Till Christ Be Formed in Every Heart



CCE Syndrome

In doing youth ministry over the years I have encountered two identifiable syndromes that have spread to varying degrees within my youth groups.

The first is "Catholic School Syndrome", which is a disease of the intellect that equates a living faith with a passing knowledge of the subject of Theology. God is reduced to a multiple choice answer on a test.

The second disease, one of the heart, is "CCE Syndrome", which affects the ability of public school kids to find any joy or excitement in their once-a-week faith formation program. CCE Syndrome prevents the teenage will from taking delight in the things of Heaven because they are immersed in the worst of the earth. CCE Syndrome is typically contracted through the lack of emphasis placed on a personal, living faith in God, replaced with a moldly monologue of religious instruction concerned with facts about God and Church history.

If the God of the Universe was madly in love with you, wouldn't that affect you somehow? It is a form of apathy, just like Catholic School Syndrome.

Here are some ways to smack it down.


Michael's Miracle Cure-All for CCE Syndrome

First, you can ditch a bunch of the pre-evangelization stuff. Yes, you will still need to remove any obstacles further down the line, but to address the Syndrome, the cure is in the crafting of the evangelization process.

Next, you need to realize that the evangelization process is less about invitation than it is about the BIG PICTURE. Your goal is to get them to see the forest and not get lost in the trees. Evangelizing this group requires broad strokes, using the basic gospel message to tie together into a unified whole all of the little details of Catholic teaching they have been hearing in one hour a week increments for the past 10 years.

There is a lot of "Catholic stuff" in their heads, with "stuff" being defined as amorphous pile of data.

The strategy is to see all the common, little stuff as crucially important to the overall whole, and to establish the relationship between the little stuff and the big stuff. This is what the Church calls the "hierarchy of truth" which simply stated means some truths of the Faith are more foundational than others, but that does not rob the others from being true.

My goal was to give them the gospel in a way that was personally challenging and that tied together any loose information back into the greater whole. The goal was for them to see CCE classes as the means to one ultimate end: the union of man with God in Christ Jesus.

Seeing God as the Father Who loves them was the starting point. From there I talked about what it means to be in love with a person. No one loves a person based on a list of their attributes. You can only love those you encounter. The same is true with God. More so!

If you start with the living relationship of love, of encounter, then every new thing you learn about your beloved becomes another reason to love them more. Rather than accumulated facts, CCE classes reveal the face of the One Who loves us into existence.

Tie the other "stuff" into the relationship and all becomes light. The individual needs to make that decision for his/her self to encounter the living God. If that happens, CCE becomes, mostly, a delight.

The closing appeal of my approach is a call to Eucharistic devotion, where the "two become one flesh" in sacrament, and thus Christ divinizes us. The Mass is the most common expression and experience of our Catholic Faith, so we should always try to revitalize their experience of it.

Once you give them the BIG PICTURE of the Father's love for them, and Mass as their loving response back to Him, you begin to administer the cure to CCE Syndrome.