This time of year, filled with First Holy Communions and Confirmations, is full of joy. It is also a time where we risk “sacramentalising” another batch of young people or adults, perhaps without really evangelising or catechising them.
This is precisely the problem that we face in the New Evangelisation – and one which we, to some extent, inflict on ourselves.
It is a theme which occurs again and again on this blog. I am not being overdramatic when I say it breaks my heart to see us shortchanging people by bringing them to the sacraments too soon. Graces are heaped upon them, yet they don’t have the means or the maturity or the understanding to open their hearts to these graces, because they have not been through a sufficient period of formation.
This video clip from Dr Scott Hahn isn’t new, but it is worth taking just over ten minutes out of your day to watch. He speaks about the relationship between evangelising, catechising, and sacramentalising, in depth. I showed it to a group of seminarians, one of whom said it was the most inspirational thing he’d seen all year (maybe an exaggeration…) – but it is truly a good clip from Dr Hahn and a topic all of us in the Church need to wake up to, and think hard about theologically, pastorally, spiritually.
We’re halfway through our Confirmation programme and Catechumenate, but even so, January is a great time for us all to come back to them fresh. For both, the next few months involve catechesis on sacramental life in Christ – that is, we’re trying to tie together the teaching on the liturgy and sacraments, and moral life in Christ, as much as possible. Why is this? Because we can only live a fully moral life through the grace we receive in the sacraments. The two are very interconnected. Next weekend, the Catechumenate embark on their retreat at Ampleforth Abbey to prepare them spiritually for the final stretch of catechesis before Lent. This is the time now when they will be challenged to live truly this life set before them – deeply in prayer, and authentically in moral life.
For the Confirmation candidates too, much of their moral formation we hope will be an inspiring and challenging experience for them. We use the film, The Human Experience, to root much of the moral teaching – we draw from it themes such as the dignity of the human person, what freedom is, the Beatitudes, the two greatest commandments, and the human and theological virtues. If you haven’t seen it, The Human Experience is a beautifully made, deeply inspiring film – I want to live so much better each time I watch it! We have found that rooting moral formation in some of the people and issues of the film makes it more alive and real. And following the classes, the candidates will hopefully visit the Friars of the Renewal and the Missionaries of Charity to witness the work they do with the poor. This is our plan, and I will let you know how it works with our candidates 🙂
The biggest new beginning we have this week is the first session of Catholicism, our new adult formation programme based on Fr Robert Barron’s DVD series. We’ve been so encouraged by the response to this programme – we have between 30-40 adults signed up, many young adults, from many different backgrounds and with lots of different reasons for taking part. The absolute deadline for bookings is Wednesday and at the moment, we have capacity for a few more… Come and join us! 🙂 I am really looking forward to a wonderful few weeks of deepening understanding of our faith, new friendships, and hopefully a renewed commitment to the Lord for many people. Please keep this project in your prayers!