What Do We REALLY Value?

If we ask someone what is most important to them they will often times answer the question the way it should be answered rather than the actual and truthful answer. Ask a believer who is most important in their life and they will usually answer, “God.” But is that the truest answer? Others who are unbelievers will often say, “My spouse” or “My children” and so forth. That is the expected answer but is it really the truest answer?

One way of measuring what we value most is to honestly assess what we spend our money and time on. Where is most of our time spent? Where do we spend most of our money? For us who believe where does God REALLY rank when we use this measure?

Now clearly a disclaimer is needed right from the start. It is a true fact that most of us have to work at least 8 hours a day. We have little choice in this. It is not reasonable to expect that we could also spend 8 hours a day in soulful meditation. Further, we have mortgages and health care cost etc that we have to pay. We have little choice but to pay rather high amounts in these areas and we not be free to give as much to the Church or to religious pursuits. So our reflection should limit itself to what we might call disposable income and leisure or free time. But again, with this disclaimer in mind, where does God rank in how we spend our time and money? And also where does God really rank insofar as our manifest interest and passions lie?

In this post I am not going to try and give endless statistics and mathematically demonstrate where God is on our priority list. I just want to give a few brief reflections to start a conversation if you will. I hope you might add to the list of reflections I offer here and make what you think are necessary distinctions. So to begin the conversation here are some short reflection points of my own.

1. Most football games last about 4 hours if you count the usual pre-game and post game interviews etc. Many people gladly watch these games in their homes. Some will even go to a cold and rainy stadium sit in uncomfortable seats, endure crowded conditions,  traffic coming going there and they will pay hundreds of dollars for the privilege. Some of these same people get angry if Holy Mass lasts for more than 45 minutes. Often they will come late and leave early. And, God forbid, if the Mass extends past one hour they are visibly angry. If the football game goes into overtime they are excited. If Mass runs long they are upset. Football is all about a bag full of air being carried up and down a field. The Mass is about the once-for-all perfect Sacrifice of Jesus Christ who gave his life for us. Now let’s see, what is more important? Well, clearly what goes on at Mass is more important. But what do many people really value more? Well let’s see….45 minutes (mostly just endured)….vs…..4 hours (gladly received). Hmm….What is most valuable?

2. Catholics give between 1% and 2% of their income as a Church offering. In 2002  the average Household income was just over $45,000 (Source Forbes.com) and that same year the average Catholic household contribution was $455. In other words, 1% of income was given to the Church. Add in other contributions and donations such as second collections building funds etc and the number is closer to 2% given to the Church. The average American household spends 5.46 % of income dining out, 4.7% on entertainment, 7.8% on cars, and 1.1% on alcohol alone (Source Forbes.com). Hmm….What do we value more? Going to Mass or a restaurant? What we get at the Church or what we get at the movies? Now let’s see, the average Catholic looks to be putting about $8 or 9$ in the collection basket. The average NFL ticket is $67, the average live theater ticket up in the tier is $30, the average baseball ticket is about $25, the average movie ticket is about $8. The cost of these things is usually much higher in large cities. Now let’s see what do we value most?

3. The average American spends about 4 hours watching TV per day and about 4 1/2 hours in cumulative leisure activities (source Bureau of Labor Statistics). Mass is about 1 hour per week. It is hard to track the length of time people spend in prayer, study of the faith or spiritual reading each day. Many do not pray at all, some pray for a few minutes, a few pray as much as hour each day which is commendable. But really what do you think most people value most? TV and other leisure or prayer and other spiritual pursuits. It is true that recreation is important as is relaxation. But so is prayer and knowledge of the faith. What do you think most people value more?

