On this episode:
This episode is hosted by Daniel Yaretz and Lance Rosen, with special guest Chris Hartman
Let's have a conversation about Prayerful Planning.
As a pre-service teacher (entering into my third of three practicums), I have been “in the game” for all of three semesters so far. However, having spent three years in full-time youth ministry, I discovered that prayerful planning is not only in the job description, if you’re doing it right it is the job description.
As I sit here reflecting on my second practicum and thinking about planning for my third, I am brought back to my youth ministry planning days. I am reminded of heading to the chapel for a few minutes prior to starting my plans, or just saying a quick prayer asking the Holy Spirit to guide me. With these youth ministry planning memories in mind, I am now thinking about how this translates to Catholic Education. I want to know where those two worlds intersect and what you are doing to prayerfully plan in your classroom or youth ministry setting.
The obvious arena for prayerful planning is within the context of a Religious Education classroom. One could view both the Religious Education curriculum and the act of planning for it as a prayer. But are our hearts really in it? Are we truly going before the throne of God asking him where he’d like us to take things or how he’d like us to present the information required?
Now, the not so obvious arena for prayerful planning is in every other subject area. I can’t help but wonder how many teachers plan with a prayerful surrender to the direction of God (within the guides of the curriculum of course). If you do, how do you do it? I am well aware of how busy the lives of teachers are. I am also aware that not all schools are attached to a parish, or have a Blessed Sacrament chapel within them. Additionally, I am aware that not every teacher has the time to go to the chapel or spend a day discerning the direction of the course they are teaching. However, I do know that every teacher has the ability to say a quick prayer before getting down to planning.
Let’s Have a Conversation
Here are some primer questions. Let’s have a conversation about prayerful planning. Please comment below.
What do you teach and how do you incorporate prayer into the planning process?
Is prayerful planning a new idea for you?
What strategies do you use to involve the Holy Spirit in your planning?
Beyond lesson planning, how do you incorporate prayer into your days as you prep to teach the plans you’ve created?
The third of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People talks about the need to put “first things first.” Looking back over my adult life – as a Christian, husband, father, and youth minister – I’d say that this has been one of my greatest areas of struggle. I think I’ve spent more than my fair share of time working on or worrying about the wrong things.
I’ve found it particularly easy to get sidetracked in my professional life. In ten years of parish youth ministry, I found myself as the youngest person on a parish staff – and in most cases, the one with the most care and concern for technology. As a result, I put hours of work into my parishes websites, sound systems, and computer workstations... and I was glad to do it (in fact I usually asked for these responsibilities!) The only problem was that every hour I put into these areas was an hour I wasn’t spending with young people, preparing upcoming activities, or generally building up the whole structure of our youth ministry. While part of working on a small staff means going above and beyond your job description, the fact remains that working in youth ministry (or for the Church in general) means that there is never enough time to get everything done.
But looking back, misspent time is not the worst way I worried about the wrong things.
Luke’s Gospel tells us of an occasion that John came across an exorcist who was not one of Jesus’ twelve, but who was casting out demons – doing what they had been called to do. Believing that this man was infringing on the disciples’ exclusive work, John tried to stop him. Jesus’ reply is succinct and to the point: "Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you" (John 9:50). I imagine this was a bit of a wake-up call for John, helping him look beyond himself to see not competitors in the work of evangelization, but potential allies. I don’t believe he had bad intentions, just that he got a bit sidetracked and self-centered.
I can think of far too many moments that I was just like John. Moments where I let my ambition or pride get in the way of the big picture of ministry (helping grow disciples). One of the most notable of these began with the noblest of intentions. I saw that some of my young people needed something that would challenge their faith more deeply than our regular gatherings were doing, so a group of us established a citywide evening of praise and worship/adoration. As a youth ministry event, it was incredibly successful: beyond consistent and growing attendance we had people discerning vocations to the priesthood and religious life, leaving for missionary years with NET Ministries, and the event itself spawned off several similar events in neighboring parishes.
