Thursday, May 21, 2009


Years ago I was riding the bus to downtown Akron and there was a man in the bus making the rounds of the passengers. He would say, “Have you been saved?” If they said no he would inform them of how they were going to hell. It did not take long for the passengers to catch on to his method and would immediately block conversation with him as he made his way to their seat. Interestingly this is one of my strongest memories of my very young years and it is a negative one.

In a similar way we spend much of our time passing on the faith through the negative. “Don’t do this!” We also make the practice of the faith through lots of deadlines and warnings. “You must have this in by this date or you will be terminated.” (Okay, maybe that was a bit extreme but you get the point.) That is not to say that we should throw out the “Don’ts” and the regulations, but if that is all we present, it makes religion seem like one giant downer.

I know I have a tendency to fall into this that I have to fight against. I was working up a program for our students when I realized it was all, “You must complete this by this date. Failure to do so will mean . . .” When I re-read it I realized I was turned off by the program. It makes it easier to manage but a drag to live.

Perhaps there was a time when people knew their faith well and all they needed was little reminders of, “Don’t.” Perhaps there was strong community and family support for faith projects and much more positive interaction with the faith so that all people needed was, “Here is your deadline!” But it is not exactly so today. The teachings of the Church are beautiful. But when they are reduced to “don’t” we miss the beauty. Sacramental preparation should be a time of community and growth, but when they are reduced to deadlines hoop-jumping they are as manipulative as the pressuring man on the bus.

What we need is to be careful the way we present our faith especially to our youth. They need the joy and beauty as well as the responsibilities. We need to help them become part of the community through our activities, not simply jump through a hoop to get the carrot. Now, I grant you, some people need to be told “DON’T” and some people are so uncooperative that hoop-jumping is about all you are going to get out of them if you are lucky. But we will let the positives rule, not the negatives.

I do realize there are no solutions here. It is easy to name the problem and walk away. But the cause is good – the solutions will come if we search for them.


Matt W said...
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Anonymous said...

Today's and yesterday's posts were very well stated. Great food for thought (although I enjoy all of your entries, Father. Thanks for taking the time to blog).

Matt W said...

Father, your homily last week is a good case in point of how to do it "better," or at least get a good balance. It wasn't "Don't do it," but "Why do it when the alternative is so much better?"