4. The American Dream is a great pursuit that consumes an enormous amount of time and money to achieve. Years in schooling including expensive colleges. Years of study to pass tests, meet standards and receive a diploma. This then yields a career which consumes most of our future time. All for the house with cathedral ceilings in the great room, a three car garage, wide screen TVs etc. But all of this is temporary and it is uncertain if we will attain it all or not even after all the work. Heaven or hell on the other hand is eternal and our death and judgment are certain. We spend all our time working for things that pass and little time working on what is eternal and what will last. Heaven is our hope but hell is possible if we fail to be serious about our final destiny. But really, what is most on our mind? What is most important? What do we spend more time, money, energy and focus on? Is it the American Dream or is it heaven?

5. Yesterday I saw a line for a phone store  that went around the block. They were standing there for hours to get a new phone that has come out. It was 98 degrees here in DC yesterday. Would they stand in line even five minutes to get into a Church? What if the Air Conditioning was out at the Church? Would we be willing to stay for the Mass for any length of time in those conditions?

6. People get passionate about sports and politics. Have you noticed how worked up people can get at a football game or political rally? People are clearly alive and very animated and alert for such things. But go into the average Mass and look at people. Many look like they’ve just sucked a lemon; bored believers, distracted disciples, sleepy saints, the frozen chosen. You may say, well the Mass is boring. Well, I think a soccer game is boring. Baseball too. But fans (short for fanatic) tell me, “Oh you just don’t know what is going on. If you did you’d find it exciting.”  It is a true fact that modern liturgy suffers from a flat-souled quality to some extent and we need to work at doing better with preaching and celebrating the Mass. But really, the deeper problem is that people “just don’t know what is going on.” But do we try to understand? And if not why not? People don’t wake up understanding the intricacies of of football, baseball etc. They aren’t infused with a knowledge of all the terminology, strategies of the game ad it’s subtleties. Like anything they work at learning all this. But when it comes to faith…..well that ‘s all too much work. So again, I ask, what is more important? What do we value most?  What do we get most excited about? Is it the faith? Really? Or are we more passionate and dedicated, studious and interested when it comes to sport or politics? Truth is most people are more passionate about their politics than their faith. The teachings of the faith  are tucked under politics and subservient to it. Sports too commands far greater passion for many than anything God is offering. What does this say? What do we value most?

Well, just some reflections. Please comment, add to the list. I know you will want to make distinctions and I’m also ready for some rebuttals. In the end the question is not what we say we value it is what we REALLY value. Help us Lord!

In this Video Fr. Robert Barron tells a story that also makes this point. He shows how we can be very sophisticated and demanding when it comes to learning the things of the world and yet when it comes to teaching the faith we ask almost nothing of our children. And again the question arises, what do we consider most important? And also, what do our children perceive our priorities to be based on this?

46 Replies to “What Do We REALLY Value?”

  1. I once heard a classmate say our checkbooks show what we value. I would add our credit card statements also.

      1. I agree that what we spend our time and money on is a valid and common sense way to do a values check-up. But I disagree that the measure of how much we value God can be measured by church attendance or church donations. That may measure how much we value the organized church, but God is bigger than the organized church and may be on our minds all day long, powerfully influencing our choices big and small.

        For example, what if we spend four hours a week shopping for a home-bound elderly person because we believe it is something God would have us do? Or decide to visit a recently bereaved person twice a week for a year after their loss in order to comfort them? And what if we joyfully do such quiet things but are still bored in church? Maybe the church should engage in some self-examination. What does the church spend its time and money on?

  2. Yup, how we spend our time and money are the best measure of what we value. I want to share a small success story. My entire family is bookish … and since joinging the church both my husband and I are discovering that we prefer to spend more time reading the Bible now, or books by authors who can explain the Bible and strengthen our faith (Neumann, D’Souza) rather than popular fiction or nonfiction. This blog counts as well.

    But we struggle to give more to the Church — it’s seems that somehow our fixed expenses are too high. But slowly, slowly, we are simplifying our lives and discovering that we can do more. We are teaching our children to give a tenth to the Church because we are afraid if we do not begin now when their earnings are small, that they will not be in the habit of giving a tenth of their larger earnings later in life.

