Wednesday, July 29, 2009

pomp and circumstance...

... an embittered battle ensues, all for the sake of ceremony.

I have been trying for some time, quite unsuccessfully I might add, to register my son for CCD classes in preparation for his first Holy Communion. My kvetch are the times the classes are scheduled. They start at 4:30pm with only one evening class at 6:30pm that happens to fall on a night I have one my classes.

When I called to find out my alternatives, expressing that most people are at work during those times, the lovely reception said the simple solution was to have my husband bring him. Ouch.

I am sure we will work something out but the main issue I am having is with the ludicrousness of the whole process. For the next two years I have to commit to taking my son to CCD once a week. For what!? The whole thing gives me RCIA flashbacks... post traumatic stress disorder from all the hugging and "feelings" *twitch*.

This is the same parish where a mom was instructing kids who couldn't grasp transubstantiation that the Body and Blood of Christ was just a symbol. I vehemently believe that two years of this garbage will due more spiritual harm than good. Why can't I just continue with instructing my son at home, through my example, and weekly mass?

It's asinine.

The funniest part is I could just take him to the Ukrainian parish and after a few meetings with the parish priest get the whole thing done with. Then my son can start receiving the graces associated with the Eucharist.

When I told my family this was my initial plan you'd thought I said I was converting to Mormonism. Don't you dare, they balked. Why... because they want the ceremony.

They want the suit, the pictures, the party, they big deal and rite of passage associated with first Holy Communion.

So is first communion just about a celebration or about children coming into the fullness of their faith? I can't tell you how many friends I have that are Catholic up to the point their children receive the sacraments. Then you never see them or their kids at mass again. Some formation.

The whole thing is just plain dumb and has me irritated beyond belief.



Rebekah said...

My parents had the same concern for me and my siblings many years ago. Their solution was to talk with the pastor and ask for an exemption from taking the classes and be tested beforehand to make sure we knew the things we should. He let us do that. Unfortunately in a lot of places, CCD is just a waste of time.

Josephus Flavius said...

You don't have to do the classes (or that's often the case) if you get the materials and work on it with him. Many homeschooling families I know asked their priests and were given an ok.

Going the UGCC path doesn't preclude him from getting into a suit and having pictures taken. Byzantine Catholics I know who put their kids in Latin elementary schools went along with the whole picture taking process when the time came with no problems whatsoever.

Baron Korf said...

As a confirmation teacher, I can tell you our work is a symptom of failure. If parents did you want to, we wouldn't be needed. Sadly most parents aren't knowledgable enough, usually from their own weak formation, and the rest don't care and are more concerned with a big celebration like you've seen.

Mac McLernon said...

Two YEARS???

Heck, we do ours (First Holy Communion) in six months. Our Confirmation programme is six weeks.

Mind you, this is Fr. Tim's parish we're talking about...

Adrienne said...

As a former RE teacher, I agree with you and would ask your pastor for an exemption.

And the time is ridiculous. I found the best time for RE classes was between Masses on Sunday...

Anonymous said...

GREAT photo, CC! Is that you, in your younger, mellower years?

The crucial issue is sound and complete catechesis for your son, no matter where or how you obtain it. Why not ask around about other parishes in your diocese, find our who has the best program and enroll your son there? Or maybe find some orthodox homeschoolers who are willing to include your boy in the catechism sessions for their own children. Abbreviated sessions or cram courses such as you describe with your local Ukrainians can't possibly do justice to a decent pre-Communion curriculum.

Just my $.02.


Cathy_of_Alex said...

I agree with Rebekah. Would the parish allow you to instruct your son and then the priest and teachers (priest for sure!) can quiz him. My guess is: he'll know more than the rest of the class.

When people ask me where my husband is or if Mr ____ is at home, I say "No, I buried him in the backyard last year" Works every time. Ok, maybe not a good idea with your parish...never mind.

joan said...

Homeschool sounds like the best way to do it.I hope that you can go this route.

Maria said...

That sounds ridiculously impossible. Our regular catechism classes fall on the weekends either before or just after Mass, but we have one First Communion class on Monday nights.

Our First Communion prep. is two years and the kids must be in 3rd grade and the Confirmation program is a whole school year.

