Our local religious education program for high school students will be starting this weekend, and for the first time in nearly ten years, I will not be a part of it. It seems as though, in general, I have been disentangling myself from various commitments, and yet when I sit down with my wife and we look at our weekly calendars, we’re both still incredibly busy, just with different stuff.
I had a list of excuses prepared for why I would not be returning as an instructor this year, but I was not asked why I didn’t want to return, and I was easily replaced. Had I been asked, I would have explained that I never seemed to achieve any kind of rapport with my students and, while I think I did a pretty darn good job in the classroom, the curriculum is explicitly not instructional (it follows a youth ministry model) and as such, it is not suited to my personality type, and there are other people out there who can do as good a job (better, even) than I can.
That doesn’t exactly mean that I’m no longer a catechist. I still have to instruct my own children. With my oldest entering high school this year, I recently purchased the Didache Series for just that purpose.
There was a time when I was deeply involved in my parish: not only was I a high school catechist, I also served on the Parish Council, facilitated a small faith group, took classes in the Lay Pastoral Ministry Program, and was discerning a vocation to the diaconate. Since then, it feels as though a gulf has grown between me and my parish. I’ve been attending mass elsewhere for liturgical reasons. Last week, I needed to go to mass on Saturday, so I gave my own parish a try for the first time since March. We skipped the Creed and sat through the general intercessions. The prayer over the gifts was flubbed and there was a bit of ad-libbing in the Eucharistic Prayer. We were told to hold hands during the Lord’s Prayer. I might be ready to try my parish again after another three months away.
None of this disentanglement has been the result of a conscious effort. It’s just happened. I remain convinced of the need for faith to be actualized through works of apostolate. And so, I remain an officer in my Knights of Columbus council (albeit a minor officer, after two years as Grand Knight and six years as a Trustee) and a volunteer with our local ConQuest club.
At first, I thought that maybe God was clearing out my schedule to make use of me for something else. As I mentioned, though, my wife and I still find that our schedules are full. As our family grows, it is becoming necessary for us to direct more of our attention inward, to their needs. It makes little sense for me to spend hours catechizing other people’s kids while neglecting the religious education of my own. In addition, my wife’s work schedule will take her out of the home several times during the week, and while our older kids are able to babysit occasionally, we believe that an adult presence is important. It’s all too easy to forget that a parent’s first apostolate should be the family.
For several years, it was popular to ask, “What would Jesus do?” The letters “WWJD?” could be seen everywhere, it seemed. I don’t see it much anymore. As a husband and father, I would occasionally turn that into “What would Joseph do?” Almost invariably, I would conclude that Joseph would never allow himself to become entangled in anything that would get in the way of his primary vocation. It’s a lesson that I’m still trying to learn.