Wednesday, 29 August 2007

#4 [continued] a fantasy word-picture for a prospective seminarian

The young man looks back on his religious education from school - more often than not he won't be at a catholic senior school; as the bishops have sold the majority of them off en-masse; the days when catholic schools were the envy of surrounding educational establishments have long gone ; ever since the headmasters were granted more autonomy and more members of the professional laity got onto the boards of school governors , the quality of chosen candidates for teachers has not been the wisest, academic capability or catholicity gave way to those individuals who were 'conducive to the vision of the spirit and mission statement ' affable, inoffensive, liberalising 'educationalists' with little pedagogic experience , but belonging to a lot of educational committees or pressure groups...
thus the school grades plummetted,
elderly teaching staff became disillusioned and resigned many years before they had planned to, so in order to save money the school employs inexperienced young or trainee teachers [who , by some strange coincidence happen to be the children of the professional laity saving up money for their 'gap year' or impending marriage ] - discipline and grades plummet further ; the government notices the grades and implements special measures and ultimately the bishop grasps the opportunity for some ready money and bails the whole team out by closing the drain on fiscal resources...

no the young man must attempt to rely upon the religious education he received at primary school...

and then he gets a shock

he remembers a few songs about Paul in a basket and eagles , he remembers painting zacchaeus up the tree every year, and acting out the good samaritan and the prodigal son for assembly [miss said he made a good third pig] the rest is a blur...

he remembers sitting down at a table having a seder meal, visiting a sikh temple and rubbing yoghurt on a flag pole, he remembers getting told off for playing frisbee with the paper skullcaps miss handed out when they visited the synagogue; and he remembers the coach trip to the mosque that smelled funny and all the girls had to go out the back while all the men shouted and stuck their bums in the air...

he seems remember the bishop coming to the school once and someone gave him flowers while he told them they were the hope for the future in the spirit and hadn't they painted pretty pictures of him ?

He remembers being told about the mass but it's all about sitting round a table and sharing bread and wine - it seems to have nothing to do with a church altar or the crucifix or the tabernacle... there seems to be no notion of sacrifice at all...


he still went to church with his mum and gran, but felt a bit embarassed because he was the youngest one there apart from the schoolteacher's two young daughters who were altar servers; none of his schoolfriends went to mass, in fact none of his catholic neighbours seemed to go any more either....but when it comes to his catholicism , what he believes ?

that's come from his parents, well more specifically one set of grandparents who are impolite enough to think religion is a topic of conversation and does affect one's daily life.everything else has come from books - in fact most of the things he knows about the church comes from reading a non-catholic ;

CS Lewis books seem to be the only really accessible religious books around or available - and even then he had to buy them from a non-catholic 'christian book store'

the internet has been a great help, but all too often there are american sites which purport to be catholic and then suddenly they tell him he must support george bush and capitalism and the NRA and the war against terror and Iraq and must despise free education and universal health care as satanic , they have weird prayers to our lady and fantastic tales of her visitations to american mystics who tell the world that there's going to be great wars and earthquakes and purges of humanity - and then they say the Pope isn't really the pope as he's a heretic !

So he leaves those sites and tries to access the british catholic sites - they seem to teach nothing about catholicism at all - it's just meetings and conferences and group sharings and spirtual renewal retreats - lots of pictures of kids making banners and priests sitting in bathtubs of beans and elderly [drunk looking?] women holding up stylised picures of doves made from macaroni , or being applauded from a wooden pulpit by fellow women who all look like they've popped out of 1970's ambridge - and why are they all joining hands during the our father ?

the young man may seek solace from the youth group ? or the diocesan youth ministry ? he rings round and discovers there's a meeting in a nearby town so he gets on the bus - they say a little prayer, discuss what's happening in their school [somewhere he doesn't attend], what plans they have for the upcoming event or trip to a conference up north, and apart from a lot of in-talking and laughing about individuals he doesn't know, that's basically it ! The older members go down the pub and mockingly abandon him because he refuses to pretend he's 18 - he rings his dad to come and pick him up and decides not to go again...

after a few months he is informed there's a youth mass coming up at the cathedral, would he like to go ? more of the same thing happens but he does manage to meet a few others just aslost and alone as he is and they end up talking about a few things...

they have a weird mass in a field where the priest wears a multicoloured nylon tablecloth with grains of wheat all over it - the altar is an upturned orange box but there is a candle, he dishes out a huge loaf for everyone to tear a piece off - the boy supposes the rain will wash away all the dropped crumbs of host on the grass - they sing a few songs that could be hymns as they talk about spirit all the time and everyone seems really huggy, the priest is really trying to be hip and groovy and the bossy nun is wearing trousers - but soon it's all over and everyone seems to be hugging each other goodbye and talking about what they'll do at the next meeting somewhere the young man has never heard of...yet again the young man takes the journey home again on his own, but he is lucky enough to get one of the people he met's address...but the youth doesn't write back...


he's told there might be another youth event on the other side of the diocese - some over-enthusiastic woman who was dressed twenty years too young for her age gave a talk about it at mass one sunday - telling the elderly parishioners that children are our future in the spirit - he does sign the list for it at the back of the church, but crosses it out when he discovers he's the only one after the sign's been up for three weeks...

1 comment:

White Stone Name Seeker said...

There are three teenage boys at Mass in my church each week; one is 18 (mine) and the other two are 16 one of those is mine. All three serve.
That's it.
My 18yr old friend serves at the 'children's' Mass and I think he is the only one of that age.

Parents don't teach their children the faith because they don't know it either.

Did you see my post on Adult catechesis a few days ago?
If we don't teach the parents soon there will be no candidates for the priesthood at all-you can't give what you don't have.

On deacons; I have grave doubts about the permenant diaconate in the UK. Just as priests are not looked after or guided neither are deacons and fuzzy theology often pervades.

As for 'professional laity' - our parish is run by them and frankly survives because of them in many ways.
I used to do the flowers and some catechesis including work with disabled Catholic children in a special non-Catholic school. I begged for support from the head of special catholic ed in my diocese and got none at all.

When I became ill and had to give up my church work the pp ignored me. No visits while I struggled with suddenly being in a wheelchair; not so much as thanks for what you did. (Oaky I was doing it for God not him, but basic good manners would suely have dictated a better response).
I was never 'professional' laity but I think priests use people to run the shop because they are used and so treat others the same.
It's hardly Christ centred is it?