It’s this last “success” that caused me all the trouble. I regarded these as duplicate events as threats to my event. I got defensive of the name and format, and resisted promoting the “competing” events at my own... after all, this had been my idea, it had grown because of my work, and it was supposed to be the lasting legacy of my ministry. And while my original motivation in starting these evenings had been good, as time wore on (at least in my own heart) parts of it had become more and more about me. Like John, I had started to believe that this was my exclusive work – and, like John, I needed a wake-up call to be snapped out of it.
It was in confession that I heard some haunting words that are most applicable here: would it not be a tragedy would it be if young people came to me looking for Christ and found (instead) only me? These words come to mind often when I struggle with prayer, but also when I’ve gotten sidetracked, allowing things to become too much about me, and not enough about Him. If Stephen Covey’s third habit of putting first things first is important for Christians, it’s doubly important for those of us engaged in ministry. I see ministry at its core as a love story. The first and greatest commandment is that we are to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength... and the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves (cf. Mark 12-30-31). But the beauty of it all is that God loved us first (1 John 4:19).
I’d be lying if I said I’m perfect at this today – it’s a regular item on my examination of conscience. I know that when I’m doing ministry right, it is this love story that drives me. I am loved by God, and to return that love is to share it with anyone who will listen. But like John, I’m easily distracted – not only by good things, like trying to help anywhere that I can, but also –and much more dangerously – but by a self-centered concern that makes me sweat far too much of the small stuff.
- Mike Landry
(Mike Landry is the Chaplain for Evergreen Catholic Schools west of Edmonton. Visit his site at www.thirdplaceproject.com.)
I was in a religion class when a student asked me the following:
"Can you prove, with actual evidence, that God is even real?"
Taking inspiration from St. Thomas Aquinas’ five proofs for God’s existence, my reply centered on the fact that it is possible to see that God is the uncaused cause of all around us, that it takes more faith to believe that God doesn't exist (and we're here by happy coincidence), and that everything we regard as true, good, or beautiful is only so because it somehow reflects the truth, beauty, and goodness of God to us.
While the above is an oversimplified answer – and there are no shortage of good, rational proofs for God's existence - a student who asks a question as it was written above, seeking actual evidence, isn't simply looking for a rational or philosophical argument: he wants to see God. This student is no different than Thomas, Jesus' apostle who missed the Lord's first resurrected appearance to them, and had a hard time believing any of it:
"Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." -John 20:25
It's Thomas' last statement that is probably most relevant here: there are many who seem to choose not to believe, in large part because they are not satisfied with the above evidence that has been offered to them by me, their teacher, our priests, or anyone else.
Anyone who is a regular reader of my blog, or someone who has seen or heard me speak has almost certainly heard me talk about my wife and kids. Chances are less likely, however, that most have ever met them. In the class I was in, only one of 25 students have ever seen my wife (across the Church), and a handful more had seen my kids. I posed the question to them, setting aside the one who had seen her: how many of you believe that my wife exists? Everyone raised their hands. Why? How do you know that I haven't photoshopped myself into wedding pictures, or hired someone to get her to pretend to be my wife? The usual answer I get here is "because you talk about her and your kids, and ultimately, and because we trust you."
One student offered a further answer: "because of the way you talk about her." It was a tremendous statement: the way I speak about her is, at least for this student, an unmistakable proof for her existence.
For the many Thomas' of our world - those who want proof or they will not believe – it’s possible that believing in God is difficult not only because of their doubts and resistances - but because of the way we who profess to believe in Him talk about God? I can speak with great devotion about my wife because of how much I try to devote myself to her, how I put time into my relationship with her whether I'm happy, sad, rested, tired, well, sick, relaxed, overwhelmed, or busy, because she is always before me. I wear a ring on my finger as a reminder of her love and fidelity - and my care for her keeps her ever in my mind and on my heart.
Can I say the same about God? (Can you?)
