Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Half measures

Week Five: Issues with the Church

"Half measures" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

This is the fifth post of a blog post series called "Bright Maidens." We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We're here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!



Oooo scandalous. The Bright Maidens are going to share their issues with the Catholic Church! If you were hoping for a crew of young women calling for female priests, contraception (if this is you're guess, please read this), or a revolt on the Holy See, you will be disappointed.

Though we have some eyes to roll and some heads to shake at the several times in Church history, we contend that Christ founded the Catholic Church and the Holy Spirit has been her unfettering guide. We're the Bright Maidens because we're not what the secular world expects of young women who grew up in the Catholic Church.

(I don't own the rights)
What does growing up in the Church require? 

Is this the right question to ask? Many parents run down the concrete answers to this question like it's a honey-do checklist. Baptism, religious education, Reconciliation, Eucharist, Confirmation, *ding* Catholic microwave says you're done!

Rather than determining how to bring their families closer to God, they go through the motions. Perhaps these parents don't understand the teachings or they disagree with them, but they want to give their children structure and checklists. I'm sure some worry about suffering the all-consuming condemnation from their own parents or in-laws if they neglect the checklist.

It would be a smaller travesty if their apathy and unwillingness to research and ask questions about the faith only affected their children. However, these parents are mixed in with all parents and assigned to elementary, middle, and high school religious education classrooms.

The parish plops a little "Ask Me Anything" button on their chest and identifies them as the authority in the classroom of eager children following their Holy Spirit-guided noses. Apathetic teachers, volunteers, or parishioners teach children by example and those who answer questions incorrectly misinform entire generations.

Until about three years ago, I thought my faith was just for me. I was meant to bundle up, tie a polar bear coat around it, and pray quietly in an igloo, holding my knees to my chest.
(I don't own the rights)

Saying "Praise God" when I felt the urge would brand me a Protestant Jesus freak. Rebutting an insult on the faith with anything more involved than, "It's okay that you believe what you believe and I believe what I believe. We're both right to us," would be over the top and somehow non-Catholic.

Somewhere along the way, Catholics started keeping the zeal for Christ to themselves. The darkness in that cave seems to dissolve any zeal left over from childhood.

We forgot it needs to be in the light and breathe. We're called to bring it to light and pass it around. In forgetting this, we created more of the apathetic parents who teach their practices.

Queue the battle drums call for more involved grassroots efforts in our parishes! We need to make sure kids know this is what it means to be Catholic.

Many parents are busy and can say they have too much taking up their time to learn the answers to the questions they never asked.
"In our time more than ever before, the chief strength of the wicked, lies in the cowardice and weakness of good men... All the strength of Satan’s reign is due to the easy-going weakness of Catholics. Oh! if I might ask the Divine Redeemer, as the prophet Zachary did in spirit: What are those wounds in the midst of Thy hands? The answer would not be doubtful: With these was I wounded in the house of them that loved Me. I was wounded by My friends, who did nothing to defend Me, and who, on every occasion, made themselves the accomplices of My adversaries. And this reproach can be levelled at the weak and timid Catholics of all countries." --Pope St. Pius X, Discourse at the Beatification of St. Joan of Arc, Dec. 13, 1908
Take the time. Catch yourself on FIRE so you can show the Church's children how to be on FIRE for Jesus. We make up the Church He founded!

16 comments:

Kendra said...

I've been doing long comments lately, so I'll keep this one short :-)

All I'm going to say is that I agree wholeheartedly (that this is both a problem that exists and that something needs to be done about it at the parental level), and it is something that my fiance and I have talked extensively about doing right with our future children.

thisjourneyofmylife said...

Okay, don't take this the wrong way, but is that seriously the only issue you have with the Church? It seems to me that you are a bit reluctant to actually take a look at the institution itself. Of course we are the Church, but the huge difference with other denominations is that there is a very strong institution too. It would be very interesting if you would take a look at it and write about your experiences with the institution, not merely with the people in it. You see, many Catholics don't have a problem saying we had bad popes (we had!) or that there were serious problems in the church throughout the ages, but only few dare to take an honest look at the present Church and point out problems we are facing now. The best way to improve, is to face your faults and learn from them. Because, really, the Church does make mistakes. Even now.