Could you check with another parish, we allow children from other parishes to attend religious education at ours. Or you might want to check into homeschooling, as someone suggested. I'm sorry you're running into such problems.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Your post gave me a rather frightening flashback to my own religious instruction (back when I was a teenager long before I doxed). I remember Fr. Walsh asking me what would be an appropriate and Christian response to someone stealing something from me? My reply was something along the lines of denouncing him to the Inquisition.

I think I will draw the curtain of decency across the scene that followed. Suffice to say it was ugly.

Under the mercy,

Adoro said...

Wow. It is actually my job to handle this stuff.

At the parish where I work, the children are required to attend Wed. evening religious ed classes (2 time options). The sacramental prep, while it's worked into the regular classes, is otherwise mainly done at home...with the parents. The parents have to attend orientations on each of the 2 Sacraments, and bring their child to a retreat. They are given books to work on at home and return to me.

We're trying to keep it ceremonial to show the importance of the Sacrament, but it's a constant battle with the parents who are all about the dress and apparently see the First Communion Masses as a semi-private Cotillion for their little angel.

Oh, and the HATE the talks I give because there's no room for fluff. They are so ticked off that I say that they HAVE to go to Confession if they are Catholic and in a state of mortal sin, and that intentionally missing Mass is, by the way...a mortal sin.

So...why don't you come to MN, sign him up and if for some reason the parent orientations (of which there will be many options this year) don't work for you make an appointment and I'll work with you directly with the permission of Father. :-)

Anonymous said...

It distresses me to hear of problems in Religious Ed, especially in preparation of children to receive Holy Communion. How come NOTHING is being done about it?? (Besides whine??) There SHOULD be GOOD workbooks by now...after all this Sacrament has been around for CENTURIES.. if teachers are not teaching correctly out of the books then they need to be reported to the DRE, if they won't do anything, then to the priest, then to the Bishop, etc. The teacher that was teaching that the Eucharist was just a symbol should have been immediately fired.

I can understand the time that the class is is pretty much right after school and wouldn't interfere with dinner. I wouldn't want my elementary age kids out after 7 pm on a school that time they are getting bathed and ready for bedtime at 8 pm.

A local monastery or convent might be able to accomodate one-on-one classes on a Saturday or Sunday.

Terry Nelson said...

This may be a little off-topic but did I ever tell you about my sister's co-worker who happened to be a dwarf lesbian and asked Beth - that's my sister - if she would let she and her lover, who was also a dwarf, borrow her twins' Communion dresses and veils because they were going to Vermont to get married? Beth told her no because the dresses couldn't be let out that much, but she told her they could use the cake toppers if they wanted. (Your photo reminded me of the story.)

Keystone said...

Your son's communion is NOT about your parent's desires, nor photos, nor your marital status.
It is about Christ.

My mom converted to Catholicism in order to be acceptable to dad's parents (1930's). She was an outcast all her life, but the real Christian in the family. She had all my 12 siblings lined up every week at Mass over the years, and was at nearly every Novena. She was more Catholic than dad.

Dad had ten siblings too, most departed now. I recall going to my uncle Mike's funeral. He outlived his contemporaries, and the funeral home had a small staff.

As a single parent dad, I took my 5 year old daughter to the service.
My aunt, the widow, came to me before the funeral and asked me to be a pall bearer on the spot, as they had so few people there.
I told her I had no problem with being a pall bearer, but I could not leave my 5 year old alone.

"She will sit with me", said my aunt. Problem solved.

All went well until communion was about to begin and I thought "My God, she is only five, attends another denomination (and took communion there long ago), would expect it here, is first in line after the widow, and was obviously too young (for Catholic).
I will always be grateful to this kind priest who said to my daughter
"The Body of Christ"....
and she replied with nothing but a smile. She just took it from the priest and ate.

Afterwards, I explained what an honor it was for her, since you have to be much older for First Communion at the Church, and I explained transubstantiation, over symbolism. She understood it all and then told me:
"That did not taste good at all dad. It stuck to the top of my mouth and I coudn't get it off".

I told her that when you taste Christ, you do not want to take it off! Just savor and let it melt.

