The Catholic Moment: A dirty job
August 25, 2011
By Jeanne Hunt
It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. I hate telling people what to do, but the fact of the matter is that a whole generation of Catholics is falling by the wayside. It’s up to you and me to turn things around. Each year hundreds of babies are baptized in our archdiocese and only 17 percent show up six years later for religion classes at the parish. So, what happened?
It appears that young families are drifting away from their faith under the weight of parents working, no time for church, no time for anything but the necessities. It isn’t an overt rejection of their faith. It’s more a subtle shift in direction that puts a huge grin on the devil’s face. Most parents will tell me that they meant to get in gear with Sunday Mass and CCD classes, but they never got around to it.
That’s where you and I come in. What if everyone reading this article made an effort to help one family return to the active way of the Catholic faith? That one family could be your very own. I don’t think God wants most of us to volunteer to be missionaries in Central America, but He wouldn’t mind if we became His missionaries to our son’s family, our sister’s three kids, etc. The fact is that these local beloved infidels really need us.
The hard part about this is that we don’t want to interfere. The internal conversation goes like this: “It’s none of our business whether people go to church or how they raise their kids. After all, the parents are adults. Let them get off their duffs and do what our grandparents did: raise their kids Catholic because it’s their responsibility to carry out the promise they made when they baptized their child….”
It’s so easy to convince ourselves that it isn’t our place and that washing our hands of the matter is justified. (I believe Pontius Pilate took that route as well).
We hesitate to talk about faith with our family and friends because we’re embarrassed and don’t want to be labeled as religious fanatics. What I’ve come to know is that God wants us to invite others to know Him. It’s called evangelization and it starts in our own families. God calls us to be His voice of love.
How uncomfortable we feel about it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in God’s book. It may even be possible that we’re the only one God is asking to do the job. I get a little squirmy thinking that my excuses could stand in the way of my grandchild accepting the gift of faith. This is challenging stuff!
Last year, I had every intention of devoting my Sunday mornings to helping my grandchildren attend the preschool religious education program in their parish. I read the announcement in the bulletin that sign-ups were taking place in August and the fee was $160.00 per child. That’s where the trouble started: I wasn’t willing to sponsor my three grandchildren. I wasn’t able to face the fact that I believed that $500 was too much money to spend on Jesus, so I just ignored the announcement.
I’m sure I spent my $500 on more important things like restaurant meals, books, sports event tickets, new shoes, gourmet cheese…. When the rubber meets the road, I realize that it’s worth every penny of that money to ensure that those little souls learn to love their church and their God.
So what’s your excuse? You don’t want to tell your kids what to do? You’re embarrassed to talk about your faith? You can’t spare the money? It’s August, and every parish has its doors wide open to welcome our children into its religious education program.
It is a “dirty job,” but we need to put aside every reason we have for ignoring the fact that faith is a gift and that you and I are the ones who bring it to our children. We are all Catholics today because someone loved us enough to do the dirty work of passing on the faith.
Hunt is the catechetical and evangelization advisor for St. Anthony Press/Franciscan Communications.