My students and I had a great debate last week when I had to teach them that the Catholic Church states that Sunday Mass is a holy day of obligation and those who do not attend (without a valid reason; sickness, work conflict, caring for an ill family member) have committed a grave sin. Considering the great majority of my students are Catholic and only 5% of them attend Mass at all, they were ready to fight.
I said “Do you know what a grave sin is?” “A mortal sin” they responded. “Do you know what a mortal sin is?” I continued. “The kind that can send you to hell?” they responded. “Yep,” I said as I pointed at them and continued, “You are all going to hell!” Then there was an uproar and hands jumping up in the air. “I don’t have to go to church to have a relationship with God!” “I was taught that God is forgiving so no matter what I do I can still get to heaven!!” “Church is boring, there is no reason for me to go!!” “Do you go to Church every Sunday?” I answered them honestly, “I never miss Church. Neither do my children or my husband!” They were shocked!!
Then I gave them this argument: Raise your hand if you believe in God (the majority of them do) and in heaven and hell (again the majority do). If you believe in God and you know God wants a relationship with you and in order to get to heaven you need to be close to God why would you not take every opportunity available to you to move closer to God?
Another hand shot up “God knows my thoughts and every hair on my head. God knows me well!!” “That’s true,” I responded. “But it’s supposed to be a two way street. God created us so that we could love him fully and be in relationship with him. It’s a little one sided if He is the only one in the relationship. Would you want to be friends with someone who never talked to you, never visited you or came over to your house and when they walked right passed you they ignored you?”
Then one smart kid got me. “I know the Catholic Church believes it is a mortal sin but what about you Ms. HD, what do you think?” I responded, “This class is taught from the Catholic Church’s point of view!” They all said what do you think personally? I paused and said, “I don’t know for sure! But I don’t think God would send you to hell for not going to Church. However, if you don’t pursue an active, deep relationship with God, I don’t think you are going to get in to heaven. I believe that Church is part of that active relationship!”
I think I really got them riled up! I am so glad I could do it. Many of these teens do not think a thing about God. If I was able to make them mad or get a reaction that wasn’t indifferent then I got them thinking about their faith. I hope that they go home to their parents and share their ideas about how to be close to God. Even if it is a mad spark, it is a spark to get them thinking about God. Indifference breeds nothing; strong feelings lead to thoughts and hopefully to actions. Please keep my students in your prayers. I pray for them daily and I pray that the Holy Spirit works through me however God wants to move me. I am simply a vessel for God.
About the Author
Lori Hadorn-Disselkamp - mom of 4 teens/wife for 20+ years. Lori has been writing at her own website Faith Filled Mom. She writes about the journey of faith we live daily and the ability to recognize God. She is a retreat director at Sacred Heart Academy HS. She just earned her MA in Pastoral Ministry as well as a certification in spiritual direction.