Saturday morning started bright and early with a CUF seminar at St. Patrick's Catholic Church. The entire confirmation class from another parish and the RCIA class from St. Patrick's were required to attend the seminar which would be unheard of in most places. Bishop Sheridan celebrated Mass and then gave a talk on reconciliation. The talk was very good, laying out the theology behind the sacrament as well as a brief look at its history before getting into the specifics of the sacrament itself. He explained the three different "rites" of reconciliation - individual confession, penance service with individual confession and general absolution. He emphasized that the third form is not done in our diocese and should never be done unless the sky is falling. He also joked about "this being one of those times he wished he was an evangelical" as he tried to find a Bible passage during his talk. The Q&A session afterwards had a few pointed moments where the bishop bluntly stated that using artificial contraception is a mortal sin and that priests who refuse to tell people that who ask are like cancer doctors who won't tell the patient he has cancer for fear that the patient won't come back. He also was asked about the immorality of divorce and said that objectively speaking, divorce is always a grave sin but it is up to the individuals involved to see how or if they are the one responsible for the divorce. I know that blunt statements like that will make some people mad, but since very few people know or are ever told these things, it was good to hear it said.
The second talk in the morning was an apologetics talk on the communion of saints by a member of the St. Francis Apologetics Club. The confirmation class attended this talk and got a good overview of the biblical basis for saints and intercessory prayer. Hopefully the attendees will remember what they heard next time their evangelical friends start asking questions.
This morning our assistant pastor gave a homily on the dignity of the unborn and used Fr. Pavone's new book Ending Abortion, Not Just Fighting It to emphasize the point that babies are babies from conception and we should stop saying things like "I'm expecting a baby." and should choose names for the baby before the baby is born. He also recommends commemorating the conception date in some way. We already give our kids names before they are born but since we don't find out what sex they are before birth, we name them after flowers that have something to do with the season or place we are living at the time. Two of our children, Bluebonnet and Violet, never got real names but we ask them to pray for us every night. My parents named all of us before we were born too. I was called Schnitzel because my parents had been stationed in Germany and I somehow convinced them to name my youngest brother "Tribble" because I was really into Star Trek.
The religious education packet this morning contained a letter from the staff reminding the parents that the religious education teachers were there to HELP parents educate their children, not to do it for them. Next week they are going to give out eight one-hour lessons to be done at home in preparation for First Confession and the kids have to return them completed or they get to wait until next year. The letter also reminded the parents that the staff thought it was their duty to make sure that the parents had some solid instruction as well and so some more articles from the Association for Catechetical Ministry's RCIA program were included. These articles were on the teaching authority of the Church and the apostolic mission of the Church with a focus on the laity. If your parish is looking for a replacement RCIA program or doesn't really have a set program, I really recommend this series. It is orthodox and the participant's book includes the rights to perpetual reproduction within the parish. Talk about saving money!
All in all, it was a great weekend full of solid Catholic activities.