Thursday, November 4, 2010

Goody Two Shoes

I should go for a lunch time walk to clear my mind from the throbbing mist that weighs my thoughts down, making it difficult for me to concentrate. I should breathe in the fresh autumn air to wake me from my drowsiness. But, instead, I remain planted at my desk, door shut, silently pouring my words, my questions, into this computer...

Way back when, just about thirty years ago, when I was a high school student, I attended confirmation classes and hated it. I hated it because the other students wouldn't take it seriously. They would laugh and talk and fail to pay attention to the catechist, even when the parish brought in a young biker couple fresh on the heels of a conversion and enthusiastic about sharing their faith. I hated it because time after time, with each question asked by Fr. Dan or the catechist, I would be the only one to raise my hand with an answer or a comment and I began to feel like a foolish Little Miss Goody Two Shoes. (Just what does that mean anyway? I've never worn very good shoes, just ask me about my corns, and doesn't everyone wear two shoes?) I wanted to give in to the peer pressure and act cool by not participating, but my heart always ached for the catechist and how hard she had to work to help us along our spiritual path. So up my hand would go in the air, and I'd grimace at the sound of my classmates as they snickered and teased.

I'm thinking back to those days because I now have three sons who are enrolled in our parish confirmation classes and they seem to be hating it just as much as I did for all of the same reasons. Do some things never change?

Each Sunday evening my sons leave for Confirmation class without complaint, but when they come home, they all talk about how much they hate going because all of the kids in the class are so rude and disrespectful. They end up just kind of zoning out and clamming up while they passively wait for the two hours to pass.

This sad fact of life has prompted some really good family discussions and has left me with a lot to think about. I wonder if I would be better off letting my sons drop out of the classes and teach them at home instead. I know that at home with me they would learn much more than anything they could possibly learn in a class with a bunch of disruptive kids. But if I were to do this, would they still be allowed to be confirmed during their junior year without the classroom community aspect?

I also wonder how important it really is for them to be confirmed in the faith while they are in high school. I can't believe that I am actually going to let this thought escape through my fingertips and into the keyboard, but what if they waited to get confirmed as adults instead of doing it now while they are in high school. Would that reflect badly on me and my faith? And is the fact that I worry about that just a result of my spiritual pride?

Yet I know that no matter what type of environment they are raised in, the choice to follow Jesus and to open their hearts to God is one that they alone can make. It's impossible to force God on our children, so why do so many parents insist that their children become confirmed in high school, especially when many of those families don't even attend church on a regular basis? What's the point of confirmation if you aren't going to live your faith?

I hope and pray that whether or not my children are confirmed while they are in high school, that the seed of faith has been deeply planted in their hearts and has been adequately nourished in their day to day lives, that somewhere along the line they will make the conscious choice to follow Christ, to remain close to Him and to live their lives in His love and service.

I know that even if my children were to choose to wait until they are adults and to go through the RCIA process to become confirmed, that it doesn't guarantee that the experience will be any better than what they are witnessing right now. I know that lots of adults only become confirmed for their soon-to-be spouse and aren't really active participants in the faith or the classes, and I have certainly seen first hand by teaching Christian Formation Classes for three years and sponsoring a Candidate as she entered the Catholic Church, that the catechists can be pretty out there as far as following and teaching the true faith. What a person "gets" in faith formation class can really be the result of the blessing of growing up in a family who does live their faith, and the luck of having a wonderful Catechist who will teach the true faith of the Magisterium of our Church.

Ultimately, I know that even God will not force himself upon my children, but will gently call and nudge, hoping that they will recognize their need for Him in their lives and respond with loving openness to His presence. In the meantime, I will continue to encourage them to attend the classes, to get along as best they can with both their classmates and their catechists, and to try to develop blinders so that they won't feel ostracized for knowing and living their faith as teenagers.

What would you do if you were in my Goody Two Shoes?

(John, Justin and Joe at Devil's Lake State Park, WI 9/10)


  1. It's sad, isn't it? Kids with faith are fighting an uphill battle these days and I feel for them. I think it's worse now than ever before. I think encouraging them is a good idea and one that they will be thankful for in the long run.
    Ultimately, being a Goody Two Shoes is a blessing though the corns may not be ;) You cared more about the teacher's feelings than the mockery you were subjected to.

  2. In our archdiocese (Chicago), confirmation prep happens in 7th and 8th grades with Confirmation taking place in the Spring (usually) of 8th grade.
    While my 2 oldest (1 confirmed 2 yrs ago and one in 7th grade now) report the same lack of respect and knowledge in their classmates, neither one felt odd being the only kids raising their hands to answer questions. I chalk that up to 2 things: 1) they were still naive enough not to notice that the other kids thought they were being Goody Two Shoes, and 2) their grade school is Montessori, so raising your hand to answer a question was a complete novelty to them!

    I also like that they are entering high school already sealed with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. As the bishop who confirmed me in 8th grade said at *my* confirmation, "The next 8 years of your lives, you will have to make the most important decisions OF your lives. The first 13-14 years of your lives have been spent forming the person that you ARE, now, using the Gifts of The Holy Spirit, you can move ahead confidently in the knowledge that you CAN make those big decisions.". Wow, right?

