Saturday's topic? Pope Benedict's apology lamenting "cradle Catholics" who haven't shared their faith with subsequent generations.
As is typical, our Holy Father is spot on.
This is a particulalry thorny issue for me, especially now that I'm taking charge of a CCD class and moving "full-steam-ahead" into evangelization.
A few months ago, I was given the opportunity to share some ideas regarding children within the parish during what we called "Open Forum" nights. I was sadly the only person from my age group to attend, but it was a worthwhile night anyway. I asked the others who were there what function the Youth Group served within the parish. No one could tell me. All they said was "Well, they do a car wash" or "The do a Mass once in a while." So I stated (for the Holy Spirit, I think):
How can we expect them to know their value in the parish if we don't?
And it's true! Children are SO eager and SO full of love that they'd happily bend over backwards to feel useful. So it is OUR job to harness that potential and direct it in a positive, life-affirming way. It is our job as parents, educators, community leaders, etc to define their roles and encourage participation in our faith. Something as simple as having the Youth Group lead the Monday night Rosary would have such a lasting effect!
But we don't do these things. We ignore an entire category of parishoners because of their age... because of their lack of perceived value! How foolish we are!
And as Pope Benedict points out, it goes even farther than that. How many of us have witnessed parents pushing their way into a foreign parish to enable the baptism of their baby only to never set foot inside a church again? How many couples move mountains to enable a Catholic Nuptial Mass only to ignore every other aspect of our faith? How many parents drop their children off to CCD classes only to ignore the greatest expression of our faith, the Mass, every Sunday??? Worst of all, maybe, how many times have we... fully vested Catholics who understand and love our faith... not practiced the day-to-day profession of faith in our actions? How many times have we not followed the most basic of Catholic principles, to love thy neighbor as thyself? All of these things have deprived our youth of truly understanding and appreciating the Catholic faith, and we've only ourselves to blame.
Seriously... we need to do better at acknowledging the value of our children and encouraging them to take part in all the beauty our faith has to offer. We need to do better at holding ourselves accountable for our role in depleting respect, awe and understanding of Catholicism.
Pope Benedict was kind in "apologizing" on behalf of Catholics everywhere. It opens the door to a mirror which reflects our own sad truth back at us, and acknowledges the pervasive, growing problem of lack-luster Catholics... hopefully this gentle chide is enough to push us back on the path towards true evangelization.