||How do you deal with a parish that would deny sacraments to a child on the basis that he/she doesn't attend CCD classes? My feeling (and I understand you are a DRE), no offense intended here, is that because we use a Catholic curriculum, and have religion 5 days a week (way more than the 1 hour on Sunday), I'm providing at home the instruction they need for sacraments. Now, so far, I haven't pulled my kids from CCD, but am considering it (the curriculum seems very watered down to me), and I like ours better. Any advice you could give in this situation would be wonderful, I really am not sure what to do.
Thank you for your lovely letter. I was not at all offended by your question. It is understandable that questions would arise concerning the necessity of attending the Faith Formation classes sponsored by the parish.
Let's look at the role Faith Formation classes play in the dynamics of a faith community. At its purest level these classes provide much needed educational support for those children that would otherwise, have nothing. The primary goal of a faith community is to pass the faith along to our children. This is the work of the entire parish family, from the eldest member of that community to the priest who shepherds the flock. All of us in the middle must do our part to ensure that our children and whoever has need, are given the benefit of adequate and complete preparation for the duty of accepting and eventually passing along the faith. Our Catholic faith is a living faith and as such needs to be nurtured.
Secondly, Faith Formation stimulates a sense of community between the members of a parish family. It is a physical witness of the growing, building and nurturing church body.
Faith Formation provides a place where children and young adults and others can fellowship in the presence of one another. I have always told my children that besides their immediate family the most important family they will belong to is that of their faith community. This is the Body of Christ.
In this 'family' they will learn to care for others, reach out to those in need, challenge one another to go forward and prepare as a body for their place in the world. This is an important calling. When my children grow into adults and leave their home for their place in the world I want them to first and foremost seek a faith community in which they will be 'family.' I want them to feel secure in this faith community so that they are able to reach out for guidance, help, and support. The foundation for this feeling begins in part, with their very earliest introduction to the faith community as children.
However when Faith Formation classes present a conflict of information or attitude, what are we as parents to do? I believe that we must first seek the wise and holy counsel of our priests or spiritual advisors. Some things taught in some classes go the full spectrum from unorthodox to 'watered down' and not at all helpful. As parents, our very serious responsibility is to safeguard the minds of our children. We cannot allow them to be 'poisoned' by misinformation or information that is hurtful. We must pray for the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us assess correctly what our children are learning.
My children attend Faith Formation classes in our parish for all the reasons I outlined. I also teach them at home in the Catholic faith each and every day. I use a different curriculum at home than is used in Faith Formation class. I believe that the curriculum that the diocese wants me to use in our parish is at best sufficient, but certainly not complete. It is not hurtful but it is not as detailed as I would like. I struggle with this conflict. I do not want to spend the valuable time I have with the children of the parish arguing over issues that will probably alienate me from the priest (who is trying to follow the guidelines of the diocese). I want to spend my time with the children in a productive and workable environment so as to better pass along the faith through my witness and instruction. I consider it a blessing that as a homeschooling parent, I have access to materials that enhance my teaching in the arena of Faith Formation classes. Because the priest and myself have openly expressed our differences to one another, he has allowed me the freedom to supplement our program as necessary. It is an attitude of trust. I work very hard not to violate that trust. I know that my true employer is Jesus. I want what is best for His 'little ones.'
I sense from your letter that you are looking at this issue from the standpoint of 'time.' You may see that the time spent in relearning information that is 'watered down' is redundant and counterproductive to your efforts in the homeschool. I agree with this feeling wholeheartedly. However, perhaps looking at the role of Faith Formation class from the standpoint of 'community' would help.
Keep in mind the very important teaching of the Catholic Church. Our privilege of receiving the Living Jesus through the outward signs of the Sacraments is not earned by us. Jesus gave this freely as a gift from Calvary. It is the Lord's will that all who come to Him receive Him fully and completely. All mankind was created to come to Jesus. His love for us, His creation, is best understood in the realm of Jesus' perfect mercy. No one can ever be completely worthy or fully prepared to experience the glory of the Lord. We must first come to Him and accept His love because He desires to give this to us. How wonderful for all. No one can or should be denied Jesus, certainly not His 'little ones.'
I hope this has helped. Sometimes my role as DRE is a struggle with my role as parent/teacher. However I truly have a love for the children in our parish and want to help them fully feel the love Jesus has for them. Sometimes we must remember that we may be the only 'Jesus' some people will see or experience. I praise God and thank Him for the witness of hardworking homeschooling parents. I have never known a group of people that are more open to the needs of others. Though their time is valuable I have never been turned down when I have asked for help in the parish family. It is through their witness that many are introduced to the real beauty of 'family.' This is what we want to strive for in our parish families.
Jesus, please give all those who nurture and teach children the wisdom and counsel of the Holy Spirit. Let all those who are put before Your little ones be followers of the Light and willing to open themselves up in the spirit of true docility to the promptings of Your Holy Spirit. Amen.
I will be praying for you as you work through this matter in your faith community.
Sending out a prayer,