Please Don’t Drop the Host: A Mother’s Prayer

Please Don’t Drop the Host: A Mother’s Prayer

As I sat in the pew, watching my son climb the steps into the Sanctuary to receive his First Holy Communion alongside his cousin, I prayed a prayer I’m sure parents the world over have prayed at every single First Holy Communion ever: “Dear God, please don’t let him drop the Host.”  Repeated, over and over, in my mind until it was done and he was back in the pew beside me, this prayer was the only thing I could focus on.  I’m thankful to report, both he and my niece did just fine.  They were reverent, excited, and used a proper form.  They didn’t drop the Host. This is now the second child my husband and I have gotten to this Sacrament.  With both of them, the sense of pride I felt was immense, even knowing it had so much more to do with God’s grace than with me.  As I watched him kneeling after Communion, beaming in his own serious way, it struck me how much more I have to pray for him.  He didn’t drop the Host today, but that isn’t enough.  Now I’m speaking figuratively of course.  As a parent, it’s my obligation to pray for my child to never “drop the Host”, to never abandon the Faith or the Church, and I fear at times, many of us simply assume that these sweet innocent children will just go on being spiritually sweet, innocent, and faithful, with little or no help from us other than “the basics.”  I speak from experience here: this isn’t so.  Even with excellent examples, children can grow up and become...
The best way to learn about Catholicism?

The best way to learn about Catholicism?

I’ve had a few opportunities to introduce folks to the Catholic Church, and it always seemed a bit of a dicey procedure. If you’re thinking of doing something similar to some unsuspecting (or suspecting) soul in the near future, you probably also have felt like you needed to sit in a back room somewhere with a dry erase board to map out some strategies. For someone who is searching on their own, without anyone beside them as a guide, I would imagine the least effective way to learn about the Catholic faith is to do what would seem to be the most obvious: go to Mass. That can lead to some awkward conversations: Curious Cal: I’m thinking about learning more about the Catholic Church. Since you guys have Mass every Sunday, do you think I should go? Cradle-Catholic Carl: NO! Obviously, if someone already has Biblical and historical knowledge (like Scott Hahn), then going to Mass can be exactly the a-ha moment that is needed. If a person has a good grounding in the historical Christian understanding of worship as sacrifice, of the Eucharist as the Real Presence of Jesus, of the Incarnation, etc., then going to Mass can be enlightening. But the whys of worship are taken for granted; the priest presumes that those gathered for Mass already have a good idea of what is going on (none of us know this fully or completely, since it involves mystery, but you get my point). And for most non-Catholics, coming from a church where you can learn the theological ropes pretty quickly and get your membership card without much...
Another Bible Translation?

Another Bible Translation?

As a catechist, I often feel pulled in different directions when it comes to the Scriptures. My own favorite translation for everyday use is the Revised Standard Version Second Catholic Edition (hereafter, RSV-CE2), but there’s also the beautifully traditional language of the Douay-Rheims (DR), what with its connection to our Latin heritage. Nevertheless, my classroom is equipped with the translation used in the Mass, the New American Bible (NAB), which is no longer available online at the USCCB website, where the new New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE) has replaced it. For purposes of scholarship, I also have handy a Clementine Vulgate and a Greek New Testament. Of course, when I use the Psalms, I prefer to use them as they appear in the Liturgy of the Hours, for the sake of plugging my students into the liturgical tradition of the Church, and that means using the Grail Psalter, which has in the last few years been revised by the monks who once taught me back in my seminary days, so that now we have the Revised Grail Psalter. Confused? “The U.S. Bishops have announced a plan to revise the New Testament of the New American Bible so a single version can be used for prayer, catechesis, and liturgy.” –Catholic News Agency Greeeeeeeeeaaat. Just what we needed. Really, it’s a great idea. One of the reasons we American Catholics use so many different sources is that prayer, catechesis, and liturgy have different demands. We tend to prefer our prayer texts to have a blend of formality and accessibility that both reaches out to us and elevates us in our...
Labor Pains and Difficult Farming: An Explanation for the Punishments of Adam & Eve

Labor Pains and Difficult Farming: An Explanation for the Punishments of Adam & Eve

One of the least understood parts of the Bible, shrouded in the mystery of prehistory, is the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve. It’s easy to read the story, only one chapter of Genesis, and long for more details. Just what does it mean? Does the fruit represent something? What type of fruit was it? Why did God punish Adam and Eve the way He did? That last question, in my experience, is asked mostly by women who aren’t very happy about the looming prospect of child labor. Who can blame them? I’m certainly not going to, mostly for fear of the doghouse. In order to understand this, we need a basic overview. You can read the full account here, but I’ll summarize: Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, minding their own business, when a serpent (representing Satan) approached Eve and asked her whether God had really told her not to eat any of the fruit in the garden. Eve answered that she couldn’t eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil because she would die. Satan responded with the half-truth that she would not die. In response, Eve took some of the fruit and ate it and gave some to Adam to eat. They both realized they were naked and hid themselves. God discovered them, they all pointed fingers at each other, and God pronounced the sentences: the serpent would crawl on his belly and eat dirt, the woman would have labor pains, and the man would toil and sweat when he’d farming. Then Adam and Eve were exiled...
5 Catechetical Tips for Reaching the Most Important Audience

5 Catechetical Tips for Reaching the Most Important Audience

What is the most important catechetical audience and how should we reach them? Earlier this week, my friend and colleague Andrew Sciba posted about the tendency of some parish catechetical programs to aim for later Confirmation, in the hopes of keeping children in PSR (CCD for those slightly older readers), holding the Sacrament of Confirmation over their heads. Several important points were made in the combox by intelligent and well-intentioned individuals on both sides of the argument, some arguing that we should trust in grace to do its job even at a young age, others arguing that we should wait until youth are psychologically ready for that grace. To be honest, it sounds like we’re trying to force grace and psychology into a game of leap frog, so I won’t engage in that debate here. What I would like to do, however, is point out that the “Confirmation-as-bait approach” to keeping young people in PSR wouldn’t be necessary if American young people were being raised in a faith-filled environment. “But our parish has a very active PSR program and a great youth group!” Yes, that may be, but what about after that? Youth and young adults are growing and very keen to become just like the adults they admire. Though they may hide it, kids really do want to be a lot like their parents. It’s the natural order of things. That’s why the Church calls parents the first teachers of their children in the faith. In the Rite of Baptism, we find this all-too-forgotten exchange: Priest (or deacon): You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing...