Tuesday, September 23, 2008


BIG MISTAKE: Or maybe not. C. asked why a certain topic was not covered in homilies and I said, "Oh, people know about that." She set me straight about that and some other topics. So I asked her to give me a list of other things she thought people were uncatechized about. What do you think?

Apparently God got sick of waiting for me to work up the courage to talk to a friend of mine about the Faith and He prompted HER to bring up the subject. We talked for hours one night about the Catholic Church, and to make the point that 12 years of Catholic school left us uncatechized, I told her a bunch of random things that we were never taught, such as:

The poor souls in purgatory can’t pray for themselves, but they can pray for us.

What the beatific vision is and what heaven will be like.

That you get your body back at the end of the world. (She was ecstatic about that one.)

That you have a guardian angel assigned to you and no one but you for life, and other angel-y facts.
Where the devil came from.

We’re supposed to take a sacrifice every Friday in honor of our Lord’s passion.

That the family is a reflection of the Trinity.

That missing mass on Sunday is a mortal sin (but she is excused when she has to work because she is a nurse)

That all suffering has redemptive value for yourself and the world. (We both thought it was only when you suffered for the Faith directly, but your stubbed toes count too!)

That her intense dislike of clapping, no kneelers, and bad music during mass doesn’t mean she’s crazy – it means she has a good sense of the sacred.

My friend related how she went to a Baptist church and the preacher’s sermon clearly and specifically told her the meaning of a scripture passage and how she should change her daily life to follow it. She said that all the Catholic homilies she had heard in her life didn’t amount to this one sermon. She clenched her hands desperately in front of her and pleaded, “Why won’t they teach us?!!!” She also charged me, “You go tell your priest friend what we talked about tonight!” Well, Fr. V then charged me to blog about it, so here you go…stuff we need to hear in homilies:
What a “just war” is and that extreme pacifism is wrong.

The dangers of contraception, that NFP works, and that overpopulation is a myth.

How do we defend the faith against the claims of popular books like The Davinci Code or The God Delusion.

Why gay marriage is wrong and how to defend traditional marriage.

What mortal sin is – SPECIFICALLY! (I never knew getting drunk or high was, for example)

Sex in general (you don’t have to be graphic to be enlightening)

Occult practices to avoid (Tarot cards, psychics)

Abortion is never necessary.

Evolution and creation and the Church’s stance.

What exactly does it mean to rest on Sunday? Can I shop?

Religious life is great – not lonely.

EWTN exists, as do other great media (I’m surprised no one knows this)

Divorce and annulments and what they mean – can I date a divorced person?

Dangers of porn (and that it’s a moral sin – again, no one knows)

What should my criteria be for what movies and TV I watch and what radio and music I listen to – SPECIFICALLY!

Devotions in general – rosary, scapular, Sacred Heart & First Fridays, Immaculate Heart and

First Saturdays, etc.

How do I decide who to vote for?

Life issues – Terri Shiavo, stem cell research, euthanasia

In short…..if it’s in the Catechism or the newspaper, we need to hear about it or we can’t live and defend our faith! It is nice to have a formal talk outside of mass and cover a topic properly, but only “the choir” shows up for those things anyway. For most people, what comes from the pulpit is the only instruction they will ever get, period. The pulpit is an OPPORTUNITY that the lay people don’t have – it’s difficult to find an opening for these subjects in everyday conversation, but EXPECTED at church. Priests have an AUTHORITY the lay people don’t have – why should anyone believe my theological ramblings? Lastly, my family and friends might hate me for telling them the Truth, (“Hey, did you know that since your marriage was never intended to be open to children it is invalid?”) but a priest can say these things from the pulpit with relative immunity.
Please everyone, stuff the comment box with your additions to the list!


Adoro said...

YES! I second, and third, and fourth, ad infintum EVERYTHING YOU SAID!

Fr. V....people DON'T know these things! And they won't tell you because they don't want to fell stupid because they KNOW they should know...but they were never TAUGHT!

And yeah, some people don't care...and they're the ones that heap on the abuse when we who have to, do the "cleanup work" and get trampled in the process.

The next time you think, "Yeah, they already know about that", consider your faith formation staff and the fact that they'll be teaching what you're not...and they'll be the ones taking the abuse. (I speak from personal experience...you know...)

Anonymous said...

