Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity". Pope Francis/Pope Benedict

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Amish Gone Wild

I recently watched a PBS documentary on the Amish. These are Anabaptists, a subgroup of the Mennonites. One of the things that impressed me was the fact that almost 90% of Amish children choose to be baptized into the church once they come of age. You might think that that this is because of the tight rein kept on them from a young age. This may well be true but the aspiring control freaks among you may be shocked to learn of the rumspringa or running around. This is a period of time in an adolescent's life beginning about age 16 and ending with baptism and acceptance into the church. Young Amish may choose to dress and act like their contemporaries in the outside world. They may even drink, smoke or use recreational drugs. None of these behaviors is considered a bar to eventual baptism and church membership.

The familiar pattern amongst Catholics is for adolescents to drift away from the Church soon after confirmation. I would not be a bit surprised if church attendance and parish involvement of Catholic adolescents was quite the opposite of that of the Amish. Much of this information is apocryphal but we all know of families whose grown children have drifted away from the Church or who have descended into outright rebellion. I think we need to question why this is so.

On one hand some have chosen to go easy on children in hopes that they will remain in the faith of their parents. Don't make too many demands and maybe they won't run off. Other parents have chosen a more strict approach, even going so far as home schooling to avoid the corrupting influence of our schools. For those who cannot home school, faith based private schools are available. None of these approaches seems to have had the near 90% return rate of the Amish communities. Why?


Barona said...

The answer to the question may be that the Amish actually have a community life. Catholics do not.

Barona said...

Interesting. This would seem to confirm that social and community life is still very strong during rumspringa. During the formative years of most young Catholics, this cannot be said; alas, to the contrary.

Lawrence and Susan Fox said...

We home-schooled our son. After his Confirmation at age 14, he decided he wanted to go to daily Mass on his own. He always was dedicated to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When he was two, we told him we were going to tell our sins to Jesus, and he would cry and beg us to let him tell his sins to Jesus. We told him he had to wait until he was 7. He did, but he insisted we photograph him waiting in the confession line. We have the photos.This is a boy who hates to be photographed. He is wearing a big grin. After his first confession, he has never stopped going to weekly confession. In fact, my husband and I might take a weekend off once in a while, but not our 25-year-old son! I don't know why he is like this. I really don't think we did anything to bring this about. He is not a saint by any means, and we practically regard him as a lapsed Catholic because he no longer does the daily Liturgy of the Hours and rarely attends daily Mass, but he still goes to weekly confession. He went Rumsprina for three and a half years at Ave Maria University in Florida when he was 18, but he picked up no bad habits. All he does is drink rum once in a blue moon. He also left us to go to Alabama for one year for some graduate work. That's where he taught himself to cook and drink rum. He is a deeply Catholic man. I really can't say why he retained his faith. But his primary community is his parents, and some friends online. He is starting to volunteer at Church and likes working with small children. He told me they would be good fried in butter. So maybe the Lord is opening up something in his life. When we were homeschooling him, we had a strong Catholic community of home-schoolers around us. And we shared many educational opportunities like Latin class (hire a teacher for all the kids) and a teenage Catholic Discussion Group led by a very holy married man. Poor kid he spent a lot of hours in the Legion of Mary Comitium and other meetings. Plus he himself chose to join the Junior Legion on the Birthday of Mary when he was only six. And he stayed in the group until we moved to Arizona when he was 14. He is very shy, and so we had a hard time convincing the bishop he wanted to be confirmed at the age of 14. Finally, the bishop met with him in person, and asked him some questions. His comment to James afterwards was "You know your faith better than most adult Catholics." God bless you. Susan Fox