Chastity in a Box? (with a Glimpse at YOU from Ascension Press)

Continuing with Book Week.  Box #2 raises a question that doesn’t get asked often enough: What part do chastity-education programs play in teaching teens (and grown-ups) about the right use of their bodies?

My thoughts follow, but first you should show know what was in the box:

YOU from Ascension Press.  I reviewed AP’s Theology of the Body for Teens: Middle School Edition some years ago, and liked it immensely.  A first glance at YOU is similarly positive.  It’s a much bigger and deeper program, and from everything I’m seeing among teens in the circles I run in (church-school-sports), YOU looks like a solid answer to a very serious need.

As I flipped through the books the other night, several things caught my eye:

  • The advice for how to teach teens is dead-on.
  • The parent booklet gets right to first things first.  It’s like they know they only have a paragraph to win us parents over.
  • The curriculum, as will the best Theology of the Body presentations, starts with the bigger picture, lays the essential groundwork on the dignity of the human person, and leads from there into a positive message about the goodness and appeal of chastity.
  • YOU is working off ideas that have been tested with teens over and again and found to work.  (Not surprising, given who the authors are.)

It’ll be a while before I get a chance to read the leader’s guide and parent guide (leader’s guide contains the full text of the student book) cover to cover, as well as watch the whole DVD series.  Thus I wanted to flag this series now, because I’ve got a very positive impression at first glance, and if you’re planning programs for your parish you might want to request your own review set rather than waiting on someone else’s opinion.

Where do ready-made chastity programs fit into the big picture?

If you phoned me this afternoon (please don’t) and asked me what I recommended for taking your generic typical-American-parish from zero to full-steam-ahead on teaching teens chastity, here’s what I’d recommend:

1. Start with a good parent-centered introduction to chastity, such as Family Honor’s Leading and Loving program.  There are lots of options for meeting formats, but (using L&L as an example) I strongly recommend investing the time and energy into spreading the program out over six weekly sessions rather than doing a single big-weekend event.  This gives you time for parents to get to know each other, to have time to talk with the leaders in detail, and to begin to form a small group atmosphere.  It lets parish leadership begin to identify the parents who are in the best position to help other parents.  It also gives lots of time for listening, and thus for learning where parents in your parish are coming from and what questions or difficulties they are having.

–> Make sure you’ve got the depth of back-up resources to assist parents with their concerns.  At a minimum: NFP instruction, good pastoral help with thorny marital irregularities, some resources for dealing with pornography, and access to support for parishioners grappling with same-sex attraction (personally or via a friend or family member’s situation) such as Courage. It’s no fair telling people they need to radically change their lives, then wishing them good luck and washing your hands.

2. When parents are ready to start sharing the message of chastity with their teens, do a parent-teen joint program.  There are any number of options, and many of them (Family Honor is an exception) assume parents won’t be present. Don’t go there.  You need the parents totally involved and on board.  Your six hours in front of an eighth grader are nothing compared to the influence of the parents.  Even if the program you select doesn’t call for parental presence, adapt it to make it a parent-teen program.

3. Keep working discipleship on all the parts of the Catholic faith.  Salvation isn’t about sex-ed alone.

Hint: Check out the Jesus is Lord program, which works for college students too.  Just sayin’.

4. Programs like YOU will have the most impact if you roll them out after you have a critical mass of parents who are actively seeking to foster chastity in the home, and a critical mass of parishioners and parish leaders who are disciples.

I’m not saying there is no fruit that comes from grabbing a random teenager who’s fully immersed in the wider culture and subjecting the child to a few weeks of Catholic teaching.  Good things can happen.  But the reality is that an hour of your life in alien country rarely makes you want to join the aliens, if you were heretofore perfectly happy back home in Depravityville.  More likely, you’ll go home thinking you met a bunch of crazy people and thank goodness you’ve escaped.

Making disciples is work.  YOU looks like it’s got loads of potential as a help in that work, which is why I mention it now.  But making disciples is long, slow, constant work.  There are no short cuts.

Related:  Registration for the Theology of the Body Congress (9/23-25/2016) is still open.

YOU by Ascension Press - Catholic Teen Chastity
Image courtesy of Ascension Press.

Culture, Evangelization, and a Free E-Book: Getting Along with Traditionalists

In a conversation on a private forum, the topic of culture and evangelization came up.  The discussion question was whether the concept of “Engaging the Culture” is relevant in a society as diverse as our own.  Can we even say that there exists “a culture” to engage?

