Here is an opportunity to help one of our colleagues (we’ll call her Monica) who is faced with a situation of determining sacramental readiness. Please offer your advice by leaving a reply below.
Hi Joe — One of our RCIC students, 13 year old, missed lots of classes, has not done any home make up work (his Mom says they have been too busy with ‘work’); and the boy is rather glum, sullen, disinterested. Polite enough, but lethargic, etc. He missed receiving First Communion and Confirmation with the rest of the students (about 5 others, younger) on Easter Vigil and has an opportunity to receive the Sacraments at Pentecost – our Bishop will be here for that. We have asked our youth minister/head of catechism program for guidance, but wondered if we should “Ask Paprocki”. How do we decide and how do we express our concerns to the mother. Thanks. We have two more Saturday classes before Pentecost. Tomorrow and May 18.-Monica
Hi Monica and thanks for your email and for your question about the challenge that you are presented with. It is not easy when it comes to determining readiness for the Sacraments and yet, it is the responsibility of the pastor and the staff to make that judgment. While the family has the right to request the sacraments, they also have the responsibility to give evidence of both the desire and the readiness. It sounds to me that the frequent absences, the lack of home make up work, and the boy’s attitude are all evidence of a lack of readiness and a lack of desire. In communicating with the parents about this, it is important to let them know that this is not a “now or never” decision nor is readiness to be confused with worthiness. If the time is not right at the present, perhaps they should try again when the desire is truly there and the effort to evidence readiness is also present. Emphasize that this is not a denial but a delay. You can ask the mother to respond to the following questions in preparation for your conversation:
- Has my child expressed a desire to celebrate Eucharist and Confirmation?
- Has my child been formed in faith in an age appropriate manner? Did my child participate regularly in faith formation/preparation?
- Does my family participate in the worship life of the parish?
- Can my child tell the difference between Eucharist and ordinary bread?
- Is my child willing to make a commitment to continue faith formation and participation in the life of the parish and its social outreach following Confirmation?
These questions get at the very basics of sacramental readiness. Desire for a sacrament needs to be evidenced. You’re basically saying that you are not recognizing that evidence at this time and that it might be wise to wait until such time that the desire is truly present. I hope this is helpful. If you’d like more insight, I can share your question (anonymously) with my readers on my blog. Let me know. Blessings and peace. -joe
What other advice can you offer? Leave a reply below.
I like your answer overall, Joe. One thing I’d emphasize in the conversation is that this isn’t about class attendance. Active participation in the RE program is often a sign of enthusiasm, and lack of participation is often a sign of disinterest, but it isn’t always so. And then invite the parent and teen to share a bit of their perspective. What’s going on in their life?
I’d want to steal shamelessly from Sherry Weddell and ask, “Tell me about your personal relationship with God to this point in your life.”
But I’d only ask if you’re ready to really disciple somebody. It would be cruel to ask those sorts of questions, then leave the mom or kid high and dry when they give evidence of a serious need for spiritual mentoring. Commitment to follow-through definitely needed.
Boy howdy you are everywhere before me.
Joe’s questions are very good, but I would make one additional suggestion. I learned this the hard way. Don’t wait until the last few weeks before asking the questions. Begin a dialogue with the parents as early in the process as possible, so they can either correct the situation or at least not be surprised when told that their child is not ready.
Hi! I don’t really have any other advice. But I want to say I like the questions you suggest to ask the parents. I teach 2nd grade CCE, and this year I had the worst attendance ever in my 5 years of teaching. The parents don’t seem to take this grade level class “seriously”. They seem to wait to emphasize REGULAR religious education until their children “have to” make their First Communion or Confirmation. I like what you say about “delay” vs. “denial”. I wish parents would see the value of a religious education or CCE from pre-kindergarten to high school…and at home, too!
Not really a reply – Just noting that there is no such thing as RCIC.
Hi Linda, I saw that but didn’t address it here because of the larger issue of sacramental readiness. Referring to a children’s catechumenate as RCIC is one of the those things that just won’t seem to go away! For those who are wondering what to call it, it is the RCIA for children or RCIA adapted for children, or children’s catechumenate.
Oops, I used RCIC also in my post. Problem is, try explaining Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults apdapted for children to parents! in Spanish!! Sometimes we need to take one step at a time to not confuse those who have not been catechized.
Happens all the time!
A comment on the RCIC question: Even when we know the correct name for the process, it is very difficult to change people’s habits. Joe, I’m glad you did not make an issue of this with Monica. I have tried and tried and am still trying to set the example and to communicate the reasons why we should use correct terminology. Like Harriet, I also have to communicate it in Spanish as well as in English. It is a little like this conversation, which is repeated often with parents: “Has your child received First Reconciliation?”
