This summer, CatholicMom.com is hosting an on-line book discussion group for Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples. Each session will focus on one chapter of the book, and yours truly is participating. Hit the link above to see all of the participants, and to find the discussion questions.
Sessoion 2 of Lawn Chair Catechism is looking at Chapter 1 of Forming Intentional Disciples: “God Has No Grandchildren”. Or, just because you’re Catholic, that doesn’t mean that your kids will necessarily be Catholic. Sherry talks about the demographic changes in the Church, and about the two major groups of people who leave the Catholic Church: those who just drift away, and those who join some other Christian group, usually Evangelical, because they have met Christ there in a way that they hadn’t before.
I have some sympathy with this latter group. I was on the verge of “drifting away” in high school; only my desire to avoid a confrontation with my parents kept me going to mass with them. I remained in the Church largely because of my Presbyterian ex-girl friend, the outreach of an Evangelical megachurch, and the youth group at the local Episcopalian church. Six years later, still Catholic, I married one of the girls from that youth group, and became an Episcopalian. Almost six years ago, after several years of study and discernment, we came back to the Catholic Church.
Was it right for me to leave the Church when I did? I would have to say no; and yet God has certainly put those choices of mine to good use. I am much more involved and much more intentional about my faith now than I fear I would have been had I never left.
So…on to the discussion questions.
Have you always been Catholic? I think I’ve answered that already.
How did the instruction and mentoring you received help you—or prevent you—from having a personal relationship with God? I won’t say that the idea never came up during the instruction I received at Church when I was a kid…but I can’t say for sure that it ever did, either. I do remember old Fr. Barry asking the kids in my CCD class when we had last sat down and had a good chat with the Virgin Mary. That, of course, was the first time anyone had suggested to me that such a thing was possible, and though I think I might have tried it once I don’t recall having any success.
If you were raised in a Catholic home, are your family members all still Catholic? What events among your friends and family seem to explain why some are Catholic and others are not? I was, and of my siblings one is Anglican and the other two are not religious so far as I’m aware. And I think our family situation had something to do with it. My mother was Methodist, and active in her congregation; it was important to her, but she didn’t talk about it with us much because she had promised that her kids would be raised Catholic. Dad made sure that the family all went to mass every Sunday, and he continued going to mass every Sunday for the rest of his life, but he never talked about it.
And so far as Catholic culture goes, there wasn’t that much of it in our house. We said grace before dinner (when we were at home). We abstained from meat on Fridays (until that requirement was lifted). We were every Sunday Catholics but we most definitely weren’t Holy Day of Obligation Catholics; and I remember one Easter Dad took us to the Saturday evening mass so that we could drive to some relative’s house first thing in the morning. The Great Vigil with all of its readings took him completely by surprise. And because Dad wasn’t very social (Mom was the social one) we weren’t particularly involved in parish life and didn’t know anybody. (Ironically, after Mom died the people outside of the family who were the biggest comfort to Dad were the folks from her church.)
You might say that my Dad modeled (some of) the requirements of religion, without revealing any of its consolations, or the reasons for putting up with it.
In your parish: How’s your retention rate? What percentage of 8th graders in your parish are still practicing the faith at age 18? At age 24? Do young adults in your parish stay in touch with their childhood faith community, or do they drift away to an unknown fate? I’m not really in a position to know for sure, especially as we’ve only been in active in the parish for about six years. As I indicated last week, though, the parish LifeTeen community seems to be going great guns; and there are certainly at least few young adults from that program that I see regularly at mass.