Now class… open up your brains to page 357…

For a really long time now, formal religion has been about cramming intellectual knowledge of God into our heads… especially in Catholic religion.

(Sorry if that offends any of you theology teachers or catechists… but it’s true.)

Anymore we hear…

If they only understood the Mass…
If they truly believed in the Real Presence…
If they would just read the Catechism…
If they would pray the Rosary…

… then they would believe.

These are all great… don’t get me wrong.
These are all excellent practices that lead to deeper faith.

Counted or Not-Counted

But our newer generations are showing us that there is a different way to come to God.  There must be… because people aren’t in Catholic Church like they used to be.  It’s a rare parish where Sunday attendance is growing… or even holding steady.

(We know this is fact because we do Mass counts.  This past weekend was one of them.  You were counted… or not counted… as the case may be.)

Downward Pressure

There are tons of factors exerting force on these downward-spiraling statistics which are very complex.

There is no single or even double set of factors on which to place blame.

Although one group will claim relativism… another will cite consumerism… and yet another will criticize liberalism.  (All -ism’s… take your pick.)

Shift:  Head => Heart

Just maybe the answer is right in front of our noses.  Literally.

We need to shift from Religion-in-the-Head to Religion-in-the-Heart.

And I can hear the rebuffs now:  Religion has been / is now / always will be a matter of the heart!  We’ve been teaching that all along!  Jesus is in your heart!

Yea… but.

Take this Sunday’s Gospel:

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested him by asking,

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 

He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:34-40

Do a Social Experiment

Ask some people this question:  Do you believe in God?

Most likely you’ll get an overwhelming-nearly-100% response Yes.  (95% of the world believes in God.)

Ask a second question:  Does your lifestyle show that you believe in God?

Uhh… agh… oooo… hem… haw… That’s none of your business!
(Irritation and perhaps anger coming from the majority of respondents.)

It’s all right there in the Bible.  Jesus condemns Pharisees for Religion-in-the-Head saying that in order to follow him, we must be people who live Religion-in-the-Heart.  We have to live as disciples everyday in the work of our hands serving our neighbors.  Religion-in-the-Head is one-dimensional faith.

That’s the rub.

We can tell it’s been religion-in-the-head because of the lifestyles.  Much easier to keep God in the head than live in God through the heart.  Even for those who are all about leading-people-to-Christ.

If they just understood that Jesus died for us…

Agreed.

But how we teach the heart… ( fill in the blank here ).

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About Elaine Menardi

Heading off on a new adventure! I solve problems and make ideas happen.

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