Friday, September 17, 2010

The Dilemma of a Catechist: If Football was Taught Like Theology

If Athletics were taught in the same manner as most of the Theological Sciences (on nearly all levels of education), there would be few, if any, professional athletes.

For instance, if we taught students how to play football like many catechists teach theology, like an academic discipline, the process might look like the following:
First, after signing up at a school to take classes on football related topics, the teacher would begin teaching the student about the history and origin of football. Eventually the teacher would give lessons on the rules of football and how the rules have changed through history. The teacher would show pictures of people playing football during the lectures. Key figures and moments in football history would be emphasized, which the student would have to know for the test. Later, each position would be studied and the student would have to know how to differentiate between a fullback, halfback, quarterback, tailback and such, and he would also have to know the strengths and weaknesses of those positions. Naturally, key figures would be mentioned for each position studids: Joe Montana, Bart Star, Mortan Anderson, Jerry Rice. In due time, perhaps nearing the ¾ mark of the academic year, the class would cover coaching and different philosophies of coaching: Vince Lombardi v. Lou Holtz, Joe Perterno v. Mike Ditka. Finally, with one week of class remaining, the teacher will give the lesson on “How to Become a Professional Athlete.”
After a year's worth of studying football, the teacher would then take the student to a football stadium on a field trip to see the athletic field and the equipment used to play the sport and maybe even meet a person who plays football, providing the student passed with sufficient scores on all examinations.
The point: most people who catechize students in the theological sciences teach only the academic side and only go to the practical side very rarely. Why? Because most theology teachers and catechists operate, though foolishly (myself included), under the assumption that the students have already been practicing and doing theology on a very basic level in the home while being led by their parents. Just like the high school coach who assumes that those kids trying out for the team have been taught the basics of the sport from someone (often the father); moreover, it is likely the case that the father taught his son to throw (or roll) a ball before the child could even walk.

But too many parents neglect their children's spiritual formation, even on the most basic level, for a number of reasons. One of those reasons being that parents don't know where to start. Here are two suggestions, teach your child the Our Father (the Lord's Prayer) and teach him or her to pray it with as much sincerity as can be mustered multiple times during the day. The second, read the bible to your kids (and when they get older have them read it to the family). A student having a basic knowledge of the major bible stories puts the student leaps and bound beyond other students in his or her theology and English classes.

Parents and catechists have asked me and wondered why the youth of today are not interested in the spiritual life. Perhaps the reason for disinterested youth is because the youth of today are being taught backwards. Students are entering into a conversation without having any knowledge of the language being spoken. If the catechist teaches the students the practical side of theology, and tries to fill in the gaps, then the academic portion is limited. If the catechist teaches the academic portion then the practical portion, which the students should already have, is limited.

This is the dilemma of the catechist.
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