Hopefully, (a long time ago) we have moved beyond parent meetings which tell parents all the “stuff’ they need to know to “get through” the year, e.g. dates, times, Baptismal certificates to turn in, etc. (things they can read on their own).
Perhaps, though, we are still in the phase that parent meetings - especially at sacramental times - are focused on the children approaching the sacrament for the first time; catechesis is given to parents about what is happening to their child. For all practical purposes, we prepare the child for the “holy thing” and explain to the parents the meaning of it for the child. The end result of this approach is that often a child’s experience of the sacrament is his/her last participation in the community until another event arises, such as preparation for another sacrament.
We need to look at new ways. Our old ways have too often perpetuated a cultural Christianity oriented toward the acquiring of holy things but doing little to prepare people for sacraments as experiences of being missioned to be disciples, apprentices of Jesus, to bring about the Kingdom of God.
Sacramental catechesis is not religious education. The goal is much more than instruction. “The definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy with Jesus Christ.” (On Catechesis in Our Time, #5) This is uniquely true for sacramental catechesis. The primary goal is the formation and transformation of the person. The church desires to lead people into the sacramental mystery which they are about to celebrate so that they are formed, shaped, and transformed by that mystery.
There are many ways to do this; each community needs to take the best from the church’s tradition, the vision from recent documents, and the lived experience from our rites and rituals and mold all that into a process which touches the hearts and lives of their people.
What are some beliefs which will guide us - and some things to do - which follow from these beliefs?
We believe: parents are the primary educators of their children.
This belief is emphasized in all traditions; for Catholics it was emphatically affirmed by the Second Vatican Council. It is so basic that we need to continually strive to honor it and minister out of a strong conviction of it. As catechetical leaders, it might be helpful once in a while to ask ourselves how we are doing it. Do we want families involved because someone told us it was a nice thing to do? Or do we honor the role of the family because we are convinced that the real living of Christianity takes place in the home? The attitudes we hold are communicated to the families in our correspondence, programming, and personal interactions. They respond to the underlying messages as well as to the overt ones. If we let them know, not just that we want their involvement, but that they are the primary teacher (catechist) and we are in faith formation ministry to assist them, then both the quantity and quality of family involvement will deepen.
This belief can lend itself to two actions:
Parents might easily connect with how we are leading them through these sacramental years to see the God in everyday life. We also need to give them the tools and helps to continue to become even more aware of the God moments (which are always) in their lives.
We believe: Sacramental catechesis – and all growth in faith – begins with human experience.
This is true beyond any doubt because that is where God is revealed – within our human experience. Even though we have said - and believe strongly - that faith formation is much more than information, the beginning of the “content” of sacramental catechesis is the experience of the people who are present. Throughout the process, this present, lived experience is linked with the stories, tradition, and rites and rituals of our church.
Three things to do which flow from this belief:
We believe: The liturgy forms us.
Liturgy should be the clearest moment for the faith community in which the Gospel is made manifest. Good liturgy deepens our faith.
It is also true of human nature that many things pass us by since – in such busy lives – we do not take time for reflection on our experiences. (“The unexamined life is not worth living.”) The church’s practice of mystagogical reflection after the celebration of liturgy and sacraments is a jewel we need to use to the fullest. This holy activity strives to lead people to make connections between their liturgical experience, the experience and tradition of the church, and their actions in daily life.
Therefore, a “to do” which follows from this belief: engage parents in this mystagogical reflection of their past prayer and liturgical experiences. This reflection will deepen their previous experiences and open the way for greater participation and faith growth in the future. This might be done – at parent gatherings -- in a number of steps:
We believe: Rituals, symbols and signs are powerful.
Symbols and rituals abound in our traditions: water, oil, bread and wine, blessing, ashes, anointing, Sign of the Cross, candle, fire, etc. We need to recapture our wonder and awe of their power and meaning. During our celebrations we need to decrease our words, and let the rituals and symbols speak for themselves.
This belief also suggests things to do during parent gatherings:
We believe: The “content” for sacramental faith formation comes directly from the prayers and Scriptures of the rites and sacramental celebrations.
Even though there are many things written about sacraments – and they can certainly provide excellent background for us - the real “content” is the sacrament itself. The best way to prepare ourselves for the mysteries we are about to celebrate is to reflect on/break open the words which the church uses. Therefore, at the time of Confirmation, spend time during the parent gatherings (as well as the children’s sessions):
We believe: Participation in liturgy is communal and always calls us to discipleship.
Our liturgical life is never about individual piety. We are a community; that is the way we have been created from the very beginning; we go to God together or not at all. That core reality of interdependent community calls us to be disciples - to be apprentices of Jesus who are committed to bringing about the Kingdom. Two “to dos” never to lose sight of:
The Learning Exchange Blog is written by our team of Curators: