The extent of my religious education: ‘Love God, draw a rainbow’

Oakland Bishop Michael Barber: "Students should be able to articulate the answers to three questions when they leave your school: 'Why do I believe in God?' 'Why do I believe in Jesus Christ?' 'Why do I believe in the Catholic Church?'"

Bishop Michael Barber

The following is by Most Rev. Michael C. Barber, SJ:

As we begin the new school year, I’d like to recognize the principals and presidents of our Catholic elementary and secondary schools. Catholic educators have a unique role in one of the primary missions of the Church: To form missionary disciples. You will be a success if your students leave your school — and your classroom — being a friend and a disciple of Jesus Christ.

How do we do that?

There are many ways, but I’d like to emphasize two: 1. Teach the Catholic Faith with seriousness and intellectual rigor. 2. Provide opportunities for students to experience the love and friendship of Jesus.

I once read an Op-Ed piece in The Tablet, one of Britain’s leading Catholic journals, written by a young woman who had just completed 12 years of Catholic school education and was now a freshman at Oxford University. She was really upset that, although she had received an outstanding education in the secular subjects of science, math, history, languages, etc., her religious education was trite and absolutely boring.

She was angry because she could not answer the basic questions about Catholicism put to her by her well-educated classmates. As she wrote, “The extent of my religious education was ‘Love God, draw a rainbow.'”

We need to give our students credit for their intelligence in the religion class as well as science and the liberal arts. Our theology courses need content. Students need to be presented with the in-depth teachings of Jesus and the Church, and the reasons why we believe.

Students should be able to articulate the answers to three questions when they leave your school: “Why do I believe in God?” “Why do I believe in Jesus Christ?” “Why do I believe in the Catholic Church?”

If you as educators (and parents) have difficulty answering these questions yourselves, may I recommend a superb book: “Fundamentals of the Faith. Essays in Christian Apologetics,” by Peter Kreeft. I’ve given more copies of this book away than any other in my years as a priest. Kreeft teaches philosophy at Boston College, and the book is a summation of his responses to all the inquiries — and objections — college students bring up about the Catholic Faith.

The second area we need to emphasize is experience. To know about Jesus is one thing. To know Jesus is another.

I ask educators in our Catholic schools to use all the means our Catholic religion provides to lead students to Christ:

Reverent and prayerful Masses, and worthy reception of Holy Communion. Days of Recollection and Retreats. Guided examination of conscience and making a good confession. Stations of the Cross and Benediction in Lent. Processions in honor of Our Lady — especially for Our Lady of Guadalupe. Adoration of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Practicing the daily Examen, (using resources found in the Sacred Story Institute), and other forms of prayer. Practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Serving the poor and needy, the lonely and the elderly. Remind students that when they help in a soup kitchen or St. Vincent de Paul food pantry, they are feeding Christ in the person of the poor. And there are many more.

[Note: These were Bishop Barber’s remarks to a meeting of presidents and principals of Diocese of Oakland Catholic schools on Aug. 7.]

Full story at Catholic Voice Oakland.



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  1. One huge problem is that not merely a few religion teachers and other teachers and administrators in Catholic schools teach content and inculcate opinions in students that are opposed to Catholic faith. Why would the Church hire enemies of the faith to teach in her schools? The rainbow has replaced the crucifix in more ways than one in Catholic schools.

    • Having taught in Catholic schools for a number of years, I found principals and many teachers selectively choose what the Church teaches and they ostracize all who don’t agree with them. I was forced out of teaching by a vindictive and a CINO principal, whom the education department and bishop did nothing about.

      • There is a long standing adage in the Oakland Diocese that if you want your child to lose their faith, just send them to a Catholic school.

      • I had a similar experience in the Diocese of San Jose. I agree with your and Covfefe’s assessment of the bad state of Catholic education and the root causes in the bishops. Most Catholic schools do not want faithful Catholics teaching in them (they have ways of screening them out as applicants or forcing them out if they get hired), and many bishops don’t want to hear about the lack of Catholic identity in their schools. A gay married donor of $10,000 will get an appreciative appointment with the bishop but a faithful Catholic teacher who calls attention to problems in Catholic schools will not get his phone calls returned nor letters answered.

    • Covfefe,
      I have to disagree a bit. I attended CCD back in the 70s, and my instruction was also very poor. However, based on that experience and my experience as a catechist, I’ve found that most catechists are volunteers who simply don’t know their faith well or who don’t have the skills to properly communicate it. Also, among many catechists, I’ve found a lack of authentic care for souls. It occurs in two ways:

      1) The catechist (both conservative and liberal) think their job is partly to advance a political agenda rather than to preach Christ.

      2) The catechist’s motivation for teaching partially involves feeding their pride which degrades the quality of instruction.

  2. Proof, again and again, that the Church is full of eggheads with long lists of degrees but who have no love for Christ and His Truth. If Jesus, Himself, were to apply for a catechist position in most dioceses He would be turned down for lack of education and degrees.
    Give me a holy man in the ways of God over a college education any day!

