Faith Drain: The Answer Is In Christ

20 Responses

  1. I agree, but I think that the issue is multi-faceted, and that much more could be said about it. It is my personal opinion that we are also to blame in chasing away young adults, both the Church (in the way we catechise) and parents (by the example, or should I say the lack of example, that is set).

    If we look at the whole catechesis issue, then I think that our approach is flawed in how we deal with teenagers. They have been sitting an entire week in a classroom at school, and what do we do? We dump them right back into a school environment for catechesis, and this causes resentment to grow within them. Furthermore, catechesis seems to be inexplicably caught up with the grade system that is used at school. If you are in Grade 8 at school, then you are in Grade 8 catechism. It seems to me that passing at school enables you to go on to the next year in catechism! Does this make any sense?

    The next problem is that so many catechists seem to then almost turn Confirmation into a sacrament of commitment to the Church, which it is not. Lets face it, but at the age that teenagers come up for Confirmation (usually about 16) the last thing that they are thinking about is commitment. In fact, mention the word to them and they want to run a mile! We further entrench this idea of commitment by our inversion of the sacraments of initiation. The proper order (listed in all Church documents dealing with Christian initiation) is Baptism, Confirmation, and then Eucharist, with Eucharist described as the summit of Christian initiation. What have we done for those who grow up in the Church? Baptism, Eucharist, and then Confirmation this seems to make Confirmation the summit of Christian initiation. No wonder Confirmation is seen as a sort of sacrament of commitment! Put all of this together and what do you get? You get a whole lot of resentment and bad personal experiences surrounding the sacrament of Confirmation. No wonder they treat their confirmation as a matric pass and so leave the Church!

    Next, theres the problem of the parents. Parents make the promise at the baptism of their child to bring that child up in the faith. Unfortunately, for so many parents, this means dropping their child off at catechism and not much else. This once again reinforces the school mentality that I go into above: I give my child to the Church so that the Church can teach my child the faith. Right back into the classroom/school system again! And to say nothing for those parents who treat catechism as a day-care centre so that they can get on with their own lives. How often catechists have to wait for up to an hour, hour and a half for parents to fetch their children once catechism is ended!

    The parents who get it right are the ones who pray with their children, go to mass with their children, take an interest in their faith education, etc. While I freely admit that there are many parents who do this (and the fruits of their actions are there for all to see), there are many parents in parishes who do not pray at home with their children, do not take an interest in their faith development, and, most sadly, do not attend mass with their children at all, but rather just drop them off at the church. This again causes resentment to build up in their children: Why should I be forced to do something that seems to hold no interest for my parents and never informs their lives even in the slightest bit? Again, no wonder that these children leave once they are confirmed: At last, the whole family can now all sleep late on a Sunday! How can we expect children to be evangelised if their parents are not evangelised? (if we take the word evangelised to mean having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ) Parents are meant to be the first evangelisers of their own children, and if they are not doing it, then we as Church are fighting a losing battle.

    I see these two issues as central to the problem of teenagers leaving once they have been confirmed, and I am sure that there are more. The question is: What is the solution? It is my opinion that we confirm at far too late an age. When children are young, faith comes more easily and they are still into the Church. Why not give them a good experience of Confirmation with none of the associated stresses that I have described above? I would advocate the age of about 8 or 9 (remembering that this once used to be the practice in the Church). They can then make their First Holy Communion at the same mass, and so be fully initiated into the Church. From that point on they can fully enter into the faith life of the community, and should be encouraged to enter the various ministries that are available.

    The problem? We are concerned with teaching them the deposit of the faith, i.e. the dogmas and the doctrines of the Church. Many would ask when this teaching would happen if we initiate at such a young age. In answer to this objection I would say that it would happen specifically if the parents are practicing their faith; and there can also still be some form of catechesis after the fact, but without the pressures of the present system. I often think of this in respect of the Orthodox Churches that fully initiate the children at their Baptism, and yet they still seem to pass on the what of their belief to their children.

