This message is hard for some people to hear.
I will post a link at the bottom to the full article from Father Longenecker. Basically, I agree with him. I think for many years so many catholic schools have travelled a very long way down the winding path of a gospel of salvation by political ideology and not the path of salvation by grace.
A long time ago it seems that some Catholic teachers decided that genuine catechesis and the preaching (and living) of the gospel of Jesus Christ was hard. First point; they were right. It is hard. I find it hard most of the time. The fact that it is hard does not mean we need to stop teaching it. It just means it’s hard and that we need grace to live it which is, in fact, something the Catholic Church understood since the time of St. Peter! We can’t live the Christian life just by sheer force of will. This is the heresy of pelagianism.
So rather than help young people understand the helps of the Christian life such as prayer, sacraments, some self-denial etc, it seems that many Catholic schools in the developed world thought it would be easier to direct the spiritual impulse of young people toward going good things. Now, here is where it gets complex. Doing good works is a crucial part of the christian life. However, those good works are a response to a relationship with Jesus Christ and the realisation that every human person, including the poor, are made in His image. Sadly, more than few teachers decided to put the cart before the horse. The rationale went something like this:
Modern young people won’t accept the christian proposition, especially the parts about sin, salvation, hell and morality.
Let’s not bother trying to explain any of that stuff because they won’t listen.
Maybe if we get them to start doing nice things they will have religious feelings and we can then point them to God.
Now, this is not really high end research, but have a look around your average parish this weekend and ask yourself how many teenagers you see. If the gospel of salvation by niceness was working then surely at least a few of those young people would still be connected to the Church.
The good news is that we can have both. We can have a situation where young people know their faith and practice their faith and this leads them into a very genuine sense of action in the world. They care for the poor, the environment and the people around them because they have been formed in a deep Catholic vision of the human person and of stewardship for creation. They understand the sacraments as fountains of grace to help them live out this mission ever more effectively.
Let’s not give up on the hope that we can truly and effectively catechise our students but to do this we need to keep growing in our own level of formation. Make sure you check out the link to the Going Deeper formation program below.
Fr. Dwights full article is here:
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