    We’ve not had a TV for 30 years so nobody’s in the habit of turning on the one we have … but it sure it nice to watch a movie on a big screen than the computer monitor 🙂

    Thank you for this wonderful reflection.

  3. I am reminded of the saying “Give unto Caeser what is Caeser’s and to God what is God’s.” I find it an incredibly beautiful statement on justice, including when it comes to God and mammon. After all, we can’t serve two masters.

  4. Regarding lax attitudes to Sunday Mass, Cardinal Mahony presented the nub of the problem in the Introduction to his pastoral letter “Gather Faithfully Together” (1997):-

    “In the past generation, we have introduced into the liturgy some practices and attitudes from North American society that have no place there. For example: the hurried pace, the tyranny of the clock, the inattention to the arts, the casual tone of a presider, the “what can I get out of it?” approach of the consumer, the “entertain me” attitude of a nation of television watchers. All these are the wrong sort of inculturation.”

    Times are never lacking when Catholics are challenged to choose between pleasure, convenience and comfort (life, even!) and the practice of the faith. The world is always pressing on us to conform to it.

    The theme of the 24th Italian National Eucharistic Congress was “sine dominico non possumus (without Sunday we cannot live)!” – the reply given by a martyr at his trial in AD 304 when asked why he and the other 48 Christians arrested with him had broken the law. The Holy Father delivered a beautiful homily on this theme at the Mass closing the Congress (accessible on the Vatican website in the homilies archive, under Bari, 29 May 2005).

    1. Yes both of these are beautiful reflections. I have not heard that the 1997 Letter was anything less than controversail. But this quote you give is right on target.

  5. Thank you for this posting. We will read this as a family today and examine our conscience. I have often been amazed at my sons’ CYO team schedule. Parents will travel to two games per weekend per child. The gyms are packed every weekend from Friday evening through Sunday night. However, the church itself is empty except for the schedule of Masses, even though our wonderful pastor keeps it open throughout the day. Perhaps a handful of people will make a visit to adore our good God who awaits his children. Benediction on Friday has less than half a dozen and rarely a child with a parent attending. The confession line on Saturday afternoon is very very short. Are we sending our children the wrong message? Even at an impressionable age they are learning hours devoted to sports are scheduled and encouraged but only 45 minutes for God.

  6. For many years now the Church has supported more government spending for social causes. The government has gladly complied and social spending has soared. Looking at my pay stub shows how much the government has grown. And it will grow more with the Socialistic bent of the present administration. What they want to do to our country added to what has already been done will surely equal pure socialism.

    Many Catholics think social programs from the government is a good thing. It is not! Christ told Peter to feed and tend his sheep. Christ did not tell Caesar to do what he told Peter. Our Bishops have sold their moral authority for 30 pieces of silver (social welfare programs). The only way they will recover their authority will be to heed what Christ told Peter. And the sooner the better.

    1. Yes, to a large degree we need to reinforce the principle of subsidiarity in Catholic social justice teaching. The principle of Solidarity seems thave won the day in the past 40 years. Proper balance must be rediscovered.

      1. A particular problem with respect to Catholics understanding subsidiarity is that they are just not aware of the principle. In the document “Themes of Catholic Social Teaching,” which is drawn from “Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions,” subsidiarity is not included, although it was identified as a principle by the content subgroup. Furthermore, the USCCB has not revised their document in the wake of the publishing of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, which does identify and highlight subsidiarity as one of only four permanent principles of Catholic Social Doctrine (no. 160).

  7. At Adoration this past Friday, our deacon expressed the desire that someday he’d see more people in church for Adoration (we typically have a dozen or so people) than in the all-purpose room for Bingo (several dozen).

    Speaking of Bingo, I was rather shocked several years ago to see how much revenue ($300k!!) it brought in for my parish. (I was amused a couple of years later to see that the figure dropped by about half after it went non-smoking.) I have to say I’m not too keen on my parish being dependent on gambling revenue – nearly all of which comes from non-parishioners – but if the figure Msgr P cites holds true for my parish, giving up the Bingo isn’t an option.

