Frank discussions, advice, and opinions from a Catholic Director of Religious Education.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I am not a "Youth Pastor" please stop calling me that.

While that particular title chafes against my Catholic sensibilities, it isn't really surprising that people don't know what to make of my job. Director of Religious Education and Family Life doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. It also doesn't really tell anyone what I do, so no wonder my wife's extended family, mainly protestants, simply say that I am a "Youth Pastor".

The quickest and easiest way to describe my job would be to say that I do whatever my pastor says. Period. This makes me part master catechist, volunteer organizer, party planner, motivational speaker, youth minister and curriculum writer. Also, I have a cape. Just kidding, but I do have a lightsaber. (True Story)

Director of Light Side Education?

Most of my time is taken up with either religious education classes or the youth group so I will explain a little of what I do with both.

Religious Education:

We have religious education classes for grades K-10 (we also have a pre-k class on Sundays). I choose the curriculum for every class, recruit and train catachists and determine the sacramental preparation requirements for 2nd, 9th and 10th grades. (My department also handles baptismal classes, but my assistant normally does that.)

Our program includes traditional classes, but we also have whole-community catechesis three times a year. (It used to be seven, but we decided to stop that.) Whole-community catechesis is essentially a night where every parishioner comes, has a meal, and learns the same thing. Small children stay with their parents and work through carefully planned activities, older children go with catechists and learn about the night's subject at a more advanced level and adults without small children go to a lecture/discussion session.  I write the curriculum for these nights myself.

Besides these obligations, we have taken on some extras this past year in response to some areas in need of improvement. We hold evaluations for all 2nd grade students. Essentially these are tests to make sure they know what they should to make their first Reconciliation and Holy Communion. We don't call them tests because parents don't go on the offensive when they hear "evaluation". 

We are also starting journals for all middle school classes this year. The activity books I've seen are mostly busy work and I really want the kids to engage the subject matter so, after every class, they will take five minutes to answer the question: "Why should I care?" My assistant and I, with our pastor joining in randomly, will read these every week and write comments back to each child. This way, we also get to know the kids a little better.

Youth Group

We have a middle school and a high school youth group. We do at least one event every month for each, but we normally do more than that. I try to get a good mix of service, fun and educational events, but the main point is to help the kids make Catholic friends who will be a safety net for them.

I will post more about the specific events we do in youth group throughout the year, but some big events from the past include Black Light Volleyball (Super Fun), Lock-Ins, Mission Trips, NCYC and 24-Hour Fasts (in sack cloth).

There are a lot of other little things we do (Graduation Celebrations, Family Movie Nights, Senior Trips [Real Seniors, 55+], and much more), but I hope that tells you a bit about what I do and maybe helps you appreciate your own DRE a bit more.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week (August 29, 2011)

Heresy: Opinion at variance with the authorized teachings of the Church. Four elements constitute formal heresy:

     1. You have had a previous, valid, baptism 

     2. You publicly profess that you are still a Christian (otherwise you are an apostate, not a heretic)

     3. Outright denial or doubt regarding a truth taught by the Church

     4. This must be a choice for which you are morally culpable (responsible). 

The fourth point is key. People make mistakes all the time and theology is a difficult subject. You might very well think the Church teaches one thing when, in fact, it does not. This means you are in error, but it does not mean you are a heretic. A heretic persists in error even after being corrected by someone with authority (ie: a bishop).

Special Note: Just because someone is a heretic doesn't mean it is always prudent to call them one. For some reason I feel compelled to write that.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (2)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 139)

7 Things not to say when your pastor asks why you were not at Mass...

1. That's EVERY Sunday!?

2.  You went to St. Peter's because they were having donuts.

3. No time for that! We have to get back to the future!

4. Remind him that you only have to come on Christmas and Easter.

5. Look around suspiciously and then slip him a piece of paper with a time and location you don't intend to be at.

6. Tell him you were hunting and therfore closer to God than if you were in this "building." (I've actually heard this one before.)

And the worst thing of all to say....

7.  Its ok, I went to the Lutheran church!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Catholic Schools Produce Apostates?

