The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

What’s the matter with kids today?

These crazy youngsters. You do your best to raise a non-believing secular humanist and he just turns around and goes all Presbyterian on you:

In April, Bob Sweeney’s son, Ryan, 13, suddenly announced he wanted to start going to church. While Mr. Sweeney had been quite religious once — in his 20s he’d taken an oath of celibacy with plans to spend his life as a Roman Catholic brother — he’d stopped attending church 40 years ago, and he and his wife had raised their son without religion.

“I said O.K., fine,” Mr. Sweeney recalled, assuming this was a whim. “We let the conversation end without coming to conclusions or decisions.” But later that week, on the ride home from middle school, Ryan said, “You know what we’re doing this weekend, Dad?”


“No,” Mr. Sweeney said, figuring he had forgotten one of his son’s track meets.

“We’re going to church,” Ryan said.

Ryan had been inside only three churches for a total of five times in his life — for two funerals and three Christmas Eves — but he picked the one he thought was most beautiful, Union Church, a small stone Protestant chapel in the hamlet of Pocantico Hills, 15 minutes from their home. “We’d driven by it many times,” Mr. Sweeney said. “It fit his idea of what a church should look like.”

He did not want his mother to come. Dianne Sweeney, 50, a customer service manager for PepsiCo, had grown up without religion, and a few times when Ryan had mentioned the pope, she had rolled her eyes.


“He thought I didn’t have the right attitude,” Ms. Sweeney said.

“It was more a father-son thing,” said Mr. Sweeney, 61, a guidance counselor at Mamaroneck High. “Like going to a Mets game.”

Mr. Sweeney suggested attending the earlier service, at 9, so he could get on with his day. On Sundays, he writes college recommendations for his students, reads the newspaper and does yard work.

As the weekend approached, the father hoped the son might lose momentum. But that Sunday Mr. Sweeney saw a vision almost as miraculous as a statue of the Virgin Mother weeping real tears: a 13-year-old boy who got up on his own at 8 a.m., put on a shirt with a collar, brushed his hair and was ready for church.

Check out the rest. The Times seems as baffled as the kid’s parents.

Comments read comments(12)
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posted June 13, 2009 at 8:15 am

This is apparently fairly common. I recently read that a fairly high percentage, perhaps a majority, of children raised in homes without religion join various Christian churches and profess a religion themselves when they become adults.That this would be so should not surprise us. Being God's creatures, we would be born, we should suspect, with a desire to serve and meet him.Having said all that, I suspect the father here needs a dope slap. What seems to be fairly clearly the case is that the boy was asking to go to the church of the father's faith, i.e., the Catholic Church. The boy regards the father as a Catholic. The father seems to be dense about the whole thing himself. Still, it will be my prediction that, lead by the child's awakening, the faith of the father will rekindle, and they'll find their way back home.

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Gen X Revert

posted June 13, 2009 at 9:56 am

"and a little child shall lead them"

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Paul Stokell

posted June 13, 2009 at 9:59 am

Dope slap seconded. The Seventies are OVER, people!!

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Ruth Ann

posted June 13, 2009 at 10:01 am

This is a hopeful sign, which I suspect is a hint of things to come. God's grace is at work always. As St. Augustine said, "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee."

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Jack Shea

posted June 13, 2009 at 12:40 pm

I know Bob; he counseled both my sons at Mamaroneck HS. He is a good man and I hope he does find his way back.

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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted June 13, 2009 at 6:35 pm

Teen-agers are naturally "rebellious"- wanting to feel that, at least in some respects, they are their own person. I won't go into details but that is how I became religious though my father was a non-practicing Catholic and my mother a Methodist. For me it became a way of one-upping my father (which, they say, all sons have a deep seated desire to do). And this is quite common. Read any biography of St. Francis of Assisi and you will find the dynamic of youthful rebellion leading to religion. Unfortunately in our era we virtually encourage a destructive teen-age rebellion through the music and TV-Movie garbage we drown our youth in.

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Mr. Basso

posted June 13, 2009 at 9:53 pm

i find it interesting that the the Presbyterian church most fit his image of what a church should be. I have found the presbyterian churches in my region to be very "high church" architecturally. I wonder what Catholic options were in his vicinity and how they measured up to his idea of what a church should look like.

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posted June 13, 2009 at 11:17 pm

Chose a Presbyterian church, did he?Must be predestined.

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Dr. Lacrimosus

posted June 14, 2009 at 9:47 am

"Chose a Presbyterian church, did he?Must be predestined."This is going on my refrigerator.

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Mr. Basso

posted June 14, 2009 at 1:16 pm

@Fr. Greg: ROTFLOL…that made my day, Father!

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posted June 15, 2009 at 10:54 am

Great story. Not all of that unusal from what I have heard. A while ago I spoke with a priest who mentioned several high school age kids from non-religious families who he received in the Church.

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posted June 15, 2009 at 11:24 am

Kids are the offspring of Goats.Children are the offspring of Human Beings.Permissive parents, who believe that their children are smarter than they are, are responsible for bad behavior. They have very little to do with good behavior.Parents today do not teach their children the Catholic principles simple because they do not know them.

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