I shared this observation with my parents and RE teachers recently and it was very well received. I then passed this same observation on to some of my religious education friends and they loved it. So, I am sharing it here for the sake of everyone else.
What do these numbers have to do with each other?
40, 35, 40, 10, 2, 1.67, 5, 168, 56, 10.5, 10, 7.5, 2221-2226
(First you don't have to worry about the Island releasing a EM pulse if you get it wrong. Just give it a thought.)
The answer is ... they relate to everything folks do in the course of a week.
168 = Total Number of Hours in the Week
40 = Hours at Work
35 = Hours at School (that's for the kids)
40 = Hours of "Screen Time" (that's time in front of tv, internet, IPod; call it entertainment time.)
10 = hours at afterschool activities
1.67 = hours of homework on avg. for K-2
5 = hours of homework on avg. for 3-5
7.5 = hours of homework on avg. for Middle School
10 = hours of homework on avg. for High School
10.5 = hours for meals
56 = hours of sleep
There's only one number I have left off, that pesky "2." Whatever could that "2" stand for?
On average, most people spend only 2 hours on public religious practice: 1 hour for religious ed. for the kids and 1 hour for Sunday service. This means that 1.19% of the week goes to the goods of God and half as much for the average adult. Given my experience with encouraging adults to learn more about their faith, you can safely assume that most Catholics haven't done much in the way of continuing formation.
This leads to a follow up question: who is responsible for making sure that one's child knows the Catholic Faith? If you think it's the pastor's job, you better think again. The pastor's job is to make sure that adequate formation programs are offered and that his homilies are bursting with good content. But one or two hours a week cannot make up for the vast stretches of time spent in other environments. Nope, the primary educators of children in the Catholic Faith are their parents.
Don't believe me? Try the Catechism on for size. Paragraphs 2221-2226 cover the subject. (You see, this is like Lost. You thought I had forgotten about that but here it is right back in the plot.)
2221 The fecundity of conjugal love cannot be reduced solely to the procreation of children, but must extend to their moral education and their spiritual formation. "The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute." The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable.
2222 Parents must regard their children as children of God and respect them as human persons. Showing themselves obedient to the will of the Father in heaven, they educate their children to fulfill God's law.
2223 Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. the home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery - the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the "material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones." Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them:
He who loves his son will not spare the rod.... He who disciplines his son will profit by him. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
2224 The home is the natural environment for initiating a human being into solidarity and communal responsibilities. Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies.
2225 Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the "first heralds" for their children. They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church. A wholesome family life can foster interior dispositions that are a genuine preparation for a living faith and remain a support for it throughout one's life.
2226 Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child's earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God. The parish is the Eucharistic community and the heart of the liturgical life of Christian families; it is a privileged place for the catechesis of children and parents.
Now, did some of you get a knot in your stomach? Let me guess: you thought to yourself, "Well, I don't know the Catholic Faith all that well. How am I suppose to pass it on to my kids?" Believe me, I have sympathy. Why do you think that I write articles, offer classes, get on radio shows, and am writing a book? (Look for it in January.) As the Catechism points out in that last paragraph, the parental component sets the stage for everything else. The parish is the privileged place where this can happen, but clearly it is not the only place that it can happen. For effective education and formation to happen in a parish, it must begin at home. If you are a parent and you need some suggestions for where to start, leave a request in the combox. I'll add books and suggested reading. Then go and bug your local DRE (director of religious education). Or better go bug your pastor and encourage him to offer more stuff for adults. Here at the parish and national shrine we offer a wide assortment of formation opportunities that are generally not well responded to. To be fair, though, I want everyone there so take that last sentence with a grain of salt.
All of this was brought on by a witness to the Faith I encountered last night. Last night, we had the second night of our 40 Hours Devotion leading up to our parish's feast day on Sunday. As part of these, at the conclusion of the day, we have a solemn, preached, Holy Hour. Well, last night I saw a gentleman with his son who had come at some distance to help my little flock cover the hours for adoration. His son is on the youngish side, perhaps 5 or 6. As I watched out of the corner of my eye, I saw this gent encourage his son, embrace his son, and most importantly, explain to his son what Adoration meant. I was particularly moved when after a reading from Sirach that covered family relationships, I looked up at the conclusion of the reading to find him, clasping his son, close to his chest. I thought he's understood. From this point forward, that relationship has changed. Our friend from afar figured out that his boy wasn't just his boy; his son belongs to God and that this father received a great commission to ensure that his son learned all that he would need to come to salvation.
So, people, time is of the essence. What will you do with the portion of the 168 hours awaiting you this week?