Pupil tells Catholic school head: ‘Prayer is for sad people’. He writes of his despair in The Tablet

Pupil tells Catholic school head: ‘Prayer is for sad people’. He writes of his despair in The Tablet

Please-dont WITHIN a religious context, the phrase “get them when they’re young” has always sent a chill through me; when it’s uttered by Catholics – given their Church’s history of child abuse – I am left shaking with fury.

Last night  I saw those words again, this time in a headline in  The Tablet: “Get them while they’re young: why kids intuitively understand prayer”. In a piece groaning under the weight of wishful-thinking, James Roberts wrote about the piousness of his daughter and her solemn sense of the divine.

She’s only THREE, FFS! Zappa He also took “gentle” issue with an earlier piece in The Tablet about youngsters and prayer.

In an article entitled “Why kids don’t get prayer, and even football doesn’t help” Daniel Kearney, headmaster of St Bede’s College, a Catholic private school in Manchester wrote that he was left in despair over the fact that he could not get his year 7 class to understand the concept of prayer.

One “precocious young girl on the front row” bluntly told him:

My Dad says praying to God is a waste of time.

When Kearney asked her why he’d felt that way, she replied:

Because he never wins the lottery.

He approached the concept of prayer in several different ways, all to no avail.

I took another tack – not on the lesson plan or scheme of work (inspectors look away now!) ‘I pray every night’ I declared, ‘that I will wake up in the morning – and I have done so every morning.

This was greeted by the class with derision. One young sceptic came back with the words:

No way. I always wake up and I don’t pray.

A glum Kearney concluded:

At the end of the lesson I was not convinced that the class understood the concept of prayer. We had read and examined the occasions in Mark’s Gospel when Jesus had prayed – as the lesson plan had dictated – but the experience of praying seemed beyond the understanding and grasp of my pupils – and my didactic skills!

Perhaps this is a symptom of our times: we need instant feedback. We seldom have the time to stop and stare; instant gratification and next-day delivery are de rigueur.

The complex and deeper discernment of prayer is at odds with our increasingly secular culture. We seek distraction, diversion, escapism and noise, not contemplation and silence. Prayer requires training, discipline and commitment. As with reading, we have to build up our stamina, but it would appear that our children seem reluctant to commit to such an arduous fitness programme.

They seem content to live and breathe and have their being in a virtual X-Box, cyber-world. They crave instant fun – a world of virtual and unreal possibilities – and parents seem reluctant to disabuse them of such fabulous and false expectations.

I despair at this superficial and short-term utilitarian philosophy. It will probably, lead, inexorably, to the isolationism and dislocation of many. I pray every day but perhaps I am an oddity – a throw back to a dungeon-dim world.

Yet it would seem I am not alone. Politicians and royalty on the news plead for our prayers in the midst of terrible accidents and disasters. Is this merely an appeal to a bygone age or a clarion call to a lost cause, a nervous spasm in a dying body?

Perhaps the last word should be from one of my pupils, who said ‘prayer is for sad people’.

While on the subject to Catholics and youngsters, I see that the Vatican has insisted that it doesn’t “do” extraditions.

It was responding to to a request from the Dominican Republic’s Attorney General to have a certain Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski returned to the country to face allegations that he abused children while while serving as papal nuncio there.

In a statement the Holy See said that Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski was a citizen of the Vatican, and that Vatican law did not allow for his extradition. It added that the Holy See was pursuing its own investigation against the Archbishop.

Wesolowski was dismissed as papal nuncio in August last year and was recalled to the Vatican, where is currently believed to be living. He and a Polish priest, Father Wojciech Gil, have been accused of sexually abusing young boys.

Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski and Father Wojciech Gil (inset) are accused of abusing young boys.

Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski and Father Wojciech Gil (inset) are accused of abusing young boys in the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican Republic’s Attorney General last year sent case files concerning Archbishop Wesolowski to Poland and files concerning Fr Gil to the Vatican.

NOTE: The top two pictures were borrowed from Mark Fulton, a former Catholic and medical practitioner in Australia who is particularly concerned about the adverse effects of religion on children. There are some other good pictures and illustrations here.

