Monday, September 26, 2011

The Pope: Catholics - Don't Be Lukewarm - A Catechetical Challenge

On the last day of his visit to Germany, Pope Benedict put it very bluntly:  If you are lukewarm about your Catholic faith and do not practice it in everyday life, even the agnostic, who is at least struggling with the question of whether there is a God, is closer to God than you are.

As another blogger put it so well: "Sitting in church does not make you Catholic... any more than standing in your garage makes you a car."

As I have repeatedly said in this space, we have a massive failure to show most people why Catholic faith matters.  The situation in most parishes in my area continues to deteriorate.  While about 10 years ago, if you asked kids in a religious education class how many went to Mass the previous weekend, you would get somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 who said yes, that number is dwindling to just a couple kids in each class in many parishes.

Parents continue to drop kids off so they can feel like they "raised their kids Catholic".  Too often, they not only do not attend Mass, but do not send their children to religious education during non-sacrament-preparation years.  The excuses, of course, are many - conflicts with sports, too expensive, too busy...  Worst of all, most of these families disappear from the parish after their kids have celebrated the sacraments -- as if to say. "Done that - check it off my 'good parent list'."

What the Pope says matters.  John, in the Book of Revelation, was told to tell the Angel to write:
“I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’ and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (Rev. 3:15-17) 
How are we, in parishes, challenging and helping Catholics to move from lukewarm to burning with the fire of the Spirit?


  1. Bam! So true...I wish I knew what to do about it! ;-)

    I love this, "Sitting in church does not make you Catholic... any more than standing in your garage makes you a car." Classic!

  2. "Parents continue to drop kids off so they can feel like they "raised their kids Catholic"..."Done that - check it off my 'good parent list'."

    All spot on. This is how my parish looks to me:

    Some parents homeschool: I regularly see them at Mass with their kids, know most of them.

    Some parents send their kids to Rel Ed classes: I see maybe 5-10% of the kids I teach in Mass, and it's usually the same kids year after year. I've never seen most of the kids at Mass. (this is why I train the kids to evangelize their parents)

    Some parents send their kids to the parish school. Regarding their Mass attendance, I can't tell for sure if they're getting the kids to Mass more than the Religious Ed kids or not. But based on my sense of the number of kids at Mass that I don't know are homeschoolers or Rel Ed kids, I'd say this group is closer to the Rel Ed crowd: fitful attendance at best. In other words I recognize most kids at Mass from homeschool or Rel Ed families.

    On the other hand, there are nevertheless lots of motivated Catholics who participate actively in the Christian life both on and off the church campus, but they tend to be older adults whose kids are grown, or younger adults with no kids yet.