Everybody's needs were met at the funeral, and a young girl learned a new dimension of Christ.

Jesus Christ was homeschooled in church matters, until age 12 when he went to the Temple and began discussing things he was too young to know. Teach your son, as the BVM taught hers.

Years later, there was another funeral with a crowd. The bishop and a priest friend came, a former high school teacher of mine.

The priest thought he would make a little fun with my little girl, and asked her "Who is your favorite Bible character in all the Bible?". He fully expected her to say Jesus, Mary, or Joseph in idle chatter.

My daughter was instantaneous in reply, at age 8.
"Jehosophat!", she told him dead seriously.

He almost choked on that and thought she was kidding. The priest followed up with a "test" question:
"Tell me why Jehosophat is your favorite character in all the Bible".

My daughter folded one arm over the other, pondered a moment, and said:
"You know, Jehosophat knew he had a problem but didn't have any idea how to solve it. So, he called all the people together, and said "WE GOT A PROBLEM!. So, Jehosophat told everybody there, "We Need To Pray" and they did. So the Holy Spirit told one of the guys what they should do, and Jehosophat said "Listen to this guy! He can hear the Holy Spirit!". He said "God, we don't know what to do, so we place our eyes on you"; and God said, "Don't worry, the battle belongs to me".
I really like the way Jehosophat took care of that, don't you?" she asked the priest.

In the car, I later asked her where she learned all that Jehosophat stuff.
She looked at me as if I had asked the most imbecile question in her life.
"It's in 2nd Chronicles dad. Read him in Chapter 20".

NO ONE reads 2 Chronicles, but that night, I did. It is an amazing story, and in reading the Bible from cover to cover, my daughter found things too wonderful for me to know.

Perhaps the wafer on her mouth roof gave her insight and love for Christ long before anyone suspected possible. He will do the same for your son, Carolina.

The pictures will fade in our lifetime.
The love of Christ is forever.
This is not a hard choice.

gsk said...

I'm with Keystone on this. If the Ukranian parish is Catholic, have some heart-to-hearts with your son and have him receive quietly there. The pomp cuts both ways, nailing down Something Important, but then watering it down as though it's all about the kids (and not Jesus). If your family is wigging out about pictures, then perhaps they need a heart-to-heart as well. It's not about them either.

Even if you could make arrangements to get him to classes, they would not impress him more than you would about the Real Presence. How many different ways (and over how many years) can you teach: Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity.

It's not a Rite of Passage but Entry into a Mystery. The fomer is mundane, the latter celestial.

In the end, you'll know what to do. I just hope commenters free you from the confines of convention (which usually isn't a problem for you).

Snupnjake said...

My cousin was having the same problem. She eventually took the kids to another parish school of religion.

I have noticed some of the bigger parishes have PSR classes at multiple times.

One of the other problems the PSR are having here is arranging things around scouts, sports and whatever else the kids are doing. There was also the space problem, but with more schools closing, this is less of an issue...

Fr. Erik Richtsteig said...

Ask your family which one of THEM is going to step up to the plate and take the boy to the classes.

Lee Strong said...

Will the parish allow you to homeshool the lad? Because of my schedule with the girls - and being a divorced dad with joint custody - I was allowed to homeshool my three daughters for religious ed for a year. At the least, would the parish be willing to allow it for the the time you are taking a class?

Jon said...


You'll figure this out due to the above fine advice.

For you and Cathy, however...

When my oldest son was born fifteen years ago, I was irritated beyond measure that at the hospital birthing classes, my wife was issued a green hospital tunic that read in big letters "MOM" on the back. Mine read "COACH."

I asked for one that read "DAD," and was told there was no such thing.

On school forms I'm no longer acknowledged as "husband," "father," or even "spouse." It's "domestic partner."

The Collapse is now integral to our vocabulary. Resist it. Be polite. If asked where your husband is, say, "I'm afraid it's just me and junior."

No need for feminazi sarcasm.

TheSeeker said...

First off, I have to laugh hysterically at Terry's comment.

Second, how ridiculous! Life isn't cookie-cutter molded, so the church shouldn't treat you like it is. Everyone has different needs, schedules, personalities, and aptitudes. I think the parents should teach the children about life and religion, and if necessary the priest should talk to the kids about it periodically. That class seems very unnecessary.

