The Importance Of Quality Faith Formation

Friday, October 12, 2007

This was originally posted on my personal blog but I thought it would be useful to you as well.

May God bless us in all that we do, and grant unto us the grace and means to follow Him wherever He may lead us.

Your brother in Christ,

+ Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

I was recently attending my cousin's wedding, presided over by a female ELCA pastor, and when it came time for communion, the pastor stated that they would be having an "open communion", meaning that all present are invited to receive communion. Although my immediate family, my grandmother, and a few of my dad's siblings remained in our seats and did not receive Protestant communion, the rest of my relatives, some of whom were Catholic, and some of whom were Protestant, received communion from the pastor. I don't think any of the Catholics present knew what they were doing. This was also true when I was in Hawaii a few years ago with my high school choir, and we were required to sing at a Lutheran service.

At that service, communion was also an "open communion". And, a majority of the choir went up to receive communion, including many of the Catholics in the choir. Myself, my sister, and some of our Catholic friends remained seated, but, yet again, the Catholics that went up for communion were, most likely inadvertently, denying their belief in the Eucharist by doing so.I don't think it's their fault that they don't know that taking communion at Protestant churches is wrong, since most faith formation programs these days are lackluster and don't teach the kids the fundamentals of their faith, having gone through such a program myself a long time ago. Had it not been for the staunchly Catholic family I grew up in, I may not have seen the harm in going up for communion at a Protestant Church.

After all, they worship the same Christ, right? However, thanks to my mom and dad, I was taught as a child that Protestants don't believe in the transubstantiation, and, consequently, Catholics receiving Protestant communion is wrong. I knew, however, that my family was more religious than most, and I appreciated it deeply, and that my parents were among the minority in their generation who lived their Catholic faith. This is not true for the majority of the Baby Boomers, whose rebellion against traditional religion is well-known and documented.If the kids aren't learning about their faith from their parents, then where will they learn about their faith? Faith formation programs should be the answer, but the problem is that many of them are so watered down that the kids learn hardly anything about their faith.

This was the case with the confirmation program at my home parish that I went through as a ninth and tenth grader, and it was painful. I had so many questions I wanted to ask about my faith, but I never got them answered by my teacher. Fortunately, my parents were able to answer my questions, but that's not true of the families of all the kids preparing for confirmation, where do they turn, or do they just stop going to mass because it has no meaning for them?I think we, as Catholics, owe our young people a deep and profound understanding of their faith, otherwise we will lose this generation of Catholics to Protestant denominations where their questions will be answered, and where they will know what they believe, and what a great tragedy that would be for the Church.

The Millenials, those of us born between 1977 and 1994, which includes myself ( I was born in 1986), unlike our parents' generation, is actively embracing traditional Catholic beliefs and practicing, and it's great to see so much zeal for the faith , particularly on college campuses, like here at the University of St. Thomas, where much of the lay ministry is done by the students themselves.However, in order for young people to live their faith, they need to understand what they believe, which is where faith formation comes in. Not all of us come from strong Catholic families, in fact, that's a rare find in today's society. So, it's up to us who do come from stong Catholic families to teach the next generation of Catholics the fundamentals, along with those Boomers who retained the traditional beliefs their parents passed onto them.

This is something I hope to do someday as a Roman Catholic Jesuit priest, either through teaching at a University, as pastor of a parish, working at a mission somewhere, through homilies at masses I would preside at, and, most importantly, through how I live my life each day. It is often said that you may be the only bible your friend ever reads. In the days of the first Jesuits, during the height of the Reformation, the biggest threat to the faith was Protestantism, but nowadays I think our biggest threats are atheism and secular humanism. The best ways to combat this among the faithful, in my opinion, are teaching/preaching and leading by example, for if you find meaning in the mass, others will as well, by seeing you live your faith.

Not all of us are called to be priests or teachers, but we are all called to live our faith. If we don't, are we really followers of Christ? Ask yourself what Our Lord is asking of you, and then, do it wholeheartedly, isn't that what we're called to do as followers of Christ?May God bless you in all you do, and grant you the grace and means to follow Him wherever He may lead.

Your brother in Christ,


+ Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam +


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