Stacy Trasancos said...

ELizabeth, This was great!

"Holy Spirit-guided noses" Perfect! and yes I see them all the time around here. I do think you hit on a very important issue, especially because it affects the next generation and so on. The Church is beyond all of us, it's not a single bishop or priest, or mommy or daddy. WE are the Church.

Christine said...

Snaps

Elizabeth said...

Yeah, Kendra! I'm glad y'all have talked about it! It's not even just about your children's future, it's about all children in the Church. We are a community.

Ciska- I bet go differ. The people within the Church are those creating the issues. If the Church was not founded by Christ and guided/maintained by the Holy Spirit, with all the corruption and spiritually poor people we have had running around within it over the last 2000 years, the Catholic Church would not have survived. The Church was founded by Christ, built upon a rock so it would not wash away, and breathes with faulted people within it.

Stacy-Thank you! Exactly! WE are the Church and we need to see the problems and fix them rather than just changing dogma when we no longer think it suits.

Christiney-Back atcha :)

Elizabeth said...

...beg TO* differ.

Elizabeth said...

To further clarify... The people in the Church can include priests, bishops, popes, nuns, the guy who vacuums the pews before Mass, and the apathetic high school religious education teacher who is just winging it long enough to get the Catholic Stamp O'Approval on his or her kids' heads.

Ciska said...

Elizabeth - I do wholeheartedly agree with you. The Church was founded by Christ and is guided by the Holy Spirit.
However, I do think there are some aspects that need pruning. Just as we are created by God and guided by the Holy Spirit, but need work too. Just like there have been big reforms in the Catholic Church in the past, I believe there will be big reforms in the future too.
One of the aspects that surprised me greatly when I started paying attention the Catholic Church and its hierarchy is that there are hardly ever evaluations or retrospects of what went wrong. For instance, it took decades before the Holy See admitted that its position during WW II was far from perfect.
By the way, I'm not trying to make a sub-discussion and I think your post above is absolutely right: church starts at home, a vibrant home church equals a vibrant global church!

Elizabeth said...

Fear not! I love the discussion and I like that we agree on that! Those are great examples of the faults of men, definitely.

I chose to concentrate on this silent plague, the apathy that creates a cycle of spiritual decay in our Church community.

Mary @ A Simple Twist Of Faith said...

We are the body of Christ, the imperfect part of the equation. Although a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is paramont, we are also called to the communal life of the Church. Ironically, Catholics can learn much from the degree of "fellowship" practiced in numerous Protestant congregations. Catholic theology,if not reality, calls us to see the Church as the community.

Liesl said...

This would be my issue with the Church as well... mostly because I was one of those many that went through all the motions and then finally woke up to see the beauty that our faith holds!!

So again, we might be the same person.

Kathleen@so much to say said...

Another thing I think slips under the radar is that sometimes in an effort to preserve what is beautiful and good and holy and morally right, we take things too far. I did an interview with a man who engages in discussions with athesists and anti-Catholics, and something he said really resonated. He said God gives us a few moral absolutes, and a lot of leeway on other choices. Ciska's right, there are problems in the Church. It's easy to see where the damaging influences come into play: contraception, divorce, abuse of the annulment process to name a few. But one that I think we fail to acknowledge is that sometimes those of us who label ourselves "faithful to the Magisterium" are guilty of trying to turn non-essentials into moral absolutes. Like how we dress for church, or head coverings, or styles of music.

This long reflection is meant to offer caution. I'm totally with you on getting ourselves, our kids on fire for God, active and involved and faithful. But we have to make sure we don't carry that zeal to extremes, and create dividing lines where there shouldn't be any.

Julie Robison said...

"Until about three years ago, I thought my faith was just for me. I was meant to bundle up, tie a polar bear coat around it, and pray quietly in an igloo, holding my knees to my chest." >> I think a lot of us felt that way.

This is a really great post, E!

And as a general caveat y'all, the Bright Maidens are picking their specific issue, not "the" issue. There is a difference. :)

Anthony S. Layne said...

Brilliant post, Elizabeth!

Allie said...

wonderful post and such a powerful topic!

Anthony S. Layne said...

Funny ... the same day you posted this, the Catholic Sentinel posts this story about a friar with a "mall ministry".

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