Catholic Vote has  an interesting post on a new study about protestant and Catholic schools. The key conclusion seems to be that protestants are better at producing graduates who pray, read scripture and actually live their faith while Catholics...well... we get into college. But that is ok, because with our superior education and catholic identity we get to rise to the top of society and become politicians who... support grave evils. Yipee?

Here's the deal. I know a lot of Catholic schools are struggling. I know our local schools is. Bishops are making appeals for support, Pastors are running around trying to find money and (some) parents are making desperate bids to "save their school", but why? Catholic schools are a tool. They aren't divinely instituted. If the tool you are using breaks, you get another one. If the tool doesn't do the job, you find one that does. Catholic schools can be great, but great Catholic schools don't need to be saved (except for extreme circumstances). Great Catholic schools bear fruit and that fruit is life. Bad catholic schools die, as they should.

In many of these bad schools, even the administration admits that the point isn't to form students in thier Catholic faith, but to produce college graduates (as if we couldn't do both). Someone in my area recently told me that discussions about whether our school was primarily "Catholic" or "private" were becoming more frequent. (The issue was whether we shouldn't tone down the faith to get more non-Catholic students and increase revenue.) If we are even having that discussion then we have already failed. Unfortunately, for every family that wants a to instill a solid Catholic identity in these dying schools there are 10 more and 2 faculty members that are practically atheistic.

If you have a great Catholic school then you are blessed. Support it. For those of us who do not, I think Catholic homeschooling associations are the next great tool for Catholic education. First, in order to homeschool, every parent MUST be dedicated. Secondly, there are no heterodox teachers or faculty members to worry about. Third, you know exactly what your child is getting. And Finally, you can still have the support of a community.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week (August 22, 2011)

Immolation: The actual or equivalent destruction of some material object as an act of sacrifice. (Usually involving fire)

Example: The people immolated their prized sheep as an act of penance.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Catholic Teens in Lutheran Youth Groups

I am going to say this as clearly as possible. Stop bringing your kids to protestant youth groups.

"Look, they only teach general Christian values. What's wrong with that?"

Everything. Stop it.

"All of his friends go there. He'll feel left out."

Make new friends.  Better yet, invite your son's Lutheran friends to Mass and the Catholic youth group. Don't have one? Talk to your pastor about starting one up. Whatever you do, please, for the sake of the tears of the Holy Angels, stop bringing your kids to protestant youth groups. I don't care if they are Lutheran, Baptist, Non-denominational or United Church of the Congregation for the Tabernacle of the Wicked Awesome Worship Band. Stop it.

Why? Perhaps a story will help.

Some time ago a parent felt like telling someone off and I happened to be around. It happens. He was angry that our pastor had required Mass attendance each Sunday for all students preparing for Confirmation. Now, keep in mind that Mass attendance at this particular parish isn't required, just Mass attendance somewhere. There are times when a family is out of town or just decides to go somewhere else. Peachy. Send in a bulletin with the celebrant's signature and everything is alright. In fact, some families do this almost every week. This parent apparently did not want the hassle.

Parent: "We go somewhere else to Mass."

Ed: "Sir, that is fine. Just send in a bulletin."

Parent: "I don't think you understand. It's best for my son to go to (Generic Parish Name)."

And thus began his grand apologia...

Apparently, his son had been going to the Lutheran youth group. A lot. A whole lot. In fact, his son went so often, with his father's blessing, that he started to say that he wanted to convert. "Dad", he said, "I think I am going to become a Lutheran after Confirmation."

This is the point in his story where the blinding "shoot me in the face" pain began.

"But you know what?", the father said. "My son came to me the other day and said, 'Dad, I think I will stay a Catholic because I like Fr. So and So too much. He would be dissapointed if I left.' Don't you see?", the father asked. "This priest is having a wonderful impact on my son."

Yes, sir. I do see. Do you?

