Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

What I Have Seen and Heard for April 12, 2012

By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY | Published April 12, 2012

“Teach your children to observe these customs.” (Dt 6:4)

Our Jewish friends and neighbors this year began their observance of Passover on the same day that we Catholics celebrated Good Friday last week, and both of our religious families were called back to the admonition that we find in the Book of Deuteronomy that charges us to teach our faith to the next generation. Both communities are challenged to pass on our faith to our children. The rituals of Catholics and Jews provide many opportunities during this sacred time of year for parents and grandparents to hand on the religious heritage to their youngsters. During the Passover meal there are questions and actions that are intended to help young Jewish children more deeply to appreciate their religious heritage. And Holy Week offers us many opportunities for our young Catholics to participate in the richest of all of our liturgical traditions.

Christ the King Cathedral was alive with kids last week. From the donkey procession on Palm Sunday (with an uncooperative donkey that preferred to be petted rather than to process), to the Passion narrative enacted by our youngsters, to the Holy Thursday ceremonies that brought a dozen of the youngsters who had made their First Holy Communions during the past year to process with the Blessed Sacrament and to have their feet washed, to the many altar servers who assisted us around the altar during all of the rich moments of prayer, our kids were central to the Church’s prayer last week. They were being taught about what it means to be a Catholic, and I am hopeful they were discovering many things about their religious heritage. In the future when they are adults, they will look back on moments like these and recall the things that they learned about the Church—just as their parents and grandparents now look back to their own childhoods to recall moments of religious formation. We teach our youngsters best when we share with the heritage of our Catholic faith.

I know that some parents drive their children to Mass or to religious education classes, but they themselves don’t enter or engage in these activities. Some may go out for coffee or do a little shopping while their youngsters attend Mass or religious education programs. I am deeply grateful that they at least bring their kids to these activities, but the best lessons are learned when parents not only drive but also attend those events with their children. At Seder meals throughout Atlanta last week, parents asked their children the ancient questions that helped them to honor and understand their Jewish faith. Catholic parents who bring their youngsters to share in the Church’s liturgy and to provide religious formation for them prepare them for the future when they, in turn, will hand over the faith to another generation of Catholics.

There are so many forces, especially through the world of communications, that enter the world of our children, and the only way that our religious formation of the next generation of Catholics can hope to be successful is to have the adults who have such an important witness to provide for our kids to play their role in those formative years. “The New Evangelization” is a term that we have all heard in reference to the current challenges that the Church faces when passing on the faith. For youngsters, the New Evangelization begins at home surrounded by believing and practicing Catholic parents and grandparents.

“Teach your children to observe these customs.” I suspect that the author of the Book of Deuteronomy was on to something!