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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Can You Handle the Truth?

Hippity Hoppity, Easter's on it's way. That means some people are getting ready to join the Church. How exciting!

Here in my home parish we have the "Adopt a Confirmation Kid" program. My mother gleefully joined and dutifully sent her eighth grader cards through the mail a least once a week. They were kid friendly notes of encouragement. "I know you are studying hard!" That type of thing. She may have included a piece of candy. I wouldn't put it past her. She was chagrined to find that little Bobby was actually Mr. Robert Adultmen, grown up convert.

I'm sure he liked candy, anyhow.

I'm a junior in high school and am very active in my church youth group. The other day, I and another boy from the youth group were asked if we would like to help lead the high school confirmation retreat (we normally have confirmation in 8th grade, but there are always a few older ones who end up in their own group.) We said that we would love to and were each handed a copy of a retreat script that the youth leader would like to use as a basis. The other kid and I agree that it is Religion at its fluffiest. We want to take the other kids to Mass and Confession (which was not in the original plan,) but we aren't sure what other discussions/activities/talks we could have. Any suggestions? It's four hours with about seven 14-16 year old kids.

A lesson plan is all about time management.

The Mass and Confession will take up about an hour and a half. Maybe more if someone is extra sinful.

The Retreat Script can't be THAT bad, can it? Does it require you to purchase a set of puppets? Is there interpretive dance involved?

I would use it as a guideline to talk about what I'm supposed to talk about at any rate. It must mention why we have Confirmation, why we have baby Baptism, what the choice they are about to make entails. Those are the main points you'll have to cover.

Do they talk about the all important Confirmation name? We've heard from many readers saying kids no longer get a new Confirmation name. What a pity. Kids could be picking a great saint and a great name and be undoing years of damage from having to answer to "Dweezil", "Apple" and "Brandy".

I'm not allowed to teach kids about Confirmation because of my radical ideas about what it means to be a Soldier of Christ. I always did okay with the little second graders preparing for First Communion and I even managed not to scare any tots into fainting during their First Confession. But by the time a person is old enough to take the Catholic Pledge, so to speak, the gloves are off. You're in the Army, now, sons and daughters. Welcome to Boot Camp. I think I scared some kids. Oh well.

It's nice to think that we can all plan a guitar Mass and sing Qum By Yah or whatever that mopey song is and get up an go to work the next day wearing our scapulars and call ourselves Catholic. In fact, plenty of people do just that.

I think you should point out to these youngsters some of the things that have gone on in the name of Jesus. There were people who had their skin peeled off, and people who drank lead rather than denounce their faith, for example.

Here's an idea! Give them that speech that Jack Nicholson gives in " A Few Good Men". You know the one! The "You Can't Handle the Truth" speech.

Here's the speech. Jack Nicholson says, "You want answers?"

I believe Tom Cruise acknowledges that he feels entitled to some answers.

To which Jack Nicholson says, "my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives...You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!"

I'll paraphrase, Catholic style:
"The existence of the Catholic Church, that so many people vilify and make fun of, saves souls. The Truth is difficult and you would rather have somebody else do the work. But somebody has to take up the Cross. Somebody has to stand up to dishonor and filth and weakness, so pick up your Cross and stand post, soldier! And make the words of Christ mean something!"

And don't say "damn". That isn't nice.

My suggestion would be to use the Confirmation names and the saints they invoke to remind everyone what they need to do at their post on the wall.

However....as I have been asked not to teach Confirmation classes, you should run your lesson plan past whoever is in charge before you go running off at the mouth, even if it means having to do a liturgical dance, or drag out some puppets. Obedience is important in the Army.


Anonymous said...

