Yesterday I received The Sower through the post – a MUST for all catechists 😮
One of the articles features children’s catechesis from Notre Dame de Vie. I was at Notre Dame de Vie in Provence, France last Easter (the best Triduum of my life!) and was able to meet Anne-Marie Le Bourhis who has developed this catechesis. She showed us a video of the catechesis in action, and explained the programme – how each year builds on the previous one – and the methodology. I don’t know a great deal about it (Sr Hyacinthe is currently translating it all into English so she is the person to go to with more information) but it strikes me as being quite revolutionary in catechesis, requiring a completely different mindset. As far as I understand it, here are some of the main points that make this catechesis different from what we are used to doing with children in catechesis:
– As an underlying principle, it trusts that every human heart has a deep desire for God – therefore, its catechesis is about ‘awakening’ this desire, so there is a correspondence between what is being revealed and taught by the catechist, and the response in the child.
– To awaken their response to God, this catechesis is strongly rooted in prayer, as catechesis should naturally lead the human heart to turn to God (which is prayer!). There is great respect for freedom here and the dignity of the child, as to turn to God is our greatest freedom and cannot be compelled.
– One thing in Sr Hyacinthe’s article in The Sower really struck me: “desire FOR God cannot be satisfied by stories ABOUT God”. This raises many questions for what happens in so much catechesis! One thing that strikes me is that a lot of the time, children’s catechesis amounts to Gospel parables out of which are drawn moral teachings. “We should be kind to others, we should help others…” But the greatest thing that is revealed in Gospel parables is God Himself… it is first about God, and only secondly about us. How often do we place a priority on instructing a child how he should behave, before revealing to him Who God is and how much He desires to share His Life with him! Maybe there needs to be a very big shift in our catechesis towards revealing Who God in such a way that children can experience and receive Him in prayer, and moving away from an understanding that our Faith is about what we do and how we behave.
There are lots and lots of questions that this new catechesis raises: Does our catechesis draw children into God’s Life or does it place a moral burden on them? Is it really possible to lead children (especially children of today who are so over-stimulated) into prayer, or is this just an ideal? It seems to me that Notre Dame de Vie catechesis places a challenge before us, and represents a big shift in how catechesis is understood and practised.