Excerpts from my response:

I spent a year of my undergrad work in International Studies sitting in a classroom on another continent with a 100 classmates from around the world, all expats using a second language for their coursework. Did my thesis on a question of “cultural exports” in international trade. Since that time I’ve been living immersed in one of the most diverse and misunderstood American subcultures on this continent (to which I am bi-cultural, or probably more accurately quad-cultural), at a time of tremendous demographic change in the region where I live . . .

Trust me: There is an American Culture, there is a “Western” Culture, and there are myriad national cultures, ethnic cultures, religious cultures, and social-sub-cultures within all the different lumped-up mega-cultures.

Knowing where someone is “coming from,” by which I mean knowing all the forces that form and shape them, is very helpful in being able to connect with them. It doesn’t shortcut the process of listening and learning from the individual, but to the extent that you are fluent in the culture of the person you are evangelizing or discipling, you have way more ability to recognize and address unspoken needs and concerns, and way more ability to understand what the person is trying to say.

Being aware of cultural gulfs — even if you’re only aware that there is a possibility of one, but don’t know where it lies — is a great help in avoiding disastrous misunderstandings.

All that was one train of thought. For a nice book recommendation (not mine) concerning culture and thus indirectly the question of evangelization, see my review of The Culture Map over at New Evanglizers.

Then I concluded with a remark in the other direction, because you can really trip yourself up by leaning too heavily on cultural assumptions:

. . . interestingly, every single inter-personal disaster I have seen in church work over the past decade or so stemmed from watching one person assume all sorts of crazy things about another person based on the fact that the second person came from or identified with this or that ethnic or social sub-culture.

 

Which reminded me there was a book I’ve been meaning to write.  I hear so many times about how difficult is to get along with Traditionalists and other foreign-types.  I’m sure someone else has the Getting Along With People From Other Countries That Speak Spanish segment sufficiently covered, but what about the much more pervasive and feared Radical Traditionalist?  Not everything in a mantilla is a sweet little immigrant grandmother just doing her special immigrant customs, you know.  So I had to write a new book.

I thought it would fit on an index card, but it’s a little bit longer.  Here’s the galley of the first in the series, which is my free gift to you, my loyal readers:

How to Get Along with Traditionalists

Click the title-link to immediately download the PDF, no ads, no shopping cart, no mailing list.  It’s yours for the clicking.

Be sure to the check the last page for more titles in the series, because rad-trads aren’t the only dangerous beasts in parish life.

Enjoy!

File:President and Mrs. Reagan meet Pope John Paul II 1982.jpg
President and Mrs. Reagan meet Pope John Paul II, The Vatican, Rome, 1982. [Public Domain] via Wikimedia. Listening is important, because not every person in a mantilla is the spouse of the President of the United States, either.

Forming Intentional Disciples – Week 1 – My personal relationship with God

01-LawnChairCatechismSquare

Week 1, and you get to pick what you write, so I’m answering this question:

How would you describe your lived relationship with God to this point in your life?

It was strange to me when I read about how so many Catholics do not have a notion of God as a Person (technically: Persons) with whom one can have a relationship.

I was raised barely Catholic — made my first communion, then spent most of my youth popping in at Palm Sunday and Easter for our annual two-week This Time We’re Going to Start Going Back to Church Every Sunday kick.  But I always had a notion of God as someone you talk to, listen to — I wouldn’t have called it “having a relationship”, because I was just a kid.  You don’t use those words when you’re a kid.  But that’s what it was.

–> Even during my ardently agnostic/pantheistic kick during young adulthood, I still considered God *someone*.  I might have claimed He was this Force Blah Blah Blah, but in practice, yes, a Person.  You don’t chat with a Force.

The big thing that pushed me back towards the Church was the alarming discovery that I had somehow gotten so far away from God that I couldn’t feel His presence anymore — I was visiting one of the historic mission churches around San Antonio, and was deeply disturbed to drop into an active parish — sanctuary lamp lit — and feel *nothing*.  It was so dead wrong I knew I was in trouble.

And the rest is details.  I asked God to help me*, and He did.  Here I am.

Find more answers over at CatholicMom.com.  As always, feel free to share your own answers, or a link thereto, in this combox.

*By “ask”, I mean: Desperately pleaded.  Tears.  Lamenting. Wailing? Maybe kinda, yeah.  Not on the San Antonio trip, but a little bit later, riding down 81/77 in southwest VA.  In the privacy of my own vehicle, thank you. I’m not a public-weeper if I can help it.