    1. Yes, we went to Biblical tithing about 10 years ago and have since stopped the Bingo and other fundraisers. Our offertory makes up most of our income these days. God’s plan is best.

  8. Good subject Msgr. Pope. We should give to our local parish what we can weekly or monthly. We should also try to give at least $20.00 a month to St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital, or other Catholic organizations. These contributions are tax deductible. I believe a person’s value system is based on culture and age. We all have different needs, wants, and beliefs. Teens and young adults have a different perspective as opposed to the older generations. The lens each age group views life is adjusted and refocused as we grow from youth to middle age, then old age. The young adult looks forward to middle age, the middle age person looks forward to his golden years, and us older folks with no other age to look forward to, turn to our Lord, the eternal Trinity in greater devotion. We can all be like the Apostle Paul, and be a mouth piece and trumpet to proclaim the Word of God.

    1. Yes, I’d be curious to see giving patterns going back 50 to 100 years to see how the proportions have changed. I am amazed that from the 1870-1930s the Catholic Church in America was largely a Church of Europena peasants. Yet look at the beautiful churches and schools, hospitals and univeristies we built. There were giants in those days.

  9. I guess it says something about the human race. It’s easier and more enjoyable to have faith in what gives us pleasure. This carries over to religeon as well. The rise in the non-denominational churches has more to do with entertainment than substance. How’s the music, do they have a coffee bar, do they have great powerpoint presentations, does the pastor make us feel good rather than make us accountable? If not, people shop around until they find a church that meets their own needs rather than find one ( Catholic ) that stresses what God expects from us. It’s a very selfish, me first world we live in.

  10. The same problem exists here in the UK as you might expect. The average weekly donation to the Church is a little over TWO pounds (sterling) per person yet many people would spend more than that on a single cup of coffee and think nothing of it. It is the same with how we spend our time.
    What is important to many people, are all of the above mentioned as well as exotic vacations and yet many people do not want to see the irony of all their expenditure choices, when what is being offered by our Faith is a destination exceeding all our expectations from this world.
    We seems to have lost a balanced approach to life and our priorities are all askew.
    Your Blog is one that I seek out EACH DAY and feel uplifted and transformed each time I read it.
    God Bless you, keep up the good work and tell it like it is.

  11. Fr. Barron aims true again! I have taught ‘bristlingly complex’ Algebra in a Catholic school and have been dragooned into covering for the 8th Grade religion teacher when she was called away for a family emergency. When I got there, the kids told me that today was “Circle Day”. “We all get in a circle and pass a candle around and say a petition.” Prayer is always good. But, no “Circle Day” on my watch. I told them to get a Bible from the shelf. A great cloud of dust rose from the bookcase. They hadn’t been touched all year. I asked one of them to read out Matthew 6:21. Few knew where to find Matthew. Once it was found and read, I asked them what they thought it meant. Good insight from teenagers, I must say. I added that “if you treasure good grades, then you also treasure hard work”, and a few other hortatory school related suggestions. At recess that day, one student came up to me and said he learned more in our mere 50 minutes that day than he had all year. Why? Because of dumbing down. The young can take hard and profound truths. All of us are built for mystery. Why deny it to the young? Give them the food that will strengthen them for time they live in. You will reap the whirlwind if you do not.

  12. I agree about people arriving late (though I’m guilty at times) and leaving early. It use to be that people would arrive early and actually kneel and pray and prepare and recollect themselves before Mass. In the world we live in, certainly there is much to pray about. Now people often sit around idly or practice the ever-new song du jour that is to be sung that day. And if you try to pray, you will likely be interrupted by the greeter up at the ambo explaining to everyone loudly over the microphone that they should turn off their cell phones.

    I wonder if the average Catholic watches 4 hours of tv a day, or if it is just the average American? I grew up without a tv and can’t say I missed it too much, though I did watch a bit of it at my friend’s house.

