According to the Catholic catechism, parents have the responsibility to teach their children, not just the faith, but everything. Makes lots of sense, actually. The issue is most of us contract out the teaching to others who may or may not be more qualified to teach what the kids need to learn. In our current situation, the older two go to an international school that follows an American-style curriculum for their formal education. The twins are just a bit too young, and I’m not convinced that institutionalized preschool is any better for long-term intellectual and academic development than play at home and helping with housework. We are working on their religious education at home, though. Mainly because the scheduling at the church we often attend is less than ideal, and I’m not certain that they would actually get taught the faith. When we were last in the U.S., Yakum and Ikinji attended a Catholic school that did Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in the preschool, and more traditional religious ed for the elementary schoolers.
With Yakum I use the Baltimore Catechism, which works incredibly well (dioceses would be well-advised to go back to it, in my opinion). Yesterday, I went over a section we had done two weeks ago, and she had all the answers right. Now, we don’t go through it verbatim, and I tend to expand on the answers given in the book, and she asks lots of good questions, so I know it isn’t rote memorization. There’s just something about the way the question/answer format is constructed that makes it easy to internalize and understand complex ideas. Although we do sometimes get to, “That’s one of the Mysteries of the Faith. Don’t worry if thinking about it makes your head hurt because you don’t completely understand.” Yesterday’s was the Mystery of the Incarnation and the two natures of Christ. Not bad for an eight-year-old.
With Ikinji, we’ve been gradually going line by line through the fundamental prayers, starting with the Our Father, and we just finished the Hail Mary. He’s in first grade, and since there’s a strong chance we’ll be in the U.S. for second grade, I realized I need to start laying the groundwork for sacrament preparation next year. I guess that means I’ll be starting the ten commandments next week.
The twins get exposure to prayer time since my wife says the Divine Mercy chaplet most days, and every day makes a little time to pray. They also usually do the Angelus at 6:00pm, before I get home from work. They also listen to our weekly mass preparation on Saturdays, where we go through the readings and have a short discussion.
All told, I’m spending maybe 45 minutes on catechism per week, for all four kids. That really isn’t a lot of time invested, and they seem to get it, and be moving along in their knowledge of their faith. I also get to learn along with them, because it’s really forcing me to make sure I know what I’m talking about, so I can answer questions, or help guide them to the truth through some tricky doctrines.
This also relates to the just-concluded Synod on the Family. I’m a little disappointed that it seems like they didn’t focus on challenges facing Catholic families in the current cultural milieu. We’ll just have to see what, if anything, Pope Francis releases as a summary document. What really annoys me, though, is that much of the press and blogging about the goings on show a gross lack of understanding of the richness of the faith. All sides appear to be pushing a particular agenda, rather than siting the discussions in the rich context of our faith. I would venture that the spokespeople were only able to get away with presenting very narrow views of what was discussed because of the lack of catechesis among the laity. If we really knew our faith, we would understand that either they were distorting the discussions beyond all recognition or they were presenting just one small facet that fits within the larger context. I wasn’t there, of course, and only minimally followed the press statements, so I don’t know which it really is. I appreciate the bloggers, like Supertrad Mum and Red Cardigan who have taken a balanced approach and are able to understand that this Synod and the last were, is in the words of Fr. Z, “minor parentheses within a, probably, short parenthesis.” They didn’t get worked up that the sky was falling, or fall over themselves to declare that mercy trumps everything, or even declare winners and losers. Rather, they put the Synod in the context of the faith as an advisory assembly to discuss issues of concern and present suggestions to the Pope. Without proper catechesis, such an approach is not possible, nor will it be possible to read and understand whatever final document comes from the Pope, to include where it fits in the hierarchy of the Magisterium.
So, that’s a long way of saying, people of my generation haven’t been taught the faith effectively, and we’re now trying to pass it on to our kids. Thank goodness for the internet and other resources that allow us to reclaim the proven tools of the past and develop new ones. Also, thank God for the gift of children, who keep us on our toes and help make sure we really know all our subjects, but especially the faith.