    Im sure that there are others that can outline more issues and present more solutions. However, perhaps we also need to take heed of Pope Benedicts words early in his pontificate. He said something along the lines of him foreseeing the time of a more streamlined Church, one that is more faithful to Christ because it has shed all of the dead wood, retaining the faithful remnant (to use Old Testament terminology). God does not form part of so many peoples lives in society today, and, at most, being spiritual, not religious (whatever that means) is far more valued in todays world for many people, rather than a personal relationship with Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

  2. Down through the years I have read your letters, John Lee and I am sure this is the best one yet (and not because you mention me).

    Pity you may not get to read this as you do not have internet access.

    I had the opinions in mind, specifically of half of those young adults who leave i.e young women. If they have been well educated they understand whose shoulders they stand on!

    My letter was attempting to highlight the confusing opinions of those confirmed-in-the-faith adults who:
    1) Offer Mary as the true role model for feminism (despite being pregnant outside of marriage!);
    2) believe womens rights are born out of an evil ideology;
    3) find the need to prop up official church stance and status in the world regarding women. (Mary should have negated any need for this 2,000 years ago);
    4) seriously judge behaviour of people in church who dont measure up to the writers standards about what is sacred i.e. the place, the sacrament or the person made in the image of God!

    I emphasised confusion and thought: no wonder those who are searching for real meaning in their lives: honesty and compassion, leave the Church. But I knew expressing it so openly would seriously limit any chance of being published.

    Fr. Keough, I like your writing better when you wear the hat of Teacher. The response to John Lee has the flavour of a lecture some good points but mostly going nowhere slowly!

    I sound nasty dont I??!!

    This is probably because of your last para. and mentioning Benedict XVIs opinion about “streamlining, remnant and deadwood”.

    The Church spends millions on WYDs which appear to be enormously successful, yet fails to facilitate a personal experience and inflame the hearts of our youth to persist in a relationship with Christ.

    My blood pressure rises when the Church points fingers at all the evil worldly isms and fails to see that it is part of the problem which, dear Fr. Keough, you admit to above.

  3. Dear Rosemary,

    A lecture? Surely not! It is merely my opinion and I am sorry if it comes across as dry, but it is an issue that is very close to my heart.

    When I think of Benedicts views on the more streamlined Church, the old saying comes to mind: You can take a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. I think that we have to come to the realisation that people are responsible for their own faith lives and faith choices. It is obvious to me that there are many who live their faith, and so give a good example to others (especially their children), but then there is also a multitude of what I like to call submarine Catholics (i.e. they only come up for Christmas or Easter). What is the point of that? Yes, I will try to evangelise them in the small little bit of an opportunity that I have (i.e. the Christmas/Easter homily and saying hello after mass – if they are not part of the back three rows that have left just after communion, before the final blessing, and LONG before I even get to the back of the church). Other than that, what more can I do? Follow them home and make a nuisance of myself? We cannot force people into relationship with Christ they have to make that choice for themselves. My biggest bugbear is the fact that we keep on talking about evangelisation, relationship with Christ, etc, etc, etc, BUT what can we as Church do if the parents are not doing their duty or people are not interested in listening? We have to admit to ourselves that despite all we do there are going to be people who are not going to embrace God and relationship with Christ, no matter how much we run after them. Furthermore, we actually need to allow them the space to make that decision. Even Christ himself lost followers in his own lifetime because they could not accept what he was saying. Why do we seem to think that we are better than him and try running ourselves to death after people who could not give two hoots? He proclaimed the message and welcomed those who accepted it. I see no evidence in scripture of him running after people and begging them to come into the kingdom. The only faith relationship that we can be truly worried about is our own.

  4. Just another thought. My parish is quite a young one (lots of young married couples, teenagers, kids, etc), and many of the teenagers go on Friday to The Edge Church (one of the Assemblies of God). They do not go there because they want to join the church, but rather because they like the vibe of the youth ministry there. There are young youth pastors, there’s more contemporary music, etc.