27 responses to “Pupil tells Catholic school head: ‘Prayer is for sad people’. He writes of his despair in The Tablet”

  1. pssmith says:

    If the religious rulers are worried, that is a good sign. The times are more intellectual and the internet is fueling this improvement. Any one who trusts a religious group or person to be alone with their precious children ought to take time and research the harmful effects religion has on children, adults that trust and believe. That would shake the faith out of anyone with a bit of a brain. If it isn’t enough, research what happens to dissenters today, people who refused religion in the past. Not such a history of love and kindness. Certainly not forgiveness.

  2. AgentCormac says:

    The complex and deeper discernment of prayer is at odds with our increasingly secular culture.

    At odds with reality, more like.

  3. Angela_K says:

    “…could not get his year 7 class to understand the concept of prayer”. It’s easy, talk to your hands and nothing ever happens! Those religious types actually believe that their god – who should be busy running the Universe but making a mess of it – is listening and gives a toss about their meaningless lives. Their god is too busy causing floods, earthquakes and famine, he loves humans so much that he slaughters millions of them.

  4. andym says:

    Good news for once. The Zappa quote was wonderful. Further proof that, if kids are left to their own devices, they soon see through the fraud that is religion. And don’t the religious just know this!

  5. Broga says:

    Regarding the Zappa quote: My two children, now in their 40’s, were raised in an atheist home. We didn’t try to instil atheism in them and faith was never mentioned. I suppose a Christian would think they were likely to be amoral adults. In fact, they are mature and highly moral atheists with a readiness to help others without thought of heavenly oversight or reward. Our grand children are being brought up in a similar way.

  6. barriejohn says:

    Some encouraging news for the faithful – staunchly anti-homosexual archbishop, Vincent Nicholls, is to be made* a Cardinal:

    He has called this “deeply humbling” – so he’s a lying hypocrite as well!

    (*”made” as in the Mafia, one wonders?)

  7. andym says:

    Manweb. Loved it. “Please break the laws of the universe for my convenience”

  8. Stonyground says:

    The lengthy quote from headmaster Daniel Kearney is very interesting. He cites a the boy who wakes up every morning without praying, making it clear that he realises that the problem isn’t that the kids don’t understand prayer, the problem is that they understand it perfectly well and can see that it’s bullshit. He then falls into a state of denial to bring out a litany of feeble excuses, trying to pretend that prayer is difficult and requires training discipline and commitment and that the kids today just aren’t up to it*. Then at the end of the quote he seems to come back to reality, realising that the problem is that the idea of prayer is obsolete and out of date.

    *Funny, I used to teach martial arts to kids. Training discipline and commitment are exactly what are needed to achieve a black belt in karate and lots of kids made the grade.

  9. charlie says:

    Oh noes! Kids are seeing that prayer is useless. How terrible. Terrible for the organized religious who demand obedience. Well, this does make me happy, the kids are seeing through the crap that all religion is. Maybe the future is not as dark as I thought. Good for the kids.

  10. barriejohn says:

    Adam et al: The indoctrination of children is abuse. When I was young I was scared witless at the thought of the “Flames of Hell”. Preachers would describe the fate of “The Damned” in graphic detail week after week, and I, gullibly, believed them. Just look at these so-called “Prayers for Children”:

    All of them carry appalling undertones, but the first is the very worst:

    Dear God,
    We are sorry for doing wrong things…

    Yes – guilt. Hobble the young with the idea that they are worthless sinners who need God’s forgiveness and the intercession of the priesthood and you’re half way there. Once you’ve fallen for this deception it’s the devil’s own job, so to speak, to throw it off. The Brethren used to say: “Give me a child until the age of seven and I’ll give you the man”, just as the Jesuits and others have over the centuries, and they meant it. I remember one of the elders pouring scorn on “Old People’s Teas”, etc, and adamantly declaring: “The work’s with the young!”. They should be prosecuted.

  11. barriejohn says:

    For the benefit of anyone who hasn’t seen it alreaady:

    I knew people like these and attended camps like this in England. Many of the parents thought that it was a good thing that their children were “taught the stories about Jesus”!

