It is that time of year, again. School is starting. Religious education programs are gearing up. Youth ministry programs are kicking off.
This is also the time America magazine offers a themed edition on the state of Catholic religious formation.
At the beginnings of all these seasons, Joe Paprocki offers a Progress Report of religious education. He reviews a 1974 article on “Where Is Religious Education Going?” Paprocki reports that yes, we are making progress. (You should read it!) It is similar to this summer’s Hope4theDecades series. It notes that there has been growth and change and, yet, it is remarkable how much is still the same.
Which is why I was happy to read Mike Carotta’s Teaching for Discipleship this summer. Carotta reminds us, as do the articles above, to not only appeal to the head but to heart. He reminds us that we are not dealing within a vacuum of faith and belief of young people. Young people do already have a spirituality worth exploring. Carotta reminds us of the call to assist in a “necessary adaptation of catechesis to young people’ is urged on order to translate into their terms “the message of Jesus with patience and wisdom and without betrayal.” (CT, 40) (GDC, 185) Further, Carotta would emphasize that our efforts, while directed towards conversion, are willing to aim at “awakenings.” These “awakening” are from a spiritual slumber as we are lulled by a culture of self-reliance rather than God-dependence.
In a homily given this weekend as he received his pallium, Archbishop Cupich described the Church today. He claimed that we are “a community that goes after the lost sheep.” (or a self-reliant sheep that snoozed as the Master’s voice moved beyond hearing.)
“The task is not just to find them and bring them home,” he said. It is to “lift them up high above the daily toil, so that they may see their salvation as but another of the mighty deeds of God over the ages.” We do this “so that in being raised high they will experience the newness of risen life.” We do this so that “by being lifted to eye level, they will see Christ face to face and come to believe in God’s love.”
It is a world of God’s justice and mercy where we find ourselves with a middling progress report and yet the demand to carry (like in the movie Rudy) someone off the field.