16 September 2011

The Color of Mass; or, Sharon's Trenchant Drug Humor

My lovely wife Sharon told me about an experience she had yesterday driving through the neighborhood.  On the bijou sign in front of a nearby Catholic parish, she saw an announcement for "Mass in the Grass" this Saturday evening.  The Mass will be celebrated in the park across the street from the consecrated Church (maybe 40 yards away), which will be closed for Mass that evening.

I chalked it up to the usual type of foolishness, thinking to myself, "Hey, if it's a picnic meal, it ought to be in the park."  But Sharon was more dramatically affected.

"Mass in the Grass!" she said, "The only way I'd go is if I had smoked it." *


While we're on the subject of nutty parish activities, I had to pass along this little vignette as some evidence of my satisfaction with our homeschool religion program.

In the bulletin of this parish, alongside notice of "Mass in the Grass", was a letter from the school principal relating to parishioners the progress of their progeny.  The principal wrote about the 7th grade (remember, SEVENTH grade-- which is either one year before, or the year of, confirmation) religion class.

They were given an assignment to write a prayer to God describing their favorite color.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Let it just wash over you.  Bask in it.  Ready?  OK.

The principal published two examples.  Here's one: 

"God, the color I'm praying to you about is orange.  To me orange is a very vibrant and happy color.  It reminds me of all the happy things in my life.  The color orange also makes me think of the sun and all the great sunny days I've had so far and of how many more on are the way.  To me orange also seems like a Thanksgiving color.  When I see this color it's like it's telling me to always be close to my family and to be thankful for them.

So, God, please always remember that I am thankful for the simpler things in life.  Please help me to never lose track of the real things that make me happy like the days that are just 'normal' when I get to be home and to be with my family.  Help me never to forget all the good things that I am blessed with.  Thank you for all the things that are orange to me.  Amen." 

First, I don't want anyone to think I am making fun of this student.  Not at all.  I think, considering the absolute inanity of the assignment, they did the best they could with it.  When I was in 7th grade, I don't know that I could have turned in a prayer to God describing my favorite color without getting an in-school suspension.  I mean, come on.

Perhaps this assignment might have been suitable for first graders, or kindergartners.  See, Billy, talk to God-- He made the colors!  And so on.  Is it any surprise that when the upper classes of a Catholic grade school get this type of fare from their religion curriculum, and participate in some JustFaith social programming, that they are an easy mark for that college roommate that asks them to their protestant Bible study?  Thinking happy thoughts and being taken to Mass in the Grass (if their parents go to Mass) just isn't the type of armor that's needed to resist the secular culture.  These students ought to be getting apologetics and catechism in the classroom and a properly celebrated Mass in Church.

Will they know what it means to be Catholic?

Maybe Sharon had an insight on this Mass in the Grass thing.  I think the religion department is smoking it anyway.

* For the record, my lovely wife is not, nor has been, a user of any illicit drug.  And yes, that includes my wedding day.


doughboy said...

Excellent post and concur on all counts (except Sharon's non-use of illicit substances - I would not know). I'm sending this to family.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps they are "getting apologetics and catechism in the classroom" as well. One should not assume they are not.

What is wrong with celebrating mass outside. The Pope does it often.

Anonymous said...

Confirmation in seventh grade? What planet are you on that kids are lucky enough to be confirmed that young?? My MN diocese requires confirmation in eleventh grade (the carrot to keep the kids who go to the public school in religious ed. as long as possible, don'tcha know!) I was confirmed as a junior at age 17 in 2005, and boy, let me tell you, there were a lot of kids in my class (in a Catholic high school, no less) who had the "I'm only doing this because my parents are making me!" attitude.

As for the prayer to God about favorite colors, this reminds me of what my mom has told me about her experience in CCD in the late 1960s/70s in our rural diocese. She said it consisted mostly of "What's your favorite color?" BLECH!!!
-Sleepy Eye, MN

No Colors, Please said...

I am willing to bet Anonymous, that any class that must write a "touchy feely" letter to God about their favorite color are NOT getting Catechism and apologetics.

My children do not write letters to God about their favorite color in their co-op Catechism and the Curriculum they have at home.

The Pope offers mass at times outside for all of the tens of thousands of people who come to see him as they won't fit in the church. There is no reason to have mass outside a parish church.

This is why Catholics don't even know why they can't get married outside with a minister instead of a priest. I even have a friend who was mad that a priest would not marry her at a country club!

Anonymous said...

My children are in that school. While I largely agree with your criticism of the letter writing (honestly I hadn't heard about the letters until your post and I wouldn't have guessed they would have come from that school), I think your broader conclusions may be overstated. I've been reasonably pleased with the quality of religious education there.

Obviously I haven't been to every school or even very many, but my sense is that they're better and more traditional than most.

My own preference would be old-school catechesis (even rote memorization) for the younger grades and switching hard to apologetics when they hit middle school age. Teaching kids to defend their faith from those late-night dorm room sessions would, I think, appeal greatly to 7th and 8th graders.

Now the Mass in the Grass? I got nothin'. You're on your own there.


Anonymous said...

Also, I'm almost 50 and my memories of my own grade school catechesis are pretty sketchy.

Can anyone else comment on how it used to be done? And if it was better, why was it better?


Jane Chantal said...

Greenlight, I am so in agreement with you re teaching apologetics to kids in the middle/high school years. I'm an older Baby Boomer who was not raised Catholic, but when, several years back, I began learning about Catholicism and visiting online religion forums and seeing the bargeload of anti-Catholic misinformation out there, I began to appreciate apologetics and understand the desperate need for it.