DARE TO ASK: Catholics in need of education
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why don't Catholics understand why they do and say all the rituals they do
Robin, Bastrop, Texas
Most likely the Catholics you've talked to didn't pay attention in Catechism
class (yes, we have slackers, too, just like every other religion). Or they only
went to church to please their parents, and stopped once puberty hit - thereby
becoming part of the infamous "lapsed Catholics." I rarely go to church.
However, I actually listened in class, and therefore know why we do the things
Sabie, 23, female, Greenville, S.C.
I have gone to Catholic school almost my whole life, and they never really
get into the good stuff. I just have to learn that on my own. I suppose they do
not teach it because they think it's over our heads.
George, 15, Catholic, Jacksonville
Catholic teachers never really have explained the rituals' meaning to us.
Fortunately, the Mass is fairly self-explanatory, and people only need to sit
through a few services to understand what's going on. The most important ritual
is the Eucharist (bread and wine), which comes directly from the gospels. The
confession ritual is a way to beg forgiveness and purify the heart. Most of the
rest have come out of 2,000-odd years of history and serve to reinforce the
community bonds so important to the Church.
Ange, 20, Catholic female, Australia
Bob Perron's 3-year-old daughter knew just what to do with her pew's kneeler
during Mass: ride on that padded leather sucker like it was the pony she never
But she also taught Perron, a self-described "Catholic edu-tainer" who speaks
to more than 60,000 youths a year nationwide about Catholicism, a valuable
lesson about rituals.
During one service, a Eucharistic minister was placing unused consecrated
hosts into a gold box near the altar, prompting Perron to tell his daughter,
"Look, they're getting ready to put Jesus in the tabernacle."
She yelled: "They're going to put Jesus in a box? Don't worry Jesus, I'll get
you out of there!"
The point, said Perron, whose Iowa-based "Stooge 4 Christ" Ministries uses
humor as a teaching tool, wasn't that his daughter was being disrespectful, but
that she had a relationship with Christ and believed he was real - a friend.
"We Catholics can sometimes miss the miracle . . . that Jesus is really
present during the Eucharist. My daughter taught me the importance of having a
And while not all Catholics are up to speed on all rituals, Perron says
surveys and his own work show that more and more Catholic youths yearn to
discover these practices' origins and importance.
"Sometimes from the outside these rituals can kind of look funny, but . . .
they express a deep sense of faith that has been passed from one generation to
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers, or mail to
Phillip Milano, c/o The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL
32231. Include contact information.