In December my niece gave birth to a beautiful girl, Noelle Rose! Her arrival so close to Christmas provided a poignant opportunity to reflect anew on the mystery, the wonder, the gift of the child! One Child was given to the world and destined to be the salvation of all. The other was given to my niece and destined to receive that salvation. The powerful link between the two is grace. Yet, the practical link between them remains the work of catechesis!
The topic of children’s catechesis can evoke passionate responses. Some scornfully recall the “content-less” catechesis that beleaguered the Church after Vatican II when many children never even heard the teachings of the Faith much less committed them to memory. Others reproach the pre-Conciliar catechesis where the primary goal was a mental mastery of the Catechism. (We might be tempted to ask whether this method of “indoctrination” might not be the better alternative to the current praxis of making “Fruit-Loops rosaries” or “cotton ball sheep.”) If we are honest, children’s catechesis has been struggling to find an appropriate praxis since the Middle Ages!
Before we can rightly consider the how (methodology) or even the what (content), we should first give serious consideration to the WHO! In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) we recognize that children’s catechesis is the meeting of two great mysteries: the mystery of God and the mystery of the child. Though I think the CGS has a particularly unique praxis for fostering this meeting, the insight is not exclusively ours. The Church clearly teaches that the primary task of catechesis is to “help a person to encounter God.” For this reason, the content and method of catechesis (and catechist too) must be seen as “servants” of this encounter. Meaning, our preoccupation should not be with catechetical content and method as goals in themselves but only as they serve the goal: inviting the child to intimacy with Christ. The evaluative question then regarding content and method is this: “How does this facilitate the ‘dialogue of salvation’ between God and the child?”