When people talk about changing the Church to try and re-connect young people with her, it's usually based on some sort of liturgical reform (how we celebrate the Mass) or a change in Church teaching (to catch up to with modern times). I think that the crisis we face as Catholics - really, that all Christians face has nothing to do with either of these issues. The crisis is that we Christians don't talk about Christ in a way that makes people recognize we know Him. And perhaps this is because we don't talk about Him enough... but perhaps it's because we don't know Him well enough. We lack devotion - putting time into this relationship whether we are happy, sad, rested, tired, well, sick, relaxed, overwhelmed, or busy, keeping Him ever before us.
Without discounting the importance of understanding our faith and being able to give well thought out answers to questions about our faith, what may be most needed is that we a) fall in love with Jesus and b) make sure we speak of Him by our life and actions. In this way, students like those I saw on Friday afternoon and any other "Thomas'" will be able to know, without a doubt, that God is real.
Our life in words and actions may be the first - or only - Gospel someone will read. Draw near to Him that it might be an authentic one.
Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything. Whoever has God lacks nothing. God alone suffices.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people. -St. Teresa of Avila
#1 - Know who Christ is
Christ is the one who called you into this profession. Like it or not, He is the reason you are here. You may have an excuse stating otherwise, but He put you in a classroom to help love you and to draw closer to you. He's on your side and wants you to succeed. Know Him and you will have the best professional development this life has to offer: the Catholic faith.
#2 - Know Christ's Church
You have been given supernatural help. The church is more than just an institution - she is the world's largest charity. With 2000 years of deep history, the church reaches beyond what we can merely see. You are supported by a network of people constantly praying for your profession the world over; and don't forget the Angels and Saints in heaven, who God himself sends to guide and support us in unceasing prayer.
#3 - Know Who You Teach
Teaching refugees has changed how I love my students. Learning of the sacrifices families have made to come to our country is astonishing. I have taught families who have fled their country because they were afraid for their lives. Of anywhere they could be, they are in my classroom. They don't have to be afraid of persecution or of corrupt officials, because they know they are in a safe community with compassionate adults.
You will teach people who are amazing, so just appreciate them. Their journey to your classroom door has taken them years and they have traveled thousands of kilometres to get there. Show them you are happy to see them, because Christ has brought them there. You are not their teacher by accident.
#4 - Know Why You Are Teaching
Yes, we need to give students the skills to help them succeed in life - no doubts here. We also must take to heart that we are able to reach young people as we fill a very specific role. You can do so much more than teach a subject. You can teach a soul how to get to heaven. Students may grow old and forget how to read, multiply, or why WWII started, but nothing can undo a soul encountering Christ and being changed for all eternity. There is nothing more beautiful than this and Papa Benedict would agree.
Don't kid yourself, Christ will be with you and guide you in ways you never thought possible. I find the best part of this profession is that my best days are just stepping aside and watching God work. He is the true teacher, so let Him teach through you.
"There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him."
- from the 2005 inaugural homily of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
We are now into the month of October and the season of fall, but I want to take you back to my opening comments as a reminder of why we exist, where do we go and what do we do. We are unique because we are a Catholic school division and it is because of faith and through our faith that we create a horizon of hope. In the words of Pope Francis, “Today amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and be men and women that bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope.”
During the month of September, I’ve had numerous opportunities to share this question, “What does adulthood look like for the child who does not achieve in school?” It is a powerful question and should cause all of us to reflect. However, I would suggest the question is insufficient and incomplete. The addition needs to be about growing up into adulthood without faith, without some level of spirituality. In a recent article in Maclean’s magazine, Lisa Miller, director of clinical psychology at Columbia University’s Teachers College concluded the following:
Spiritually connected teens are, remarkably, 60 per cent less likely to suffer from depression than adolescents who are not spiritually oriented. They’re 40 per cent less likely to abuse alcohol or other substances, and 80 per cent less likely to engage in unprotected sex. Spiritually oriented children, raised to not shy from hard questions or difficult situations, Miller points out, also tend to excel academically.
