Thursday, August 26, 2010

Catholic Elitism

My husband and I have come to a critical juncture with regard to my eldest son's First Communion preparation.  I began discussing this issue in my post "A Struggle of Eucharistic Proportions" and I was amazed at the in-depth comments I received from readers (thanks!:)

My husband has thought more about this, and has discerned this throughout the summer.  He told me today that we were going to enroll my son in the Parish CCD program.  He says it's because we don't want to shelter our children from other people's actions.  That sheltering was the wrong way to go about homeschooling (we've both know homeschooling families who attempt to "shelter" their children and end up having homeschoolers more socially inadept than the supposed hethons they were trying to shelter their children from in the first place.)  He also doesn't want to give our children the impression that we're Catholic elititists, or that we're "more Catholic" than the rest of our Parish.  I don't agree with him in this.  But at this point, I think I'd better submit to the head of my household rather than dig in my heels and will to will what I will.  Otherwise, we'll debate and discern until January, and then my son will be subjected to a slapped together and shoddy program that was detrimental for lack of time rather than for its content.

Of course, my astute husband could tell from my not so subtle ways that I was upset by his administrative decision.;)  But I've given my submission, and I thought I'd turn to this electronic paper to help finish grappling with this issue so that I can commit to this program as well.

What is scandal?  At the end of the day this is what it boils down to for both my husband and I.  Either my son is going to be scandalized by his peers' not returning to Mass after receiving such a beautiful Sacrament.  Or my son is going to be scandalized by his family of Catholic elitists.  I have to wonder why we're both so worried about other people's actions, and this aspect of scandal?  Is it true that 3/4 of my son's class will not be returning for Sunday Mass?  Given its history, I would say that the odds are strongly in favor of scandal.  Do we live our family life in such a way that we regard ourselves as morally superior to the rest of the community in which we live.? Well if my last blog post is any indication, I would say that I do have major pride issues.  Issues that I may not be able to be objective about when dealing with my son's religious instruction.

Why are my husband and I so insecure when it comes to other people's thoughts and judgments?  We've lived our marriage based upon what we should and shouldn't do according to whomever has issued the most recent statement within earshot.  It's been almost 8 years of "dos" and "do nots" rather than what we have come together to decide is best for our marriage and children.  There are a lot of great examples around us, its overwhelming!  Between the literature we both like to read, to the Saints, to the very Holy men and women we encounter in our lives, we have a vast array of examples to shape our life together.  But I wonder if sometimes we lean too much upon these examples rather than trying to step out in Faith to walk differently from the paths cleared for us.  I guess we're just Catholic sheep in this, and its easier to find nourishment in a clear pasture than in the wood.  But I think this is a deeper issue for us - not coming together to decide ultimately what's best for our family, rather we talk around and above examples set for us and keep these examples between us that we both look upon in awe (and of course as teaching tools:).  Maybe a better way to have gone about this discernment would be to look at what would work better for our son, rather than what other people's perceptions of our actions would be.

I actually was looking forward to preparing my son for this Sacrament.  I had already built it into my schedule to try and regularly attend Mass at our Parish throughout the week.  I was excited about watching my son grow in the Faith through our lessons together.  If the subjects of math, spelling, reading, history, and science have shown me anything, its that I learn twice as much as a teacher than my students do.  I was excited about expanding my avocation of teacher into religious studies, through preparing for the Sacraments together.  My husband is so gifted in this venue, I was excited to see how I would be at it.  That's not to say that I still can't teach him religion at home, as a matter of fact, its a required course in Seton.  (And btw, being that this is the first year I've used Seton, I LOVE THEIR BOOKS!)  Maybe God has allowed my husband the grace in making this decision, so that I might have the opportunity to become more spiritually prepared to take on this endeavor with my next child.  Or maybe I might have to accept the fact that Sacramental prep is just not in my future with regards to my children's education.  My sons learn so much from me.  They know their prayers because my husband and I make a habit of reciting them daily at night prayer.  They know the parts of the Mass because we attend the Mass every Sunday, and I play Mass with my son (he is the Priest, I'm the congregation and the cantor usually:).  They know to lead lives of virtue, because I want them to grow up virtuous people in a world that is sorely lacking any.  And now that I have a daughter, my sons are concretely learning the value of chivalry.  So many things they learn by my hand, or by my example when I'm not failing.  It will be a great experience for my sons to learn these same examples from teachers found in our Parish.  Other adults that lead the same lives of Faith that my husband and I do.  I don't want to be egocentric in my example, I'm not the only fish in the sea, or the only disciple of Christ in this case.  That also is a hidden sin of pride for me, God help me and forgive me for it!

And the other children?  What if my son is meant to befriend a child in his class who would otherwise not return to Church?  What if I'm meant to become friends with a family who would like to become more involved in the Parish but don't know how to?  While I can't bank my "what if's" either, that might be a possibility.  What if there are children who end up not returning to Church until they're back in the classroom again for Confirmation?  Well, the Lord might send them as examples for me to.  "There but for the grace of God go I."  And I have to distinguish in my mind between children and parents.  Usually the children are not the problems in CCD, usually its the parents.  And my son will not be interfacing with adults other than the teacher of his class.  So I think this concern is over-inflated due to my unnecessary worry.  And I have to prepare for the time when my son asks me the challenging questions about why our Faith conflicts greatly with our culture.  I have to stop fearing these times that are approaching.  I must pray for the grace to hope I will respond to my son in Truth and Charity.  To respond to him in the Faith.  God doesn't just call me to witness to others through my family.  As a mother, He also calls me to witness to my family.  And this includes answering those toughest questions that always begin with "why".  And again, I have to find the humility to admit that there are some "whys" I don't know.

