Hi, Jen —
I would agree with my colleague Eric. The biggest area where we could use improvement is evangelization and catechesis. I believe we are failing terribly in this area and the results manifest themselves in poor stewardship and a lack of good, if not, bad vocations to the priesthood.
That said, I don't doubt that across America and around the world, we have fine, good-hearted Catholics who step up and choose to be catechists at the parish level for our youth and do the best they can. We at AskACatholic appreciate this very important role within the Church but would encourage them to keep an eye open for bad Catholic catechetical reading material which sadly does exist.
Nevertheless, there are two problems with our current CCD approach which I discussed with one of our colleagues, John DiMascio, about a month ago at Dunkin Donuts.
- The first: there has been no foundation made prior to attending CCD classes which develops a real, personal relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ!
- The second: once a good catechesis has been taught and ingrained into our young Catholics, they go off into secular colleges and universities, where atheists and agnostics persuade them that the faith means nothing compared to their feelings so they leave, if not the whole faith, the practice of their faith.
On the first issue. Many parents drop their kids off at CCD and tell them they have to go without giving them a good reason why this is important. I'm willing to bet the issue of salvation or having a well-formed conscience isn't even mentioned. There has to be:
- a love for the Church, and
- a personal relationship with the Lord, cultivated prior to this.
The parents are the only ones that can do this. If their children see how their parents love the Lord, the Church, and the Scriptures, they will follow suit and will develop an attitude proper to being a heralder of the kerygma (the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, especially in the manner of the Early Church.)
On the second issue. This issue could easily be solved if Catholic pastors and priests in parishes around the world educated the faithful at Sunday Masses on Catholic Apologetics:
- What is it? (1 Peter 3:15)
- What its not, and
- The importance of practicing it in order to keep the faith they were hopefully well-catechized in.
The problem we have is once the kids leave for higher education, they will be tested and others will strive to pull them totally away from the faith, if not just practicing the faith. As St. Peter states in 1 Peter 3:15:
15 Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence;
That said, let's be honest, none of us know all the answers, to all the faith questions we will receive and the problem gets worse when we start guessing at replies to questions we really don't know the answers to. If there were Catholic apologetic support groups at the parish level, where Catholics who are into Apologetics could meet with:
- other Catholic apologists at their parish and
- others apologists from other parishes on a periodic basis
we would be far better equipped when encountering the atheist, agnostic, or non-Catholic Christian.
The purpose of a Catholic apologetic support group at the parish level would be to share and exchange contact information with other Catholic evangelizers within the parish who are always:
- praying and reading the Scriptures regularly
- studying the Scriptures within the context of the teaching Church, as well as
- studying various related magisterial documents from current and previous popes.
Once a solid group like this has been established, when Peter or Peggy Protestant asks Charlie or Carol Catholic,
- Why do Catholics worship statues, images, and dead people?
Even if we don't know the answer, we can say,
“Look, Peter, I don't know the answer to your question but one of my Catholic evangelizers, Charlie or Carol may. Let me get back to you. OK?”
This approach repeated over and over will build a database of knowledge in us as Catholic Christian evangelizers and, God-willing, will encourage future constructive faith-sharing with the same and other non-Catholic Christians and non-Christians.
- So the question remains, how can we make Catholic evangelization and catechesis better?
I don't think this can be done easily within the current length of most CCD classes but hopefully, someone can think of a way of compressing three important levels of evangelical training:
- Cultivating a personal relationship with the Lord through reading the Scriptures within the context of the Church and a love for the Church where the kerygma will want to be heralded by young Catholics.
- Implementing a solid Catholic catechesis program so Catholic youth know what Jesus, through His Church, teaches, and finally,
- Developing local Catholic Apologetic groups, so the faithful will keep, know, and love the faith they were original taught at the CCD level without being pulling away by human secularists, atheists, non-Catholic Christians, and others. Having a library of Catholic Apologetic reading material is critical to the success of any Catholic Apologist!
We are currently failing in this area as affirmed by the AskACatholic knowledge base with 5,632 questions posted in over 20 years of apologetics!
This is my recommendation for how to improve this area of evangelization and catechesis.
I hope this helps,