Monday, December 19, 2011

"I was raised Catholic."

I really dislike that sentence. Usually it is said by non-Catholic Christians or agnostics, with the subtext, "but then I came to my senses." Let me be clear: I would rather someone had authentic faith in Jesus outside the Catholic Church than to be in the pews every Sunday, out of habit or a desire to appease parents, without faith. But the line "I was raised Catholic" pains me because in many cases, it's not true.

To be "raised Catholic" to many people means anything from being Baptized in the Church with Mass attendance on Christmas and Easter to being dragged to Mass every Sunday and pushed through the Sacraments of Initiation because "that's what you do."

learning religion
Image credit: ma vie en rouge on Flickr

Growing up in a home where one or both parents self-identify as Catholics does not mean you were raised Catholic.

To be raised Catholic is to have role models in faith, parents who
  • pray with their children Prayer can be formal or informal, recited prayers or praying in one's own words. It can be as simple as blessing oneself with the Sign of the Cross or as deep as meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary. But it should be real and regular.
  • actively participate in their faith community Some have more time than others, but we all have some time. Parents can get involved with formal ministries at church, offer to do errands or give rides to neighbors, or simply visit the lonely. After all, faith without works is dead.
  • encourage children to ask questions Sometimes the answer may be, "I don't know, let's find out!" The traditions and teachings of the Church are more than can be taught in Sunday school or even daily attendance at Catholic school. It is primarily the responsibility of parents to teach the "whys" of our faith - why do we genuflect, pray with saints, believe the Bible, receive sacraments, save sex for marriage, pray for the dead, worship God as a Trinity... These are deep questions and deserve more than flippant or superficial answers.
  • demonstrate reverence for the Eucharist By observing an hour fast before receiving Eucharist, maintaining a prayerful attitude toward the Body and Blood, making Sunday Mass attendance a top priority, and attending Adoration, parents send a message. Joking about how the "wine" tastes or receiving the Eucharist in a casual manner also sends a message.
  • practice and teach discernment Whether assessing readiness to receive First Communion with a child, ensuring a teen understands the solemnity and sacredness of Confirmation, or helping a young person explore vocations, discernment is a key part of living out our faith.
I understand that parents aren't perfect. Raising children in faith is an enormous responsibility and chances are good that parents will slip now and then. But if you look back at your childhood and find that the tenets outlined above were the exception rather than the rule, you weren't really raised Catholic. (Also, there are people who were raised Catholic and still decided to leave. I understand that.)

The "I was raised Catholic" crowd left the Church for a host of reasons. A negative experience with clergy, being judged or belittled, conviction that the Church is out of date/oppressive/just plain wrong, observing hypocrisy among the congregation, etc. These are all serious reasons. I'm certain that people who left did not do so on a whim.

If you left, though, and this post makes you think maybe you weren't really raised Catholic, would you give the Church a second chance? Will you look for answers and explanations instead of assuming there are none? Maybe read Rome Sweet Home. It changed my perception of the Church. Maybe check out the articles at Working to Beat Hell. They're legit, all approved by the priest who runs the site. Hey, maybe email me. I'd love to help you find answers to your questions.

May Almighty God bless you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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