Sunday, May 20, 2012


Father Dawid gives me that look all the time too, I wonder what it means?
Can anyone see an apparition of Saint Francis on the reredos?
I love the ethereal tinting on this photo, please note the bishop's throne, a pre-Vatican II custom I revived!

We had our first celebration of Confirmation with our new bishop this past Wednesday. Because of his scheduling conflicts he asked that it be the three parishes in Macon at St. Joseph. St. Peter Claver is multi-ethnic. It had begun as an African American Mission but in the late 1960's it was integrated with white families joining the parish. In the early 2000's the parish began an Hispanic ministry mostly for Mexican immigrants. About three years ago an African priest, Fr. Dan Melaba from Nigeria became their Parochial Administrator. I'd say that this is quite an eclectic parish. I was stationed there for about a year in 1979/80 as a seminarian, deacon and then priest.

While we normally have anywhere from 50 to 60 candidates, this year for some odd reason we only had 30 (we confirm in the 9th grade). St. Peter Claver had about 19 Hispanic 8th graders and about 10 African Americans and Holy Spirit Church had about 14 candidates, mixed races, I might add.

Our new bishop though has an interesting way of confirming. It has taken me several days to process it to determine if I like it or not. As each candidate comes forward, he places his hand on their head with his thumb on their forehead and continuously makes the "Sign of the Cross" on their forehead with his thumb as he asks them questions. The questions usually revolve around their saint's name but also included some other questions. It is not a test and he keeps it somewhat lighthearted. There were many smiles from the candidates and chuckles from the congregation. Then after this brief exchange, he places his thumb in the Sacred Chrism and anoints the candidate saying "Be Sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit" with the response "Amen" and then "Peace be with You" with the response "And with your spirit" which was the first time for that response too and the kids did it second nature except or the Hispanics whom I rehearsed the night before and told them to say that response in Spanish, which they did! (The Hispanic Kids are fluent bi-bilingually although their parents aren't).

I was standing next to the bishop as he confirmed and I must say that I was actually helping the kids to cheat by whispering obvious answers to them under my breath. One of my parishioners was asked, what was Pope Benedict's first name before he became pope. He clearly did not know it, so I whispered, the name of our parish, to which he responded to the bishop, St. Joseph!

But there were some rather awkward times when the kids really didn't know answers to questions that you would think those prepared for Confirmation should really know, that anyone would know, even an unchurched person in the south. But they didn't and I don't think it was just nervousness. When asked how many apostles there were, one child answered first "7" and when the bishop said no, try again, she said "3" and then when the bishop said, no, between and 11 and 12, she said 11 and 1/2! I don't think she was trying to be funny either.

Those awkward times and there were many of them is what caused me some mixed feelings about this process and it has taken me some time to process this Confirmation. Is it time that we start putting our kids on notice that they must know their faith and the very basics of their faith, like their saint's name's history and other trivia? And if they don't know that, what else don't they know. In our parish we know for a fact that there is plenty that they don't know and don't care to know given the fact we gave them an "exam" after Fr.Dawid and I met with each one of them from our parish for an interview.

The parish can't do it all. There has to be strong catechesis and Catholicism at home which I fear is lacking in 95% of our Catholic homes today. The children who do the best are those who are home-schooled! This is a sad commentary, for in times past, especially with parents who sent their children to Catholic schools, but most pre-Vatican II parents, the faith meant something very important in the home and was taught and lived there especially in the most sacramental ways. We've lost that for the most part in general, while our Catholic Home Schoolers have not. I'm beginning to think that we as a Church as we face the possibility of more Catholic schools closing that we help form Catholic Home Schooling Associations to help people form their children at home in all subjects with Catholicism at the core! Our parents need protection from the Public School system which is disastrous in my neck of the woods. And families should be doing home schooling especially in the faith even if they use actual institutional schools, Catholic or not!

So the bottom line is that while I had some discomfort seeing our kids somewhat embarrassed by the fact that they couldn't look the bishop in the eye and answer his basic questions, I took some pleasure in the fact that this alerted the parents in the congregation to take more responsibility with their children in handing on the faith for certainly word has spread throughout the three parishes what to expect for next year.

In addition, the Bishop insisted that the kids be properly dressed for Confirmation with girls wearing a white or off white dress (no pants) and dress shoes, no flip flops which have become so customary, and that the boys wear dark pants, white shirt and red tie and dress shoes! And when I got some flack for insisting on this, the bishop backed me up as I was doing what he had clearly asked at our priests' retreat even before he became our bishop. So I say, Kudos to Bishop Hartmayer!


John Drake said...

Sounds like a fine Bishop!

Vonito said...

Sounds likes a conservative Bishop! Anyways, is Saint Francis in the reredo the black statue?? (whats on the other side)

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, it is a bronze statue of St. Francis (our new bishop is an OFM, Conventual. On the other side is a floral arrangement stand. The whole effect is an Easter Garden. This is all temporary and will be gone for Pentecost Sunday (although still present for Ascension Sunday).

ytc said...

Father, you might not know this, but it is very common in the traddie (FSSP, ICRSS) parishes to have homeschooling associations. You might peruse around the internet and contact some of these groups' priests to see how they do it. They seem to be very good at it. Of course, some of these parishes have their own B&M schools, but most do not.

And Ascension Sunday... oh boy...

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I don't know what B&M schools are?

yt said...

Brick and mortar.

Anonymous said...

Brick and Mortar schools


Templar said...

