Memorizing Catechism

This is something I have not done right for my children. It is great motivation to start and reminds me of what happened to me as an adult one Sunday at Mass. From Father Z’s Blog:

Some years ago I had an experience which confirmed for me the value of the old-fashioned methods of catechism: long and hard practice, memorization, and repetition.  I was called to a hospital to assist in a patient’s difficult death.  I gave the man Last Rites and talked with the family as they struggled with the reality of the end of the earthly life of a loved one.  A daughter of the dying man had been estranged from her faith and her family for a long time.  She was beyond her life’s middle years, which clearly had been pretty rough.  She was bitter and cursed life, fate and God for the cruelty of such an end as her father was experiencing.  She shouted at me, “Why did God make us if this is all there is?”  I responded asking, “Why did God make you?”  She became very still and stared at me.  Then she said, “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.”  I continued, “What must we do to save our souls?”  On cue she responded with something that she hadn’t perhaps thought of for decades, “To save our souls, we must worship God by faith, hope, and charity. We must believe in Him, hope in Him, and love Him with all our heart.”  “Did your father do that?”, I asked.  “Oh, yes…. oh yes.”  She had obviously been taught very well as a child.   One can imagine that she was at times forced to study and to learn, to repeat over and over what at the time seemed boring and pointless.  She had been drilled at school by the Sisters, whom these days we see mocked and abused in the media by ungrateful cads who benefited from their dedication.  More importantly, she had parents who fulfilled their obligations to see that she learned her faith.  I imagine they had to work hard to make her work hard.  Her father had done his duty to give her what she needed when the battle was joined.  Whatever they all did worked.  In the moment of truth, by the grace of God and the help of her guardian angel, the gift her dying father had given her years before was rediscovered and put to its proper use.

Many people today criticize the old method of education by memorization and repetition.  They say that children just wind up mouthing things they do not understand.  On the other hand, while they might not understand it at the moment, one day they will be ready for it and they will have it because it had been given them.  Countless soldier and sailors, for example, griped (and gripe) about their training.  Many Marines entertain homicidal thoughts about their drill instructor.  But when that Anchor, Globe and Eagle is finally pinned on, not a few Marines return to their DI and shake his hand and thank him for what he gave them.  In later service, when the time comes for that single skill or tool or piece of knowledge to be used in its critical time, it is there.  It gleams with purpose.  Polished and tended, it is tried and true.  We of the Church Militant are pilgrim soldiers and, if we are going to reach our goal of heaven, we need training, sacrifice, and leadership.

Going to catholic school in the eighties left me with lots of “I’m okay, You’re okay” fluff, but very little substance. By the time I was a teen and my faith was challenged I had little in the way of answers already planted to harvest from. I do remember once an adult friend of a my friend’s parent mockingly asked me what it is I actually believed in as a catholic. I was caught off guard and without thinking began to recite the creed. She cut me off after a few lines and walked away. The experience made me grateful to have some response and humbled me because it was the first time my faith had been challenged in any real way and I had no other words to speak. Soon after my slow fade from the church was complete. I didn’t think about it again until after I had returned to the church some years later.

I enjoyed writing as a teen and often would write typical teen poetry about the meaning of life and why we exist. All of them seemed to be missing something. They were feel good fluff and I knew it. The “Why do we exist?” question faded from my thoughts as adult responsibilities grew. It was during a homily that the priest speaking to the older members of the church began to reminisce about memorizing catechism as a kid under the direction of the sisters who taught in the catholic schools. He asked the crowd, “Why did God make you?”. In unison the crowd replied, “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.”

For me the simple and obvious statement was a  light as bright as the sun. It was a “duh” moment. I remember thinking I had wished someone told me that as a kid. There was an answer to the question, it wasn’t meant to be a private interpretation of whatever philosophy I wanted to align myself with. There was such beauty, strength and comfort in that simple answer. My first lesson in the importance of memorizing Catechism profoundly altered the foundation my faith and perspective is laid upon, for this I am very grateful!

*Thank you Christine for the excerpt.

Providing for Children

As a financially challenged large family the question of what activities and “normal” American experiences to provide for our children is especially magnified. What opportunities least stress our financial and time limitations?Which are best for their development? Will they be social outcasts if they don’t own an ipod, cell phone, or team uniform? My catholic-rural-mom-of-eight ideal on what constitutes real world knowledge has significantly changed from my former South Floridian and secular liberal state university student perception.

If I rate my children’s education and social development on their knowledge of Hollywood creations, sport team stats, current music hits and politically driven environmental theories my children would fail miserably. When I die and face God I do not fear he will tell me I failed as a parent because my kids were not culturally popular or “in”. The development of their souls and their ability to do God’s will is challenged by trying to “be cool”. In order to blossom into strong individuals with the ability to stand against wrong and to perform good works requires being counter cultural.

I hope to provide an environment which develops a healthy knowledge of God’s beautiful creation. By understanding God’s physical creation, it is easy to foster a sense of respect and awe for the world we live in. It saddens me that so many children fear our world and feel as if they are hurting the world merely by existing. People have been disconnected from the earth and no longer understand the beauty of being part of it. They see it only from the outside and falsely, perhaps even arrogantly believe they can and need to control it.  Not realizing their God given place in creation they worship it instead of God. Animals, trees, even dirt become more important then eternal human souls. Children feel guilty for being human. Many believe that eating the flesh of animals is sinful and cruel; the same flesh that protected God’s people during the Passover, the same flesh that our Lord shared with His disciples. This mentality is manifested in the elevation of pets to the status of people. Loving a dog is seen as more important than loving one’s neighbor.

By limiting the influence of modern culture and exposing my children to true art (not pictures made with dung), beautiful music (without lyrics about using other people’s bodies), and quality literature (not the feminist, new age spiritualism, casual sex is healthy garbage) I hope to inspire their imaginations. By giving them opportunities to be part of the cycle of life by raising their own food, caring for animals, experiencing nature with all its beauty I hope to instill in them a sense of responsibility to care for creation. By giving them a constantly growing knowledge of their faith I hope to cultivate souls that love God and choose to do his will. By providing them with an education I hope to develop minds capable of thinking for themselves and having empathy for others. By loving them and their father I hope to set an example of how people are to treat each other. I pray my children will have the conviction to go out into the world and be a force of strength, goodness and joy for a weak, lost, sad society.

How others see my children does not matter, so long as they have faith, hope and charity; along with the ability to act with prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. Oh ya, when I forget this and freak out that my kids don’t “do” enough please wack me upside the head. Thanks

Party Crashing Devil?

Today’s assignment for the little girls’ school was to make a birthday card for Mary (Our Savior’s Mother). Amelia and I were discussing where to set up the cards and a statue of Mary when Jane popped around the corner. In a very matter of fact voice she asked, “What if the devil comes steal the cards?” Amelia backed me up when I said we would have to invite Michael the Archangel to protect them.