Thursday, January 30, 2020 - Updated: 2:37 pm
QUESTION: I have a good deal of experience with young Catholics through our parish youth and young adult activities. I am amazed at how little they know about the Catholic faith. Why is that?
ANSWER: I would imagine that if you asked young Catholics about their knowledge of the Catholic Church, many would tell you they actually know a lot. The real problem is the source of the knowledge they think they have.
In previous generations, the source of knowledge about the Catholic faith was the family and the parish. The family handed on the lived experience of the faith, and the parish augmented that by the celebration of the sacraments and faith formation either in a Catholic school or a religious education program. The parish also added the experiences of youth activities, social events and devotions. The family and the parish were the source of knowledge of the Catholic faith.
Today that “delivery system” has fragmented and broken down. Weekly Mass attendance has declined dramatically and fewer children attend Catholic schools or religious education programs. Most Catholics (even the ones who go to church) do not read the parish bulletin or the diocesan newspaper. Fewer people consider the parish as the center of their lived experience, and many families rarely speak about matters of faith.
So, with all the traditional means of handing on the faith diminished, what has filled the void? Clearly, the internet is at the top of that list. The internet “search” is the “gold standard” for knowledge about the Catholic faith. Whatever website comes up first is considered to be the complete answer on the subject. A critical appraisal of that site is not even considered.
Many of the sites that appear are written by those who are opposed to the faith or by those who know very little about it. Clearly, there is no assurance that what we read on the internet reflects an accurate presentation of what the church teaches. The fact that so many answers from websites appear and many of them contradict one another convinces some Catholics that there are no real answers anyway.
What should we do? Consider the source! For authentic Catholic teaching, begin with the site of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (usccb.org). There, the individual books of the Bible can be searched, including the footnotes and introductions. There, one can find links to the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as other reliable and important sources.
In addition, parishes provide opportunities for adult education not only on the Bible, but other valuable topics. There, one finds discussions on church teaching as well as resources for deeper study. Many parishes also provide pamphlets for casual reading. Some parishes provide small lending libraries of Catholic books.
Casual conversations with friends, neighbors and co-workers are helpful, but only to a point. Too often in such conversations there are so many “opinions” shared that one walks away with the impression that it is up to each person to decide what is true and right. This position may well reflect our current culture, but it does not at all reflect the church’s position that objective truth is available.
Father Bober is administrator of the grouping that includes St. Kilian in Adams/Cranberry townships and Holy Sepulcher in Glade Mills.