    Therefore, it would seem to me that the youth take to young priests. In fact, most young people’s response to me (and the other young priests in Cape Town) is: “You’re a PRIEST?! But you’re not 60! Cool!” Perhaps one of the solutions for keeping the youth in the Church is to encourage vocations, especially vocations of younger people. We have to show them that the priesthood and religious life are viable and valued options, instead of falling into the critical and derisive attitude that so many people (even Catholics!) have today. Would it not be lovely if we could also have young priests that are dedicated to youth ministry? (as so many other churches have youth pastors) The only way we could manage this is by getting more vocations.

    Lastly, it is my honest belief that those who leave the Church always come back – even if it is on their death beds.

  5. John Lee makes the first primary point with knowing Jesus in a personal relationship. The second point is about Catholics rather being sacramentalised than evangelised. The third point is around the theologian, Charles Davis (who needs to be challenged) when John states: the more incessant our activity with subsidiary issues, the less need there is to confront the reality of God in our lives. The fourth is linked to the third which is being solely concerned with the nature and structure of the Catholic Church and its relationship to God. The fifth is what I would term favouring a system of meritocracy in catechetics instead of promoting, encouraging, facilitating a personal relationship with a living and loving Jesus Christ Thereby neatly bringing his concerns on this issue back to point number one!

    Your response Fr. Keough does not bring any further enlightenment to these points. Perhaps I am too harsh but I see you taking us deeper into the muck and mire of what is wrong, actually emphasising the need for sacramentalising rather than evangelisation of youth and adults. My conclusion being, therefore, it has the flavour of a lecture.

    However, it is highly courageous of you to admit the Church has not succeeded in its mission. The quality of the water being offered and the God-given needs of the horse are the crucial issue!

    We cannot expect parents who have not been evangelised or even heard the Good News to hand-down anything of real spiritual value to their children (or pass on to others for that matter).

    My thoughts always go back to the late Fr. Jack OBrien OMI who seemed to greatly favour the topic around youth and Faith is caught, not taught.

    Also, when it comes to teaching religion even scripture says actions are more important than words. Walking the talk (Mt. 21:25-30) even showing that it is Okay to walk in the wrong direction for a while (interlude with the evangelical sects John Lee disparages).

    St. James, the brother of Jesus (1:22-25) says that we ought to be uplifting the poorest and most marginalised, at the same time refusing to be staining (harming) ourselves with worldly values [my interpretation of James definition of Pure (in the eyes-of-God) Religion].

    Probably the next major change to come in the Canons of the Church will be to do away with infant Baptism. Maybe that is a solution. Baptise at 16 when they are not asked to commit to anything but to understand Christs commitment to and love for them. Prior to that they can be grounded in the Golden Rule which I am sure all parents would co-operate in doing 100%.

    I think at present, the Church hierarchy is in the same Catch 22 situation that the leaders of all nations find themselves in with the climate change summit damned if we do [too little, too late] and damned if we dont [mass genocide for many tribes and nations plus a future exorbitant global disaster fund!

    Neither you or I, dear Fr. Keough, have had the last word on this of that I am sure and know you would agree.

  6. Malcolm says:

    Heretics such as Luther probably the vilest person at the time and a great liar to boot displayed all the characteristics opposed to John the Baptist. The great preacher Serafino Frimano description of Luther, is accurate.

    Strangely Luther, ridiculed the sacraments beginning with Baptism, a primary point with most heretics.

  7. Malcolm says:

    This also might be of interest.

    Where have the young people gone?
    Some churches suffering loss of attendance
    By Lucienda Denson
    Lifestyle Editor

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009 2:02 PM CST
    Nationwide polls and denominational reports are showing that the next generation is calling it quits on the traditional church. And its not just happening on the nominal fringe; its happening at the core of the faith.

    Thats the opening paragraph in a press release promoting a new book, Already Gone, by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, with Todd Hillard.

    Nick Garland, pastor of First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, considers the findings so on target, the church recently hosted an Answers in Genesis conference led by Ham.

