Tuesday, 24 June 2014
Sadness & Joy in Baptism Preparations
So many of those who seek Baptism for their child leave me feeling both sadness and joy: joy that the parents want their child to have the Faith, but sadness that it is likely to be easily lost because the parents themselves have little understanding of the Faith. What they (and their parents, the grandparents of today) received from pulpits and schools over the last few decades has left them with an understanding of the Faith that has no depth; it is simply too shallow to stand up to the trials of life such as the death of a loved one, and too shallow to stand up to the challenges of the relativist culture of our time.
It is always important to me to explain to couples who are not practicing or actually cohabiting that their understanding of the Faith is shallow but this is no fault of their own; it is similarly important to me to explain that in order to support their child in the Faith, growth in their own understanding of the Faith and its practice has to be sought now, as adults and especially as parents who have been entrusted by God with the forming of a soul for heaven.
Many of those who present their children for Baptism are cohabiting, and it becomes necessary to explain to such couples that not only are they placing their own souls in jeopardy by living in a way that is inconsistent with revealed Truth, but that by establishing their child in a sacramental system they themselves have abandoned brings about a disparity of life between child and parents which is unhelpful to all. It is important to tell the parents that this is not about them being ‘hypocrites’ but simply lacking in the necessary Faith formation.
What is true of such young parents is also true of so many Catholics leaving school today and of the older generation too: they simply don’t know what the Church teaches and when they do, they have little or no idea why she teaches it. In that they do not know because they have not been taught it, hypocrisy is not the problem. Rather, it is the inability to pass on and model the Catholic Faith and lifestyle to their child, who in time may confront their parents with the standard line, “why should I do A, B or C when you don’t?”. We need to help parents avoid this possible conflict with their children by helping them to rediscover their own Faith and providing them with an authentic worship experience. In my opinion we have let parents down from the days they themselves were children by providing superficial catechesis based on dialogue rather than instruction, and by providing very poor liturgy which, rather than aiming at providing an experience of the transcendent, merely aped the pop and performing arts culture of the secular world –and rather badly at that: much better music and performances are to be had in the local Club.
I think we have to revert a.s.a.p. to teaching the Catechism as we did before so that Catholics grow up with a question-and-answer foundation upon which to build ever-deepening responses to questions of Faith. We also have to recover a liturgy that is God-focused; one that is obviously ‘other’ than what can be seen and heard in the world; a liturgy where the Lord in His tabernacle is at the apex of the Sanctuary, and the celebration clearly God-centred rather than man-focused. The ad-orientem position (never abandoned by the Church even in the Reformed Missal of Pope Paul VI) and the use of specifically ecclesial music (chant and scared polyphony) are essential in the recovery. Anything else just will not do. Dialogue as catechesis and a performing-arts style of liturgy have done us no good in the last fifty years. Indeed they have accompanied the year by year increase in lapsation. They can only bring us great harm if we continue to peddle them today. And we will, unless we have the humility to admit we made mistakes in both catechesis and worship.