Kathy Schiffer is a Catholic blogger. In addition to her blog Seasons of Grace, her articles have appeared in the National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Zenit, the Michigan Catholic, Legatus Magazine, and other Catholic publications. She’s worked for Catholic and other Christian ministries since 1988, as radio producer, director of special events and media relations coordinator. Kathy and her husband, Deacon Jerry Schiffer, have three adult children.
I hear this all the time, on Catholic radio and in Catholic Facebook groups: A majority of American Catholics have been “sacramentalized,” but never catechized or evangelized.
That is, they’ve gone through sacrament prep classes for First Communion and Confirmation, rote courses, but have never really been given the tools to understand what the Catholic Church teaches and why. That’s why they refuse to accept the blame for not knowing what the Church says about, say, abortion or birth control or any of a number of seminal topics. They don’t know:
Is it necessary to attend Mass on Sunday? You're pretty sure it doesn't really matter, or surely your second-grade teacher would have said something about it.
Is masturbation always wrong? Well, Miss Snively never mentioned it.
Can you take the Pill if you already have a couple of kids? I mean, raising kids is hard these days, and college is expensive! The Church understands, right?
Is it okay to live together before marriage? I mean, everyone's doing it! It saves a ton of money, and my gym teacher never warned us against it....
You’ve never learned what the Church teaches? Are you sure you weren’t just fooling around in class that day?
Catholic apologist Marcus Grodi tells a story about his conversion, and how he wondered why no one had ever told him these important things about Catholic theology. I forget the exact details, but basically, he found a box in which his mother had kept papers from his childhood, and there they were! The answers to all his questions! He had been told, but he had not been ready to hear.
I think we’re all like that. I was a student in Catholic schools for 12 years, but as a young adult I was sure I knew better than anyone!
Years later, when I volunteered at our parish as a catechist, I was sometimes frustrated because it seemed our textbooks cycled through the same things again and again — spending time each year on the same old facts, when there was so much else to read, to study, to understand. But looking back at it, I understand why the curriculum was constructed in that way. It's necessary because in the classroom, some of those bright-eyed students are tuned out, thinking about football or the latest fad or the cute boys in study hall. Maybe next year, when a teacher tells them again, the Good News will fall on good soil and will stir their hearts to Faith.
And for the grown-ups in the room: It's not too late to learn! It's not fair to complain that you go to Mass each week but you've never heard the priest preach on (pick an issue)! We go to Mass to worship God, to receive Him into our hearts and minds in the Eucharist, and to reflect on the Scripture readings of the day. All those other teachings, about contemporary issues and culture and traditions and more, may not come up regularly. But you can take advantage of the many opportunities to learn more about your faith: Sign up for an evangelization class or a Scripture study through your local parish or your diocese. Listen to Catholic radio or tune in to EWTN. Read a book, or pick up a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The truth is out there, and it's yours to discover!