Filling Out a Form From the Diocese
WHY CAN'T THESE PEOPLE SAY WHAT THEY MEAN?
All the CCD teachers in our parish got a form to fill out from the diocese — one of those surveys where they give you a list of statements and you have to check whether you Agree or Disagree. The statements range from the straightforward (“Our parish is doing a good job in religious education”) to the deeply mysterious (“Catechetical leaders’ primary task is to shape natural religious imagination and feelings, to which Church doctrine lends clarifying help”). They should have provided a handy plastic de-coder ring with that one, like the ones that used to come in cereal boxes.
Whenever I get one of these forms, I begin to fill it out in a mood of obedience and resignation — after all, the Catholic Church is my family and there are certain family gatherings you can’t get out of, such as funerals. So you do your best to be polite to the uncle who is involved in sleazy business deals, the bratty children who need a good spanking, the “born-again” nephew who is always giving you tracts.
After the first five statements or so I found myself checking a box, then crossing it out and checking another, then deciding not to respond at all because I had no idea what it meant — if anything — or worse, because I knew very well what it meant but it didn’t mean what it said. Some of the statements made me laugh so hard I couldn’t see the little boxes to check — e.g., “Today’s catechesis focuses excessively on orthodoxy and doctrine to the detriment of personal faith development and integrative Christian formation.” I want to respond to that one with my own question: Agree or Disagree? “Today’s Hostess Twinkies are much too nutritious.”
Here’s one I loved: “The aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch, but also in communion and intimacy, with Jesus Christ.” I see the problem here: They have me confused with the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. This is not a mistake that anybody who knows me would make. I kept wondering what the survey composers were thinking, with these grandiose statements. If I check Disagree, will they think I spend class time giving the students lectures on the importance of the homoousion in the fourth century, but I do my best to keep it a secret that Jesus loves them? (Actually, I do sometimes tell them a little about the homoousion — they’re more interested than you might think.) Or if I check Agree, will they think I’m overly concerned with polishing up our students’ little souls while poor people all around us are dropping dead from starvation?
They obviously don’t know anything about the actual conditions of our parish CCD program. My usual aim is to get my 12-year-olds’ attention fixed on me long enough to take in a bit of simple truth (God loves you; it doesn’t make His day to send you to Helbpbefore the boys fold the flier about the Rosary into an airplane and fire it across the room in the direction of someone’s eyeball.
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