Theology on Tap launches season with talk on faith
By Anne-Marie Hughes
SASKATOON — Theology on Tap began the season with a provocative question posed by presenter Blake Sittler: “God is alive, but is religion on life support?”
Some 40 participants filled the upstairs section of Lydia’s Pub on Broadway Avenue in Saskatoon Sept. 17 to take part in discussions about faith and the relevance of religion.
In his presentation, Sittler, co-director of Pastoral Services for the Saskatoon diocese, drew on his professional life as well as his 17-year marriage and the experience of raising three children in the Catholic faith.
“How to pass the faith on to our kids is something Brooke and I have wrestled with a lot,” said Sittler.
While contrasting the family experience he grew up with (where if kids weren’t behaving parents would give a pinch or whack behind the head) with today’s approach of parents trying to give children a positive experience of going to church, Sittler said that some things have not changed.
After he reminded his daughter that we go to church for just one hour on Sundays to thank God for all we have, and to experience the love of God in our lives, she responded with a sentiment familiar in this day and age: “Oh no Dad, don’t get me wrong. I love God, I just hate going to church.”
Sittler said that in discussions in his professional life, he has not found many who speak of the mass and the liturgy as what built their faith. “They would say that it was a discipline and there was community there, that they had moments of inspiration, but a shift is definitely happening that we need to deal with,” said Sittler.
“The pope has seen this and called for the Year of Faith as a response to what he sees as a crisis of faith. He goes to events like World Youth Day and sees the youth excited, laughing, cheering, and then goes to parishes and dioceses and he talks with members who are older, they are tired, and he hears this from bishops during their reports where they talk of fewer people. He sees it as a crisis. The salt has become bland, the lamp is under the bushel basket.”
Bringing the talk closer to home, Sittler asked participants to identify their own “signs of the times” in terms of the level of faith in Canada and our own communities. Participants noted the lower number of priests and the rise of lay participation, fewer churches but larger ones, and observed that the new regular for church participation is two or three times a month and not every Sunday.
In a discussion about why there has been a drop in practice, participants talked about how few Catholics go to confession regularly anymore, a lack of instruction and catechesis, and also a lack of trust caused by the abuse scandals.
Sitter expanded on the effects of the scandals, describing his experience of talking to Catholics from Ireland who still believe in God but have come to see the church as corrupt.
Sittler posed another point for discussion: the effect that credit cards and the use of credit has on our culture and the practice of faith. “Without credit cards you don’t have the excess ability to do whatever you want. When you can get whatever you want before you can really afford it there is much less sense of struggle. We are a very anaesthetized society. Wealth doesn’t kill faith but it can numb the impact. You look at places where faith is dying and it is wealthy societies and you look where the church is growing and it is Africa and Latin America, where there is struggle and they need hope and vision,” he said.
“Another factor that may be a little off in left field is the environmental crisis. There is a huge sense of doubt and fear for kids that has them asking: ‘Where is God in all of this?’ ” explained Sittler. “We have a generation that has all these fears and the wealth to anaesthetize them. Kids can be busy every moment of the day between electronics and schedules of activities. They are not getting any quiet time.”
Sittler concluded by stressing the importance of reaching out to everyone on their faith journey. “There are people who are a little bit cautious, they have been burned or maybe they are a little anaesthetized. They have faith though,” he said. “It’s not our job to judge them. It’s our job to give them some steps, some things to do to nurture their faith.”