  12. andym says:

    BJ, Just watched your link. If that’s not terrifying, I don’t know what is.

  13. barriejohn says:

    @andym: “Jesus Camp” was a documentary shown both in the USA and here in Britain a few years back. I feel really sorry for some of those kids, especially those who were so sincere and gullible. Maybe I see a bit of myself in their behaviour. Funnily enough, it also introduced us to the now infamous Ted Haggard, but no one had any idea what lay ahead where HE was concerned!

  14. Broga says:

    The sins we are committing always seem a bit vague, especially where children are concerned. In my youth it was “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” I had no idea what this was about and just parroted what I was told.

    Those unloading the guilt burden seem to assume that they are in the clear and fit to condemn others. Ironic, isn’t it, when you think how many paedophiles are in their ranks?

    I see the devil is to the fore again after being kicked out of the Christening service. I heard some Christians sinful who were convinced he was real while another said he was a “a concept to epitomise sinful behaviour.”

    And another, with the grave and smug tones which so many clergy do so well said, “being an organ donor is part of Christian stewardship where the body given to us by God could be returned.”

    I haven’t given an organ but I have been a blood donor. I don’t know where that ranks in godliness. Would a Christian be happy accepting the blood of an atheist? Mine is of an unusual type but I don’t think that is anything to do with my atheism.

  15. AgentCormac says:

    If this is a private catholic school, how come most of the kids ‘don’t get’ prayer? Either Roberts and his fellow mind-rotters are utterly inept, or the dam has already burst open much wider than the rest of us all realised or hoped for. Personally, my money is on the latter. I honestly think the whole stinking edifice of western religion is, as pssmith already noted, on the ropes thanks to education, a vastly increased freedom to question and, above all, the internet which enables people like ourselves to share (free) thinking and gives enquiring minds access to alternative perspectives. Cause for hope, me thinks.

  16. Broga says:

    @Agent Cormac: I was enjoying a pint and discussing various issues with a Christian of my acquaintance. I commented on the way the internet was affecting thinking about religion and atheism. He described atheism on the internet, with which he seemed well acquainted, as “mental pornography.” I thought his vehemence encouraging.

  17. georgina says:

    You forgot to mention to severe restrictions on the burning and torture of heretics in the western world. Harder to be scared of a man in a silly dress threatening you with fire *after* you are dead.

  18. Angela_K says:

    @Georgina. The religious waste their lives preparing for after they die, shame they won’t know all that grovelling to their god was futile. In some way these people are already dead because they are obsessed with death and the [false] prospect of being somewhere nice where there are no atheists, but just other pious prats like themselves. Better to have a good life and look after our fellow animals, including humans, rather than fret over some make believe afterlife and make other people lives a misery in the process.

  19. John C says:

    Maybe the 7 year olds understand the concept of prayer all to well , and dont want anything to do with it.

  20. OurSally says:

    >“forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

    We learnt to forgive our trespasses etc.

    Which puzzled us kids, as we were a farming community, and knew all about trespassing. My dad would round up trespassers with his rifle and call the police, because they were usually after the trout.

  21. Andy Brown says:

    Thanks for the link to Mark Fulton’s excellent site.
    I have added it to my bookmarks.
    It contains plenty of thought-provoking images that I shall certainly be cutting & pasting into my emails from now on!
    Does anyone know if these are available as posters?
    They would also be great as car bumper stickers.

  22. ExPatriot says:

    Praying is talking to an idiot. him or her self

  23. Walter says:

    Why didn’t he just pray that they would understand? Walk the walk, padre.

  24. Robster says:

    Increasing desperation is leading religious “leaders” to employ devious means to spread their infamous nonsense. The child rape scandal implicating the catholic, anglican, salvation army, jews and muslims has awakened many to the evil of the church dressed up in funny hats and silly robes. These organisations have been proven to lie incessantly and without remorse. Clergy are now down there with used car salesmen and journalists in the trustworthy stakes and deservedly so. The sooner anything in a white collar, silly hat, red booties or flamboyant robe mouthing platitudes to a deity is forcibly kept away from children, the better. What a bunch of sicko’s. Eating jesus is not healthy and snakes have never talked.