    During the conference, Garland asked those in attendance to have a small group prayer that young adults at First Baptist would not be among the two-thirds who are already gone from the church.

    Two-thirds of young adults who have grown up in evangelical churches are leaving, according to Ham and Beemer.

    Information in the book is based on data collected from 20,000 phone calls and detailed surveys of 1,000 20-to-29-year-olds who used to attend evangelical churches on a regular basis but have since left them behind.
    Garland compared what is happening in 21st century evangelical churches to Martin Luthers Reformation in 1517 that created protestant churches and the creation of the Puritans who separated themselves from the Church of England.

    This is a literal re-shaping of the church the way it has been for the past 400 or 500 years, Garland said.

    They (young people) have written church off as a moralistic bad guy that wants to keep them from enjoying their life. You dont have to have a passport to find them; they are on every street in the city, he said. And theyre not just young adults. Separation is beginning as early as middle school.

    Young people no longer believe in Genesis, which is the basis for Christianity, Garland said. They question everything from creation to the divinity of Christ, and for that he credits laws that require the evolution theory be taught in public school classrooms and ban instruction on Biblical creation.

    Nancy Mabry, youth director at St. Stephens United Methodist Church, agrees that evangelical churches are losing twenty-somethings, but she credits a reluctance to make any sort of commitment as the underlying cause.

    If young people cant commit to a skating party on Sunday evening until Sunday morning, theyre going to have difficulty making long-term commitments to anything else, Mabry said.

    When she was in her 20s, she said If you didnt have a fever, you went to church. Some people say they dont come to church because Sunday is the only day they have to spend with family. Why dont they spend it with their family in church? Now, church is an option, Mabry said.

    There is an exception, however, according to Mabry. Traditional churches that are liturgical churches and smaller evangelical churches seem to be retaining their twenty-something members in greater numbers than larger and mega-churches.

    The Rev. John Wilke, senior pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, has read the book and said he found it to be a fascinating study.

    He cited one of Luthers writings as something for church leaders to consider: A faith that costs nothing and demands nothing is worth nothing.

    I think that is where the church is today. I get too many things in the mail from churches that say, Come just the way you are, you dont have to change, Wilke said.

    While God loves you where you are, he expects you to change. We dont put the fear of God in our churches, we dont have that respect. Weve made Jesus our homeboy. Hes not our homeboy, hes our Saviour.

    Wilke said the only church he knows of that is experiencing growth in the 20-to-29-year old age group is the Greek Orthodox Church.

    The Greek Orthodox Church is a liturgical church. Kids want to return to something different from what they get from the world. If we want to reach these kids again, we are going to have to return to what the early church was doing. We need to raise the bar, he said.

    Wilke would endorse a movement to extend confirmation study to two years, so members fully understand the doctrine of the church they are joining, and that God is bigger than they are.

    God isnt a vending machine of good gifts. This (joining the church) will not be the easiest thing you have done, Wilke said.

    The Rev. Shelby Scott, pastor of St. Patricks Episcopal Church, said the 20-to-29-year-olds are holding steady at St. Patricks. One of Scotts sons is in that age group.

    There is sort of a strange rebound in some of the ancient liturgies, such as Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Episcopalian. What we would call the emerging church is something that is very appealing to that age group. Places that have a sense of order, mystery and transcendence are very appealing.

    Those are the areas that are growing. I am seeing a slight uptake here of people of that age, Scott said.

    I think there is a hunger where entertainment is the approach to worship. It doesnt really satisfy. I think there is a richness in the ancient traditions that speaks at levels where contemporary music fails. My experience is different than what youre seeing in the already gone people.

    Scott agrees with Garland that Christian worship is going through a significant change. He believes young people are looking for a doctrine that requires more of them than just showing up at church.

    The pendulum is swinging back. What previously had been discredited traditional liturgies and such things as incense and mystery has become something of a strength and intrigue for the younger generation, he said.