The Rosary, the Church's teaching on suffering and redemption, Confession, Eucharistic Adoration. I also second what C said about the media and NFP. There are way too many Catholics that believe NFP is ineffective because many families that practice NFP have 5+ children. As to the media, I come from a very strict background where we weren't allowed to listen to the radio or watch TV because of their negative influences. While I think this was/is a bit extreme, I do think we (myself included) need to be reminded that we should be conscious of what we put into our bodies, and not just food. I could write many more on the "You know what" topic, but I think we (churches) should emphasize catechesis again. The Bible and the Catechism are our foundations - it'd be nice to be reminded of that every now and then. C - great post.

Anonymous said...

Great list C. Along with NFP, how about mentioning that the pill is also an abortofacient? That will probably come as a surprise to a lot of people.

Father, C is right, and Adoro, too. I went to Catholic grade school in the late 70's early 80's, and we didn't learn a whole lot about the faith. What I learned I learned on my own through the Grace of God. I hope that you also take a close look at catechesis in the school--are these same topics being taught there at a level appropriate to the students' ages?

Anonymous said...

I am not in your diocese but I will share what I would have loved to hear.

Confession. That confession isn't just for mortal sins, but one can benefit and grow in holiness by frequenting confession.
How to examine our conscience and a good resource.

What constitutes a mortal sin: gravely wrong or considered so, thinking about it, then doing it freely.

There is a heaven and there is a hell and at the final judgement, we will be in one or the other.

The Mystery of the Blessed Trinity is a MYSTERY but there are things we can know about nature and persons of the Trinity.

How to avoid temptations. Our guardian angels are there to help us especially with thoughts.

Contraception and direct sterilization are serious matter and can be a mortal sin. It isn't the Church who wants to "mind your business" but how to grow in holiness and to accept gifts and crosses in our life.

Masturbation and pornography are always seriously wrong and if we fall to get up and go to confession. (We were taught the different ways to masturbate in a Catholic School...can you believe that?)

Stem cell research....difference between embroyonic and adult and how embroyonic is ALWAYS wrong because life begins at conception.

I could go on. Those are just some I wish I would hear.

Anonymous said...

Vitally important topics, all of them. Thank God for priests who actually speak these truths from the pulpit. However, in my parish I once asked the pastor why there was barely any mention of *life* issues. I was greeted with a defensive explanation of how certainly he was prolife..."just look at the school he supports" (as many parishes no longer have schools). Not really what I was after...and, btw, ever since my *asking* I seemed to be one to be avoided, but I can take it...lol

Anonymous said...


I thought I took out that last paragraph when I e-mailed you this post. I have since witnessed how much priests may be up against that we lay people do not see. I hope I didn't sound too harsh.


Anonymous said...

"My friend related how she went to a Baptist church and the preacher’s sermon clearly and specifically told her the meaning of a scripture passage and how she should change her daily life to follow it."

I went to a Baptist Church once (while I was denomination shopping before becoming Catholic). The preacher did the same thing...only I thought is interpretation was waaaay off, taking the verses out of context, and his advice was rather ham-handed. Priests should preach the Gospel. We need a deep an abiding sense of Truth, a formation that goes beyond practical advice for daily living. Our hearts need to be tuned to God, through His Word and the sacraments. Our responses to the challenges of the world ought to flow from that. While some catechesis from the pulpit is welcome, it should flow from the Scripture. The worst thing we could do is emulate traditions that eschew the lectionary cycle so that the preacher can talk about the hot button issue of the week.

That's my two cents.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to get back to some of the basics too, in addition to these 'big' topics that others have brought up. I went through RCIA in my 30's, and would come home from our sessions with all the things I learned, and my husband after 13 years of Catholic school would respond "I didn't know that". Consider things like why we dip our fingers in holy water before and after mass; that the envelopes brought up during the offetory aren't the only things being offered as a sacrifice - it includes us too; how the Church views other Christian faiths. Rosalind Moss came to speak during lent the year I went through RCIA - she has some powerful insights for those learning the faith or just brushing up. What's a nice Jewish girl like you doing in a place like this? :)

We've talked at St Sebastian about continuing faith formation with adult education. It's never gotten off the ground for any length of time, but it's really needed and there is an interest out there.

Anonymous said...

I know I commented before, but I thought of more. :-)

To make sure we don't get into any "homily bashing" I do want to say that I have heard many of these topics covered from the pulpit. A priest formerly stationed at my parish talked about abortion during his homily and had people leave Mass. The assumption was that they didn't want to hear the truth, but that may be a false assumption. Perhaps they had an emergency or were suffering because they had aborted their child. I've heard homilies on modesty and sexuality, the differences between embryonic and adult stem cell research, heaven and hell, the Trinity, etc. It's been my experience that while one priest isn't for everyone (covered earlier this month) most priests are preaching Catholic values/tradition/morals. Perhaps it's not in the direct way each of us desire, but it's certainly there. Thank God for our priests who help lead us.


