Our Catholic Catechism states clearly that parents are rightly called to be the primary teachers of the Faith to their children. Church leaders, educators, child psychologists and other experts persistently say, and have said, that the first and most important teachers of the young are parents, reinforced by the parish and by the educational institutions attended by the children like Children’s Faith Formation at Saint Miriam. You, as parents know this.
I am not alone in this belief either. Every priest in this country knows that such statistics are factual. Every priest in this country also knows that slippage, especially is pronounced among youth and young adults after this past year of a pandemic. Everybody knows it. We are falling away from the goodness of our faith and it is destroying us and our nation. Always, the young have been inclined to sow their wild oats, but today’s numbers suggest that to blame is not the fall to temptation or dash to liberty that often overtakes younger people, but rejection of religion — and “rejection” is the right word. Diminishment of religion, respect for God, in all denominations, is a very thing. It is as if we have learned to live without church since we stayed away to keep safe. But are we really doing good without God?
I devoutly hope my words will summon you as Catholic parents to do something, to take the lead and return to deepen their own spiritual lives, but also not to just cage their children back into the Church, but instead to convince them by their very lives, actions and demonstrable faith that God is real, and Jesus is real, just as my father drew me to believe when he talked about the Christmas manger so long ago, or my mother as explained the reason she mounted a little child’s crucifix on my wall so many decades ago.
This past Saturday, current and former U.S. presidents marked the 20th anniversary of 9/11 with speeches as memorial events took place in New York City, Shanksville. where Flight 93 crashed, and the Pentagon. Former president George W. Bush drew a connection between foreign and domestic extremism. He said,
“There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home,” Bush said at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville. “But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit. And it is our continuing duty to confront them.” “…they are children of the same foul spirit.” Those are powerful words.
Did you ever think why or how extremists are made? How a religion of peace could be coopted into one that flies airplanes into buildings and murders almost 3,000 people? How a group of terrorists could occupy a country and openly kill women and children; the weak and the marginalized, all in the name of that same religion? Did you every pause to read on social media the hatred and misinformation shrouding Christianity today? Did you ever wonder how anyone could combine the flag of our nation with a warped sense of God? Did you ever once consider that these perpetrators of hate were once children who had the opportunity to learn to be kind and use religion and its lofty ideals for good?
Bishops, priests, and teachers can help, but they only can, and should, help. The ultimate responsibility belongs to you as parents when it comes to causing the young to think that religion is important. We have been waiting. It’s time for you to act.
I realize we have been away from all things church. But we have not here at Saint Miriam. We have stayed and prayed and made ways for you to return. We have somehow managed to keep us here despite many who are no longer giving to support our work. But the truth is that you – like me – have slowly come out of the worst of the pandemic and made your way to all things secular: the movies and beaches and vacations and travel. It is now time to come home to God before it’s too late. For you, but more importantly, for our children.
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