– 1 –
You all can probably guess what I’m about to say… Youth 2000 at Walsingham this year was on a whole new level – it blew me away! Personal triumph for me was sleeping for three (cold) nights in a tent. I am definitely glad to be home where crouching outside your tent to put on your makeup with a compact mirror is no longer a necessity 😉 But wow… what a weekend… The time with Jesus, the joy, fellowship, sacraments, friendships, worship… What a combination. ‘Heavenly’ in a true sense.
The testimony night was a highlight. So many beautiful testimonies of young people who had met Christ, or who wanted to give themselves completely to him. No ‘spiral of silence’ here… it is completely normal to speak about Jesus and wanting to surrender yourself to him. For me, this in itself makes Youth 2000 a glimpse into what I wish our parishes looked like.
What I loved about this year was the hundreds of children! It feels like many young people who have grown up through Youth 2000 are now having families of their own and still keep coming! So lovely… There was a real ‘family festival’ feel.
Next year, I am *determined* we will bring a coach-load from Portsmouth. Everyone was challenged to bring five new people next year… From Portsmouth, we need to bring at least fifty…! The challenge is on.
– 2 –
Over the summer, I have really enjoyed Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler. It tells the story of her conversion from atheism to Catholicism and is a page-turner from beginning to end. What I love about the book is that, first, it is a good story – it is funny, there’s lots of good narrative and conversation, it is very real. (And is therefore a great book to recommend to Catholics who don’t read theology – i.e. most of us). And second, it follows a sincere and thorough search for truth which is intellectually rigorous and almost like discovering Catholicism all over again. (A few times I caught myself thinking, ‘Yeah! I remember when I went through this mental conundrum!’) Being immersed in FID ideas, and having the ‘thresholds of conversion’ imprinted in my mind, I followed Fulwiler’s conversion through this lens… (perhaps a little contrived through a book, but still interesting). I was waiting for an explicit moment of encounter with Christ, and it didn’t come as such… although there are some very touching moments towards the end when you can see how God won her heart, as well as her mind.
I would really recommend this book to anyone involved in RCIA. One of the key things to remember about thresholds of conversion is that what seems obvious to us does not seem that way to the person on the journey. This is a brilliant book for helping us stand in the shoes of someone who is seeking. A must-buy!
– 3 –
Finally, I am intrigued by this article on RCIA. There isn’t enough space to comment on the whole article, but I’ll pick up one point. Nick Wagner makes a case for an RCIA process that doesn’t consist solely of lectures in doctrine. He speaks of a Deacon Zeke who,
for 90 percent of the time, … lectures from a diocesan-approved “comprehensive catechesis for the RCIA.” When he does ask an occasional question, Zeke does not seem to expect a response from the participants. …He fills in the dead spaces himself with more lecturing…
It has raised an interesting question for me. With a greater focus on evangelisation, I have noticed that, among US commentators in the catechetical scene, “textbook catechesis” is being exposed for what it is – truly unevangelising and therefore, on the whole, ineffective. Sherry Weddell has called it “Rabbit in the Headlights” catechesis, because it seems to be coupled with a fear of engaging with a real person, with real questions and experiences.
However, in the UK, we have a far less strong reaction to this style. Mainly because it is not a style prevalent in our parishes. Pedagogical styles are different over here, and in my view, you would simply “not get away with” reading from a textbook.
Because there is a less strong reaction, however, it seems that there are many priests and lay people in the UK who still think that the problems with the haemorrhaging Church over here can be fixed by better doctrinal catechesis in schools and in parishes. At the weekend, I gave a workshop on discipleship with young people where we looked at the thresholds of conversion and what these looked like for young people. One priest in the audience responded that he “got” the psychology (as if the ‘thresholds of conversion’ are about psychology) but that we simply need to present young people with the Truth.
Well, yes, of course.
The new evangelisation precisely calls for “new methods, new expressions” to reach those young people who so utterly immersed in an atheistic culture, that we have to be “savvy” about how we evangelise. Solid doctrinal catechesis in schools and parishes works when there is a culture (in families and in the wider society) to support it. Otherwise, it doesn’t. (As the Americans are finding out.) I’ve said it before on this blog and I’ll say it again and again, “Doctrinal catechesis is not enough!” (And if that makes me ‘unorthodox’ have a peek in the Confirmation programme which is packed with doctrine…)