Jane said...

The advice above--either ask to be allowed to teach him at home or go to the Ukrainian church--is excellent. I was allowed, for Confirmation, to skip the classes at my parish, and just fill out the answers to a quiz prepared by the bishop for all of kids in the diocese. Hopefully the priest at your parish will be similarly understanding and flexible.

If you do take your son to the Ukrainian church, I don't suppose there is anything preventing you from dressing him in a suit, inviting your relatives, and taking a couple of pictures afterward.

rightwingprof said...

I sometimes think our lack of basic organization (nothing like RCIA) is a bad thing, until I read things like this:

"This is the same parish where a mom was instructing kids who couldn't grasp transubstantiation that the Body and Blood of Christ was just a symbol"

Our priest gives classes, and we have a small but steady stream of catechumens. And maybe I'm confused, but don't the Ukrainian Catholics commune from baptism, as we do? Or am I somehow missing what you were saying there?

Carolina Cannonball said...

The Boy was baptized Roman.

Josephus Flavius said...

So the Latin priest has to sign off for Chrismation. Then the UGCC priest is allowed to perform the rite. If that priest won't do it canon law also permits you to ask the priest closest to your home.

rightwingprof said...

"The Boy was baptized Roman."

Sure, I understand that. But what I don't understand is why the Ukrainians would have any kind of first communion classes or program.

Jason Gennaro said...

I agree with those commenters who said it would be best if you could ask for an exemption and homeschool your son.

One thing I would note, given all the comments: no one improved a parish or a parish program by leaving the parish or pursuing the program elsewhere. Those things only weaken parishes. We may not like what is occuring in our parishes, but we must work to make the reform that we desire happen. This can be done, I think, with prayer, and lots of it, and honest dialogue with those involved.

In your case, I would guess a sincere discussion with your pastor - who in all likelihood only wants the best for you and your son - will result in the needed "exemption". It may also cause your pastor to reconsider how the program is being handled.

A few years ago, when our eldest was preparing for First Communion, I discovered our parish was celebrating First Communion *before* First Confession! I was disturbed and thought of many different solutions, including attending other parishes - short term or having a family priest administer the rites. In the end, after some angst-ridden prayer and discussion, I called the pastor. He agreed to allow my son to receive Confession, then Communion, as is appropriate. Our parish now follows the proper order of sacramental reception. (I should note that a new pastor was installed and he had more to do with it than me...)

My thoughts. I will pray for a solution for you!

Anonymous said...

Ditto Fr. Erik.

and Jason

Anonymous said...

I've been a 1st Confession/ 1st Communion catechist & let me tell you, it biggest issue isn't the book or the catechist, it's the unpreparedness of the other kids. An orthodox catechist (me) with a decent book I handily supplimented STILL needs more than a year for the kids who aren't going to Mass every Sunday because their parents don't go. So what happens? The kids whose parents are actually Catholic are bored & could have Received earlier, and the other kids (through no fault of their own) are dragged along, barely ready. The boredom issue is a big one & if that's an issue, one more reason to seek an alternative.

Good luck with your family! Been there, know the landmines, did what was important to me. You know what? They get over it.

The Ironic Catholic said...

"When I called to find out my alternatives, expressing that most people are at work during those times, the lovely reception said the simple solution was to have my husband bring him. Ouch. "

I sure hope you told her you were a single parent. And that's more than ouch, that's obnoxious. I'd have been furious.

Given what else you say about the parish, the homeschool option may be the way to go. Or explain to the DRE your situation and talk about arranging a ride for your son (or having one extra in the class, for pity's sake!).

Maureen said...

I needled one of my favorite people at the parish a few weeks back, when she was talking about how her young kids wanted to go to Communion so bad. I threatened to tell her kids all about the various (Latin Rite) saints who got to receive their First Communions at very young ages, because they already knew the info and were mature....

I also threatened to give them drum sets, just so she'd know I wasn't serious. :)

But I do think there ought to be some easy procedures for kids who already know their faith and are ready to receive earlier.

Keystone said...

If you emphasize pictures and suits for communion, you set the stage for emphasis on pictures and suits for a wedding DAY, versus a marriage LIFE. He would then fit in well with all our society.

