Saturday, April 26, 2014

John XXIII and the lost Catholic Generations

Tomorrow the Vatican will canonize Blessed Pope John Paul II and Blessed Pope John XXIII.  It will be an historical day and from the reports, Rome is ready for a big celebration!

My memories are full of Pope John Paul II - from the unexpected death of John Paul I, the healthy pope skiing and hiking, and the assassination attempt, to his later years of decline.  It seemed that JPII was just a part of the fabric of life for Catholics and he loomed large for the majority of my adult years.

But I think John XXIII had a bigger impact on my life as a Catholic, although I have absolutely no personal memory of him; he died just days after my 4th birthday.  I would even say that the impact of his papacy affects me today  - and not in a good way.

Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli became Pope John XXIII on October 28, 1958 at the age of 76.  Most of the histories say that he was supposed to be a caretaker pope, just guiding the church and keeping the status quo.  Instead he initiated the second Vatican council -aka Vatican 2.

The council went from 1962 to 1965.  The pope did not live to see the conclusion of the council, but by the time it was over, the church had changed profoundly. None of this registered with me at the time.  As a 6-year-old girl at the conclusion of the council, I was just getting used to going to school.  My little parish school in Michigan was teaching me a lot about God and the bible.  I remember especially learning all of the old testament bible stories and loving it.

All that came to an abrupt end in fourth grade, which would have been about 1969.  There were no more bible stories; there was no more religious education.  What we had as "religion class" became more of an arts and crafts/ sharing time.  I have no memory of learning anything significant in Jr. high and my memories in my Catholic High school include easy A's for just sitting in class, making burlap banners until I wanted to puke, and sharing "feelings" around candles, doing "liturgy."  Of course we also read The Last Temptation of Christ - so that was at least something. To this day I consider the A's on my transcript for religion class to be place holders - an hour a day that prevented me from taking something more useful and certainly more educational.

I wrote about much of this back in 2013,  2009, and  2006.What I know now as I approach my mid-50s, is that without a doubt, my generation was denied a Catholic education by our parishes, and our bishops.


I grew up in the 1970s, came of age in the late 70s and lived my early adult ife in the 1980s. We had all of the touchy, feely, "spiritual," experiential crapola that passed itself off as religion class masquerading under "the spirit of Vatican II." It didn't make us strong Christians or keep us in our Catholic faith. Instead we subscribed to the Jesus is my buddy, I'm OK, You're OK, lukewarm deadness that went with a faith that we weren't prepared to understand and had no clue about how to defend, let alone live. My sister left the church for a time, many of my classmates left too. I read my alumni news letter and I am not even clear  if it is a Catholic School any more, if it ever was. I've met more than my share of bitter ex-Catholics on the internet and in real life. It doesn't take more than a few minutes to determine that their Catholic faith died because it wasn't taught logically or intellectually and most of them never saw it lived, not really. Not authentically.


Once I became aware of it, I wanted to understand the "why."  Why was this allowed to happen to us?  

I searched for answers.  I bought and read Ralph McInerny'sWhat Went Wrong With Vatican II: The Catholic Crisis Explained.  Mr. McInerny's premise was that the nonacceptance of Humane Vitae from 1968 was in large part to blame for the poor implementation of the Vatican II documents. 

I had always thought that maybe the Bishops weren't sure what to teach, so they just put a hold on teaching anything. Did it ever occur to anyone that waiting 10 years or more would be harmful to the church?  

But last week I heard Mitch Pacwa, SJ say something on Catholic radio that took my breath away.  He was talking to an author of a book about the Fatima Children and the profession of faith made by young Francisco. Father was commenting on how young Francisco was and that it was entirely possible for children to be able to have and live out their faith. But apparently the thinking after the council, at least in this country was that children were NOT capable of having faith or making a profession of faith, so they would not be taught the faith - instead they would be given "good experiences" about the faith so that when they were adults they could go back and learn it. 

That explains all of the goofy ceremonies, the dumb candles and the costly burlap and felt expenditures.  bleh...

That saddens me.  I think of all the years lost when I could have been growing spiritually and deepening my knowledge of the Catholic faith instead of perpetually playing catch up and basically teaching the faith to myself and my spouse as we tried to pass it on to my children. 

The ripple effect of this continues.  Many of my high school friends on Facebook no longer practice the faith, or they rail against it when they can't get speedy annulments or some other complaint. The church better do what they want, say what they want, and give them what they want or they're out! Except they never fully leave only to grumble forth on a different topic and a new day. Expect to see them at Christmas and Easter. 

From the pictures and opinions expressed by high school students and alumni from local Catholic high schools, other than social justice, they either don't know or don't care what the church teaches on any of the other issues. 

I live with a lot of " what ifs."  What if John XXIII had never started the council, or what if he had lived to see it through.  Would JP II have been better suited for such an endeavor? We'll never know. 

I'll probably watch the coverage of the canonization.  I did listen to a show this week about John XXIII - he seemed like a likable man and even very funny!  I'm sure as time goes on, the 50 years or so of lost time and uneducated Catholics will seem like a little blip on the church time span.  But right now I'm just not feeling overly enthusiastic about remembering a papacy that had such a negative affect in such a personal way.

 Saint Pope John XXIII, please pray for my generation before it's too late!





This article and many others by fine Catholic Bloggers are up at the Catholic Carnival today!

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