I am LOVING our Confirmation group at the moment. I know, I know… give it a few months and we’ll see what I’m saying then. But, right now, they are engaged and focussed, asking some great questions and giving good answers. OK, so they’re struggling to see the different uses of “proof” when it comes to the existence of God, but they tried 🙂 and they are taking prayer and Confession seriously which is what really counts. So far, so good!
Reading parts of the General Directory for Catechesis yesterday (the quotation in the title is GDC 157), it struck me once again what works in catechesis. The Church has it there all along in that fantastic document, and whenever I read it, it affirms those things which I can see work in real catechesis, and it highlights those areas where we’re missing the mark.
Yesterday, one thing particularly struck me:
The active participation of all the catechised in their formative process is completely in harmony, not only with genuine human communication, but specifically with the economy of Revelation and salvation. GDC 157
This strikes me as true again and again. When young people are ‘active’ in learning something, they retain it so much better. When they work something out for themselves, they remember it. If you asked them what they learned from the last session, it will generally be the things they worked out themselves. This is difficult for us because we want to tell people things and expect them to listen and understand it as we do. But this doesn’t always work.
The same is true for all of us in our own relationships with God: people can tell us something that is true of the spiritual life again and again, but until we actually experience it for ourselves, we don’t really know it.
How does this balance with the pedagogy of God? According to the way God teaches, our catechesis is like an announcement, a proclamation. It does involve telling someone something they do not already know. The archangel Gabriel came to announce news to Our Lady and ask her assent… God didn’t get her to ‘figure it out for herself’.
I guess this is the key: we announce the message and then, in the explanation, the ‘working out’ bit comes in. The catechised are led to ask themselves ‘how can this be?’ as Our Lady did. In this stage, the more active the participants are in discovering this message for themselves, in all its details, the better.
I am coming to believe more and more that less is more: we want to teach all of this great content in a lovely long lecture… but the most effective way is to hold back from overloading them with everything all at once and being much more attuned to their natural capacity to learn.