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Can’t name the 10 commandments? This is pitiful

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Catholic Thoughts, September 2013

This is pitiful! Recently, an archdiocesan priest was teaching a class for catechetical certification for teachers and volunteers. The class included 28 Catholic schoolteachers. To change things up a bit, Father thought it would be fun to randomly ask the teachers a few questions of faith. The first question he asked was “What are the Ten Commandments?” He pointed to a teacher for a response, but the teacher could not name them.

Next, Father asked, “What are the seven sacraments?” Pointing to another teacher, Father received a similar response. The teacher stammered and mumbled but could not list them!

When I heard this story, my mind raced with rage and disappointment. I just could not fathom how the people hired to teach the faith in our Catholic schools don’t know such basic tenets of the Catholic faith. We should all be ashamed of this situation and work hard now to remedy it.

A short time later, my adult son came to my home for supper. He didn’t know it, but he was a sitting duck. I couldn’t wait until he arrived so that I could ask him the same faith questions. I fumed, “I am not giving him one morsel of supper if he can’t answer those two questions correctly.” I told him the story of the ignorant catechetical class and then asked him the pivotal questions. To my relief and pride, my boy got them right. Hence, he got an extra large slice of cherry pie and a blessing from his church-lady mother!

The fact remains, however, that too many Catholics are ignorant of the basic beliefs of our faith. A few months ago I wrote of conversion and catechesis (the study of the faith). While I believe that encountering Christ comes first, I emphasize that catechesis is just as important. We need both conversion of heart and knowledge to grow in our faith. We need to ask ourselves: Can I answer those questions about the Ten Commandments and the seven sacraments? Do I know what Catholics believe? Perhaps as our children return to school to continue their education, we need to do the same. How can we continue our education and immersion in the Catholic faith?

First, establish a home library for inspiration and information. Purchase a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. While not always an easy read, it will become your handy, go-to reference for understanding Catholic teaching and practice. It is a rich treasury of answers to all your Catholic faith questions, such as “What are the sacraments of initiation?” “What are the three theological virtues?” “What makes a sin mortal?”

Second, start reading, like you are right now, The Catholic Telegraph, listening, and talking about your faith. Subscribe to print and online Catholic resources — weekly and monthly diocesan newspapers, spiritual journals, and blogs by Catholic spiritual writers and theologians. Listen to Catholic radio stations and watch Catholic TV shows. Join — or start — a spiritual book club in your parish to explore the latest Catholic books that open up Scripture, provide stories about holy and saintly people to emulate, explain doctrine, and offer new perspectives on how to live an authentically as Catholics.

Third, commit to participating in at least one “update your faith” opportunity a year, perhaps, for example, a half-day retreat, presentation by a Catholic speaker, or a parish Bible study.

All of these resources will prick interest in our faith. If you feel really guilty about being a Catholic dunce, sign up as a rusty Catholic to participate in your parish RCIA classes. Even though those classes are meant for folks who are studying to become Catholic, they are a great place to relearn all that “Catholic stuff” you may have ignored — or forgotten.

If you feel behind in your knowledge of the Catholic faith or deal with children and grandchildren who seem to be clueless, realize that nothing stands in the way of catching up. If you think all my fussing and fuming is much ado about nothing, I challenge you to ask two Catholics to identify the Ten Commandments and name the seven sacraments! I pray that you too will owe them a big piece of pie. If not, invite them to join you in a little “catechesis.”

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