I recently read a great article on the blog Catechesis in the Third Millennium about a session of evangelisation at the start of the Confirmation programme. It is interesting to see different ideas of incorporating this essential element into Confirmation preparation. Of course, catechesis is one of the “moments” of evangelisation, so in a sense it always needs to be evangelistic: attractive, engaging, concerned with converting hearts. This was our concern on our Confirmation retreat last weekend. I’ve said before that it is relatively easy when you have just twenty candidates like we do. Twenty is a great number I have no idea how we would cope with 200!
We knew the candidates were not greatly looking forward to going away for a weekend early on in the school year. They all had mountains of homework, some had to miss school matches, they didn’t know what to expect. However, the transformation over the weekend was incredible. We had two Franciscan Friars of the Renewal with us for the weekend who proved ever so popular with the candidates, playing football and frizbee, and teaching them annoying games The first morning (after a first night of some games and a film) started by getting the candidates think honestly about where, on a scale of 1-10, they would say their relationship with God is, which provoked some interesting discussion. This was followed by teaching from the Friars on the love of God the Father, including the testimony of one of them. In response to this teaching, the candidates were invited to go off by themselves to write a personal letter to God the Father, speaking with Him openly. It was amazing to see their enthusiasm for this: they spread out outdoors and in the chapel and spent a good 30 minutes writing. The rest of the weekend included a similar teaching on God the Son, focussed on mercy and forgiveness, in preparation for the evening’s Reconciliation Service. We also had a YouCat workshop, introducing them to their YouCats, which they were presented with by the catechists at the end of Mass, and each small group produced a drama of the life of their Saint. All this was interspersed with football, frizbee and a walk to the site of the kidnap and martyrdom of St Alban (the first martyr of England!).
Perhaps what was best about the weekend – other than the candidates’ willingness to enter into prayer and go to Confession – was the sense of community between them. It was an interesting weekend to recognise the dynamics of the group, and was encouraging to see them include everyone in their activities and look out for each other. Similarly, it was a fantastic opportunity for us as catechists to build relationships with them and get to know them a bit on a human level before the catechesis begins.
So, hopefully, a good start. May the Holy Spirit build on this foundation in leading these young people deeper into Christ!