    With regards to being passionate about sports, I think people are often passionate about sports if they played them as kids. Maybe people would be more passionate about their faith if they learned more about their faith when they were little. A children’s book of saints, a small statue–these raise questions in kids minds about their faith and help develop their curiosity. Recently I was giving my nephew a piggy-back ride through the house. We got to a room with a crucifix and I said, “Jesus on the Cross.” My nephew looked at it and said, “Why is Jesus on the Cross?” The Cross had raised a question in his mind.

    Where I live, catechism and Church history haven’t really been a strong point the last few decades. That said, there are some priests who are able to make sermons more alive and interesting. There is a wealth of treasure in our Church’s history and unfortunately, very little of it is drawn from for the Sunday sermon (is this the same as putting a bushel basket over a lamp?). We had one priest who pointed out the various statues and stained glass windows in the Church, and gave us a lesson in Church history. It was very interesting. I wish I knew what parish this priest moved too. I might track him down and listen to more of his interesting sermons. I think people really want to know more about their Church, and good opportunities to teach them about it are being passed over. Isn’t it unfortunate that many people walk by these beautiful statues and windows and give them little thought because they aren’t aware of their significance? They might not even know who the statue represents, or why that person is a saint! While I realize the sermon is supposed to focus on the Gospel, certainly a comment or two can be made at times about our saints, who, after all, are shining examples of those who have strived and succeeded at living out the Gospel!

    As far as politics go, I think if people knew more about their faith, and if their faith became a basis for their politics, their politics would be much better formed, and our country would be much the better for it.

    There is no doubt that we can contribute more to the Church collection. Sometimes I also have to wonder though about the wisdom with which the money appears to be used. For example, at my parish Church, they wallboarded over the confessionals. They also did a remodel which looks nice, but now requires a second collection with which to pay off the debt. The tabernacle has been take off the altar and moved to a more secluded area on the back right side of the altar. Why? The confessionals gone, the tabernacle moved away–does not this seem to lessen the mystery of the celebration? Are we tossing out our treasures and then wondering why people are leaving the Church? So one looks at the work being done in the Church and the energy being committed, and has to wonder if it is always in the correct direction. One must contribute to the collection so that their parish will be healthy and not perish, but sometimes one wrings their hands in dismay at where some of the dollars end up.

    1. Surely, there must also be good stewardship of the money of the people of God. I too would bristle if my money were being used to wreckovate a church. I liked your reminder that the art of the Church can teach but we have to tell the story that goes with the beautiful windows and other art. Amen to that

  13. Good article. Here in New Zealand we have a planned giving system so the family knows in advance how much they want to give to the church. Catholic priests should teach the parishioners about ‘tithing’. We don’t mention ‘tithes’ in our churches and so our faithful, who may not read much of the Bible, may not have any clear idea of their duties and responsibilities to their church. The Parish priest should give an account to the people- so much collected, so much used for whatever. Then the laity are aware of what is going on in the parish and when they know that they are an important part of the church, have obligations to fulfill and have priests who are responsible and who they can look up to, things may improve.
    Thank you Msgr. Always enjoy your articles!!!

    1. Thanks for reading all the way from New Zeland. You are always in our future here on the East coast of the USA ! By gosh you’re probably up and about for a while in my tomorrow and I haven’t even gone to bed for today.

      We teach tithing in my parish. It has made a remarkable difference for both parish and people. God is true and faithful

  14. The reflection on “What is important to me? What do I spend money on? and How do I spend my discretionary time?” is parallel to one of the reflections on the Cursillo weekend.
    It is difficult to pass values on the next generation if we don’t exercise those values ourselves. Time in church can also include mass on Saturdays for those who work Monday through Friday, and Daily Mass for those retired. A small percent of our parishioners – less than 4 percent – come to Eucharistic Adoration each month on the date given for our parish. Each month on the selected day, adoration begins after the morning mass (typically about 9 a.m.) and continues until the following morning – typically about 8:30 a.m. Can you spend 30 minutes in silence with Our Lord? How about an hour? Can you commit for an hour at a regular time each month? How about the hour from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.? Pick a time!

