2006-11-12 With the rectory telephone ringing off the hook

November 12, 2006

With the rectory telephone ringing off the hook these days with requests for baptisms, and with our CCD and RCIA class enrollments at record highs for our parish, it becomes ever more necessary to think of the importance of instruction in the faith. Wedding preparation is an excellent time to instruct more deeply in the mysteries of the faith and, very often, I realize that many young people, with the best of intentions, have come from places where there was poor instruction. Recently a bishop told a catechetical conference that for a couple of decades, there has been a radical shift in attitudes: the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s were times of unthinking rebellion against classical truths, but now there is less rebellion and the real problem is simply that the young do not know the basics of Catholic teaching. He also said that many people who have drifted away from the Church do not have an axe to grind and are not angry with the Church. They just do not know much about the Church.

To this we may add that an older generation is made up of two groups: those who have maintained the solid formation of their youth and those who were misled by wrong representations of the Faith in the turbulent post-Vatican II period and are still stuck in the 1970s. The former have been distressed by much of the spiritual decay around them, and the latter are confused that reality has not conformed to their impression of it, and they wonder why young people are beginning to prefer Gregorian chant to the faux-folksiness of guitar Masses. When I first came to this parish, one individual actually complained that I had placed candles on the altar, for she was under the impression that the Second Vatican Council had eliminated ornament and ritual forms. I have a photograph taken many years ago showing a curtain drawn across our sanctuary and a wooden table substituted for our marble altar. There will come a time soon when people will wonder at the spiritual demolition of the last generation, but happily our new Pope is serenely leading his universal flock to an authentic understanding of what the Holy Spirit is doing in the Church, and he is gently weaning the young away from Brady Bunch tunes to Mozart.

Social indicators show that the Holy Church is sobering up after many trials and purgings, and that many people are beginning to see in the Church a constant sanity for which a confused world longs. Gradually, vocations are rising and remarkable conversions are happening. With joyful humility, older people should acknowledge that they are as needful of constant instruction in the mysteries of the faith as are the young neophytes. For starters, consult Catholic websites and our books and tapes in the parish office. Truth is not an option.

Fr. George W. Rutler

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