Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Confirmation Irish Style - A living faith is optional

I agree 100% with THIS PRIEST regarding the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation as it currently is administered throughout Ireland.

I pray that the renewal that is on its way in Ireland allows us to look again at the way we administer the sacraments in a very changed Ireland.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

First Holy Communion Season - a.k.a. Silly Season

All over Ireland during the month of May in parish after parish it is First Holy Communion time. And what a time it is. I have to be honest and say that I dread it each year. Each year I spend hours upon hours with the children of the school I am chaplain to in an effort to instill in them a love for and an awareness of Jesus in the Eucharist and the great thing that is the Mass.

Unfortunately the Sunday Mass practice rate among these young children is less 10% and there are a number of them who have rarely (if ever) been at Sunday Mass. So I often feel like I am speaking to them in a completely foreign language, sinc ehte subject matter is so very foriegn to them. But we as a Church in Ireland dare not say: "Okay your parents obviously don't consider the faith important enough to introduce you to the most basic elements of our faith - so we'll leave off First Holy Communion until later." No - it's very much a free for all.

I know some might quote me the Lord saying: "Let the little children come to me." And that is something I dwell quite alot on - but I'm more and more convinced that the Church in Ireland is more than willing to demean her Sacraments to make it convenient as possible for people to partake without even the bare minimum of commitment. That seems to be a pattern right across the board - how can we facilitate you Sir/Madam - Rule: Let's not get caught up in Rules - your wish is my command. I often get the impression from some of my brother priests - a minority I think/hope - that it's more about backsides on seats than about drawing people to sainthood.
Every year quite a number non-Catholic Christian parents ask our parish if their child can be baptised (again!!) as Catholic (only for the day you understand) so that they can make their First Communion with their classmates. I fear in some parishes some priests might be saying yes!

In my few experiences of First Holy Communion day in the parish I have seen too much of the outward trappings of the day and very little of the real meaning of this great day in the lives of the children. It seems to be about the money, the hair, the clothes, the performance (readings, prayers, songs, poems, the photos (so much about the photos), the celebration afterwards; and so very little about that awesome encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist. It is indeed wonderful to find a child (and family) that have their priorities right - who take their child to Mass every Sunday (before and after First Holy Communion)and who make the day centre around the celebration of Mass. Those families are rare enough it seems.

And it is sad to say that it is at First Holy Communion in the Parish that I encounter the most disrespect and downright obsenity at Mass. The Church is treated like it was a bingo hall, and some people - and I mean ladies - are dressed in ways that are less than lady like. I was severly tempted to say to one lady at our recent First Communion Mass that she was in the wrong building - that the local swimming pool was at the other side of town.

At the end of this rant (I seem to be doing alot of that lately) I have to say that the children are like sponges when it comes to the things of God since for many of them their parents have utterly failed to introduce them to Jesus Christ in any meaningful way. They are so open to the Gospel and to the things of God. And none of them have made a decision against going to Mass. It just doesn't appear on the horizon of priorities in many families. As one young child in the First Communion Class said to me: I asked my parents to bring me to Mass - but they said no! It might sound harsh, but one wonders how their judgment will go - since they take their vocation as parents so lightly and are doing precisely what the Lord warned should not happen - that the little ones be kept from him.
Lord - come soon! Maranatha!
But wait!!!!
The Archbishop of Dublin makes a good point - one that he will hopefully follow through on:

"We need a more demanding catechesis, within a parish framework, for those who wish to come forward for admission to the sacraments. Admission to the sacraments is not something which is automatically acquired when one reaches a certain class in school. "