Saturday, May 12, 2012

I Assume it will continue: Parents and Catholic Formation of Youth

 I Assume It Will Continue

This week school ends for the summer.  Our students will hopefully spend more time with their first and best teachers of the ways of the faith: their parents.  There are values and matters of faith that we have tried to instill so as to help parents build more on the foundations they set with their children.  It is my expectation as a pastor that those lessons of faith continue to be practiced:

1) In this school, we have taught your students the centrality of the Eucharist in the identity of a Catholic.  We have had mass most weeks 3 times with your child.  In those masses, I have spent hours teaching your children the basics of the Catholic faith and how those teachings concretely apply towards how they live.  While I do not expect that they will continue to come to weekday mass, it is my expectation that they do on Sundays and Holy Days as per the teachings of the Church.  We had, most months, time for your children to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration, again to stress the importance and centrality of the Eucharist in our lives.  We do have an Eucharistic Adoration chapel where you as a parent can continue this work and bring your child before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament at your convenience.  I assume that they preeminence of the Eucharist in your child’s life will continue to be taught and modeled by your own behavior.

2) In this school, we have taught them the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and its central role in maintaining a healthy Catholic identity.  Most months, we had time set aside for your child to go to Confession so that their spiritual lives might be continually bolstered by the grace of God.  I will assume that these lessons and the practice thereof will be continued to be taught and modeled by those who promised to do so when they willingly brought their child to be baptized.  I will assume that the life of repentance and grace will continue.

3) In this school, we have taught your child the importance of prayer.  The day is speckled with prayer in the individual classrooms, together as a student body, and in the already aforementioned times provided for your child to pray.  Prayer is also part of that central core of catholic identity.  It is my assumption that parents will continue this by praying together as a family and encouraging their children to a deeper prayer life and practice of the faith.

4) In this school, we have taught your children the importance of a devotion to the Blessed Mother and in following her example of faith.  Your child prayed the Angelus after lunch everyday.  Your child prayed the rosary.  These are among the ways we tried to teach and model this central aspect of Catholic identity.  I can only assume that their primary teachers, the parents, will live up to the responsibility they took upon themselves at their child’s baptism.

5) The teachings of the Church we have taught in their religion classes.  It should not be limited to there.  It is primarily the parents duty to teach these things as they do teach other parts of the identity that children have.  We have a large parish library.  I am investing a good chunk of this parish’s money in expanding that library to now include books aimed at children and teens; books about the lives of the saints and how to be a better Catholic.  I will be teaching a 24 part series on the Sacred Scriptures every Wednesday through the summer.  We are offering Vacation Bible School, a youth mission trip, Christpower, Camp Maccabee, Camp Siena as ways of bolstering the lessons learned in the classroom.  I can only assume, again, that those parents who have taken the responsibility of raising their children in the ways of the faith, as they said they would during their child’s baptism, will joyfully make use of these things to bolster their child’s faith and make it a priority, not allowing other pursuits (some worthy, some not) to crowd out such time and effort.  I can only assume that those parents for whom Catholic identity is important will joyfully make use of these things for themselves in order to help them become better teachers and help their children become better Catholics.

5) In this school and other education programs we have taught them the importance of selfless service.  Anyone who heard me preach more than for 5 seconds knows that I place a premium on such service as it shows an imitation of the life of Jesus Christ.  I can only assume that parents will bolster this life of selfless Christian service by the volunteering they do both within the parish and with other charitable entities.

Please do not think I am being too forward with assuming all this or that this a poor attempt at sarcasm or complaint.  We do what we do in education systems to bolster the religious training that is started and modeled within the family.  I understand the Church’s teachings on the nature of the Church and what she has to say about its most basic building block, the domestic church, also known as the family.

Several weeks back I reminded parents that they have the God given responsibility of being shepherds who lead those entrusted by God to them in the ways of the Good Shepherd.  Parents should be at least as  attentive to the spiritual development of those placed in their care as they are the academic and physical development of their child.  If it seems I am being pushy about this, I am.  The stakes are far too high, both in this life and in the life to come, for the spiritual development of our youth not to be the priority it needs to be.  I can promise you I will continue to be insistent on this matter.

  The development of our youth into the next group of shepherds is a high priority for me.  It needs to be an high priority for all have the role of shepherd for the next generation.  The elements of prayer, education, service, and sacramental involvement are all necessary to produce not just shepherds, but good shepherds.  As I told the kids at the last school Mass of the year:  They are taking a few months off from school, not their faith.

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