  15. Great observations. As a college student and ER tech, I don’t have much money to give to the church, but I give what I can and volunteer when I can. If I could live off the ER job and be able to give to charities too, I would probably quit school now, to be honest. It’s very difficult to do work and school and try to get to where I want to be in the medical field, especially since the schools are so picky and are not turning out very many great nurses these days. I’ve also learned that I’m much happier being active in my church and going to daily mass in addition to Sunday mass than when I am absent from either of those. It also helps me at work, and I’m generally a more happy and peaceful person with God in my life. My main reason for wanting to put money towards finishing school (with parental help) is to be able to do missionary work and travel to third world countries. As a PA or nurse, I would be able to do more than I am doing as an ER tech. It’s not necessarily about the money, though I would like to make enough to live on my own and give to charities in all honesty.

    I’ve also noticed in life that some of my friends who are really rich and basically get everything they ask for aren’t truly happy. They are always wanting for more. I am eternally grateful to my parents for not giving me everything I wanted (at least everything I needed to get a good start in life!) every time I hang out with these people. I feel better about being able to pay for things myself, and I also think more before I buy something and question whether I really need it. It’s made me a little less material in this world today. I’m also more equipped for when I do live on my own because I’m paying a lot of my own bills. So far it seems like most or all of the people who’ve commented agree with you, so it will be interesting to see other opinions!

    1. Yes, your point about not being given everything you wanted is an important one. We need to learn to more content with the gifts we have received and also to curb our desires for worldly things. Only a good foundation and necessary “no”s can really help to do this.

      1. And thank you for your kind words. They’re encouraging and instructive. God bless.

  16. Thanks, Monsignor – First accessed your comments from New Advent and have been consistently challenged by your teaching. And, as proves all too often the case, this posting gets from me another big mea culpa. (Hard to see around those beams). May God bless you as you so effectively use this new mode of evangelization and may God bless us in allowing us many years of your insights.

  17. Dear Monsignor,

    Having read another excellent, thought -provoking article from you, I can only respond with ” Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!”

    In answer to the challenge – what do we really value, vis-à-vis our daily lives or religious lives, I think the brutal truth is that all those games, plays, restaurants, movies, general entertainment etc are the here and now (hic et nunc) in people’s minds. Church, God, the Hereafter seem to be somewhat nebulous concepts that lack to engage us with true enthusiasm as those things are, for most, “in the still distant future”. They are concepts, more than actual reality. As a Charismatic friend once remarked: Do you want a religion or a relation?” Our piety is removed from reality – The NOW. The religious focus is just a “nice to have, rather than a need to have”. There is no relation-ship with God / Jesus / the Holy Spirit.

    We need to build, in ourselves and others, a realisation of the real life presence of a living God, who exists outside Mass or the Bible. (My English leaves me in the lurch sometimes, to express what I really want to say).
    The answer is perhaps, real and genuine prayer – individually and collectively – for divine guidance along the lines of ” talk to God about people, don’t talk to people about God”. We may, perhaps, also need some staunch, assertive priests, that admonish parishioners about lip service to our Lord or “Drive-Thru” Mass attitudes.

    Regards and blessings

    1. Yes I agree. We priest are too gui of preaching abstractions and the ideas instead of simple and plain Gospel truth. I am getting ready to preach a priest retreat and the theme is “Back to reality!”

  18. Lessen the rush after material possessions and more after the gracious and beautiful things God has placed within the reach of us all; “less clothes and more lilies.”

    Saint Francis, pray for us not to get swept up in the current of this world.

    You have a laundry list to do: glorify God, imitate Christ, save a soul, mortify your body, acquire virtue, seek Heaven, meditate on eternity, seek the Kingdom, resist temptation, guard against the world, and be prepared to meet death. Still have time for 4 hours of TV?