Anonymous said...

I agree with every thing that was said . I was in Catholic school during the changes brought on by Vatican II. It seems that we did not much church catechism other than the basics. There are many things that I never learned. The things I do know are from my own reading and attending the church my husband goes to. My children learned more about the old testament there.

Odysseus said...

I think this is the reason we lose people. Not becuase the Mass isn't "hip", but why should I go to Mass if the priest doesn't even think it is important enough to tell me anything new or useful? By useful, I mean, telling people how to work with the Holy Spirit to rid their lives of sin. It doesn't work when, as they do in my parish, every sermon is "be kind to one another".

We don't know what kindness is! In a world of war and pornography and broken families, we don't know what love is! Tell us!

This is the primary reason I went to the 1962 mass three towns away for so long (and would go back to in a heartbeat if my schedule allowed it): because every homily was about doctrine, and every confession taught me how to avoid the sins that were breaking my heart.

It is difficult to take your children to mass and hear the same "be kind, be loving" message over and over again. I often wish their was no homily. Then my children would at least focus on the majesty of the Eucharist, uninterrupted by, forgive me, drivel.

Anonymous said...

Here's one that hasn't been mentioned yet...How about the Divine Presence/transubstantiation. I am always shocked by how many Catholics of my age (43) believe what we offer at Mass are "symbols" of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Decades of poor catachesis have really decimated the Church...it makes me very sad.

Melody K said...

I agree with the suggestions everyone has made; with one caveat:
there is a difference between a homily and a harrangue; between a "teaching moment" and a scolding. I was in a parish once where one of the priests was given to this type of homily. Pretty much every time it was hellfire and brimstone. It may be argued that some of this is salutary (kind of like a dose of castor oil). But most people's reaction was to try and figure out which Mass he would celebrate, and go to another one. Or go to another parish. Does that make us wusses? Probably. But people can vote with their feet.

Melody K said...

Of course I don't think Father V. harrangues people. My previous comments were intended in a general way.

Lillian Marie said...

Anon - I went to a Baptist Church once (while I was denomination shopping before becoming Catholic). The preacher did the same thing...only I thought is interpretation was waaaay off, taking the verses out of context, and his advice was rather ham-handed.

A friend of mine (Undergrad) and I were in a Bible Study (Baptist teaching) and the passages were taken out of context as well. It seemed like they were making the Bible fit into their mentality rather than really looking at what the Bible was trying to teach us.

I went to public school through most of
7th grade, so attended, what was then, CCD. It was the touchy-feely nicey-nice classes. Honestly, the only part I really remember was having my Dad teach my CCD class and amazed at how many of the kids didn't know the 10 Commandments!

8th through 12th went to Catholic Schools - the best part was in 9th grade where the religion class was taught by a Priest! All of the other classes were taught by former Nuns and never touched on any contraversial subject - not even morals!

I was searching, entered RCIA, twice, I might add, in order to really learn about the Catholic Faith. Even then, they were afraid to touch on some of the heavier subjects...including abortion.

It wasn't until I moved to Cleveland (moving to a nearby county) that the Holy Spirit slapped me upside the head. But even then homilies were nicey-nice...not focusing on any real issue. I learned much from watching Fr. Corapi and other shows on EWTN, reading books, and emailing question after question to Priests & friends.

Even now, my Pastor refuses to touch on any important issue - afraid that the Parisioners will leave. What he doesn't realize is that it's the Parishioners who are seeking the Truth and if they don't find it at his Church, they'll search until they find it in another - then they will move anyway.

Friends of mine are in a parish in Erie, PA. The Pastor is Fr. Larry Richards. There is one Priest who speaks the TRUTH during his homilies! Unfortunately, they do not attend Mass regularly. But I just think - how awesome that would be to have a Pastor ready & willing to speak the Truth on the Pulpit!

You go, Fr. V! We are aching for the Truth! And even though we may *know* of a subject - there is always something more to learn.

Anonymous said...

Dittoing everyone else. Great post. Father, I think you could safely plan to spend a few minutes of every homily charitably explaining one point of catholic doctrine or practice -- any point at all -- and it would do the congregation a world of good.

Those who already understand it might not know how to explain it to others. Those who know it and are expert in explaining will still delight in hearing how church teaching ties to the Gospel and other readings. Really it's a very safe tactic -- people who don't know will be glad to learn it, and the people who do really truly know it? They are the ones who can't get enough of it. The truth is never boring.

