Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Unevangelized Children: Consequence of "Erasing" God's Story from the Public Arena

Just read an interesting post on the Team RCIA blog from Rita Burns Senseman about whether children need an inquiry period in the RCIA and found a statement that confirms my own experience - that in American society today, many children need primary evangelization...

In my experience, some, if not many, of the children who come to us need evangelization. They have not yet heard the good news, they are unfamiliar with the Scriptures and unaware of God’s deep, unconditional love for them. It is not an uncommon that when I do the initial pastoral visit with a child, he or she is not able to speak about God. In other words, they “know” very little of God’s love for them. They have not yet been evangelized. Even though many people would say that North America is a Christian society, many children have not heard the good news of God’s saving love. Thus, many children need a precatechumenate before we begin the more formal catechesis of the period of the catechumenate.One example may illustrate this point. Recently, I interviewed an inquiring family during the Advent/Christmas season. The child was not able to tell me anything she knew about God and did not know any stories from the Bible. Trying to help her along and thinking that the story of “Baby Jesus and Three Kings” would sound familiar, I asked her if she had ever heard this story. She stared at me blankly.

I have had actually this experience the last couple of years with some Catholic children in religious education sesssions. Because we have been so politically correct that children no longer hear or see that Jesus was born in a manger and died on the cross, they may come to us, if their families have not been practicing their faith with absolutely no background. They simply have never heard the stories. Their only associations with Christmas and Easter may be from commercials on TV - Santa, the Easter bunny that clucks like a chicken, etc. - and from family celebrations of gift-giving on Christmas - and perhaps little or nothing (at most a big family dinner) at Easter - the most important celebration of the Christian year.

This is a call to evangelize our children - especially in a climate where parents tend only to insert them in religious formation to "get their sacraments". The sacraments of initiation have pretty much no meaning apart from the practice of our faith, including regular participation in the Mass and Eucharist. If not to be able to come to the Eucharistic table on a regular basis, what are kids being intitated for?

 We need to tell the stories - loudly and often - of our faith, and of our God, so that the children can hear that God is alive and active in the world... and in their lives.

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