I got this message from a reader who is the mother of a student in the youth confirmation program that I coordinate at my parish. She gave me permission to post this on Coffee Talk, and so I've changed the student's name to Shaniqua, since there is no student with that name currently in our program. I feel almost certain that as soon as I post this, someone named Shaniqua will sign up for confirmation preparation at Our Lady of the Desert. In any case, enjoy!
Shaniqua and I had a discussion on the way home from church tonight that I would have loved to have had you present for. Unfortunately, she is still practicing to take her driver's exam soon so I doubt you would have been able to concentrate on the topic of discussion while she was behind the wheel (ba-dump-UMP!) so I will just let you in on the 'meat and potatoes' of the discussion. Shaniqua's plate is going to be quite full this coming school year during the fall semester in particular -- she is taking two Advanced Placement classes, playing a competitive sport and has Confirmation classes as well. I told her that I hoped Confirmation would not be taken lightly and when/if she becomes overwhelmed with her studies and sports schedule, her Confirmation classes will be the first on the 'chopping block'. She interjected a few points that have me concerned but not surprised. This is a tough time as a Catholic parent and with her sister having fallen away from her Catholic upbringing (although not her relationship with Christ, thankfully), I fear the same thing may be in the future for Shaniqua and it both frightens and saddens me. I am a worrier and that's just how I roll but I can definitely now see as a parent of adult and nearly-adult children who were raised in only a 50% Catholic-Christian home, that a 100% Catholic-Christian home is best if the children are to have the best chance of continuing in their faith life into adulthood. I wish I had all the answers but sadly, I sound like an idiot most of the time while trying to explain things to my girls about my faith.
Trying to explain to Shaniqua the importance of fostering a relationship with God and making her understand how much more important He is than sports or school work or anything else in her life was uncomfortable, even though I knew it shouldn't have been. I guess maybe because I don't feel like I'm the best example of what a good Catholic parent should be and also because I always have a difficult time saying exactly what I want to say, I don't know. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this and of course, share them with Shaniqua. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to me and my problems/concerns.
Concerned Catholic Mama
Thanks for telling me about your conversation with Shaniqua. Yes, that was brave of you to talk at all while she's learning to drive! ;)
I think it's not out of the ordinary for Shaniqua to be concerned primarily with school, sports, etc. She's a hard-working and talented young woman, and I'm sure she gives her all to everything she does. That, of course, is pleasing to God! And to be honest, confirmation classes are not the most important thing in the world. I know it probably seems strange to hear me saying that, but what I mean is that each of us should have our priorities set in such a way that God is first, family is next, and fulfilling our obligations to our state in life (student, parent, work, etc.) are after that. Sometimes, it really does happen that high school students are so busy with their obligations to school and family that just the timing of the classes themselves doesn't work out so well for them at that particular time in their lives. That's okay. I even know a confirmation coordinator whose own daughter took an extra year to get confirmed because she had a lot going on with sports and school. She did not abandon the faith. She went on to do NET Ministries, just graduated from college, and is doing well in her faith and in life in general.
I guess the question that each of us (Shaniqua included, but you & me, too!) needs to ask ourselves is this: what is the purpose of my life? What is the bigger picture of existence? And if I truly believe that God created me to use the gifts He gave me and to love Him and His people as much as possible in this life, and to live with Him eternally in the next life, then how does that affect my decisions to do or not do certain activities? I read a book once where a man suggested that we write down a mission statement for our lives, and then make a list of every activity we do each day for a week. EVERYTHING. And then after that week, we take an honest look at that list and determine which of those activities help us to meet that goal. And whatever doesn't, even indirectly, we ditch it.
So if our ultimate goal is to live a Godly life here on earth and in eternity, how does this affect our daily lives and choices? I even think of your recent 'technology diet,' and I really admire that. It seems that you saw an area of your life that could use some 'trimming down,' and you made that change. Why did you do it in particular? Perhaps to spend more time with family and friends, perhaps to be less attached to technology in general and more present to God, people, and the world around you. Whatever the case, you had some kind of goal for your life in mind, and when you saw an area of imbalance in your life, you made a change to better meet that goal.
Sure, people could put off confirmation classes because they're 'putting God on the back-burner,' but they also might delay their instruction for legitimate reasons, or even to better serve God in their more present duties in life at that particular time. I think it's a matter of spiritual discernment, to be honest. My hope for Shaniqua, and for everyone really, is that she'll put God first and order her priorities accordingly. And of course, I hope that she stays close to the beautiful gift of our Catholic faith. It is rarely easy and never convenient, but it is always filled with truth and divine grace, which I for one am sorely in need of!
I hope this has been helpful. It's late, so who even knows if it makes sense! ;)
Thanks so much for sharing your concerns, and be assured of my prayers.
Peace and all good,