Firm in the faith?

One of the great privileges I have as a deacon is baptizing those entering the Church. Usually it is a baby, but sometimes I’ve baptized older children. As part of the Rite, I will sometimes speak to the those present of the importance of helping the baptized stand firm in the faith through the years. One image that I may use it that of trees and plants with roots reaching into the soil to gain nourishment and water. With the proper nourishment and water and sun, the plant grows tall and remains firm. Without it, the plant eventually withers and dies. These images are used often in our faith life to help us understand how we must grow in our faith, to be nourished in our faith and to stand firm in our faith. But exactly how does one do that?

As the child is baptized, the child’s parents agreed to be your first and best teacher in the faith. Dedicated catechists and religious have also supported many parents in fulfilling that commitment to God, the Church and our children themselves. 

Unfortunately, it seems today that more and more parents have relinquished their role in teaching the faith to other people, but no matter how good the Religious Education program is; can 30 hours of class time a year substitute in any way for the example given in the day-to-day living-out of the faith in the lives of the family? 

Where do these young people get nourished? How can they plant deep roots and stand firm in the face of the world and the evil that surrounds them? Many of our young people are fortunate to meet up with mentors, teachers, priests or other religious who do help instill in them and nurture the seeds of faith, but it takes a strong young person who can live in faith when the family around them does not. 

In my role as a youth minister, I speak to many young people and while they have a faith, they seem to be lacking in an understanding of our Catholic faith. In fact many hesitate to discuss faith as I believe they are afraid that they’ll get questions or challenges that they will have difficulty in responding to. In studying for the diaconate, I studied our faith in many courses over the four years of academic preparation and I was amazed each time I’d learn something new about our faith that I never knew before, especially since I attended Catholic schools and colleges from grade one through grad school!

I think what concerns me and others the most is that many young people (and adults) have such a lack of the fundamental beliefs of our faith and so many think that they can adjust their beliefs to suit their needs. How else can we explain so many abortions, or the decrease in church weddings, or simply skipping Mass. Of course, this attitude is hardly exclusive to young people. It is quickly becoming a prevalent attitude of so many adults too! So many think that the Church is like a smorgasbord that you can choose from what you like and avoid the rest. 

How did we get here? I’m sure we can all list where things that may have gone wrong. Did we as parents set the expectations that young people deserve? Did our Spiritual leaders shy away from teaching the truth? Or perhaps, we just haven’t provided the proper guidance and haven’t made available the truths of the faith in a format that is understandable to all. If we aren’t committed faithful Catholics, how will our children learn what Jesus expects of us? The further we move from the truth, the more difficult life becomes for all of us. If you have any doubts about this, just look at the world today!

Where can we learn these truths? Well, my friends, it does take some study. Not necessarily in a course but by taking the time to learn about our faith. And where can you learn more about the truths of our faith? Well there is the “Catechism of the Catholic Church.” Unfortunately, I can tell you, through experience, that it is not an easy read. Now, for young people, and even the rest of us Pope Benedict released an aid to the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” designed for youth and young adults. The book is called “YouCat,” for Youth Catechism. In its 300 pages, you will find answers to just about any question you may have about our faith. 

After Vatican II (1962-1965) and in the changed cultural climate many people did not know what Christians should really believe, what the Church teaches, if it can teach something outright, and how this might fit into the new cultural climate. Thus, John Paul II entrusted his successor, Cardinal Ratzinger, with the task of coordinating the work of bishops, theologians and young people into a book, edited by the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn.

Pope Benedict wrote that he “was afraid of this task,” and confessed his doubts that “it would succeed,” describing its existence as something of a “miracle,” the labor of many meetings and “passionate discussions over individual texts.” He then goes on to express the hope that young people will allow themselves to be “captivated” by the catechism, and his certainty that they are far more interested in it than most believe.

In fact he writes in the forward of “YouCat”: 

“This aide to the ‘Catechism’ does not offer you any empty praise, it does not offer easy solutions, it requires a new life on your part.” He asks young people to “study the ‘Catechism’ with passion and perseverance! Sacrifice your time for it!”

Pope Benedict continues: “You need to know what you believe, you need to know your faith with the same precision with which a computer specialist knows the operating system of a computer. You need Divine help, so your faith does not dry up like a drop of dew in the sun, so you do not succumb to the temptations of consumerism, so your love is not drowned in pornography, so you do not betray the weak, the victims of abuse and violence.”

Amen!

Anchor columnist Frank Lucca is a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Fall River, a youth minister at St. Dominic’s Parish in Swansea, and a campus minister at UMass Dartmouth. He is married to his wife of 39 years, Kristine, and the father of two daughters and their husbands, and three grandsons. So blessed! Comments, ideas or suggestions? Please email him at DeaconFrankLucca@comcast.net.


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