  8. Dear Rosemary,

    Sheesh… You read things into what I have said! Sacramentalising rather than evangelising? That’s exactly my problem! The point that I am making is that no matter how much we try to “evangelise” we are fighting a losing battle if we do not have the parents in on the deal (or even Catholic Christians who do not live, or even try to live, the Gospel)… It seems like (many? a lot of?) parents’ idea of evangelisation is to “give” their children to the Church to “teach” them the faith. Are you arguing this point? It would be nice to think that we can do it, but there’s no way that we can if the parents are not carrying their side of the deal. I guess that my response to you would be this: what are you doing, actively in your parish, to bring the love of God that I see in your responses (to me) to young people’s lives (AND to the lives of their parents, who are often not interested in faith issues)? I am not saying that you are not, but even if we are doing something we can always do more. You seem to get involved too much in the 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. of the argument. This can often put people off. Rather see it in terms of this: what contribution is our debate bringing to our understanding of our faith that we have to live in our ordinary, everyday lives? I make a response, you make a response… What does this add to the debate? I may not agree with what you are saying, but unless it is heresy (and so does not mess with what we believe) I have to respect your views. And how can we bring the love that we have for our faith (which I beieve both you and I have) to those who do not have it? And what about those who are not even interested in entering into the debate? Oh yeah… And perhaps you have heard all this before (because I believe that you used to be involved with the national seminary… with all that this entails), but what about those who have not?

  9. Malcolm says:

    Dear Fr Keough.

    You are to kind. Rosemary does not read into your writing, its more of a manipulation. Prayer and fasting is called for.

  10. Whooh You, dear Fr Keough, are talking to the wrong person because you have mixed me up with someone else. I have never been involved with any seminary in any way. [Somehow you or someone else is confused about this because I seem to remember it coming up before].

    I know the person you have in mind and I have had a similar experience to her and thats all I am prepared to say.

    Another very strong point I want to make is about your comment (snip): the love that we have for our faith (which I believe both you and I have).

    I do not want you or anyone to be unclear about this as far as my faith is concerned: I am eternally grateful for the gift of Faith. BUT, first and foremost, I am quite sure that I love the person of Jesus, the Christ; if I love my faith as much as, it is only because of a deep knowing Him as the source of that faith!

    I have to be pernickety about this because unless others define our faith in detail today, I am left on the edge of a precipice from which I can easily fall I know not where! [And this statement should also cover any problem you seem to think I have with being too involved with the of it!]

    There is no way that I am arguing any point you may be trying to make about Catholic parents attitude to (or around) catechetics; who promised what and to whom, and whether they have a commitment to (as you put it): carrying their side of the deal. I am saying it is probably unrealistic to have expectations from those who are not evangelised themselves.

    It is also unrealistic because it is not a deal! It is all gift! Yes/No?

    As far as your challenge to me as to what I am doing I have started the ground work to put my experience up on my personal blog but have not yet posted it. There is a side of church/parish/activities that I have experienced that has obviously not been part of your experience as a parish priest. The posting will happen probably before Easter 2010 God willing!

    I hear your frustration and feel also that I have nothing to really offer you except try and help you see the other side of the coin. Judging from my own experience people whether Catholic or not are all in (part of) Gods garden. God allows the weeds to grow alongside wheat, beautiful flowers etc. etc. God is the Divine Gardener and our duty, indeed, our nature if not thwarted causes us to ever turn our face to the Sun of the Divine Gardener.

    All I can do, all anyone can do is resist being thwarted by being open to the nourishment given by the Gardener. The nourishment comes easiest for me in Lectio Divina.

    Personally, I try to be aware of the presence of God in everyone and everything. Obviously, easy to write and much harder to do. At least when I fall, I can console myself that I recognise it and feel remorseful. IOW I am not in denial about my faults and failings.

    There is probably a lot of confusion regarding religion in the hearts and minds of the parents you bewail. Do they understand that by virtue of their baptism they belong to Christs royal priesthood? Irrespective!

