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Friday, January 22, 2016

Why Must We ‘Rediscover’ Catholicism? (Can’t they just give it back?) Featured

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There is something about the modern mindset that corrupts language and thought. Take, for instance, the simple word ‘rediscover.’ There is a lot of discussion in NuChurch at the moment about rediscovery. There is a Catholic pop-author giving away lots of books at parishes across the land asking us to ‘rediscover’ Catholicism.

There is currently a fair bit of discussion going on in Catholic social media circles about the nature of this type of outreach.

I don’t intend any critique here of Matthew Kelly or his works, but rather a critique of the mindset that is hardly exclusive to Mr. Kelly.

Recently, I had to attend the One Eight Lifeteen confirmation preparation program for one of my sons. I had to sit through the mandatory several-hour session with my son. It was painful beyond belief. We had to sit through games and discussions and activities, none of which had anything to do with the sacrament of confirmation, let alone Catholicism. We played Family Feud.

We had to form groups to talk about family traditions. After several hours of this, they played a little video which talked about confirmation in very general ways as a sacrament. That was our allotment of Catholicism for the day. 

I am friendly with the pastor, a very good man, and I needled him about the uselessness of the program. He responded back to me: “Honestly one eight is not for your family – it is for pre-catechetical families (most of which are the families in this and every parish). We start off silly to get their attention but eventually move them to solid material. It really does work – the teens eventually get it. 

It is at least a solution outside of the box which has failed most of our families. 

God bless you – we can always count on good families like yours to be there – it is the others we are trying so hard to reach.” 

Whether it is Mr. Kelly, Lifeteen programs, or just the pastoral approach of thousands of pastors, there is one underlying idea. Pastoral care is principally directed toward trying to reach the young and unschooled Catholics, the fallen away Catholics, and lukewarm Catholics. In order to do this, we must evangelize in a way that is not overtly Catholic. We need to ease them into it. We need to give them just the smallest of servings in hopes they develop a taste for it. We must take even the thinnest gruel that is modern Catholicism and strain it even thinner in order to reach those who have fallen away or maybe just attend mass a few times a year. And those Catholics serious enough to come to mass each week, what about them? Well, we don’t need to worry about them, they are still here. 

It begs the question, where do they think that un-catechized, fallen away, and lukewarm Catholics come from? 

We are constantly asked by our pastoral thought leaders to rediscover Catholicism in this way. We are asked to ‘rediscover’ the very same watered down post-conciliar Catholicism that bred the last three generations of uncatechized, fallen-away, and lukewarm Catholics in hopes of reversing the trend. Does that seem likely to work? But we are told that the only way to feed these sheep is on the thin gruel they have already spit out? 

There are many well-meaning individuals that have embraced this approach out of ignorance or indoctrination. Do we introduce aspiring teenage musicians to their craft by only allowing them to listen to mediocre music by mediocre musicians for fear that Mozart will be too overwhelming? 

Do we hide the Bach under Wiggles CD’s? No, of course not. Is this what the Church did during its wildly successful periods of evangelization for nearly two millennia? No, the Church was front and center in what it believed, clear in its liturgical focus, and She trumpeted her beauty in music, art, and architecture. It had saints willing to go to the ends of the world to bring the only Truth that can save to people who needed saving. This is what needs to be ‘rediscovered.’ So here is my suggestion for well-meaning pastors and outreach program managers. You want to reach those fallen-away, lukewarm, and uncatechized Catholics? Stop producing them. Let us turn our attention to shutting off the source. 

Focus on those people parked in the pews. They are there, catechize them. 

Pastors, give real homilies and sermons in which you focus on real Catholic teaching, use pre-conciliar language to teach the immutable truths of the faith. 

Give them genuine God-centered liturgy. Give them the tremendous gift, their birthright, the most beautiful music ever made; give them music suitable to that God-centered liturgy. Burn away all the dross of the last fifty years and teach them. Might some still leave or become lukewarm? Certainly. But it will not be because they weren’t catechized. 

Implicit in all the “we must water down Catholicism to make it palatable” approach is that real, genuine, unabashed, fully-orthodox Catholicism isn’t attractive. They treat Catholicism like the ugly girl who has a nice personality if you just get to know her. 

Enough! Catholicism, real, whole, and traditionally genuine is the most beautiful thing in the world. Show it to them. All of it, every day. 

And if you do, a funny thing will happen. When those once in a while lukewarm Catholics pop in for a visit, they will see it too. They, who thought thin gruel was all there was, will see the rich sumptuous feast that is Catholicism. 

I know that in some places this will not be easy. There are many people very invested in the gruel-thinning business and they will insist that their way is the only way. But their way has been a disaster. For those real pastors out there, bring back Catholicism and I guarantee you that you will bring back the Catholics as well.

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Last modified on Friday, January 22, 2016
Patrick Archbold

Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report and a Catholic writer on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company. Patrick, his wife Terri, and their five children reside in Long Island, N.Y.