Well, we register my son in the next couple of weeks.  Please keep me in your prayers so that I have to grace to allow my heart to catch up to my head:)!  And know that I continue to pray for you and your families in the start of this new academic year!


  1. I agree with you on two counts: First, your preference for not handing over your son for preparation to CCD. Second, for submitting to the discernment of your husband!

    CCD is a program designed to educate students who attend public school and have no other formal religious instruction. Catholic homeschoolers are Catholic schools indeed and do not need that instruction. Our pastor (head of the largest Catholic school and CCD program in the diocese) does recognize this and allows us to opt out of public school catechism. We have had private First Communion Masses for the 3 three of our children who have reached that age, 2 out of parish and this last one in our own parish church (hooray!).

    I understand the concerns about "elitism" but don't agree this is what we're doing by choosing to educate at home, either in secular or faith subjects. Are we friendly, involved in our parishes, socialized in healthy ways? Then why do we have to go to a public school program to prove that we're not snobs? We already have a Catholic school. And honestly, the rest of the world really does not care that much about what we are doing to be much affected either way. Can God work good out of any situation? Of course! Does that mean we should stop homeschooling altogether so that our children can be witnesses? Some people do think so. I do not.

    I would not give up your own preparation even if you do send him. If your husband insists, then do send your son; but there is no reason why you should not be giving him his primary lessons in faith alongside. It is my rather strong opinion that the CCD curriculum is not designed for my children. I am blessed to have a pastor who agrees. Would it ruin my children forever if I sent them? I'm sure it wouldn't. But it does seem unnecessary. And it is a social situation that I homeschool precisely to avoid until the tender sprout is a tad stronger.

    My primary reason for homeschooling is faith and character development. Does this make me an elitist? Or do I simply have very high standards for the responsibility God has given me in my parenting vocation? Isn't that what we're called to do? Our first responsibility is to our own children...then we can look outward and see where else He calls us. I do not believe that we are to use our children as vehicles to deliberately evangelize the secular world since we do not fully understand their personal weaknesses and temptations. But I know that this will happen naturally when we raise them well. We may wish to have conversions happen as a result of the goodness of our own kids but it is a risk. We should guard against our own pride rearing it's head in this way.

    As an aside, do you know who will be teaching your son? CCD in our area is volunteer run and it is often difficult to find people to teach. Even though our pastor is faithful, I know that we have CCD teachers who I would not trust with my children's education (ie pro-choice bumper stickers on their cars, etc.). Perhaps you and your husband could find out and meet with the teacher and then make your decision?

    God bless you and your family. I will pray that you have peace about this regardless of what you do. I know that God will bless you for your fidelity to the discernment of your husband!

  2. Hey Patty, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said "Maybe a better way to have gone about this discernment would be to look at what would work better for our son, rather than what other people's perceptions of our actions would be".

    When my hubby and I were engaged, we came to the realization that we, and ONLY we, write our 'own book'. Meaning, every single couple out there is different, and we can read about others, talk to others and even try and imitate the good stuff, but in the end it's always about what God wants specifically for us and our marriage and what's best for us! It always floored me when folks would approach us and say "you should do it like this" or " this way is the best way". Yep, "for you" I would silently finish.

    My point is that in the end, only you and your husband make the decisions about your son's religious upbringing and education. Seems like you've weighed the pros and cons together, and in my mind, submitting your will to your husband's is saintly (they often talked about submitting their will to others - and only had good things to say about it). The Lord has appointed him head of your household. Even if CCD turns out to be the worst decision the hubz has ever made, well then, you pull your boy out of it and go to plan B. It's obvious you and your husband will be watching carefully - your son will get a very good religious education.

    Kudos to you and sending a few prayers your way for peace of spirit about this.

  3. I totally agree with Melody and Sarah. :) Which, therefore, leaves me speechless!

  4. LOL Andrea! That's not like you:) I always look forward to your comments:)

  5. Your article really highlights two areas of concern for many home-schoolers: First, a sense of "separation"; even if we know that we are living God's will for our family, we are one of a few. It's not easy to be a vast minority, even in our own Church. Second, the anxiety of perception. When you are a minority, you worry - are we putting on our best face? Will my actions or words impact what others think of us, our decision to homeschool, or our devotion to Jesus?

    As a working father I faced the questions, the concerns, the ain't easy, and I bet your husband knows that all too well. But many years have passed, and I have grown older and more mellow. Bottom line, kids are far less interested in public opinion than we are, and there is little chance of scandal rocking their world; scandal belongs primarily to us "older and civilized" folks. I applaud your obedience, and honor your respect for your husband. If it doesn't work out, he'll see. If it does, you will. God will bless it no matter what because he loves you, your husband, and your family so dearly. I will keep you all in my prayers, and don't let this distract you from the beautiful fact that your son is going to receive Jesus, body and blood, soul and divinity. PRAISE GOD!

  6. And here's another look at this, from a blog that is much more well versed than mine:)