Sr. Mary Martha, that was a lovely post! Thank you so much for that. It came at an interesting time, for me. My husband and I are seeking out a new parish and are struggling with all sorts of issues about liturgy and obedience and what are worthwhile things to care about, or when it becomes pride and vanity. Specifically, we're going to start attending the approved, licit Tridentine Mass in our diocese. This is not because of clown masses or liturgical dance in our local parish, but just because A) we like the Traditional Latin rite, and B) we're hoping to find a group of Catholics who will talk about their faith. Unfortunately, there are some malcontents around that "scene" and I've even been encouraged to attend Masses at a schismatic chapel. Your last bit about going along with puppets and liturgical dance because "Obedience is important in the army" really struck a chord with me. Thanks for that.

Meanwhile... I am patiently waiting for you to tell me who the child saints in the Stations of the Cross paintings are. I asked about them a couple of posts back. I know you're busy, but I just love, love, love how you do the saints thing and I'm resisting the urge to look for the information elsewhere. So: who are the two halo'ed kids with shovels that are depicted walking along with Christ as He carries His cross?

You, your mom, and your sisters are in my prayers! God bless you.

Anonymous said...


I'm a transitional deacon, and I just have to say, that some Confirmation retreats out there are pretty bad. IMHO, we presuppose too much background faith, as it were, and not enough time making the case for Christ and why the Faith is important.

To the young man who is leading the retreat, I want to extend a big "Thank you!" and ask if he (or his friend, for that matter) is considering a vocation to ordained ministry. If not, give it some thought. Also, in response to his question, there are a good number of resources on the net to help him come up with an acceptable program, although, wading through some schlock is necessary. That having been said, this post is AMAZING! In my time in seminary and in the nine months of my ministry, I've learned an important lesson: Don't mess with the nuns: listen to them.

Thank you again, Sister, for your phenomenal post and to the young men for saying "yes" to ministry. God bless!

Anonymous said...

You don't have to obey "some" orders in the army.

Anonymous said...

Dear deacon...I believe the original post was from a young woman -Hannah- I believe is the name.

Arkanabar Ilarsadin said...

You don't have to obey "some" orders in the army.

This is true. Criminal orders are to be called such and disobeyed. But if the orders you're given are just plain stupid, and your request for more suitable orders is denied, you are in fact required to obey the stupid orders.

Remember that these young men are being asked to lead a retreat, and a retreat is not a mass. The GIRM does not apply.

Anonymous said...

I was under the impression that "You don't have to obey 'some' orders" was implying that actually one has to obey all of them.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone said anything about prayer? This is a retreat, after all, and they are about to make a personal, formal commitment to the Lord. I'd want to spend some time talking to God about that - and listening, just waiting on the Lord in awe of the upcoming step.

Ray said...

Sister, this comment has nothing to do with this post, but I think you'll be interested. It seems that someone accidentally washed the Shroud of Turin in the same load as a red t-shirt. The story is here:

I hope similar mishaps don't occur in your house. Sr. Fiacre probably couldn't handle a pink wimple.

Anonymous said...

Ray Ward, "The Onion" is a website/newspaper which prints joke articles, generally in bad taste. That someone thought it would be funny to poke fun at one of Catholicism's Holiest relics is wretched.

Do you know the story of the Shroud of Turin? It sounds like you do not. Here it is:


Anonymous said...

Well, attending Mass and examining one's conscience before confession, as well as praying one's penance after confession would seem to me to constitute prayer during a retreat. And I'm pretty sure that those leading the retreat would remember to begin and end the retreat with prayer.

And this query was submitted by my daughter, not a young man, but a lovely and devout young woman (though I do say so myself!)

And I'm sure she will be very embarrassed that I commented!

Anonymous said...

It's the deacon who commented above. Sorry about the confusion, and my apologies to the young woman involved. I misconstrued "another young man" to mean that the poster was a boy. My bad! Still, I stick by what I said about the vocation thing, except to take the veil, as it were. God bless.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sister,

Actually, there are some people who fully agree with your Boot Camp ideas! We're even organising a Cathechism Boot Camp of our own... We'd love to have you as a speaker if the Pope allows you out of the convent!

If you want, you can mail us at info@credimus.nl :)