November 23, 2011

Here we go again.

It’s that time of year again!  No I am not thinking of the Christmas season, although my family has referred to me as Mama Scrooge since I don’t believe in celebrating Christmas until the evening of December 24, but that is for another day.  I am referring to the time of year when the 7th and 8th grade students in our school and faith formation program must hand in the first part of their  “Confirmation Workbooks.”  In our diocese there is a two-year preparation program for Confirmation which requires students in those two grades to complete a workbook reflecting on things such as their baptism, our Blessed Mother, saints, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the dreaded “Gospel reflections.”  Why are they dreaded?  Well for one thing it requires them to go to Mass on Sunday, which a large number of them do not do. Then, since they do not go to Mass, they have to find out which Gospel was read on a particular Sunday, give the chapter and verse, write a brief summary, the name of the priest who celebrated the Mass, and write about what the Gospel meant to them.  They, or should I say their parents, get very creative in finding out about the Gospels.

So why do I like this? It's because I am one of the "readers" of these workbooks, and I see some very interesting reflections. Also, the women in the parish office have designated me, the Pastoral Associate, as the one they transfer phone call to from mothers who are seeking information about the Gospel that their children didn't hear because they didn't go to Mass.  Workbooks are due on Monday so the phone calls have started to come in.  I get kind of a sick enjoyment in giving the parents a difficult time of it.  Most of the callers are inquiring the name of the priest who celebrated a given Mass. They tell me that they arrived late to Mass and didn't hear the name of the priest.  Rather than just give them the name I ask them to describe what the priest looked like.  After asking this question there is usually a long pause and the parent then tells me that they personally didn't attend that Mass  and they will have to wait until their child comes home from school to ask what the priest looked like.  Or they say he looked average. Now in our parish we have a tall young priest with a shaved head, a priest from Ghana with a heavy accent, a short very gentle priest from India, a gray haired priest in his mid sixties, and our pastor who is in his early seventies. They usually don't call back with the child's description.

The other question they ask is what the Gospel was because they didn't write it down from the missalette (As if I believe that). Usually they just go to the church during the week to check the missalette. Yesterday however was the day our maintenance crew switched the seasonal missalettes.  Two moms called asking if we had any left over missalettes, most likely to look up the Gospel. Even though I probably could have found some, I told the callers they were thrown out already.

I also can't wait to read the workbooks, which will arrive on my desk next week. In addition to scripture references which don't match up with the Gospel, there are reflections that are exactly the same as other students and ones that obviously were written by the parents or taken off the Internet. There are also discrepancies with regard to the name of the priest who celebrated a particular Mass.  My all time favorite was the student who put down the name of a former pastor as the celebrant. The problem was that he had passed away several years earlier.

I also get a few laughs out of some of the other reflections. The best was the student who explained the Immaculate Conception as Jesus leaping out of Elizabeth's womb into Mary's womb.  I must have missed that class in my graduate course on the New Testament.  Their explanations of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are also amusing. The gift of Knowledge always has to do with doing well in school and somehow all the other Gifts relate to earning money and being successful. The Gift of Fortitude (Courage in their book) usually has to do with standing up to bullies. Descriptions on service projects often speak of helping Mom wash the dishes or helping little sister with homework. Gee, I thought those types of activities were part and parcel of being a member of a family.

While I do find this all amusing, it is also very sad. Parents are teaching their children that aside from it being OK not to go to Mass,  it is fine to basically cheat on their Confirmation assignments and to not put effort into to reflecting on the questions. Not a good way to prepare to receive a Sacrament.  I understand the reason they do this, because it has to be done. It is a cultural necessity (really) to receive Confirmation but not to practice the faith that goes along with being spiritually prepared to receive the Sacrament and to live the Christian life.  I look forward to reading the workbooks and I pray that this year will be different.  There are  those students whose reflections are truly insightful and I enjoy reading them because it shows me there are still kids out there who care about their faith and a relationship with Jesus.  I hope I see more of those types of reflections on my desk next week.

No comments:

Post a Comment