What I see is that teenagers desperately seek acceptance. They want to feel that they fit in. They want to feel like they are a part of something greater than themselves. They crave a place in the world. I see that this man sent his son to a protestant youth group that provided all of that. I also see that this point was proven when the son decided to remain a Catholic not because it was the true faith or God's Church, but because he "liked" one priest. What happens when that priest requires something from him that he does not like? What happens when there are no likeable priests?

It isn't about the protestant teachings on youth group night. If conversion were only intellectual then cults wouldn't exist. By sending our children to protestant youth groups we send a message that those communities are acceptable alternatives. We also allow ample opportunity for the "nice factor" to come into play. "Those people can't be wrong about anything that important. They're so nice. How could God not like what they are doing?"

Children are not adults. They are still being formed in their faith and they niether have the knowledge nor the conviction to engage their friends in an environment where everyone believes something different. Stop it. Stop it now.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week (August 15)

Fideism: Theory that faith is the only or ultimate source of knowledge of God. It denies the capacity of reason to know God or the moral law with certainty. (Fideism is false.)

Excerpt from the Encyclical Letter of Pope John Paul II: Fides et Ratio:  "Faith asks that its object be understood with the help of reason, and at the summit of its searching reason acknowledges that it cannot do without what faith presents."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday


All the books are in for this year's religious education classes. Father says he thinks I am the only one who gets excited about new textbooks, but to be fair we have some great ones! Faith and Life series for K-8, Didache for high school and YouCat for 10th grade. I also got some neat bibles to give away to the sixth graders. Excited? You bet!


Baby Eddie has the sniffles. It is way more sad than I could have imagined. Nothing else is wrong. He just looks up with his big eyes, sniffs, and baby coughs. It is a good thing he can't talk yet, because after seeing that I think I would cave for any request.


I came across this really great video on the new Mass Translation at Creative Minority Report. I am already hearing some grumblings about "change" at our parish (though most people seem open to it), but I think if we can have this type of joyful and informative take on what is happening everything will be just fine. Besides, I know my wife and I can't wait until Advent 2011!


Cocoa Krispies don't have an equivalent generic brand. They don't. I can tell the difference. Believe me, I'd love to get a generic brand, but it just isn't happening. (If you can tell the difference too then please leave a comment for my wife.)


C.S. Lewis wrote a sci-fi trilogy? Why didn't I know this? I just got "Out of the Silent Planet", the first of the series, and I am really looking forward to reading it when I get the time.


My sister just got a job teaching 8th grade science. I'm really proud of her, but she could use some prayers since this is her first full-time teaching job.


Special thanks to Creative Minority Report for linking to my "Spirit of Vatican II, Baby!" post. And thanks to Conversion Diary for hosting.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Special Guest Blogger

Never underestimate a novelty. When I came to this parish, we had no youth group to speak of. I quickly set about trying to form one, but I found participation... lacking. I really had to compete to get everyone's attention and I found that novelty was the best way. Blacklight Volleyball, wearing Sackcloth to Mass, and lots and lots of pop, chips and pizza. Now, again, this is the door to enter by, not the house to live in. Novelty needs to serve a purpose besides getting butts in seats. This leads us to my newest project: My Dear Demons. Starting in about one week, our youth group newsletter will feature an advice column by Satan. He will be instructing subordinate demons in how to ensnare young Catholics, while taking questions from readers. I thought, while I was at it, I might as well let him guest blog here. So, without further delay, Satan...

My Dear Demons: Advice for Junior Tempters
By: Satan

Greetings to my fellow demonic denizens! It is with great pride (my favorite vice) that I announce my new advice column for Junior Tempters. As many of you know, our Junior Tempters have the important job of ensuring that young Catholics start off on the right path. They protect young souls from the Enemy until, when the time is right, they can be led home to their Infernal Father.  This column will offer advice on how we tempt the young, along with my personal answers to questions from local readers. To submit a question, email me at:

You can ask anything, but some examples might include: “How do we fight off a Guardian Angel?” OR “What is your favorite book?” 
                                 -Non Serviam, Satan

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

God's Pie

Well, I just had a wonderful but sleep-deprived visit to Virginia with the family for a reunion. I should be back to posting regularly tomorrow. Until then, check out this video about tithes. I have to say, I get caught in this trap myself. I don't normally have a problem giving my money, but my time is a different matter. I make a list of what I need to do and use "free time" as the reward to drive my efforts. With that view, free time is what I am supposed to get for accomplishing my duties. I turn time into something that is due to me instead of viewing it as the gift it really is. In other words, I look forward to that piece of pie that is supposed to be all mine after I give out the rest. I am perfectly fine giving away the pie as long as I know that last piece is for me. I have to keep reminding myself that none of the pie is mine. I can't make pie.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Spirit of Vatican II, Baby!

