Today’s title encompasses two sections, referenced by this footnote: Cf. General Catechetical Directory 78-79; Catechesi Tradendae 37. Let’s start with four important factors for the catechesis of children:
178. The catechesis of children is necessarily linked with their life situation and conditions. It is the work of various but complementary educational agents. Some factors of universal relevance may be mentioned:
– Infancy and childhood, each understood according to its own peculiarities, are a time of primary socialization as well as of human and Christian education in the family, the school and the Church. These must then be understood as a decisive moment for subsequent stages of faith.
– In accordance with accepted tradition, this is normally the time in which Christian initiation, inaugurated with Baptism, is completed. With the reception of the sacraments, the first organic formation of the child in the faith and his introduction into the life of the Church is possible.(Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 37)
– The catechetical process in infancy is eminently educational. It seeks to develop those human resources which provide an anthropological basis for the life of faith, a sense of trust, of freedom, of self-giving, of invocation and of joyful participation. Central aspects of the formation of children are training in prayer and introduction to Sacred Scripture.(Cf. Directory for Masses with Children)
Since the liturgical document is referenced here, I’m going to insert a few comments. Preachers, presiders, musicians, and other liturgical musicians should be familiar with the principles in the DMC, even if few or no such Masses are offered in the parish. Why? Because the principles for inviting young children into prayer are applicable in the home, the classroom, and in other parish gatherings. Please consult our examination of this important document from four years back.
– Finally attention must be devoted to the importance of two vital educational loci: the family and the school. In a certain sense nothing replaces family catechesis, especially for its positive and receptive environment, for the example of adults, and for its first explicit experience and practice of the faith.
Providing parents with resources for family catechesis is the duty of parish ministers. Many parents, of course, have a natural feel for this. Let’s talk about the secondary locus for catechesis, the school:
179. Beginning school means, for the child, entering a society wider than the family, with the possibility of greater development of intellectual, affective and behavioural capacities. Often specific religious instruction will be given in school. All this requires that catechesis and catechists constantly co-operate with parents and school teachers as suitable opportunities arise.(Cf. General Catechetical Directory 79) Pastors should remember that, in helping parents and educators to fulfil their mission well, it is the Church who is being built up. Moreover this is an excellent occasion for adult catechesis.(Cf. General Catechetical Directory 78, 79)
How many schools provide catechetical sessions for parents? Or intergenerational opportunities for the whole community? It is likely that parish DRE’s and faith formation directors are way ahead of their scholastic counterparts in this.