Playing at a Parish near You...

There’s a reason many don’t come back

 By Stephanie Block

I struggled with the title for this article.  “Outrageous Programs” would have been true enough, but when something is as common as a cold, real outrage is difficult to muster - again.  

“What!  Another summons to another presentation given by another spiritually-stunted religious?  Can’t we go to the movies instead…?” 

I mean, how much emotion does a person have to expend? 

“Unbelievable” doesn’t work, either.  What’s not to believe?

How about “laughable?”  There is, after all, an entertainment factor here, if you’re in the right mood. The absurdity of Catholics being forced to attend anti-Catholic instruction at a Catholic Church could be the stuff of black comedy - unless this bit of theater is playing in your neighborhood, at St. Everyparish, in which case you may not see the humor.

Which brings us to the point: if you recognize this particular meeting as having taken place at your parish, you’re right.  It did. 

Lesson One

So, after a short, benign prayer service, Sister launched into her theme:  “I can’t get across to students that Mass is only one way to experience the Holy Spirit…Say, we have to get up at 5 a.m. to go to Mass.  If that causes a child to be overly tired and frustrated, it would be better not to go to Mass.” 

Sister gave a naughty, conspiratorial grin: “Oh, my…Father wouldn’t like me to say that!”

Knowing Father, she’s probably right about the last bit. 

But consider what Sister has just taught. 

Since when did being tired or frustrated excuse anyone from going… to school, say?  Or work?  Or, making supper for one’s whiney family?  Or visiting that cranky, sick aunt?   Or helping that cussedly wretched neighbor down the street? Would Sister suggest that one only do those things toward which one is properly disposed?  Hard to imagine. 

Or, perhaps Mass attendance is, in Sister’s world, an exception from all other duties – the single, unique duty from which we are excused if we lack the proper feelings of desire, wakefulness, and interior peace.  If so, one must ask where she learned of such an exception.  Is it found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church?  Scripture?  Church Fathers?  The words of the saints? 

Hmmm.  Seems the Church teaches just the opposite. 

Lesson Two

Sister’s next point was that nowhere in the Bible or in the Catechism of the Catholic Church did it say that a man had to love his wife or how.  “A husband could play golf on his day off and show no attention to his wife” without, strictly speaking, violating scripture. 

Now, wait a minute.  Granting that scripture provides no injunction against wife-abuse-by-golf (as golf had yet to be invented), what about the “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church” verse?   Seems to be both a commandment and an instruction, rolled into one.

“But how do we learn to love each other and the world?  The next world war will be over water: how do we teach our children to be good citizens if they only participate when it’s mandatory.” Uhhh…OK.  Having just dispensed our children from Mass when they’re tired and frustrated, Sister’s going to complain that they grow up to be reluctant citizens? 

“Once their service hours (for Confirmation preparation) are completed, they’re never seen again.” If Confirmation is made to seem like no more than a good citizen badge awarded for service hours, there may be a good reason they leave.

Time for the spiritual component (we knew there had to be a spiritual component).  Sister explained that she used to wake up early in the morning to see the sun rise.  She would raise her right arm and extend it toward the sun and allow the heat and power of the sun to penetrate her body, passing through it and out the left arm, which she aimed toward Saddam Hussein. 

Cosmic nuking?  Do they teach this to the kids – or just to the sponsors?

One parent asked to see a copy of the curriculum.  A good parent, after all, wants to reinforce the lessons at home.

(“Yes, darling.  Jesus said to forgive your enemies, so we zing him with sun energy like this: zaaaap!  sizzle! 

“No, dear, Jesus never did that, but Sister showed us how. 

“What, sweetie?  Does it frizzle Saddam’s hair?  Well, just look at the man!)

But Sister said copies of the curriculum were only for the mentors’ use.  Parents are never to learn the ritual actions for curling the enemy’s beard.  (No, of course she didn’t say that.)

Oh, I’m sorry.  I’m totally lost. 

What was Lesson Two?

Now to Teach the Kids

All right, so what does this parish teach those seeking to be confirmed in the Catholic faith?   This year, they heard a talk from a self-identified neo-Buddhist/Catholic.  Sister introduced them to Centering Prayer.   Some of their teachers are contracepting; others are in irregular marriages.  See, young’uns, the Church is just like The World (yawn). 

Or is it? 

Let’s say it isn’t.  Let’s say we don’t want our children confirmed in The World – or in anything like it.  Let’s say we want our children taught the Catholic Faith and confirmed in it

If that’s what we want, then we’re going to have to utilize the graces of our own Confirmation (think “Soldier of Christ” and “backbone”) and teach by praxis – a little faith in action.  Perhaps that means speaking with Sister.  Perhaps it means refusing to attend programs that aren’t sound.  Perhaps it means finding another parish.  Perhaps it means postponing Sacramental reception.  Perhaps it means being embarrassed and discomforted.  

These lessons, however, are sound: it makes a difference, after all, whether we call on sun power or pray to God.  It makes a difference that duty is done in season and out.  It makes a difference that truth is worth seeking.  It makes a difference that some things are more important than being polite. 

Teach that to your children and you’ll have nothing to fear from outrageously preposterous programs.  In fact, in the right mood, you can even laugh at them. 

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