Liturgical catechesis

Over the weekend, as I mentioned, we had a catechist training day where one of the main themes was the link between catechesis and the liturgy: the goal of catechesis is communion with Christ, and this takes place in the Liturgy, where the Bridegroom gives his life for His bride. So catechesis and teaching about the Faith always leads to the Liturgy, to that real, tangible encounter with God.

Catechesis on the meaning of the visible signs of the Liturgy leads to people’s fuller experience of the mystery and their part in it. But I realised over the weekend how Liturgy is catechesis itself. Two examples made it really clear…

On Saturday was the first First Communion Mass in the parish for all the children in the parish primary school. I’ve never seen anything like this school… It is truly amazing. When the children read at Mass they read better than most adults. Everything about their participation in Mass is impeccable… And the Liturgy of the First Communion Mass was so perfect, and the children so well-trained, it left me freaking about the second First Communion Mass we have this weekend for all our children in non-Catholic schools… The pressure is on! Anyway, the point is that, when children are confident about how to behave in Mass, this in itself is catechesis. They receive their First Communion kneeling and on the tongue, which is itself catechesis about the Real Presence.

My second example is another parish I was at over the weekend. During the Mass hundreds of children left for Children’s Liturgy, and none of them or their parents genuflected. During the Eucharistic Prayer they were encouraged to sit down at the front of the church rather than kneel. It struck me as being a “counter-catechesis” about the Real Presence. Don’t get me wrong, it was a lovely, caring, welcoming parish with a very prayerful presence. But I feel we’re not doing children any favours by not giving them clear signs about the Real Presence. Why should they hold onto their faith if we don’t show them we believe God is “Really” Present in our churches?

8 Responses

  1. Father Paul Gunter OSB says:

    God bless you for your blog. It has left me genuinely moved. I remember you when you were very young together with Brendan and Sally. In those days, I often felt so discouraged because catechesis was watered down because being seen as ‘inclusive’ (irrespective of the cost) was deemed of particular importance at that time and that wounded me very much. I strove to do what I could but it could only scratch the surface in such a huge parish. You may remember that I was at St Gregory’s Cheltenham as a young priest from 1992-1999. They were not easy years but reading your blog reminded me that God bears fruit as and where he will and it is not for us to quantify how much good God may use us for. We do not see. May God reward you for all you do and give you his strength. Pray for me when you receive Holy Communion. Paul Gunter OSB

    • Hello Fr Paul. Yes, I do remember you, even though I would only have been 7 when you first arrived! I was part of the First Communion “Golden Book” generation :o) I really think there are lots of good signs in the Church to indicate a corner has been turned in many areas in catechesis… But it strikes me there is still so much work to be done. It was good to hear from you, and thank you for your comments!

  2. Father Paul Gunter OSB says:

    God bless you for your blog. It has left me genuinely moved. I remember you when you were very young together with Brendan and Sally. In those days, I often felt so discouraged because catechesis was watered down because being seen as ‘inclusive’ (irrespective of the cost) was deemed of particular importance at that time and that wounded me very much. I strove to do what I could but it could only scratch the surface in such a huge parish. You may remember that I was at St Gregory’s Cheltenham as a young priest from 1992-1999. They were not easy years but reading your blog reminded me that God bears fruit as and where he will and it is not for us to quantify how much good God may use us for. We do not see. May God reward you for all you do and give you his strength. Pray for me when you receive Holy Communion. Paul Gunter OSB

    • Hello Fr Paul. Yes, I do remember you, even though I would only have been 7 when you first arrived! I was part of the First Communion “Golden Book” generation :o) I really think there are lots of good signs in the Church to indicate a corner has been turned in many areas in catechesis… But it strikes me there is still so much work to be done. It was good to hear from you, and thank you for your comments!

  3. Father Paul Gunter OSB says:

    Well done! You may be amused to know that I teach the seminar here at the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy in Rome ‘Liturgical Catechesis’. Push ahead, I say.

    Authentic texts teach what we believe and impart true doctrine. Gestures illustrate consistency with what we believe and afford us the recollection human beings need in Church to enter into sung or spoken prayer, the proclamation of the scriptures and silence. Beauty of form in worship lifts the human spirit when it calls us to pray. A utilitarian liturgy will soon be replaced by richer texts in the forthcoming English missal. May it give you a springboard to put into practice a vivid catechesis of the Mass. Returning parents and their unchurched spouses/partners are no less needy. Our children will be grateful for the whole of their lives. Many in recent decades have been less fortunate and their effectively post-Christian environments have desensitized them, and to no mean extent, us too, from how one might approach the things of God.

    God is the subject of the Liturgy not the community. God is the One we worship and must be the primary focus of any parish community. Liturgy is the conduit through which a community is led to God and by which believers grow in the life of grace. It is for the liturgical catechist to prepare people for the demands of the Liturgy rather than for the Liturgy to dumb down or sell out to contemporary indifferentism. Only if people are prepared for liturgical life is it a public work oriented to God. Our lives can never be untouched if we live the Liturgy of the Church in our daily realities and struggles. Our personal choices transformed by Christ, step by step, will make our identity as Catholics a relief and its joy will be increasingly articulated by our love of the Mass.

  4. Father Paul Gunter OSB says:

    Well done! You may be amused to know that I teach the seminar here at the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy in Rome ‘Liturgical Catechesis’. Push ahead, I say.

    Authentic texts teach what we believe and impart true doctrine. Gestures illustrate consistency with what we believe and afford us the recollection human beings need in Church to enter into sung or spoken prayer, the proclamation of the scriptures and silence. Beauty of form in worship lifts the human spirit when it calls us to pray. A utilitarian liturgy will soon be replaced by richer texts in the forthcoming English missal. May it give you a springboard to put into practice a vivid catechesis of the Mass. Returning parents and their unchurched spouses/partners are no less needy. Our children will be grateful for the whole of their lives. Many in recent decades have been less fortunate and their effectively post-Christian environments have desensitized them, and to no mean extent, us too, from how one might approach the things of God.

    God is the subject of the Liturgy not the community. God is the One we worship and must be the primary focus of any parish community. Liturgy is the conduit through which a community is led to God and by which believers grow in the life of grace. It is for the liturgical catechist to prepare people for the demands of the Liturgy rather than for the Liturgy to dumb down or sell out to contemporary indifferentism. Only if people are prepared for liturgical life is it a public work oriented to God. Our lives can never be untouched if we live the Liturgy of the Church in our daily realities and struggles. Our personal choices transformed by Christ, step by step, will make our identity as Catholics a relief and its joy will be increasingly articulated by our love of the Mass.

  1. 1 July 2011

    […] First Communion preparation. I am all in favour of liturgical catechesis, as I have written about here. However, the author seemed to present quite a different concept of it from the one I am accustomed […]

  2. 1 July 2011

    […] First Communion preparation. I am all in favour of liturgical catechesis, as I have written about here. However, the author seemed to present quite a different concept of it from the one I am accustomed […]

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