    Never, in my whole Catholic upbringing was this taught to me clearly. Rather, it was imprinted on my mind and soul that ordained religious have all the answers. I was responsible for my soul but my body was somehow a hindrance and would return to where it belongs: dust.

    What a wasted opportunity in the name of what or who? Surely, we could teach that Jesus loves us body and soul, that both are equally important. What a different attitude I may have grown up with and been able to impart the same wisdom to my children.

    What can I leave you with? Let God be God. Take one day at a time and just commit to love.

    The Catholic Church is between a rock and a hard place but the millions of poor Catholics in underdeveloped places and countries are hearing the Good News.

  11. Malcolm says:

    Rosemary, you need to get a life.The Catholic Church is synonymous with Christ our Savior, then as you put it and the only conclusion is, that Christ our Savior is “between a rock and a hard place”. That really is so kitsch.

    However as an apprentice in Christianity, I am intrigued by your love and strong faith and the personal experience that you exhort Catholics to imitate.

    Firstly, indicate in any of your postings where this is manifest other than than you indicating this. Unfortunately I have never had a personal experience of Jesus where I have heard his voice or had this fuzzy feeling. I have asked other Catholics and none have had this experience.

    Do we meet Christ in Baptism, Confirmation, Confession, Eucharist, Marriage, anointing of the sick, daily prayer, and in our neighbor.

    As a young man in my twenties and through the kindest Priest, that it dawned ,that the certitude of faith in teaching and morals rest in Jesus Christ given to His Church.

    It does not rest on you or your sanctity or your personal experience. When you start to override the Credentials of the Church and dictating what it should be,and what it should do, then you should stand in line with other heretics as there are millions who came before you. You have no idea what debate is.

    For me to point out your faults there is no benefit to you as you are blind to them, other than that, you are ignorant as to belief and you do yourself and your family an injustice.

  12. And a joyful and blessed Christmas to you Malcolm.

  13. Malcolm says:

    Likewise. And a Happy New Year to you Rosemary.

  14. lily p fynn says:

    Thanks Malcolm. I visited the website you suggested. Very interesting in an eerie sort of way. How would those elephants know which structures to destroy and which to avoid? Very interesting indeed.

  15. lily p fynn says:

    This comment is in part for Fr Keough re ‘submarine catholics.’First of all,

  16. lily p fynn says:

    This comment is in part for Fr Keough re ‘submarine catholics.’First of all, I am a catholic albeit an increasingly ambivalent one. (the worst sort, I imagine) Frankly, I’m not that surprised at the alarmingly large numbers of catholics leaving the church. I read an article in the southern cross, in 2009 or a little earlier, that we should not take the account of creation in Genesis, literally. I’m afraid I (and countless others) have always believed that particular account and now find it very hard to learn to ‘unbelieve’ it. Limbo has also been cancelled. (Makes one wonder what is next on the elimination list.) Pity it wasn’t consigned to wherever, before my wonderful catholic parents died. It might have eased their sorrowing hearts considerably. But then again, it might have caused them to doubt the church and its teachings as I admit I sometimes do. The first three babies born to my parents died very soon after birth without benefit of baptism. My parents agonised until their own passing, about their children who would ‘float around’ for eternity without any hope of entering the gates of heaven. This was taught by the church.So, if the church is going to chop and change everything we’ve been taught, one begins to wonder if she knows what she is about. When one is faced with so many changes it is very easy for doubts about the rest of the church’s teachings to creep in , causing haircracks to appear in one’s faith life.
    This is especially for you, Fr Keough and I don’t mean any disrespect. My one-time parish priest (not as young as you, of course. Probably all of sixty years) said the following to us at Mass on Palm/Passion Sunday, many years ago. “On Good Friday, this church will be filled to capacity plus. You all know that the numbers will be doubled by our brothers and sisters who attend Mass irregularly. But that’s okay, too. The church teaches that for a catholic to be in good standing, he/she needs to attend Mass at least once a year at Easter/Christmas. I pray that you will all be charitable enough to treat them as though they attend Mass every Sunday. As indeed they do even though not physically. We pray for them in the prayers of the faithful so that makes them present in our hearts and minds and to Lord to whom we offer all prayer.”
    Now, I don’t rightly know if the once – a – year attendance at Mass still stands, but having heard nothing to the contrary I think it does.I agree with you that ‘making a nuisance of yourself’ trying to evangalise ‘submarines,etc would do no good. After all, some people walked away from Jesus when His words became too hard to take. But I wonder how many submarines’ have read your comments, And I wonder too, how they feel about being so labeled? Has your labeling given them the incentive to return to the fold? I know there are many and varied reasons for so many catholics leaving the church, but I’m sure that if you did a survey among lapsed catholics, you’d find that most left because of a disagreement (sometimes it is just a small tiff) with priest/fellow-parishioner. The Bible tells us – Leave you offering at the foot of the altar and firrst go and make peace with your brother who has something against you. This is, I think, where humility should come into play. Many of us feel that to apologise – especially when we feel we are in ‘the right’ – and make peace with our brother/ sister is beneath our dignity. A lot of priests are guilty of this lack of charity where a simple “I am sorry” would work wonders and probably elevate that priest/fellow parishioner in the ‘wronged’ person’s esteem, bringing them back to the church, Perhaps we should be more charitable towards our “‘missing” brothers and sisters and rather let go and let God.