We have the ability to raise spiritually connected students in our schools, creating a horizon of hope for each and every one of them. As a mentioned in my opening comments, “Our jobs may be to educate, but it is our calling, our vocation for everyone here, no matter your role in the division, to form. To form our students to be spiritually healthy, faith filled and hopeful!”
So remember, it is not only what adulthood looks like for the child who does not achieve but also for the child who is not spiritually connected. It is a dual mandate that we must always take seriously in our role as Catholic educators.
Peace and blessings as you continue your role in our system!
Chris Smeaton is the Superintendent for Holy Spirit Catholic Schools located in southwest Alberta.
Article originally posted on October 4, 2015 on the Superintendent's Blog - Holy Spirit Catholic Schools
Let's face it. Sometimes this calling / small 'v' vocation / ministry / whatever you want to call it, can drain the life right out of you. The classroom can be so demanding, busy, and stressful that praying can just seem like another thing added on your seemingly infinite to-do list. Well, we here at The Silversmith Collective are here to help!
1. Start your day off right
"Fill us at daybreak with your mercy, that all our days we may sing for joy" - Psalm 90:14
The ideal scenario would be to take 5 or 10 extra minutes in the morning (before running around making breakfast, lunches, getting kids out the door, packing up your supplies, making sure kids are ready, etc, etc etc. - Man, life is busy). If you can make this happen whether through getting up a bit earlier, or completing some of these tasks the night before, here are some resources you can use for a productive prayer time:
If this is not possible (which for many it isn't), see if you can take a couple minutes and spend that wonderful quiet time driving to work or that elusive chunk of time before the bell rings and the students arrive, to align your day with God. Here are some great resources to help you do that:
2. Don't let prayer become another thing 'to-do'
"If you're too busy to pray... you're too busy." - Blessed Mother Teresa
When I was working in Youth Ministry for my home town Catholic school board, I fell into this trap. My then struggle with time management mixed with a large work load eventually resulted in me viewing prayer and other personal faith building activities as 'work'. Prayer and anything else above and beyond the obligatory Sunday Mass turned into more boxes to check on my to-do list and more things added to the massive pile of things I already had to do. To avoid more to do, I avoided prayer. As you can imagine, this didn't help at all! Pretty sad, hey? The one thing that is supposed to feed my soul and give me strength for the journey (my faith) was now seen as a burden. Please do not go here. This is a very bad place to be. No matter how tired you are, or how busy you are, please prioritize some time to spend with God.
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest" - Matthew 11:28
Notice he didn't say "I might give you rest" or "I'll think about giving you rest". Nope. He says "I will give you rest".
Take him up on that offer!
3. Frequent the Sacraments
If we truly believe what we as Catholics claim to believe, that the Eucharist is not only the Source and Summit of our faith, but that it is also the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, and that we truly encounter Christ's Mercy and are wiped clean in the confessional - and if we view all of these truths in the context of our calling as teachers, then our need for the Sacraments should be right up there with our need for air, water, food, and shelter. Sounds extreme, I know. But, if we nourish and care for our bodies (Air, Water, Food, Shelter, Exercise) and our minds (Education), what are we doing for our souls? Just like a runner has to care for his or her body with proper nutrition, oxygen, training, detox, and rest, as laborers in the vineyard we need to be doing the same things for our souls too! The Sacraments are the perfect place to do so.
4. Go on Retreat, go to a conference, or join a group.
This may seem impossible during a busy and hectic school year, but it may be worth it if you can make it happen.
Throughout the year there are always events happening that are designed to strengthen your faith. Here are some ideas:
* The big issue here is time. You may not think you have enough time during the year. I want to encourage you to try. At the very least, try to go on retreat at the end of each school year to recharge your mental, physical, and spiritual batteries. This practice has proven to be very beneficial to my wife and I when we've been able to do it.
5. Embrace the gift you have of working at a Catholic School
Take advantage of the tremendous gift you have before you. You have the ability to work in a place where you can openly practice your faith! How amazing is that!
In every Catholic school there are always faith activities going on. Whether it's school Masses, assemblies and celebrations, Faith Development days, or simply Morning Prayer or Religious Studies classes. Take advantage of these times! Don't look at them as work. Look at them as opportunities for you to grow in Christ.
