26 November 2012


Joe Shaw has a very interesting post on Catechesis on his blog. It's something I feel quite strongly about. I'm not going to get all theological, or argue particularly, just offer a bit of my own experience of catechesis. We've been in quite a few parishes over the years, and seen quite a few First Holy Communions and Confirmations. I'm not thinking particularly about Confirmation at the moment, just First Holy Communion, which to be honest is a well meaning muddle.

So what is my immediate experience. Well, mainly that what was/is taught at home is not what was/is taught during most ordinary parish classes. There is a decided tension, if not conflict, between the two. On the one hand, it's very nice to be on Team God, included, with a sanctuary full of participatory opportunities for the committed 7 year old girl (or boy, perhaps) once the First Communion party is done with. There is nothing wrong with the old gather and share, but why is Holy Communion so important and special if anyone can sit round the altar holding hands at the Our Father, and pretty much anyone can be a 'minister of the Eucharist' handing out the Body of Our Lord at Holy Communion? Where is the concept of sacrifice, and Calvary, that supernatural otherness?

Take another bete noir, that awfully dirty word, sin. Sin is represented currently as just a  'bad choice'. If sin is only ever just a 'bad choice', and you make the ultimate 'bad choice' and cut yourself off entirely from God, ummmm, so what? There are no longer term consequences, because hey kids, doesn't matter what Our Lord said, hell just isn't there any more. Is it ever going to be age-appropriate to talk about hell?

You see the kind of thing I mean. There's a bit of conflict between the two kinds of catechesis. In my experience, kids are rather fond of black and white. Grey happens when you're older, and you have the black and white to guide you. Small kids aren't very good in a grey fog. They can understand complexity, Transubstantiation, mystery, silence, symbolism. They don't need to be talked down to or patronised, or babied. But I haven't met one that does fog very well.

 So I was very grateful when a friend lent me a copy of My First Holy Communion, What the very young need to know for their First Holy Communion, by Bishop Morrow. We have Know Your Mass, and the Penny Catechism, and the class books, and now we have this gem. The first copyright on it is 1949. It's in very, very, simple English, but it tells it like it is, first and foremost, that God is love.

Which is odd, considering I was led to believe that God only really started loving us after 1962...

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