  19. I know many Catholics (and Protestants) who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior but act as hell on earth (and sometimes it is even me). There seems to be an epidemic of presumption upon God’s mercy and that salvation doesn’t require a re-ordering of one’s life. In my own speculative opinion, the works of our life will serve as testimony for or against us when each of us are judged as to whether we really did freely respond to grace and believe that Jesus is Lord.

    If we really, really, really believe that life is eternal, and that God became man as Jesus, and that Jesus died for our sins, and that Jesus was in fact raised from the dead, and He is our King, wouldn’t we all immediately drop our own nets and follow him in every aspect of our lives?

    I’m just sayin’.

  20. My wife recently substituted at a nearby parochial school. One of the children volunteered that Miss X likes to do the important stuff first, like math, English, social studies and saves religion for last.

    When I was a kid religion was the first subject of the day, and it was an arduous undertaking. We had to know our stuff. “What is a Sacrament?” “A Sacrament is an outward sign instituted by God to give grace.” 6 and 7 year olds knew this and very much more.

    The parochial school we sent our children to 35 yrs later was very big on Catholic atmosphere and the religion text for first and second grade found a zillion ways to say God loves you with out conveying any other concept WHATEVER. The exception was one third of the second grade text that was given over to preparation for the sacraments.

    At a bus stop one day I asked a fifth grader from the same school, “If I were to ask you, ‘Why did God make you, what would you say?'” He looked a little worried and said, “Ummmm, to pray?” Comparatively, the first graders of 60 yrs ago were theologians .

    Reading and Math are obviously important subjects, a fact that is reinforced by the rigorous testing that is adminstered every year in our Catholic grade schools. Your child is in the 76th percentile in Math and the 83rd percentile in Reading.

    But in his understanding of the faith?

    Religion is obviously NOT a very important subject, since no such test is administered. When do we get the National Catechetics Test (there is no such thing. I just invented it) and find out where our children are in the understanding of their faith?

    Beyond that, when do we start auditing the position of our grade school and high school administrators vis vis how well their students do in the National Catechetics Test? Catholic schools exist PRIMARILY to pass on the Catholic faith. If that is not the main purpose, we can live without it. In many cases now they seem merely to be safe zones for the upper middle class.

    We absolutely do not value the education of our young people.

  21. To Monsignor and Lee Gilbert,

    I have been a Catholic school educator for almost 20 years, primarily in the theology departments of Catholic high schools, and much of what you discuss is true and has been very troubling for me for many years. Unfortunately, the struggle in the Catholic schools comes from the parents not raising their children in the faith (or very well – with some thanks to those “fluff” textbooks your children had). We do need to return to the “meat and potatoes” of the faith, but when so called “Catholic Universities” diverge from the teaching of the magisterium, it gets quite confusing for both parents and students as to where they can go to receive authentic Catholic teaching.
    However, the NCEA (National Catholic Education Association) actually does have a National Catholic test that is called ACRE. It is recommended that all Catholic schools give it in the 5th and 8th grades, and the 9th and 12th for high schools. Personally, I found it to be watered down a bit, but it is at least an objective evaluation of what students know about some of the basic Catholic teachings (if they take it seriously), so take heart! What the school and diocese do with the information they get from these is different, depending on the location, but statistics are being gathered.
    While I believe more needs to be done, and can be done, I see glimmers of hope on the horizon and continue to pray that the light will shine ever brighter in weary hearts!

    1. If parents are not raising their children in the faith, perhaps the parents were not taught the faith. First the parents need to understand the faith. You can’t give what you don’t have. I suggest parents learn the faith while homeschooling the children in this one subject, religion. Parents and children will learn together. There are several authentic Catholic teaching providers who offer textbooks, lesson plans, tests, grading help, and counseling. One is Seton Home Study School. Don’t wait until the statistics are gathered. Children have a way of growing up before you know it.

      I speak as an adult convert who learned a great deal about the faith from teaching my children with the Seton Home Study School curriculum.

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