  3. Michael McDermott says:

    It is SSAD indeed to learn just how many ‘teachers’ who despise the Wise Moral Teachings of the Catholic Church – hold sway in catholic ‘small c’ schools.

    Supporting the Magisterium is a good way to be shown the door – as opposed to parroting the Demi-Krat agenda of CHINO Nancy Pelosi and gang. Actually, to make the type ‘hitler’ comparison these leftist gender feminists are so fond of, it could be said that keeping Pelosi in Power is a good thing, as like hitler (who the Allies decided against trying to assassinate) she is doing more damage to their cause than advancement of it

    Still – Looking at farces of academentia like Santa Clara U – the best way to drive young people out of the Church, is to send them to a ‘catholic’…

  4. Catherine says:

    Dear Bishop Michael Barber, Here is a truth! The faithful have listened for many years to very good priests who lament about the poor formation they received in the seminary. These priests admit that they were never taught to teach or to guard the fullness of truth of our Catholic Faith. While the caption of this article “Love God, draw a rainbow” rings true, the same sentiments are often publicly displayed by those in authority who do have the ability to teach students by example. Bishop Barber, What did you teach Governor Jerry Brown and the children of the watching faithful when you publicly accepted a donation from Governor Brown for Catholic schools? continued…..

    • Catherine says:


      Bishop Michael Barber, While accepting the donation publicly, you then, also had a public duty to charitably and properly teach, but you never publicly clarified that it was against Church teaching for Governor Brown to supportively legislate the very laws which have caused the death of thousands of unborn children who will never be given the opportunity to attend a good Catholic school. Bishop Barber, You could have accepted this donation private with the intentions of graces privately working on the Governor’s soul while improving the broken school system. Perhaps you even spoke with the Governor privately about the grave situation of his soul. continued….

      • Catherine says:


        Bishop Michael Barber, The problem lies with your public acceptance of this donation, without or minus the public clarification, regarding the Governors very public legislative actions. Bishop Michael Barber, You publicly taught the watching school children and the watching faithful that it is alright to compromise the fullness of truth whenever a donation is to be garnered. How can our Catholic schools ever improve if our bishops choose the happy rainbow, (known as false charity and a donation $$), over the courageous leadership that is required to truly teach the Catholic knowledge that helps souls to attain their Eternal Salvation?

  5. I didn’t send my kids to Catholic schools because of the cost/benefit. How can a Catholic school not teach the faith? But then I can think of several articles on CCD that talked about that very issue. Is it possible that the way they teach the faith today, as well as what they teach, is different than the way we older folks learned it. Up through eighth grade I pretty much memorized the Baltimore, and forced into the confessional weekly to report on the “near occasion of sin” (how bad could I be in fourth grade?). But, it was years later that I really learned the faith as opposed to the rules. Maybe these days they teach them to be Catholic rather than learn the rules? Just wondering?

    • Anonymous says:

      My experience was that it depends on the school and the teacher.
      I complained a lot. But when we found a good teacher we made a point to thank them and tell them how important they were and offer any kind of assistance that we could.

    • Bob One, based on my experience teaching in Catholic high schools, it is outright, unabashed leftist indoctrination that occurs in religion classes and other subjects. Catholic doctrine is treated as merely an expression of leftist ideals and a means to achieving leftist aims. Salvation, sin, repentance, redemption, revelation, sacraments, grace are eschewed in favor of “social justice”. Everything is now “social justice”. Catholicism is treated as a set of myths that can be used to promote left-wing ideas. When doctrine contradicts left-wing aims, the kids are TOLD that the Church will change (e.g., gay marriage). Any orthodox teacher will be ostracized and run out.

    • Bob One,
      Like you, I also would not send my son to your typical Catholic school because such schools endanger the faith and souls of a great many youth. However, there are some Catholic schools that are excellent. My wife and I are currently sending our son to one. In this day and age, this money spent is clearly worth it. 🙂

  6. St. Christopher says:

    (Part Deux) ” . . . course, that is what happens to almost all Catholics today, as their priests and bishops ignore the True Faith, if they even know it, and preach only “the rainbow” of sexual and social justice theory and practice.

    With respect, Excellency, it is time to fully teach faithful Catholicism, the True, and only, Faith. Just think what you could do, Bishop Barber, if you threw off those no-nothing catechists that you likely rely on and begin to truly teach the Catholic Faith, including its Traditional sacraments, like the TLM, for example.

  7. I’ve heard the complaints more than a few times from people who were children in the 40’s and 50’s that they were instructed to memorize the Baltimore Catechism and go through the motions of receiving the Sacraments without any real understanding of the Faith.

    This is truly sad, and shows that the Faith was being undermined for decades prior to the explosion of immorality and attacks made on Tradition that came in the 60’s and onward to this day. In fact this is why the children of the 60’s weren’t taught to love and serve God because their parents couldn’t teach what they didn’t know.

    I’m not sure why we think that academic institutions are the place to teach our children about God. The first and primary teachers of…

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