Sunday, October 19, 2008
One of my daughters is due to make her FHC in the spring. We live in the Albany diocese (NY) for now, and it is rather liberal. I've not been really happy with our diocese since we've lived here, it is much more liberal than where we lived previously. I've complained before about the Masses and the liberal views. You can imagine my apprehension when I learned that my daughter would be required to attend a 'Reconciliation Retreat' at a parish where I refuse to attend Mass.
We attend the TLM, and it is a drive to get there. There are no programs for sacraments, which doesn't really bother me because I teach at home. I do take my 2nd graders to the local parish program because it is stellar! A friend of mine teaches it, he is Traditional, he packs in the doctrine. He realizes that this is an important opportunity in the NO parish life, to teach the children. He insists on them completing a large amount of homework, which requires parental participation, thereby he is reaching those parents who fell victim to the post Vatican II CCD experiments. Unfortunately there are a lot of parents out there who really missed out on good Catholic formation in the 1970s and 80s, despite attending classes. I cannot comment on the 1990s though I suspect it is more of the same. In fact, as a little side note, there is a problem in this parish with the parents admittedly not understanding the basics of our faith, we cannot get volunteers to teach the classes because they cannot understand the text books, grades k-6! The second grade program is solid, and it reinforces what I teach at home, someone other than Mom and Dad are saying the same thing, which is always a bonus!
Back to the retreat...the second grade teacher was skeptical, as was I. In the Albany Diocese, their answer to the priest shortage is what they term, "Called To Be Church" and it involves clustering parishes within a deanery together to pool resources, including the priests. The local parish is clustered with this parish where I refuse to attend, the priest serves the two parishes, and we have never had this retreat before, but in the spirit of cooperation he agreed to give it a try. The first half hour was a lecture given to the parents and children combined. The second half hour involved two skits, performed with puppets. Here I should interject that this was held in the church, around the altar. One of the performers sat in the priest's chair. The puppet theater was on the floor in front of the altar. The tabernacle is in a far corner, this is one of those round arrangements of pews sans kneelers around the altar, inside of a square building. The first skit was a puppet talking to an adult woman. The puppet felt badly about lying to his mother, and the woman advised him to apologize to his mother and talk to a priest. Not too bad, the kids were entertained. The second skit was Luke 15: 1-7, the parable of the lost sheep. The children were definitely entertained, I think they will remember the parable, but the message got lost in the entertainment, and it is unfortunate that it was held in the church instead of the large meeting hall in the basement. Puppet shows do not belong in the church. The final hour was devoted to a craft project, and snacks...a rather bountiful table of treats which was definitely pleasing to all the children.
When the children went downstairs to that meeting room, and the parents were left in the church with the priest. He exited to an office, and there was a woman up by the altar, which seemed more like a stage at this point, with props and such. She sat in the priest's chair and pretended to talk on a cell phone to someone about the fact that her son was going to be receiving two sacraments this year. Then she ended her call and prayed, asking God how she is supposed to be sure her son was ready. This is when God spoke to her over the PA system from the priest's office. He explained she was already preparing him by her devotion to him. She has taught him to trust that when he cries out for help, someone who loves him will answer. That opens the door for her son to trust in God. And it went on and on about how God is love. Then the priest came out, and addressed the parents, where he opened with, "That is the only time I get to play God." Next, he said he would take questions, but he would like to address the big question everyone always has, which is, "Why must we go to confession, won't God forgive our sins through our just asking Him, in private, without the priest?" I was hopeful! I actually thought perhaps this was going to turn out FAR better than I had anticipated. But my hopes were soon dashed.
When I taught confirmation classes, I spent two years preparing teenagers for the sacrament. One of the things I was most shocked about, teaching Confirmation in a NO parish, is the lack of attention to the confessional. In our diocese, Confirmation candidates must be at least 16 years old. Most of my students had not been to a confessional since FHC, despite my devoting at least 10% of class time to the topic in class over the two years of instruction. I wondered how that could be, why these students failed to understand the importance. Yesterday's retreat enlightened me. When the priest addressed answered his own question about the necessity of confession, I expected instruction on sanctifying grace and the necessity of obtaining that grace through frequent confession, keeping your soul in a state of grace, etc. Instead we were told to illustrate the necessity by dropping a pebble into a puddle or a dish of water, explaining that sin has a ripple effect, and we must apologize to society for our sins and their resulting effects. The priest is representative of society, so for us to apologize appropriately, we need to confess to the priest.
We were then encouraged to participate in the penance services held within our cluster group, which always occur during Lent and Advent. There was a woman who asked, "Is that what they are teaching now, confession only twice a year instead of monthly?" He said no, that we are expected to make frequent confessions, but realistically, priests just are not readily available, often times the priest cannot make scheduled confession times for each parish. He also added that when he is there, the confessional remains empty.
This brings me right back around to the original point, catechesis is sorely lacking. Between the scheduling difficulties and the lack of proper instruction, of course the confessionals are empty! When we have a captive audience of adults, parents in particular, why is the instruction incomplete? I was disappointed yet again.