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?
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)