Think for just one second about the term Faith Development Day. This is a day set aside for teachers to grow in their faith. Time is set aside for this. Funds are set aside for this. You get paid for this. If you are a teacher who's school board provides these opportunities, please be thankful and take advantage of them. What a blessing!
Before I worked in parish ministry, I used to romanticize how cool it would be to work in a parish with an office mere steps away from Jesus in the chapel. During my time in parish ministry, I failed to take advantage of the many opportunities I had to be in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Now that I am not working in Parish ministry, I look back and think "why didn't I spend more time in the chapel?". Don't take this wonderful opportunity you have for granted. Many teachers have to keep their faith and work lives separate.
And as a bonus, if your students see you talking these opportunities seriously and to heart, they may be encouraged to do the same. Because, whether you think so or not, you're a role model!
5.1 - For teachers in non-Catholic schools
In this situation, all of your faith related activities will probably have to be done outside the classroom.
Whatever your situation is, know that there are plenty of great resources, people, and opportunities out there to help you on your journey, and keep your faith strong this year! Hang in there! We're praying for you!
More Faith Resources
Colm and I have decided to homeschool Jacinta, or at least try it out. We are taking it year by year with the hope that we will always make the best decision for our family. That is usually what is behind every decision we make, what is best for OUR family.
We get that homeschooling is NOT for everyone. We get that we are NOT “normal”. We also get that every family and every person is different. Homeschooling may work for our daughter Jacinta, but it may be a bad idea with Ezra. Who knows until we get to that bridge
I wanted to, in writing, finally put out there what Colm and I have discussed with many friends and family. How on earth did I go from being completely against homeschooling to now being the excited and over the top Pinterest homeschool parent? Well, let me tell you.
The conversation started 2 years ago when Jacinta was just 3, early I know but you will understand in just a moment. I am a HARDCORE introvert. I like my personal space. I like being in control of my environment and schedule. I truly dislike schedules and working around them. I am the type of person who, on a Friday, will begin to slowly panic knowing that in just 2 more days I HAVE to be at work. Now if you know me, you know I love my job. My job does NOT feel like work. I love the people I work with and I love what I do. I have also been fortunate enough to be able to coordinate a very flexible position so that I can be home with the kids, so the fact that I panic has NOTHING to do with the job, but everything to do with the words HAVE TO BE…..I have been this way since elementary school. As I read this it occurs to me that I should probably seek out some help.
ANYWAYS, so rewind to two years ago when, uh oh, I realize that in 2 short years my daughter will be starting kindergarten. That means Monday to Friday my days were set. 8:45 to 3:20, every day for 10 months out of the year. This feeling did not settle well with me. Colm and I travel a lot between Calgary and Winnipeg to visit family. Weekend visits are hard, so we extend them for a few extra days. This would not be possible with Jacinta in school. Birthday parties would now occupy every weekend, which means I would have to engage in social activities more than I care to. Yes I know there is a lot of I, I, I statements. This is just the crazy panicked thought process I went through.
A few weeks after this panic attack, I happened to come across a blog post similar to this about why this woman decided to pull her children out of school to homeschool. Now, I have encountered the entire spectrum of homeschoolers and I can say this, if the child is odd it’s not just the child. I have met some really cool and interesting kids whose parents were also the same. This woman; however, wrote in such a way that was not bashing the school system but simply stating the positive effects homeschooling has had on her family. I really appreciated that and from the get go Colm and I have tried to base the decision entirely on the POSITIVES for our family and stay away from any negatives towards school. The reason being if we decided homeschooling was not working out we wouldn’t be so tainted by our decision making.
We have some amazing Catholic schools nearby, so right off the bat keeping a positive on school was easy. Now for the positives of homeschooling. Here is our list.