MJ said...

Great post C. I agree with LM, not only do many of the kids not know the 10 commandments, they don't know fully what they mean. I just had a discussion with one of my high school students the other day about the commandment "Thou shalt not kill". We were talking about how gossiping and spreading rumors can hurt others.He was absolutely sure that "thou shalt not kill" meant only physically killing someone not emotionally or killing their spirit. I'm sure there are many adults under the same assumption.

Scott G. said...

I, too, agree with C. in saying that homilies should be employed to properly catechize the faithful even when that means forgoing the jokes and other "feel good" methods that supposedly keep people returning to the pews every Sunday. However, I cannot fault lackluster homilies (or even lackluster clergy) for this gap in knowledge among many Catholics. Instead, I, as do many of the above respondents, must indict the American Church's current methods of catechizing both its youngsters and its adult converts for this growing illiteracy among the faithful.

As did Lillian Marie, I attended public school and experienced the late 70's version of post-Vatican II CCD first hand. What a mess! After four years of coloring cartoon images of Jesus and clipping endless magazine pictures for "Why God Loves Us collages" my parents mercifully took over my religious education. This, too, had its drawbacks but at least I learned the basics of the faith.

Later, as an adult, I sponsored my wife's journey through the RCIA. Although very eager to welcome her to our faith, the catechism presented to her within the context of the RCIA almost scared the both of us away. From September to the Easter Vigil, not one of the five instructors ever mentioned the Trinity, transubstantiation, the Rosary, Heaven or Hell. We did spend lots of time discussing the relative merits of "prayer rocks," hearing about the reasons why Purgatory is no longer relevant, and reciting group prayers ad nauseum. By the grace of God, she persevered yet, by her own admission, has far to go in learning the faith.

Thankfully, both my wife and I proudly remain devout Catholics and have been successful in separating the new-age junk from the true faith. Fr. V. helped this effort considerably with his thoughtful, instructive homilies at St. Clare and I suspect he'll do the same for his parishioners in Akron. However, for those not blessed with the tenacity to seek God amongst the confusion of today's CCD (or, as the Boston Catholic Journal aptly describes it, the Crisis in Catholic Doctrine), or those without a Fr. V. to guide them, we must often pray. Most importantly though, we must continually work for a return to more traditional methods of teaching this most beautiful faith so that another generation does not pass without knowing what it really means to be Roman Catholic.

Anonymous said...

Great, great topic! I have two items that I would LOVE to see addressed more often in a homily:

1) NFP - I think that the Church's teachings on contraception are some of the most misunderstood, AND the most beautiful! The church is asking us to do something very countercultural in our society, and it would be nice to get some backup as we live out this teaching.

2) How is Catholicism different from protestant denominations? What do you say when someone asks you whether you are saved, why you baptize infants, why you confess your sins to a priest, etc.
I went to 12+ years of Catholic school, and I was still unprepared to answer these questions when I went to college. I found out the answers on my own, and it made me a better Catholic, but I still would love to learn those types of things in the context of Mass.

Thanks for all you do Father V! Praying for you, my own parish priest, and all our clergy to be bold, loving, and zealous in your preaching!

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

I would say, keep them catechetical and moral on most accounts that most people don't even know the basics of the Faith...Going through the Catechism in the year is a good plan :)

paramedicgirl said...

All my life I sat through banal, feel-good, Jesus loves you homilies, with the odd fire and brimstone sermon found like an oasis in a dry, parched desert. I remember leaving the Mass in tears over the lack of catechesis and the liturgical abuses I would witness, all done in the name of ignorance, I suppose.

I started making a day trip to the next province once a month to attend the Latin Mass of the FSSP. This proved to be a life saver. I started praying for a remedy; that God would put me where I could attend the Latin Mass on a regular basis. I pleaded with God that I was beginning to lose my faith, that I needed real Catholicism in stronger doses to keep my faith alive, and within a year I was transported to Vancouver where I now belong to an FSSP parish, with the High Mass on Sundays and feast days and the low Mass available every day of the week.

The sermons are always amazing - these incredible young priests preach to save our souls. They talk about hell and how to avoid it, they chastise us for not availing ourselves enough of the confessional, and tell us how to get to heaven. The confessionals are always open, with both priests hearing confessions before Mass, and even during the Mass one priest will be in the confessional!

GoD has heard my prayers, and for this I am ever grateful. I am armed with the faith, supported and sustained by these holy priests who have my salvation in mind. Thanks be to God.

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