Growth in the Faith Should Never End
I write this on Monday, Oct. 4, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi.
He's the one who remarked, "Preach always! Use words if you have to!"
Well, the Church sure does "preach always," and we do so by actions and words.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about our Catholic schools.
A jewel in the Church's "teaching crown" they are indeed, but many other diamonds there are as well.
"Archbishop, our priest conducts a weekly Bible study, and do we ever enjoy it!"
"I attend classes at the Institute for Religious Studies, and has it ever helped me deepen knowledge of my faith!"
"Our parish has a weekly adult enrichment group on very timely Church teachings, and we wouldn't miss it!"
"We really benefited from the marriage preparation program."
"This last summer our parish began a Vocation Religion School, and there's already a list to attend next year."
"Thanks, Archbishop, for the Catholic Student Center on our university campus. They have great lectures and meetings."
"Our parish is big-time into the family-based catechesis approved by Cardinal Egan. We love it!"
"The Catholic Assisted Living facility in our town offers courses on the Church's teachings about Ôend of life' issues, and were they ever enlightening for us."
"We griped when the parish made us attend classes as our child prepared for first confession and Communion, but we ended up seeing their value."
Just a sample of the positive reports I hear about our extensive efforts in faith formation. Our growth in the faithÑsoul, mind, heartÑshould never stop. Sure, it's intensive and consistent for children and youth, but it does not come to a halt when we graduate.
Of course, along with our Catholic schools, religious education is essential for our children. Our parishes do heroic work in offering weekly catechesis for our children not in daily Catholic schools, and the leadership of our parish directors of religious education, along with the skills and devotion of our catechists, are of vital importance.
For, as effective as they are, only about 28 percent of our children are in Catholic schools. Almost 50 percent of them are in our religious education programs. The instruction they receive has to continue being first rate. We cannot let them down.
In handing on the faith at the parish, there is a serious shortage of qualified catechists. I am very proud of the services offered by our Archdiocesan Catechetical Office, offering all the spiritual, theological and pedagogical training our instructors need. (For more information, visit www.nyfaithformation.org.)
Preparation for the sacraments is a classic part of Catholic life. Parents prepare for the christening of their new baby; children (and parents!) are tenderly and intensely prepared for confession and first holy Communion; our junior high young people take the months leading up to confirmation seriously; and our engaged couples know they should spend at least as much time preparing for their marriage license as they do their driver's license! (And, Lord knows our future priests and deacons spend years in formation for holy orders.)
We call it now "lifelong faith formation." It never stops.
Now, more than ever, our Catholic people are called upon to explain and defend their faith. If you're not well-grounded in it, get ready to have it taken away from you by people from other religions who are indeed well-versed in their own, by the best-selling atheists, by the high priests of secularism (the new religion), by op-ed pieces which distort our faith, or by late-night comedians who poke fun at it.
Lifelong religious education: not a luxury but a duty. Thanks to those who take it so seriously!