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.
I noticed exactly the same flaw when I attended my kids preparation for Holy Communion.
Thank you Fr John, we pray that the beauty of the encounter with Jesus may enter our kids’ lives and accompany them forever .
This is great Father John! Have you checked in on the junior liturgy programmes too? We will continue to pray.
When my four miniature Catholics arrive at 8.00am each Sunday morning for Holy Communion class I am always overwhelmed at their inherent excitement and their joyful welcome of me. They are supported by parents who have driven through the hinterland for 40 minutes to deliver them to me. They too share that sense of excitement at the journey their beautiful are currently on with the Catholic Church.
As the children skip up the path to the Church Hall, that already has the lights and heating on (thank you Fr Mathew) they inform me they have learnt the Lord’s Prayer off by heart or the 10 Commandments or the Creed, and are ready for our weekly “off by heart” challenge.
Their enthusiasm is infectious and their deep respect for Father Mathew, when he drops in to visit us, is obvious. Their parents report the children can’t wait for Sundays and are excited of being part of this joyful group.
I love the resources we are provided to undertake this important teaching. They are however just a tool provided to help us to bring to life the awesome world of Jesus and help us to instil that love, hope and passion into these wonderful miniature Catholics.
In my experience it is the passion of the teacher that instils passion in the student. After all isn’t that what Jesus did for his disciples?
We really need your input in our parish Mary xx
If you can find a way to cut through to the real heart of Catholicism Fr John then little lives will undoubtedly be enriched. You are the right man for the job. I will pray for you and this mission.