Father, I don't know how such things are done, but might I suggest you look at the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor Michigan. They have revived the traditional Charism of teaching and are experiencing a vocation crisis of a good kind...i.e. they are constantly over flowing their Chapter House. They recently sent 30 Sisters to help teach in Catholic Schools in Arizona. You are right that more needs to be done at home, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to have Sisters teaching in our Catholic Schools again too, provided of course they are good, solid, Orthodox, habited Nuns.

Carol H. said...

I agree, Templar,

The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist are an excellent teaching order. They are active in that they teach, but they have not neglected the contemplative charism and it shows! I have always thought that their beautiful white habits would be a wonderful addition to our church. I know that our youth would benefit immensely if they were present, and I believe their parents would as well!

Anonymous said...

Our family has been a part of a hybrid Catholic home school program for four years. The children are in class two days a week and home for the other three. It is faithful to the Magisterium and uses the Mother of Divine Grace curriculum. They have two locations in Georgia, one opening up in Houston this fall, and another one opening up in Connecticut. My son (age 11) is on fire for the Faith and is flourishing in an environment with like-minded families. Oh, and we teach the Baltimore Catechism :)

God bless,

qwikness said...

Hi, I was wondering if teaching apologetics is ever used in prepping the kids for confirmation. We in the South are surrounded by "Bible believing" Christians and are constantly challenged by them. Learning apologetics is a good way to teach the faith because it comes from a different angle. It tells us what we are supposed to already know and gives us simple ways to defend these beliefs. The Rationale of our beliefs are presented based on Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. Young Catholics just go with the program but when challenged, have their feet knocked out from under them. Apologetics may provide understanding and confidence in their faith.

Andrew Berrigan said...

Along with a brief stint in public school, I attended Catholic school growing up in the 80s and 90s, and while I certainly benefitted from the experience, I discovered as an adult that there were numerous holes (and some outright inaccuracies) in my Catholic education. When it came time to send our own first child to school, we weren't quite sure what to do. I'll admit that I was far more open than my wife to the idea of sending our daughter to a regular school (there were no Catholic schools in the area), but we were both a little worried about it.

When our daughter was about to turn five, we asked her what she wanted for her birthday. She told us that she wanted a picture of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I was stunned, and I told her that of course she could have a picture of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I also warmed up inside, thinking that through the grace of God we must be doing something right in raising our children.

Catholic education, like all education, starts in the home. But what would happen when our daughter started spending more waking time with kids in school? She'd benefit from what her teacher had to say (hopefully), but what of all the things she'd be learning from her classmates? As an attendee of both public and Catholic schools, I remembered well the "lessons" I learned from my peers. Part of me started to fear what might happen to that little girl who wanted nothing more than a picture of the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady for her birthday.

It was around this time that we started meeting home schooling families at our Church. I'll spare you the entire story, but after much prayer and reflection, we began to feel that God was nudging us in the direction of Catholic home schooling our own children. We took the plunge with Kindergarten, and now our eldest is in first grade and our second child is in preschool. It's been a tremendous challenge, but the rewards far outwiegh the hardships. Despite our official role of teachers, my wife and I find ourselves to be students as well, and all of us end up deepening our understanding and appreciation of our wonderful Catholic faith.

It meant the world to my wife and I to read your blog post, Father. To know that you support the efforts of Catholic home schoolers such as ourselves is truly a wind beneath our wings. Thank you so much.

With continued preparation and plenty of grace and wisdom from the Holy Spirit, we look forward to watching our daughter ace the bishop's pop quiz when the time for her confirmation arrives. :)

(I asked my wife to look over this prior to posting, and she informed me that I got my story out of order: apparently, we had already started home schooling and that's what led to our daughter wanting a picture of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for her birthday! The sentiments are all still true, though; I'd just mixed up the order of events--and to rewrite it now would be more of a hassle than adding this disclaimer. :)

Also, in response to qwikness: excellent point! I agree that apologetics is a wonderful way to learn the faith. My wife and I are constantly trying to brush up on apologetics ourselves, but we'll probably stick with the basics (e.g., Baltimore Catechism, lives of the saints, etc.) for our children until they get a little older.

Supertradmum said...

I home schooled and my son is going into the seminary in the Fall. I think there is a connection. When Confirmation came, he was asked some very hard questions, as he had all his prep at home. He did a good job. For me, all religion comes from the home, all. Whether it is intellectual training, or the disciplines of prayers, fasting, abstinence, the knowledge of feast days, saints days, sacred time, all must be part of the daily life of the home.

I had parents who daily reminded us in some way of our Catholicity. My dad would ask us at the breakfast table (three hour fasts, and before that from midnight fasts, so we were hungry after Sunday Mass) the meaning of the sermon! We all had to make a comment on what the priest had said. I did this with my son on the way home in the car, except, we called it "heresy watch", sadly.

At any rate, it is the primary responsibility of each parent to pass on the faith to the children. Kudos to the bishop for reminding all of their duties.

Anonymous said...

@ qwikness - My husband & I taught Confirmation in GA & TN for 7 years. We are converts to Catholicism & definitely incorporated apologetics into our program. We also heavily supplemented as the vast majority of Confirmation curricula are pablum at best. The lack of previous formation was very sad as Father attests to in his own recent experience. I agree that home formation is a significant factor, but one has to also wonder what has gone on for the other 8+ years of PRE as well... Home-schoolers do tend to have the advantage of motivated, conservative families, which is typically why they are homeschooling to begin with. But I have a strong suspicion based our our own Catechist experiences, that if the Bishop were to ask those same questions of many adults who attend Mass these days, the answers he would receive would not be altogether different. -pgal

ytc said...

Supertradmum, is your son going to a traddie seminary?