Tag Archives: parish catechesis

Discerning what the Year of Faith invites us to…

How nice to return to (almost) normal life! There’s something lovely about being in your own parish for Mass, getting into a regular routine at the gym, and seeing friends again. Travelling always opens my eyes, clarifies my vision, sparks my imagination, and I love how it widens my understanding, how I see reality… But, as Dorothy discovered, there’s no place like home 🙂

Before I went to the States, I had absolutely no idea what we would do in the parish for the Year of Faith, or even if we would do anything extra special at all. Over the past month, I have heard a lot about the Year of Faith. I have seen some seriously amazing plans. I have seen T-shirts and super-cool logos. I’ve heard about live-streaming of lecture series and no end of creative, new ways of transmitting the Faith which have not quite reached these shores…

Wonderful – but I wonder if we can get caught up in the hype of thinking we have to put on something spectacular.

Here are the two most important things I realised:

1. We need to discern, above all, what the Church is calling us to in the Year of Faith.

2. We need to discern what this means for our own parish – what are the greatest needs that we have, and what invitation is the Year of Faith extending to us?

So, I set about number 1 over July. I read Porta Fidei again. I talked with people who are lots more experienced than me. I realised the four, universal crucial elements to which the Year of Faith calls us: (a) Teaching on the Catechism of the Catholic Church; (b) Teaching on the Vatican Council documents; (c) A Holy Hour with the Holy Father for Corpus Christi (let’s not forget this – the Holy Father probably has a very important intention in mind); (d) Making a Profession of Faith.

Then, gradually, as I prayed, and digested all of this, a plan began to emerge in my mind.

Does that ever happen to anyone else?! Or is it only me?

I often have plans emerging in my mind (a real occupational hazard…) and I have to determine which are good, and which are not-so-good. Is this what is most needed? Is it making the best use of our resources? Is it achievable? Is it too ambitious? Is it not ambitious enough?! Ultimately: Is this what the Lord wants or is it what I want? Gradually, as I discuss with others in the parish, and continue to pray, things work out into something real and concrete.

In case you are interested, here are the priorities I think are most important for the Year of Faith in our parish:

  • Catechist formation – this is my number 1! Without it, everything flounders. I hope we will run a new programme of formation for new catechists in the Autumn term
  • Course based on the Catechism (Maryvale’s course in the CCC is the best available, as far as I know, and they are offering the opportunity for people to use it in small study groups – see more on their Year of Faith website)
  • Continue to run ‘refresher’ courses such as Anchor, for those returning to Church or aware of their lack of understanding
  • Following on from our adult formation last year, lots of people wanted to meet more regularly, and so quite spontaneously, small home groups are being formed. They are following books from this series which are proving really fruitful so far
  • Looking at the evaluations from adult formation last year, people would like deeper formation in understanding Scripture – we may perhaps run a short course using the Great Adventure Bible Timeline in the summer term. We already used the teen version with our young people, and it was brilliant
  • As I wrote about in a previous post, we have a full formation programme planned for Confirmation and First Communion parents.

What would be AWESOME is if every adult in the parish chose one means of formation for the year, then everyone came together at the end of the Year of Faith to make their Profession of Faith. In fact, I think Pope Benedict thinks this would be pretty awesome too:

We want this Year to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope. Porta Fidei, 9

One thing’s for sure, though: don’t get in a tizz about doing something spectacular: allow God to be the main protagonist in this year ahead. Let us cooperate with the work he wants to do. And, while we’re discerning what’s right, once again I think these are excellent questions that we can pose to our parish’s formation programmes.


This Week’s Top Five… Catechetical Highlights

1. Giving catechesis on the Our Father to the catechumens. In the Fifth Week of Lent, they are presented with the Lord’s Prayer as a ‘foretaste’ and reminder of the Father who will be theirs after their Baptism. What I love about our catechumens is – they really know they will become children of God the Father 🙂

2. A great Confirmation catch-up class: two brilliant, bright girls with some fantastic questions about Genesis, the historicity of the Gospels, the meaning of evil… More teenagers like this please!

3. A brilliant Catholicism session on prayer: small groups shared about their own experience of prayer, and we talked about the ‘fasting of the senses’ as a means to deepen our prayer.

4. Showing the first half of the Human Experience to our Confirmation class – a powerful film to get them thinking about the dignity of the human person and the real meaning of happiness.

5. Adoration with our First Communion children. Every term they have half-an-hour of led prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament.


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…