Nathan is a 49-year-old “cradle Catholic” who received his grammar through high school education from the good sisters, brothers and priests. Growing up, he was a reliable altar server, a responsible crossing guard and an all-around, well-disciplined child, teenager and young adult. His teachers never had to warn him about coming late to class. His friends never had wonder if he would skip out on their parties. His parents never had to worry if he would miss a weekend curfew, nor did they have to worry about anything else in his lifestyle back then. But they worry about him now.
One of young Nate's toughest, yet surprisingly gratifying, chores in life was sacrificing for the 40 days before Easter. From the age of reason forward, he gave up candy for the duration of Lent, all of Lent, Sundays included.
Today he never speaks about when or why he drifted away from Mass and the sacraments. As a mature adult he looks back upon his formative years with a somber shrug as if to say, “That was then, this is now.” According to the recent list of what used to be called “fallen away” Catholics, Nate has taken his place among the Nones and Dones and Shuns who comprise the fastest growing group of “spiritual but not religious” people being surveyed by faith-based statisticians.
The programs constructed by the New Evangelization don't seem to be touching folks like Nate, for some reason. Are they too evangelical, too emotional or too focused on scriptural trust arguments, which fade by comparison with the rational strides being made by the scientific community? Are the claims by the Church that there is no dichotomy between faith and technology falling on deaf ears?
One thing is certain, selfishness is not the culprit here. Nate is as generous as ever. He has simply transferred his donation envelope from the church's collection plates to the children's research hospitals. And yet, there seems to be a thread of mystery that lingers in his heart. He still gives up candy every Lent. We might happily ask why? His unhappy parents reply, why not? They watch, they wait and they pray for a family resurrection, hoping for the day when the Bible's prodigal son will be their own parable.
For Holy Homework: Let's ask ourselves what are we giving up for Lent, or what sacrifice are we making, and why?
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