The more I learn about my Catholic faith, the more I love it. It’s so simple really; we complicate it. It’s so meaningful really; we misinterpret it. It’s so rich really; we snub it. It’s so beautiful really; we ignore it.
At the hairdresser’s this morning three of us carried on a conversation about what has happened in the Church’s past and what is going on in the Church’s present and what we see as the Church’s future. None of us are theologians or have master degrees in religion. Two of us teach CCD. The third was an elderly woman in her eighties who has seen and knows far more than either my hairdresser or I.
But we all agreed with the obvious; there is a lost generation of Catholics out there. They are our neighbors, our friends, our family; they are the parents of today. Following in their stead, is the next generation. We are all called to the table yet so many fail to accept the invitation.
I am often oblivious to the obvious and I was a self-professed Catholic teenager at one time which allows me some compassion for the students who come down the corridors of our CCD building. That’s where my relationship with my own children (of staggering ages) comes in. I give a measure of clearance to all the questioning teenagers who come through our religious ed program because I know their questions. And I know there is not always an answer. But years have passed and my life is very different today then it was when I was a Catholic teenager. I am now a Catholic wife and mother. I now see how rich and beautiful the Catholic faith is and it stuns me that other parents are blinded to the obvious. There is so much to learn, to unwrap, to embrace. I am the blind-leading–the-blind.
I’m thinking though, shouldn’t we try to revive our Catholic faith? Our Catholic identity? Shouldn’t we be passionate about defining our religion and keeping our eyes open wide for all the beauty and possibilities therein? By definition the term “religion” means a lifestyle of faith. Most of us define our religion by the faith lifestyle our family raised us in or by what the current culture is following, but a lifestyle of faith should go deeper than that. A lifestyle of faith defines who we are in heart, mind, and soul.
So how did we end up with a lost generation of Catholics?
I think it’s safe (though cautious) to say that after Vatican II most parents stopped living the Catholic lifestyle. It was considered dowdy and old-fashion. We were liberated. We were “in the know.” Out with the old, in with the new, became an understood mantra. We left our traditions camped outside our lives and shunned anything that chanted Catholic. We were no longer sure what or who we were supposed to look like, act like, and be like as Catholics. We closed our doors on past notions, lifelines that had withstood the lashes of change through so many years. It is only natural that the only connection we made with the Catholic lifestyle was that of sitting in church for an hour on Sunday making chapels of our fingers and palms. We didn’t understand why we were there or what we were doing there. If that wasn’t enough, we were subjected to another hour of CCD classes. Not all classes were dull and monotonous but most of us had our share of watered-down Catholicism.
Though Vatican II opened many closed doors to the Catholic laity and actually invited us into a fuller communion with the Mass, lots got thrown out the back door that shouldn’t have been thrown out. Gone was the mystery, the traditions, the age-old devotions which formed the connections—like rosary beads—between generations. Religion became something to do only in church on Sunday and something to share only in CCD on Wednesday nights.
We need to look back at those devotions and traditions, upon which the Catholic faith tucks and hems its teachings inside of. Catholic author Leisa Anslinger recently told several religious education directors, “Tradition is the passing on of sacred truth.” It is also the passing on of the sacred trust. Tradition, truth, and trust are what define a Catholic lifestyle. Without traditions we lose that personal connection with our faith. We lose our relationships with those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. We lose our identity and become yet another lost generation.
Don’t we want our children to know what a Catholic lifestyle truly looks like? If we don’t keep it alive and burning within our homes, it will surely pass away and become the stuff of legend.
With this in mind, let’s look at the traditions and devotions that make our Catholic faith so fragrant and meaningful if only we reach out and embrace them, beginning inside our homes, our domestic churches. As Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof tells his audicence, “Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years.” The best way to go back to finding this balance is to start with the Church’s liturgical year which conveniently begins anew on November 28th, the First Sunday of Advent.
Until my next column, you might want to go to Mater et Magistra and copy their free PDF Fall 2010 issue which is full of Catholic ideas sure to abundantly bless your Catholic home: http://materetmagistramagazine.org/mETm_3.4_online.pdf
Copyright 2010 Cay Gibson