Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Future of Catechisis

"God has no grandchildren," the popular Protestant proverb goes. And so He doesn't. We're all responsible for the growth, or lack of growth, of our faith.

I just finished another year of CCD, teaching the seventh and eighth grades. As usual, it is a combination of accomplishment and disappointment. Accomplishment because I know it is a good thing for the kids that participate in CCD, frustration at the circumstances that prevent them from practicing the faith.

Without condemning anyone, I must say that most of the fault with the poor formation of children lies at home. It was the case fifty years ago that one could rely on the Church to provide formation and on the culture not to provide de-formation. This is no longer the case. We used to live in a Christian culture, we now live in a post-Christian culture.

This shift is not without consequences to catechesis. In my home city of Worcester, the bishop announced the closure of five churches in the city. These closures are a result of a cultural collapse that occurred thirty years ago. The parents of today are the children of those who departed from ethnic enclaves that were culturally programmed for religious formation. The closure of these parishes is delayed (it should have happened ten years ago), but also delayed is the effect of this cultural dissolution.

Today's parents received some sort of religious instruction at home. Their parents retained some ties to ethnic parishes and passed along some training in virtue and faith to their children. The children of today, by and large, do not have this luxury. Their cultural and religious training is at most amorphous. It is an unworthy opponent to the polished and mechanically precise anti-culture that is spread by the media. It's like the Polish calvary in the face of the Blitzkrieg, but worse.

What will the delayed results of this generation of children be? They will be the first generation raised with barely the memory of propriety and cultural identity. If our churches are empty now, what will they be in twenty years?

I see, at best, a Noah's Ark of cultural preservation accomplished by the determined resolution of a small Christian community. I see secrets and mysteries, misunderstood by the culture at large and disowned by the majority of the descendants of Christian peoples. I see catacombs and secret rites, hidden from those who would not understand.

There is one exception to this cultural phenomenon, which may turn it all on its head. That is the influx of Hispanics into the U.S., who actually do have a cultural memory of the faith and may act as a preservative influence on the Church in America.

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