Saturday, November 8, 2008

Barney & St. Augustine

From time to time students will mention that their big brother/ grandmother/ one or both of their parents doesn't go to church. This usually crops up when we discuss the 4th Commandment, Honor Thy Father and Mother. My standard response is that, as children, they don't have any authority over their parents, but that they should certainly pray for whomever they wish to be closer to God.

This year was a little different, and I didn't have to mention anyone's relatives. I started by discussing the 15-year period in my life that I didn't take God seriously, and used that as an intro to that famous sinner St. Augustine (who has a city named after him in Florida, but it's pronounced differently). I explained how his mother, St. Monica (who has a beachtown named after her in Spanish) prayed for about 15 years (!) that her dissolute son would have a change of heart and return to the Christian faith of his childhood. Eventually Augustine did just that, and in time became a great saint. Maybe someone prayed 15 years for me, too; not that I'm a saint, but if anyone has relatives they wish were closer to God, do as St. Monica did and pray for them.

"Now, everybody, sing along!
I love you, you love me,

We're a happy family
With a great big hug
And a kiss from me to you,
Won't you say you love me too"

You should see all the laughing faces as the kids join in singing the theme song from Barney the reason they're laughing is that it makes no sense to be singing Barney in Wednesday Night Sunday School. Another reason is that they're too old to watch now, but it's fun to remember when they were little that they are 11 or 12 and too mature for Barney.

"Hey, how many of you used to watch Barney when you were little?" Nearly every hand goes up.
"Who still watches?" No one, except a couple who sheepishly admit they still do sometimes.
"Why don't you watch anymore?'s for little kids. 
If you watched it now, how would you like it?
We'd be bored. 
Why would you be bored? You used to think it was interesting.
Because we're smarter now...we're older.
Right. You're older, you know more now, you want something more interesting. Stuff from when you were 4 years old doesn't engage your brain anymore. This is the problem a lot of people have with taking God seriously as they get older. Y'all are going to be done with Wednesday Night Sunday School in two more years, after you are Confirmed. That's the last time many people learn about God. Imagine when you're a grownup that all you know about God is what you learned when you were 13. Can you guess how boring God will seem? More boring than you think Barney is right now. This is why you have to keep learning about God all your life: God is way more interesting than Barney, but an adult that has a kid's knowledge of God is going to think Barney and God are both for kids. Some people you may know have this problem; like St. Monica, you should pray for them. And as you get older, make sure you keep learning about God and his Church so that it's never boring to you.

That way nobody in your family will someday be praying for you to come back to church."


Kathleen@so much to say, so little time said...

This is so true! So many people get nothing out of faith b/c they quit trying to learn. And it's a systemic problem, I think...something we're programmed into by the way we receive the sacraments. I don't know what the solution is, though.

Barbara A. Schoeneberger said...

Great post and so true! I was out of the Church for 25 years. Then I started praying the Rosary every day and pow! Inside of 2 weeks I had a massive conversion experience and life hasn't been the same since. It's much better. I think my Dad prayed constantly for me and now I am praying for my own relatives to return to the Church.

Anonymous said...

You're right on target. I'm sure a lot of people who lose their faith do so because they never got past a childhood or adolescent view of God. Their faith formation never matured to a higher level. Sad...

Most Protestant churches, especially fundamentalist and evangelical ones, continue Sunday School classes for adults--even for the elderly! I don't know if that kind of model would work (or would benefit) Catholics, but it would be great to find some kind of solution to the problem you discuss in your post.


kkollwitz said...

"Protestant churches...continue Sunday School classes for adults--even for the elderly!"

Yes...Catholicism would be incredibly energized if its adults were devoting an hour a week to learning about God. Of course for many, that would mean spending twice as much time on faith.