In recent weeks I have enjoyed spending time with parents of children who are preparing for First Communion.
I have noticed in recent years that regular First Communion preparation programmes often do little to convey the beauty and vibrancy of Catholic faith. The weeks of preparation are considered a burden for many parents, and the results are not what we hope for.
I think I have discovered the reason for this.
A few months ago I offered to lead a couple of parents’ sessions – not sessions for the children, or sessions for the parents to tell them what to do with the children, but a couple of one-hour gatherings in each parish to encourage the parents in their own faith. Several parishes around the Christchurch diocese have taken up my offer and it has been a pleasure and a privilege to spend time with these parents in whom God is at work – that is evident both because they have asked for the sacraments for their children, and because of their active participation in the sessions.
At the first of these gatherings I could see that these were good people, usually in their 30’s or 40’s who were leading active lives, fully committed to their children, and struggling with the demands of 21st century living.
I had the opportunity recently to help a child with their First Communion homework. What they (and their parents who usually help with this) were asked to do as home preparation for the sacraments was instead a tragically reduced version of faith in Jesus Christ. This homework was more about secular humanism than Catholic faith as children were asked to list ways in which they helped others at home, at school and with others. There was no encouragement in the exercises offered to deepen personal relationship with Jesus for the parents or children.
As I think about this this morning I am not discouraged or even disappointed. Instead I am delighted to have found such an obvious flaw in something as important as sacramental preparation with children. Now that I can see the problem I am committed to resolving it.
Today’s gospel reading concludes with one of my favourite scripture verses. Jesus saying: “I have come that they might have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10
Please pray with me for the parents of children who have asked for the sacraments for their children. It is evident that God is at work in them. Pray too that our dioceses and parishes may provide real food for the faith of these parents.