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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Path to the Priesthood: Keeping it real

Here at St. Martin of Tours Parish in Bethpage, NY, where I’m stationed, we have a very active religious education program. Classes are held on Sunday mornings, and in the evenings on Mondays and Tuesdays. That’s close to 1,100 students in grades 1 through 7! I teach the sixth graders.

I attended religious ed myself, and don’t remember much — except I felt sorry for my 8th grade teacher who tried to get us to talk and reflect. I was one of the few who did respond, but only for awhile because no one else was doing it.

I wonder about these students today — do they eat dinner or are they rushed to religious ed class? They begin their day around 7 a.m., school begins around 8, by the time they get to religious ed at 4:30 or 6 o’clock at night, they’ve had a long day!

Many of them have activities after class like cheerleading and other sports. Many of them come to religious ed from other activities. When do they do homework? What about the parents? Have they lost jobs? Are they stressed out by having to juggle the schedules of multiple children?  As a former stepfather, I can relate to the stresses of life and family — they can be daunting. I hope they find peace.

But my students look forward to class because I let them talk. They’re also interested in what I have to say, even if they can be loud and appear not to be paying attention.

One class, I asked them if they thought being there was a waste of time. Most of them said yes. They said they’d rather be with friends. They accepted homework as a necessary evil. That was the gist of the conversation.

I then asked them if they thought religion was a waste of time. There was some quiet, and they didn’t answer. I brought up the John Lennon song, “Imagine,” where he mentions a world without religion. That got their attention and they began to open up. They said they believed in God, but they didn’t think religion was necessary for success or for living life.

I asked them what they saw as some the problems of religion. Some of the responses: It doesn’t help me do my homework and I don’t always get A’s. I don’t feel any different when I go to church. Religion isn’t fun.

I mentioned some more reasons why religion could have problems. Sometimes we approach religion as magic — I say a command and expect something to happen. The students agreed. I explained that our religion, our faith, isn’t magic.  It’s about God being with us regardless of what we do.

That’s the story of the Bible — how people experienced God in their lives. Some of the Biblical stories don’t make sense to us because we live in different times and see the world differently, but that’s why it’s important to read them and study them so we can make sense of the Bible. And learn to see the ways we experience God in our lives today.

We spent the rest of the class talking about this same subject, and the students left with some things to think about. Keep them in your prayers…

Deacon Jim

Deacon Jim McCabe is a Redemptorist preparing for ordination this summer. He is stationed at St. Martin of Tours Parish in Bethpage, NY. He will be writing a monthly blog about his ministry experiences.