“Has he made His first confession?”
I love it!
Linda you are so right and thanks for speaking up about RCIC not existing.
This is a difficult decision. I’m assuming that this child is preparing to come into Full Communion since you didn’t mention baptism. I have always made it a policy that when a parent approaches me about baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist for their older child, to first meet with the parent and then have a conversation with the child without the parent being present. I’ve found that this gives the child a chance to speak freely. I ask him/her if he/she wants to receive the sacraments. If a child says NO then I have a conversation with the parent and suggest that we delay preparation until the child wants to celebrate the sacraments. At the age of 13 I think that the child has a right to say YES or NO. I know that parents do not want to hear this, but I think it honors the child and where he/she is at on the faith journey. We’re not saying NO, but let’s wait.
Great answer Joe!
Often many Diocese have readiness questions much like the questions above. If your Diocese has something (especially since the Bishop is Confirming) print off the Diocese questions and use that as the discussion with the parents.
It’s tough especially since it’s so close to when the person is being Confirmed.
I had someone who wanted to receive Eucharist this year and the parents were the same way. I told them I needed to see them at Mass and religious education or their child wouldn’t receive. And they stepped up! It’s sad that we have to tell people what to do or else…
Then I realized, parents will tell me that their kids can’t play in the baseball game if they aren’t at practice so they are choosing practice over Mass or religious education.
If sports are telling the parents/kids that, maybe we need to start telling the families things like… if you aren’t in Mass you won’t receive a Sacrament.
Sad, that I’m thinking like that. I wish faith was something the families desire and not something they do because of the grandparents. The hope is that in doing things, the families will have a faith experience and turn to having a desire to participate.
It is easy to say the “woulda, shoulda, coulda”, however at this point Monica really needs advice for the now! I feel Joe’s response and questions are gentle & appropriate. Sometimes the candidate and/or parents need a nudge toward making the best decision for now… Sounds as if no one is truly ready. This has happened to me but the person was in need of Eucharist & Confirmation only. My suggestion to that young person & his family was: “Sometimes our original plan does not work out; life just gets in the way. We really want you to enjoy this experience, to understand it fully, and to feel very comfortable with being an active Catholic. Can we continue the process and work out a schedule that will help all of us feel comfortable with this call you have to be fully initiated into the Catholic Church.”
There is usually a relief felt by all. PRAYING ABOUT THE SITUATION IS VERY IMPORTANT! The Lord does provide great answers to tough situations! Blessings to you! I will offer prayer for the challenge you face,
These have all been great responses. I just want to add one or two wrinkles. I have always tried to approach my ministry from the point of view of today’s busy family, and the developmental characteristics of the age of the children in question. First, lack of attendance is a parental issue. Most often children cannot walk to Church for classes (or Mass) or, of course, drive themselves. Sadly, more often than not, a child will not push the issue if mom or dad doesn’t initiate the drive to Church. Secondly, I think “attitude” is a monumentally hard thing to judge. Sullen and lethargic can explain the developmental characteristics of a 13-year-old boy. These characteristics may have nothing to do with his desire. I concur that a talk one-on-one with the boy is in order. Why hasn’t he been attending? Why hasn’t he done the make-up work? Asking Joe’s questions directly to the boy will help flesh out his attitude and validate any conclusions. Third, I do believe we, as catechetical leaders, need to make an assessment of sacramental readiness, but along that spectrum of judgment, I will always lean toward the judgment of the parents who know their child best (and in this case the expressions of the teen). Given all that, I would pray that the Holy Spirit sheds grace on the conversation with the boy so all can be comfortable with the decision made.
In answer to your question. How do we decide, and how do we express our concerns to the mother?
First speak to the child, ask him if he desires to receive the sacraments.
If yes, then help him one on one.
If, no, I would want to know why. From that point on I would, with the child, speak to the parent and have the child express his views to his parent. You can then decide on what to do.
God bless and hope all goes well,
I’m the CRE for our parish’s RCIA/Y/C program. You might consider that the problem with your student’s attendence is that the student is placed with younger kids! Once we assured the children that if they came for the sacraments, they would be placed with their own age group we got enough children to fill 10 classrooms (we are from a small town, 470 registered families). If the student is RCIC, you already know that at least up to this point, the student hasn’t been given the faith at home, or at least receiving the sacraments was not the family’s top priority. So, it’s important that the children feel confortable in this environment that they do not know. Have you approached the child on make up classes maybe on a one-to-one basis? Hope my experience helps you.
Our pastor explicitly tells the kids: “If you aren’t ready for whatever reason you can tell me and I’ll sort it out with your parents.”