Tag Archives: BBC 4 Catholics

First Holy Communion Preparation

The BBC is currently showing a series of three documentaries entitled, Catholics. One on seminarians (the more inspiring one so far), one on children filmed in a rural Lancashire parish and one on women (Thursday, 9pm, BBC 4). There are lots of interesting things that could be said about its portrayal of Catholic faith and life, and this particular style of documentary.

What interests me here, though, is the catechetical angle – of course… 😉

This clip from the second episode shows the preparation of some children for First Holy Communion. Firstly, I want to make clear that I know these women are doing their best, they are giving up their time, they clearly care about what they are doing. But I feel that these catechists, like many catechists up and down the country, could use a bit of catechesis themselves. “Who wants to try some holy bread and holy wine?” “Next week, it’ll be different…” without explaining how or what it will be. And even in the church: “When you come to receive the holy bread…” “It’s just like a party!” Well, if this is a party, as soon as they are a few years older they’ll be going to parties a whole lot more fun than this one, and this one will soon be forgotten about…

If there were three things I would say to all First Communion catechists (and priests whose overall responsibility it is for catechesis) if I had the chance, it would be these:

  • Children are able to grasp the concept that bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ
  • So call it what it is! Our seven-year-olds can tell you that the “Eucharist” is the “Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ”. They very quickly learn not to call the Eucharist “bread” and “wine”
  • Seven-year-olds can understand (and even say!) the word “transubstantiation” (I recently asked a group what it meant, and a boy blurted out – “it is something that annoys the devil!” but he also knew that it was the change of bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood)
Somehow, I think it’s a different problem than catechists thinking children cannot handle it. I think actually it’s a problem of them not knowing themselves. Later on in the programme a class teacher is filmed giving an RE lesson where she emphasises that the Eucharist is a “mystery” that no one understands really, at all! Using the “mystery” card to avoid explaining any doctrine – the Eucharist, the Blessed Trinity, the Resurrection – is a cop out which misunderstands “mystery” – something that we can know truly, but not fully.

Two thoughts came to me after watching this programme:

1. It would be great to build up a pool of video clips showing good catechetical practice as well as bad – it’s fine learning it in theory, but seeing it happen in practice really helps catechists understand catechetical principles concretely;

2. All Catholic teachers and catechists really should study at Maryvale…