By emphasizing Christ, Christ, Christ, and how each of these sacraments draw your son and Christ closer, for all areas of his life (work, friends, choices, relationships, values, discernment, mate, prayer, integrity, being head of a household, and more), your son becomes separate and holy, as we are called to do.

It does not matter what any of us think, nor what your parents think (they had their chance at parenting; this is your chance), nor the parish (staying at a dud place makes zero sense to me; your boy would learn to hate God and have no inclination to attend Mass if the parish is run on the principles of "Let's empty these pews as fast as we can".

What matters is you getting it into your son's heart that Jesus Christ loves him and will be there by his side every day, for every need. Kids like having the best in friends.

He will later settle for nothing less in his choice of mate.

But it begins now, and it begins with the choices you emphasize as important over other choices.

New Years Eve. 1999. It was apparent that Y2K was not going to end the world as Australia and China celebrated. I asked my daughter what she thought of starting a new year, a new decade, a new century, and a new millenia with God.
"Let's do that dad".

"The Catholics are the only game in town tonight if you want to see God, so let's go to the Cathedral"
(Bishop's church in this diocese).
We were early as everyone rushes in the last 10 minutes. We were there an hour and a half before Mass, so I showed her the Christmas decorations, the Stations, the stained glass windows and what was depicted, the Baptismal font, everything.
She learned the Church of my youth.

We sat in the front row, for I am deaf and must read lips. My neice and her family came next and she asked me "What are you doing here?"
"Going to Mass"
We gabbed family stuff and an usher came up to me. I suspect he thought I was the Catholic of Catholic's for arriving an hour and a half early.

"Excuse me sir. Would you and your daughter take the elements to the Bishop at offertory?"

The usher left and my niece pounced on me saying:
"You guys can't do that; you're not even Catholic!"

I asked her if she would like me to explain her religion to her and she shut up. I told her that the bread and wine is bread and wine when it is carried to the Bishop.
The miracle of transubstantiation does not occur until during the Mass.

At Offertory, I did not move.
The church was packed; the service televised locally; the Bishop was waiting.

Finally, my niece could not stand it and blurted:
"Are you gonna take it up or not?"

I told her I came with my daughter to meet Christ, not offend anyone. Since she was offended, I declined. She immediately said that I should take one element with my daughter, and she would take the other element. I said:
"In that case, we'll take the wine".

This was a new experience for my daughter, and the bishop was relieved to see ANYONE go get the items. My neice gave the bread and I gave the wine.

The Bishop smiled at me, winked his eye, and said "Thank You". I said: "You're welcome".
He and I were privy to the knowledge that the first mass for the new year, decade, century, and Millenia in our community, had the bread presented to him by a catholic woman, and the wine by a protestant man and daughter.

The church began the 3rd Millenium in unity.

Nan said...

It's definitely about the sacrament, not the photo op. The photo op might be important to others, but it's not important in the long run. The rite of passage exists without the bystanders.

I received my First Communion outside of Mass, though I'd argue that there was ceremony, as the Priest was properly vested.

I have fond memories of the Priest and remember how happy I was on that day.

Dymphna said...

I didn't actually have a real formal First Communion. One day at the school Mass I just got up with the rest of the kids. Father wasn't too upset about it. I can't remember but I think I got the formal First Communion with everybody else in my class later the next year.

Patm said...

I ended up "homeschooling" my kids religious instruction because of several factors, including time. I brought this Faith and Life series to the DRE...

and said I would use it to teach my kids. She was all, "you're going to teach them using THAT? We think it's much too sophisticated for children."

When she would test my kids each year she invariably remarked that they were extremely well prepared for whatever was coming up.

Yet they still doen't use that great program!

Todd said...

More problematic in many of these comments is the notion that receiving the Eucharist is something that can be earned through knowledge. Isn't there a better way than class attendance and absorption of facts? Given all this, we'd be better off confirming and giving First Eucharist to infants.

rightwingprof said...

"we'd be better off confirming and giving First Eucharist to infants"

That's what we do.

Carolina Cannonball said...

Todd, Agreed! That is what Eastern Rite Catholics do as well