer is yes. We will have to stand before Almighty God and give answer to how we formed our children. If you have time to do anything about it when they are young -- do so. And if they are grown up and away from the Church, please consider Patrick Madrid’s book.
Oh -- one other resource: may I refer you to the wonderful website and booklet by Lisa Mladinich. You can find her at www.AmazingCatechists.com.
While her book and the site may seem oriented to catechists (and this is true) -- Lisa’s work is equally brilliant and valuable for parents to help bring the faith alive in the precious souls given by God to you for a few years. Lisa’s also a columnist on the Catholic Mom site. Visit her here and on Catholic Moments.
We are in prayer for you.
About the Author
Deacon Tom Fox and his wife Dee are co-hosts of the CATHOLIC VITAMINS Podcast for over 6 1/2 years. Tom has also been a member of the Catholic Mom columnists team for eight years, and was a regular contributor to the Catholic Moments Podcast for three years. Most recently, Deacon Tom has been leading a project to bring Catholic radio to the north central Arizona community where he and Dee reside. Blessings!