On the Spot: What is a Person?

Authored by Amette Ley in Issue #34.3 of The Sower

'On the Spot' aims to highlight some of the complex positions, questions and comments experienced by Catechists, teachers and parents. It tries to outline the knowledge necessary to be faithful to Church teaching and which will best help those we teach who call us to account for the hope that is in us. [cf I Peter 3:15] Here we consider how we explain to those we teach what it means to be a human person and that this can only be built upon the understanding that we are made in the image and likeness of God.

‘Of all visible creatures only man is able to know and love his creator. He is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake, and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God’s own life. It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity.’ (CCC 356)

Catechising strongly, simply and clearly about the identity of the human person is crucial for the whole work of transmitting the faith. If this area of our teaching is shaky or insecure many areas of the faith are affected. And it is precisely in this area, of how we understand what it is to be a person, that we face some of the greatest challenges as catechists! Let me give an example. A friend, having successfully conceived a child through IVF, told me cheerfully that she had given permission for the remaining fertilised egg to be ‘used for research’. “After all,” she said, “it’s not a person.”

Our children are growing up in a world which feeds them a very inadequate notion of what it means to be human. At one level, they are certainly presented with a biological understanding of the human being; that which distinguishes us from other species and allows us to be categorised as human rather than canine, feline or bovine. It might appear that this should be our starting point for catechesis on the human person, for the physical, the biological, the visible is what we have most obviously in front of us to work with. Educational advice is to begin where the child (or adult learner) actually is, and so for learning to be experience-based.

The rest of this online article is available for current subscribers.

Start your subscription today!


This article is from The Sower and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of Maryvale Institute. Contact sower@maryvale.ac.uk

Articles from the Most Recent Issue

Editor's Reflections: Barbara Morgan—Pursuing Holiness
By Dr. James Pauley
Free What is holiness? In our lead article, Dr. John Cavadini describes holiness as the Second Vatican Council did, as “the perfection of love.” [1] How can we begin to imagine love’s perfection? Considered abstractly, we cannot wrap our minds around it. We need to somehow see it, if we are to understand the aim above every other in the Christian life... Read more
What Is Holiness?
By John C. Cavadini
Surely one of the most beautiful, one of the most enduring, and one of the most sublime teachings of Vatican II is the universal call to holiness in Lumen Gentium, chapter 5. I have never reread this chapter without feeling an increase of my own zeal for answering this call, even as I become more aware, at the same time, of how much I fall short.... Read more
The Way and Witness of a Holy Marriage
By Deacon James Keating
Free The matrimony of two of the baptized…is in real, essential and intrinsic relationship with the mystery of the union of Christ with the church…it participates in its nature…marriage is deeply seated and rooted therefore in the Eucharistic mystery.[1] This spiritual vision of marriage, as articulated by Cardinal Caffara, may appear as novel or even... Read more

Pages

Watch Tutorial Videos

We've put together several quick and easy tutorial videos to show you how to use this website.

Watch Now