Those popes who bear the name, "Pius," are the greatest guardians of the Church against heresy. This blog is a watchdog for modernism in the Church. In reality, outside this blog, the members of the board temper their criticisms and opinions with prudence and charity so as to help souls in their journey towards Christ. But sometimes, for the sake of their own sanity, the authors of this blog just need to blow off some steam. The result is Totus Pius.

23 October 2007

To Whom the Lips of Children Made Sweet Hosannas Ring

To cut to the chase: bad things have happened in the last few decades. Granted, this is a terrible (though true) thesis statement, which We hope you will forgive, seeing as how We have not written anything in 177 years. Bad things have always happened and always will happen—fair enough—but all can agree that the last forty years have seen a sharp decline in Mass attendance, a growing aloofness to the Magisterium, and a deepening gullibility for New Agey pluralistic hogwash. Why are such symptoms “bad things”? Well, because they put souls in peril of (likely mortal) sin, and ultimately endanger their eternal happiness in Heaven. Hopefully we can all agree this is bad. Now for a clue as to the remedy for the disease behind these symptoms, let’s ask our friend the Baltimore Catechism …

PIUS VIII & LOYAL READERS: What must we do to gain the happiness of Heaven?

BALTIMORE CATECHISM: To gain the happiness of Heaven we must know, love, and serve God in this world.

Why, thank you, Friend Baltimore; you will reappear later on, We promise. So, we all must know, love, and serve God. Now it’s Our hunch that the order of those three is more than merely alphabetical. You serve someone because you love him; and you cannot love someone you do not know. Ergo, our friend Baltimore and a little on-the-spot logic have concluded that the first and most important question we should ask ourselves is: are we making sure that the faithful know God?

Know? No.

The Church has ensured that her members may come to know her Founder 1) through the Sacred Liturgy, which expresses the Church’s lex credendi, and 2) through the Christian education of her little children. As to number 1, well, there’s a reason We mentioned it first, but We are glad to see that the topic has already been addressed last week (and will continue to be covered) in depth by several Pii more knowledgeable than Ourselves. As to number 2, well, since no one ever prays to this Pius, We have had plenty of spare time to pay special attention to the current educational situation. And, in short ... +[[[:-(

We see modern catechetical textbooks. We see problems. Even at the middle school level, they are picture books. Now this wouldn’t even be all bad, if said pictures comprised lots of

instead of lots of

Illustrations like the first one clearly can convey the explicit truths of the Catholic Faith. But the other "trendier" and "cooler" pictures speak nothing of the supernatural; they are corny and students know it; they usually even depict questionable degrees of Christian modesty. (Apparently no one listened to you either, XI.) Much the same with the remainder of the typical CCD book: colorful sidebars, implicit canonizations of non-Catholic social workers, “Confirmation projects” like planting a garden, wonderful suggestions for background music during class, etc. … all apparently intended to apologize to the students, “Sorry about these doctrines and stuff in the appendix; religion is actually quite FUN!” In short, publishers feel compelled to make a catechetical textbook look and read (and in Our opinion, smell) just like a hip modern textbook for any other subject; a veritable television-in-a-book.

As for the text, sometimes it is frankly not bad. This still renders the surrounding visual barrage most unfortunate, as it puts the truths of the Holy Faith on par with the Letter of the Day on Sesame Street. Far worse and far more common are the texts simply filled with copious amounts of nothing; and worst of all are those of the kind that ask their fifth-grade users to make up their own Eucharistic Prayers and share them with the class. (We kid you not. And this without any surrounding explanation of the Mass.)

In short, dear Baltimore Catechism, the books of today are everything that you are not: long-winded, inefficient, elusive, vapid, cutesy, banal, and condescending. And in view of this, We hereby forcefully deny that a conscientious catechist would commit sinful disobedience by, umm, “supplementing” his assigned textbook with your wonderful questions and answers. (N.B., We here speak Our mere opinion, based upon Our own painfully disappointing observations. We are by no means speaking ex cathedra. We don’t even have a cathedra to speak ex anymore.)

These are Our doleful complaints. The most important knowledge that is available to the mind of the child—upon which hangs the earthly and eternal happiness of its pending students—is somehow expected to be taught to children from circus-books, by catechists who unfortunately were “taught” in the exact same way. And thus we have a most discouraging cycle all set in place.

We are tempted to think that We have been rather good at diagnosing this entire catechetical problem—but that is, after all, very easy to do. There must still be further underlying causes behind this problem, We are sure, probably involving the lack of Priests in the classroom combined with the advent of silly pop-psychology. But you already knew that those are bad. Nonetheless, We here repeat Our cry: the most necessary requirement for leading the wandering faithful to eternal happiness, if we still believe in Truth and Hell and things like that, is to ensure that they all know God, know Who He is, and know what He has taught through His Church; and only then can they come to love Him and serve Him, and thus gain the happiness of Heaven.

The battlefield, then, is the classroom. “… Students’ minds and morals are molded by the precepts of the teachers.” (Yours truly.) The very fact that you have visited a blog run by deceased, heresy-hunting, modernism-hating Vicars of Christ probably means that you should be on that battlefield. Side by side with reverent and literally awesome liturgy, it is solid instruction at an early age that must reawaken the faithful to the precious knowledge of Our Lord and of His Church’s beautiful deposit of Faith.


cordelia said...

not to worry papas, legions of homeschoolers are using the Baltimore catechism to educate our young skulls full of mush.

Papa Pius VIII said...

Good, good. Hopefully parochial school CCD programs will follow suit soon. It sounds, from those We've asked, as if the curricula were worse back in the '70s and such. (As with many things, We suppose) So perhaps things are moving in the right direction? We wish it'd speed up, though. We feel awful for the poor kids.

cordelia said...

i don't know that things will EVER go back to the days of MEMORIZING the baltimore catechism...but "watered down" versions are being used..."faith and life" comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

I had my grade school students memorize parts of the BC. At the end of the year, we would ask how it compared to their previous years--and they consistently said it was better, because they felt they had learned something (although there was some complaining in the process, of course!)

Drew of the Shrine

Anonymous said...

Someone I know from the great theological institution that is UC Berkeley commented "what a waste of money" while I was browsing through Gothic Church architecture. According to him it is also rude for the priest to pray ad orientem. Maybe we should also work on this problem of the faithful opining senselessly.

William O'Leary said...

Some great comments about textbooks! In my experience of over 10 years in parish ministry, I find that the textbooks are not helping average catechists pass on the essentials of the faith - they try to cover too much. Some of the things I've done in my parish is help take a version of the ecclesial method (you can find it in Msgr. Francis Kelly's book the "Mystery We Proclaim". I look at the textbook but do not depend on it and I use a version of the ecclesial method to help the catechist have clarity in what they are teaching.

I would love to hear from anyone that is seeking ways to help catechists better use their textbook.

In Christ,