Is this working?


Michelle has been working on memorizing the Catechism for a year now.   It’s about a dry as an IRS instruction booklet.

Fifty years or so ago, when education was predicated on the number of dates you could regurgitate back on a test, a church member left thousands of dollars in an endowment with the idea that every 4th grader who memorized the answers to the sixty catechism questions would receive $50.  It’s rote memorization.  And, it’s like pulling teeth.

DJ attacked it aggressively, motivated to be the best and motivated by the cash.  Stephanie screamed, yelled, cried and through a pencil in my direction one day to express her lack of enthusiasm for memorizing her lessons.

“Don’t you want to be recognized at church with your friends?  Don’t you want the $50?”


My most compliant child had become my arch-Catechism nemesis.

“You will learn about God!” I demanded.  “You will love Jeeesus!   Don’t let Beelzebub steal your soul!  Memorize child.  Mem-or-ize!”

Now it’s Michelle’s turn.  She’s a mix between her sisters.  I don’t get an enthusiastic embrace for this project, but her head isn’t spinning in an exorcistic sort of way.

I pondered not making her complete the task.  When DJ heard me say that to another 4th grade parent at church, she freaked out.

“Mom made me learn it!  You’re no fair.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah – and your Uncle Dash got the biggest piece of cake at Christmas in 1972.  Your granddad still hasn’t made it up to me.  Life is just not fair.”

I’m just not sure that this well-intended process still works.  Is my kid really growing in her faith by memorizing this 37 page document?  Is my screaming and yelling and punishing my kids encouraging a love of God or driving them away from organized religion.

I guess no one thing is going to make or break them; but dag gone it, this is a painful process for the Tanner family.

Leave a comment


  1. Since you ‘don’t have anything to do’, why don’t you edit and re-write it in todays language so it is pertainant to the times?? I don’t know if they still do it in the church where I grew up but it sounds about as out-dated as the church parsonage. My heart goes out to the girls! And you too, dad, for living thru it THREE times!

  2. I think back to my 4th grade self and that is a daunting task to attempt. Now as an adult, I actually enjoy reading my catechism but it then as an adult I have fallen back in love with my faith. As a child it would have been like pulling teeth! Good for you Dad to keep encouraging them 🙂 It’s not always a good thing to get with “the times” it’s “the times” that need to get with the Church. 🙂

  3. As an agnostic I probably don’t have a right to weigh in on this one. But I really enjoy how you write about your faith-you are honest, you talk about it being a struggle, but you also talk about it being a comfort.

    If I may be so bold, Jesus as I understand him would probably think memorizing the Catechism isn’t nearly as important as trying to be a decent human. It doesn’t seem to be a great tool for teaching children how to live a life of faith. Rote memorization rarely is a great teaching tool.

    Paying kids to memorize stuff about religion also feels…..kind of gross. That said, when I was a kid I would have totally done something hard if there was a $50 payday.

    Good luck with this one! Not sure if a “right” answer exists.

    • Danny Tanner

       /  August 25, 2013

      I like your take and agree fully. I think many of us Christians get caught up in the process and forget what’s really important. And it’s got nothing to do with memorization!

  4. You should look up Dana Dirksen’s “Questions and Answers” albums. There are CDs and mp3s available on Amazon. She puts the Catechism to music for kids. We’re not Catholic, and my kids (9, 6, & 1) love them anyway. If Michelle can learn the songs (which is way easier than learning dry facts), she’ll know them all.

    Good luck!

    • Danny Tanner

       /  August 25, 2013

      That’s a great idea! Sort of like the Grammar Rock from my days.


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