Why are so many leaving the Church today? Even 50 years after Vatican II we have much work to do. I was reading an interesting article about young people leaving the Church and not coming back. I would like to share a few excerpts from the article and then related it to elementary catechesis in our parishes.
The Author, Rev. Danial MCclain wrote:
- “I am routinely surprised by how often we suppose that children are too uneducated, too unsophisticated to understand the depth of faith. Having grown up in a fairly anti-intellectual tradition, I came to the Anglican tradition and then Catholic theology for their embrace of the intellect and their sensitivity to formation. And yet, High Church Christians routinely act as if our children will not be interested in what the faith has to offer. Worse still, we think they do not need rich faith formation and liturgical experiences as much as adults do. Hence, that strange malaise wherein leaders in the Church make excuses for children leaving, supposing that they’ll be back someday when they have kids, when they’re a bit more intelligent, experienced . . . or desperate. After all, children are our future, thereby giving us a perennial excuse for deferring the “problem” of children indefinitely.”
- Children, therefore, are pioneers. They gravitate to the strange, the unmapped, the esoteric, and even the abstract. My oldest son, Henry, used to love the Calder mobiles at the National Gallery of Art. There’s something essential, something universal in art like this that speaks to the imagination. The uncanny balance, the sense of being suspended, of being vulnerable, bright, and airborne, that Calder achieved in his gallery-sized contraptions fascinated Henry’s imagination. Henry’s drawings and home-spun contraptions, many of which still hang in trees in our backyard, still manifest the preternatural urge that Calder tapped into.
- This, then, is what I mean by play; it is something that to adults seems so mysterious and untouchable, but that to children is like breathing, or better yet, snacking. In the child’s experience, there’s a world to be consumed, to be remade, reshaped, and drawn; there are trees to climb, walls to draw on, curios to hoard.
- We adults don’t get this, because we’ve forgotten it. These child-likenesses frustrate us because they represent messes to clean, appointments to keep, missed days of work, sleepless nights. We often feel like we need to contain our kids’ messes, to keep the walls clean, bones unbroken, tidied up. We have becomes Mrs. Darling from Peter Panwho had the nerve to think that she could tidy her children’s minds in the same way that she organized their room while they slept. We suppose that the mores, norms, and expectations of polite society should dictate the manner in which children reflect, dream, imagine, and above all navigate the world. No matter that we often have trouble navigating that polite society ourselves.
- According to Montessori and her disciples, when we withhold play from the educational process, we make formation dreary and lifeless. We struggle to understand why children treat education like it’s a chore. And yet, don’t we as adults do the same? Teachers, parents, and administrators spend hours trying to acclimate children to school as a work-a-day environment. Similarly, Christian educators attempt to reconstruct this dreary environment in the ecclesial context, supposing it to be ideal educational setting. But how many of us value this aspect of adult “business”?
What does this all mean for the Faith Formation of your students? I think for starters we have to be aware that we want to evoke wonder in the lives of our students. We don’t just want them to know teachings of the faith but we want their imaginations to stir and to give them a sense of mystery that exists in the richness of our faith. This is why our classes don’t just consist of 4 weeks of “book lessons” each month. It also means that our lessons should be presented in a way to promotes the wonder and awe of the Gospel message. I’m not at all saying that we don’t teach them the truths/doctrines of the faith, but that we work towards doing it in a manner that celebrates the mystery of faith and the notion that what we are sharing is Good News. Just some thoughts to consider in our catechesis to these young people we serve.
What are you thoughts? Would love to hear from you!