I will admit, I am FREAKED OUT! I was a little sad when I heard the school alarm go off this week, and seeing everyone’s first day of kindergarten pictures and hearing their stories. I was sad because there are wonderful moments I experienced that she won’t. But then I looked back on our day. We woke up and went to mass as a family, had a back to school breakfast at Smitty’s, went to the Homeschool picnic, etc. Our day was full of time. Time that I am so grateful to have. Just a disclaimer: There was actual learning involved this week too.
What do I hope to gain from writing this? Well one, when I get a message or email asking why we are homeschooling I can send them this link first, and two, if there is a parent out there feeling as I was feeling, then maybe this can get them thinking as the other article did for me.
- Sharon Leyne
I have been involved in Youth Ministry in one way or another since 2006. My current journey to becoming a teacher has shown me the importance of reflection. As I reflect on my Youth Ministry experiences and the wonderful people I have met over the years, one issue seems to always come to the front of my mind, and I feel the need to talk about it and speak to youth about it as well. This issue is Living in the Shadows.
This issue doesn't appear where you may think. It happens within those amazingly faithful, well-put-together Catholic families. You see them in Mass all the time. I have a lot of respect and admiration for them. For the most part, they are the token model of what I would like my family to be some day. They usually have more than four kids - two or more have graduated. Usually one or two of the kids has gone off and done some sort of 'Catholic God Stuff' - whether it be joining a ministry like CCO, FOCUS, or NET, heading to bible school, or entering the seminary. These kids are usually celebrated by the Catholic community for their openness to God's will in their lives, and their service of the Church (as they should be). They are giving up a year or more of their lives to discern God's will and serve His people. This is very noble and admirable.
My question is: What about the other kids?
Living in the Shadows
What about the other kids? What about the younger children? The siblings? Yes, they have amazing role models to look up to and aspire to be like, but I think that more times than not they feel like they are living in the shadows of their super holy brothers and sisters, and feel like if they don't follow the same path as them, they will be looked at as failures.
Now, I know for a fact that in most cases, this would never happen on purpose. No parents that I know would ever feel that way about their kids... ever!
The problem is, the kids can still feel this way themselves. And some of them do.
Every time I have spoken to youth about this topic, the younger children of these amazing families seem to connect with it. They can relate. One talk touched on how they shouldn't be so hard on themselves because God loves them no matter what. The conference I was speaking at had a lot of youth from very strong Catholic families in attendance, and as I was up there, I felt moved to touch on this topic. I mentioned that for those in attendance who have brothers and sisters who have gone before them and done cool stuff for God like join a ministry, take the pressure off yourself to live up to that and figure out what God wants for YOU. Some youth came up to me after the talk and thanked me. One young man in particular said, "before your talk, I hated myself". That hit me like a ton of bricks. I saw many students shake their heads in agreement with me. They can relate to this stuff.
What can we do?
Sometimes I think we forget about these children and assume they're fine because they come from stable, well-established, faithful homes. But the truth is, they are searching for purpose, meaning, and identity just a much as the rest of them. Sometimes they can be easily forgotten.
We need to encourage them and let them know that they don't have to follow the same path as their brother or sister who seem to have it all together.
We need to tell them that there are so many ways to holiness - That they don't need to do the same thing as their super holy brother or sister - That they can be holy in their own special way... their own quiet way.
We need to tell them that they have a purpose.
We need to encourage them in the fact that God has an amazing and unique plan set aside for them, and empower them to find it, own it, and embrace it.
We need to remember those youth Living in the Shadows of their family members and invite them out into the light of their own legacy, their own story, their own journey with Christ, and their own purpose.
We need to.
- Lance Rosen
Something tragic happened to me today. It’s really hard to talk about without getting a little choked up and a bit scared even. Here goes… I bricked my phone. Yep. It’s done. Some hardware issues I’d been limping it along despite finally got the better of it, and my shiny, high tech, artificial intelligence device is no more. Truly horrific. Have no fear though, I’ll be able to get a new one… in 4 – 10 BUSINESS DAYS!!! AAAAAAHHH!