  17. Dear Lily,

    Thank you for your most refreshing comment! I think that we are all worried about the faith drain and those people for whom the faith seems to be only skin deep. However,I have to take issue with what that erstwhile priest told you. The Church does not and has never taught that “for a catholic to be in good standing, he/she needs to attend Mass at least once a year at Easter/Christmas.” What the Church DOES teach is that for a catholic to be in good standing (s)he has to receive COMMUNION once a year at either Easter or Christmas (accompanied with the usual reconciliation once a year). That is very different to saying that they only have to attend Church (mass) once a year. In fact, the Church teaches that every Sunday is a Holy Day of Obligation – hence, if you missed Church one Sunday (due to it being your own fault, not something out of your control), then you need to go to confession before you present yourself for Holy Communion again. While I applaud that priest for his sensitivity, and would agree with it, I also feel that those who are not living their relationship with God within the Body of Christ have to be challenged on the fact too. Read Christ’s injunction to the Church of Laodicea in the book of the Apocalypse (Rev 3:4-17): a huge challenge to these “luke warm” Christians: “I will spit you out of my mouth.” Is that not the reason why Godparents are required for the Baptism of a child? It is not an honourary thing: if the parents of that child are not living up to the promises and faith commitments that they made (e.g. going to Church), then it is the duty of those Godparents to challenge the parents of that child. We have a responsibilty for the salvation of our brothers and sisters in the faith. And just one further thought: Are we to be minimalist Catholics who do the minimum (e.g. confession and communion once a year) that is required by our faith? That does not strike me as a very productive, or even truly Christian, attitude.

    What also concerns me is the fact that you seem to think the Church chops and changes her beliefs (i.e. Limbo). Rest assured that this was never formal Church teaching. Instead, it seems to have been formulated by pious people teaching in the name of the Church (and from my comment above you can see how sell-meaning people can distort Church teaching). The question was rightly: What happens to unbaptised babies when they die? The concern was this: Surely God would not condemn such an innocent soul to hell? And so Limbo crept into “Church teaching” to make a space “inbetween” heaven and hell for these souls. However, today we would say that we serve a merciful God who does not judge as we do. It is also patently clear that formally unbaptised people can also go to heaven: Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc. If this is the case, then why not unbaptised infants who have no personal sin of their own? We leave the judgement of their souls in God’s hands in the firm belief that we serve a merciful God who wants all to be saved. The Church has therefore not “done away” with the “teaching” on Limbo – instead she has never taught it and was just clearing up the matter for the faithful.

  18. Sorry! That’s “well-meaning people” in the second paragraph!


  19. Malcolm says:

    Dear Lily happy to know you found the above post interesting.

    God Bless