    However, I do understand the reasoning to delay Confirmation as it keeps teens learning about their faith a bit longer. But, if anything, I think the age of confirmation should be before high school, not during or after. Just my opinion, though!

  3. Our parish Confirms in grade 8 also, but when one of our sons was ready in grade 7 our pastor Confirmed him. Talk to your pastor (not the DRE) and ask if your sons can be Confirmed early. I think the graces they receive from Confirmation should be received as soon as possible. I wish the Church routinely Confirmed in early grade school like they once did. I think many parishes hold off because they know that most children will stop religious education as soon as they are Confirmed. If your pastor is certain your children will continue to attend Mass and learn their faith, he may be more apt to let them go early.

    My guess is your children are ready if they can answer all the questions and would gladly do it early. As a homeschooling family we prepare them ourselves, but I know many public school families prepare their children for sacraments at home.

  4. Barbara, that's an excellent idea! I will ask about it! My daughter was allowed to make her first Reconciliation in kindergarten and received her first Communion in first grade. It's sure worth a try to ask about it!

    A few years ago there was a group in our Archdiocese who campaigned hard to get Confirmation moved to 8th grade. Both sides, those for 8th grade and those for high school, met with Archbishop Dolan. He studied the issue and decided to keep it in high school. Not all battles are meant to be won, but they are certainly worth the effort!

  5. Goody Two Shoes: please see

    And this sort of "misbehavior" is fairly normal. Rather than being so upset about it, perhaps you can see it as an important opportunity for kids to determine their own behavioral choices, such as respecting a presenter and other participants even when you don't want to hear the message, and determining to stand quietly but firmly in your own beleifs even in the face of differences. The path will not get easier from here, so learning to choose a way to be faithful and righteous without being unfriendly and self-righteous might not be such a bad thing for a young teen.

    Peace be with you.

  6. I have worked hard on restructuring the whole way confirmation is done. The problem is that we model it after an academic model. Kids need to get out into the community and do hands on things like out-reach to a soup kitken and homeless shelter. We try to teach them concepts at such an early age and we should be more involved in the action part of confirmation. I could write forever about this subject, but our churches don't seem to want to change a little when it comes how are approch confirmation.

  7. Dear anonymous-how I wish I knew who you are! I bet we could have some great conversations! You are absolutely right, life is hard, people can be mean and sooner or later they are going to have to be strong and learn how to deal with it. I can't baby and shelter them forever and this is a great opportunity for them to stand up for the Kingdom!

    I guess what really bothers me is that this happens at Catholic schools and in Catholic programs, where you would hope that even if the other kids didn't want to be there, they would at least have the manners to behave for the short two hours a month that they are expected to attend the sessions. Thank you so much for your insight!

    And Brother, you are so right, a little bit of academics and then some good work in action to drive the point home about how we are here to serve others because that IS, after all, the work of the Holy Spirit.

  8. Anne, you ask great questions and have wonderful thoughts. As much as I would like to force it, my sons' relationship with God is between God and them. Son number six is in confirmation and having a similar experience to your sons. He says he is the only one who participates and the others complain about having to sit and listen to a boring, old guy. I have told him to stick it out and stick to his guns. My hope is he will rub off on some of his classmates. Good luck and God bless.
    Dan O'Reilly

  9. My youngest Goddaughter was confirmed last week. I could not attend the party being thrown for her by her dad and step-mom and was planning to send a card and gifts. Then her mom called concerned about the wisdom of yet another party for her for those not invited to "dad's" party --- my Goddaughter asked mom for another gathering so she could get money she needs for ....

    Hmmmm. I kept the card and gift, and am thinking that I may write her in a year or two about it. Her mind is too flighty right now, certainly not focused on what the Confirmation was about. Yet still, I am glad she was confirmed. God's grace given to us is a good thing; I found it very useful when I needed it, even if I ignored it for years.

    Re "making" them go to Confirmation or even mass, the husband-wife team on Catholic radio state it correctly, in my humble opinion: "They're children. Who is in charge in your house; aren't the parents supposed to be educating them, whether they want to learn or not? Or do you allow your kids to stay home from school, too, because 'they don't want to go?'"

    I liked that advice to parents of teens.

  10. Dan and Tom, thank you both so much for joining in the conversation! You both seem to give the same message-stick to it. I do hope and pray that my children will set a good example and rub off on others. When they were in the public elementary school I worried that they would learn all kinds of bad behaviors from some of the other children who were swearing in kindergarten or picking fights. But then I realized that maybe my kids were meant to be there to show the other kids what good behavior looks like. At this point, my sons are all still very good boys and there was no damage done by public school, Catholic school or Confirmation class. I guess it's most important for them to know who they are and to Whom they belong, then all the other worries will melt away!

    Tom, I love this: "God's grace given to us is a good thing." What a wonderful way of expressing the value of the Sacraments! And truthfully, even though I participated in the high school Confirmation classes, I can't honestly say that I let the Sacrament of Confirmation change me all that much at the point of Confirmation. His grace had to work on my slowly, gradually, just like He does everything. Little by little, without even realizing it, my faith was strengthened and deepened. And yet, I've still a long way to go...I need to pray for more grace!