Have you ever been around a person who takes Vatican II just a little too far? You know who I'm talking about. They're the ones that take "active participation" to a whole new level. Well, I just found out that we have one of those types in our family. Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for "active participation" properly understood. I sing joyfully. Heck, I've even been known to give a vigorous handshake at the sign of peace, but this guy just goes too far. He makes little comments during the homily, distracts other parishioners and, worst of all, insists on talking along with Father at the consecration. I just don't know how my baby became a "Spirit of Vatican II" type.

To be fair, he is only six months old so he might grow out of it. Until that day comes, though, I am facing issues I never really thought about. First off, how loud is too loud? I hear other kids cooing or making little noises at Mass and generally don't care, but for some reason the least sound my child makes seems like a police siren screaming down the aisle. I've been assured it doesn't sound like this to others, but I have my doubts.

Secondly, I didn't know being a father suddenly made you super aware of other people. I used to go to Mass, the happy bachelor (but not nearly as happy as I am married to you, honey), without even giving those around me a second glance. You could have sat next to me in a gorilla costume and I wouldn't have noticed. Now I'm suddenly aware of everyone and guess what? There isn't one Sunday when someone isn't staring at the baby the whole time. Do you know how hard it is to concentrate on the Mass when someone is staring blankly at your baby? I do. Hard. Real hard.

Finally, no, you can't touch the baby. I don't know you and, more to the point, you just got done shaking everyone's hand in a mile radius. It isn't personal, I just think you're a walking bag of germs sent to destroy the fragile immune system baby Eddie has managed to scrape together.

So the next time you see a baby screaming his head off at Mass or distracting parishioners please remember that the parents may not be selfish jerks, but rather literally frozen with the hundred thoughts and worries that come with being a parent. Or they might be jerks. Either way, pray for us!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Manga Bible Stories?

 For those unfamiliar with Manga, it is basically a Japanese-style comic. In cartoon form it is called "Anime" (think: Pokemon) and it is a medium more and more popular in America, especially among teenagers. There is a distinctive "look" to manga, but a manga series can encompass anything from supernatural dramas on earth to tales of bounty hunters on other worlds. Nevertheless, I was surprised to see that someone is putting together bible stories in a manga style. Manga Hero has already come out with Judith: Captive to Conquerer and Paul: Tarsus to Redemption. They also seem to have plans for more biblical and saint themed stories including a special manga on Pope Benedict XVI to be distributed at World Youth Day in Madrid. New Evangelization indeed.

Frankly, the idea sounded too good to be true, but I ordered the first volumes for both Judith and Paul. I wasn't disappointed. Actually, I thought they did a wonderful job depicting the characters and I really think kids would enjoy this while learning about their heritage at the same time. The stories deal with some heavy subject matter, including Judith's decision to ultimately kill Holofernes and Paul's role in the murder of Christians, so I wouldn't give this to just any child, but it would be perfect for the average middle or high school aged student.

Ultimately, this is entertaining and informative, but it is the door to enter by, not the house to live in. That being said, this is the way we need to think if we are to attract the youth of our nation. Good work Manga Hero.  

Monday, August 1, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week

Exegesis: The art and science of investigating and expressing the true sense of Sacred Scripture. In other words, to draw out and express the meaning of Sacred Scripture. The person involved in the work of exegesis is the exegete.
 Bonus Word: Eisegesis: Essentially, reading your own meaning into the text. Looking for justification in Scripture for a meaning already determined consciously or subconsciously.