Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Personal Reflection on "Catholic" Education (Part 4)

I've been dreading writing this one for a while. It's not so much that I don't know what to say--when has that stopped me before?--as that I know that whatever I write will be woefully inadequate to the subject at hand. This isn't a change either; but whereas I usually inadequately wax of things I know little about, these things are usually--thank heavens--of little worth in the grand scheme of things. Granted, for the sake of the argument, that all of my talk of politics is wrong, as Troutsky so often hints, I think I may be pardoned because the political is of so little consequence, especially in comparison to that which I will eventually turn to speak.

At the center of the Catholic life, is the Mass, that most perfect of prayers, the Eucharist. To outsiders, the differences between Catholics and Protestants may seem insignificant. When one is more discerning, differences appear. Catholics do not "worship Mary", though we do ask her to intercede for us. And while it is true that reverence for Mary is distinctly Catholic, I think the Eucharist sets us apart from our Protestant brethren even more. As a good friend likes to tease, "Catholics eat Jesus". As a matter of fact we do. Transubstantiation is a bit confusing, and I'd rather not get into it too deeply at present. Suffice it to say that belief in the Real Presence is a nonnegotiable article of faith for the Roman Catholic.

Anyway, concerning the Eucharist, The Catechism has this to say on the matter:

1324 The Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life." "The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch."

1325 "The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God's action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit."

1326 Finally, by the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.

1327 In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: "Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking." (Footnotes removed.)

Forget, for now, the mystery of the Eucharist. The point is that the Eucharist should be very important to Catholics. In keeping with the theme of these posts, the degree of disrespect which greeted the Eucharist by my fellow students was embarrassing. Two explanations present themselves. The first is that Catholic education no longer instills in her children any respect for the Eucharist. The second is that, well, I'd rather not consider that.

One could claim that no Mass filled with hundreds of teenagers could possibly be reverent; but the multitude of Masses offered by Pope John Paul II at the various World Youth Day events would belie that fact. The inescapable conclusion is that Christ is not treated by respect in what passes for Catholic schools. Or, at least in the high school I attended.

I'm hoping that what I witnessed was just the effects of the hangover from the 60's--what kind of hangover lasts that long? Then again, an argument could be made that this is all a hangover from the Reformation. I'm rambling.

Things in the Catholic schools, I am told, are getting better. Pessimists aren't the type of folks who notice those sorts of things. Based on my limited observations, Catholic school isn't a place Catholic parents should be looking forward to sending their kids. Home schooling strikes me as a better option.

Once I recover from the malaise, I'll try to offer some suggestions for improvement.


hoosiertoo said...

Rad Trads will tell you that there is indeed a 60's hangover, related to imbibing far too much wine of V2vintage. The change in the liturgy as the cause for devaluing the Eucharist is, I think, a little too easy. V2 was a reaction to forces already at work in the Church, IMO.

Of course, those bent on reform and besotted with the spirit of the age took the changes too far. Now you see B16 trying to rein them in. I don't think he's moving fast enough, but then I ain't the boss.

A Wiser Man Than I said...

Now you see B16 trying to rein them in. I don't think he's moving fast enough, but then I ain't the boss.

I'm with you, but I have to give him props for making the right moves. JPII was a saintly man and an excellent pope, but he was a little too into Vatican II for my tastes.

One of the big problems, and one I didn't really mention in the post, is that Catholics no longer believe in the Real Presence. When that happens, we shouldn't be surprised that people don't pay attention at Mass, and eventually stop going entirely. How much Vatican II exacerbated the problem is an argument for the historians.