Okay, all joking aside, it’s been a pretty interesting experience already. Now, I’m used to going off the grid in the back-country, or out of the country. I’m comfortable not being connected all the time, but something interesting happened to me today. I’m in Edmonton doing some work and I went out to find a local Best Buy, and I got lost! Lost! Think about that for a minute. When was the last time you didn’t have a pleasant, likely British female voice, and a nice interactive map to tell you not only where to go, but the fastest route, with alternatives for traffic, walking, biking, or public transit.
So, how does one cope with getting lost in today’s world? Well, mostly I wandered around in the area I thought it would be, eventually got sore feet, then gave up and walked back to my hotel. I looked around for a phone booth with a false hope that it might have a phone book in it, but none was to be found (no kidding captain obvious!), and I didn’t pass by any friendly looking strangers to ask directions from.
Okay, now is the point in the story where I make a giant leap to how this connects to living our faith. A couple of days ago Lance posted an article on Facebook asking for thoughts. As I read through it I got more and more sad. Not specifically about the fact that we live in an increasingly secular world that doesn’t see our values as true or attractive, and not that the era of Christendom (Christianity being a dominant cultural force) seems to be more or less over in the west. I’ve lived in countries where Catholic morality was the dominant force, and places where the exact opposite was true, and both had very significant challenges. In fact, I don’t really see the rise of secularism as a threat to our collective faith at all. When I lived in Chile, Catholic culture was predominant. There were processions on feast days, Stations of the Cross enacted throughout the streets of the town I lived in on Good Friday, shops closed on Sunday… a lot of the cultural connections that I’ve witnessed Catholics at home pine for. At the same time, there was a complacency built in. For example, in the Stations of the Cross I was in, people were there, but it was more like a neighborhood block function than a prayer. This is just one example. Eventually that road leads to empty churches, rote catechesis with no real connection to daily life, lack of orthodoxy, and ultimately, as I see it, the end of the passage of faith from generation to generation. Once the faith is gone from the traditions, they start to disappear too, or get altered so as not to really be about the faith anymore. That’s why I’m not scared that secularism will crush the Church. A complacent culture is one you lose, a culture that you have to fight for is one you strengthen.
What I am scared of though is getting lost. As I see it, the rise of secular culture presents us not with a crisis, but a new challenge, and this challenge brings us much closer to the early disciples. The challenge is to be in this world that is apathetic, or even worse, angry and hostile, without the ease of being surrounded by a Catholic culture, and to find our way to meaningful evangelization. It’s tough because the old markers (think phone booths) are gone, and the strangers who we ask for directions might be angry and hostile, and the voice we hope to hear, telling us to turn right in 500m isn’t always loud and clear.
The other thing I’m scared of is getting isolated. I’ll be honest, I have a pretty negative reaction whenever I hear of a Catholic family homeschooling because they don’t like the curriculum or that schools just aren’t Catholic enough. A common mantra I’ve heard in my school division since becoming a teacher is that the only way we’ll lose the right to Catholic education in Alberta is if we give it away. If we withdraw from the system. If we stop producing faith filled teachers. If we stop having parents who will stand up for a strong Catholic culture in the halls and classrooms. If we stop having kids who grow up in strong Catholic homes with the courage to lead or stand apart from their peers (there’s no lack of child and teenage saints who give testament to the fact that young people are capable of this), and parents who are open, frank, and courageous in talking to their kids about the difficulties and rewards of living their faith.
If the Catholic response to the rise of secularism is to go back to our safe little rooms, then we lose our say in our culture, and more importantly, we lose opportunities to walk in the footsteps of the disciples who went out in the world with no map, courageously to the strangers, to share God’s love. I know this is hard. I’m really shy, so the thought of doing that makes my stomach clench, but it’s what we’re called to do. In my wanderings today I got to see this in action. Nothing crazy… just some dude on a bike with a basket who would stop every time he saw a homeless person, offer them some food and water, and have a little chat with them before moving on. He was living a courageous example of God’s love and fighting a culture that says our faith belongs in private, by showing love to people who needed it. No map. No phone. Just courage.