The other day I attended an meeting at my Church, they have decided it was time to make some much needed changed to the religious education of the middle school youth program. It was time to re-evaluate how they approached the faith formation of youth, what books to use, if any, what grades will be changed and how do we change it… All questions that need answers, along with a million others.
The process of change is hard, as everyone knows, no one likes change, and God knows the Catholic Church does not come to change easily, this is true for the local parish as much as for the Vatican. Change with in the Church is a slow moving process, and for the most part I thing that is a good thing. The Church is not an institution that should change with every new fad in faith. Her traditions and teachings must remain constant, the stability of the Church is one of her strong points. But sometimes even the most simplest of changes take time. Lets face it, the Church moves slow.
Well, back the the meeting, my parish has decided that change is needed, that we must approach the youth is a format and fashion that appeals to them, and I’m sorry, most of what is currently offered as “religious formation” is nothing but memorization of religious facts. Really, facts = faith? Knowing the prayers of the faith is important, memorizing bible passages is important, but does that make one faithful?
Lets look at it in a different light…
Learning math, 2+2=4, does not make me a mathematician, it makes me able to add, subtract and do the simple math needed to navigate life. It also introduces me to math, allowing me to explore it more deeply, if I choose, and maybe I will become a mathematician latter in life. If not no harm, I now know how to add 2+2.
So, as a math teacher (I am not one) my job would not be to create mathematicians but rather to foster the desire to become one. I teach the basics and leave the rest up to the individual.
Much is the same with most things taught, The object of teaching is to pass on the knowledge, not to create new experts.
The exception to the rule…
Once a path has been chosen, such as Doctor, than the object become creating a new expert. So far I would assume that most would agree with me, education, in is simplest form is to pass on needed information, not to create new experts.
Object or Action
I look at it like this, The object of Faith Formation is not to create new Theologians or Priest, but rather to foster the desire to grow more deeply in the faith. Another way to look at it, Are we creating Theologians or Catholics?
Theologian is an object, a noun
Catholic is an action, a verb
The point of faith formation is not to create nouns but to foster verbs.
I would rather see the youth excited about the faith than to see them recite a prayer, yet have no attachment to the faith. With the basics of the faith instilled in them in a new and exciting way we will be creating a new generation of dynamic Catholics, Catholics that are on fire for knowledge, and some will become the new Theologians and Priest and others will be the new laity, the laity that is involved in parish life, that look at the parish as part of, not separated from, the family dynamics.
What will happen at my local parish, will we see the change that needs to come, or will continue to look at faith formation in the same old way? Only time will tell, but with the grace of God and the working of the Holy Sprit we just may…