Evidence from Catechetical and Family Documents
Evidence from Catechetical and Family Documents
Wisdom from Familiaris Consortio
A Foundation for Life
In the experience of young children, parents symbolize God—they make God real for the child. In this way, parents are the first evangelizers of their children. The role of parents in the development of a child ‘s human and spiritual growth is irreplaceable.
Persons Equal in Dignity
The mission of the family is to guard, reveal, and communicate love. The family is the sanctuary of life. The full dignity of each person begins in the family, and if it fails there, it is unlikely to develop anywhere else. This task of the family happens when parents take up the work of communicating the tender love and faithful care of God.
The Domestic Church
Pope John Paul II identified the family as the church in miniature and as such it is a living image and historical representation of the mystery of the Church. And although family life can be messy, unstructured, noisy and disorganized, it is still the Church. In the midst of the chaos, it is in our family that we travel on the road to sainthood.
Parents Minister to Their Children
Parents are the first heralds of the Gospel to their children. One of the greatest challenges of our time is to enable and assist parents in the important work of being family evangelizers. It is in the home where the Word of God is first and continually proclaimed and where God’s love is intimately communicated.
A Spirituality of the Ordinary
The pope writes: Joys and sorrows, hopes and disappointments, birth and birthday celebrations, wedding anniversaries, departures, separations and homecomings, important and far-reaching decisions, the death of those who are near, etc.—all of these mark God’s loving intervention in the family history. The family home is a monastery of sorts—their spiritual life percolates from what happens each day in the midst of the chaos of their home church. It is in this place that the space between each member of the household is sanctified and energized by the very breath of God.
The family is a community of life and love. The love that infuses the family reflects God as it takes on graced sacramental form on the every day stuff of family life. In this way it is a reflection of the trinity—creating life out of love.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called "the domestic church," a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity. (1666)
Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God. The parish is the Eucharistic community and the heart of the liturgical life of Christian families; it is a privileged place for the catechesis of children and parents. (2226)
Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us
There may be no place more significant for catechesis than the family. "Family catechesis precedes…accompanies and enriches all forms of catechesis"—and this applies to any structure or stage of family life.
Catechetical opportunities situatedin family settings foster both adult and family faith growth, while also addressing one of the major reasons adults give for not participating in adult education: time away from their families. Maximize opportunities for adult faith formation to fit into the rhythms of family life and not to pull families apart.
General Directory For Catechesis
In this document the Holy See gives 6 characteristics for family-centered catechesis:
1. Contextual for All Catechesis
Family catechesis precedes, accompanies and enriches all forms of catechesis. The witness of Christian life given by parents in the family comes to children with tenderness and parental respect. Children thus perceive and joyously live the closeness of God and of Jesus made manifest by their parents in such a way that this first Christian experience frequently leaves decisive traces which last throughout life. This childhood religious awakening, which takes place in the family, is irreplaceable. It is consolidated when, on the occasion of certain family events and festivities, care is taken to explain in the home the Christian or religious content of these events. It is deepened all the more when parents comment on the more methodical catechesis which their children later receive in the Christian community and help them to appropriate it. Indeed, "family catechesis precedes…accompanies and enriches all forms of catechesis." (GDC 226)
It is provided primarily by the adults in the family who share faith with one another and with the younger members and who set an example of faith lived. Education in faith by parents, which should begin from the children’s tenderest age, is already being given when the members of a family help each other to grow in faith through the witness of their Christian lives, a witness that is often without words, but which perseveres throughout a day-to-day life lived in accordance with the Gospel. (CT 68)
The religious awakening of the child takes place in the family. It is there that the child first experiences and practices the faith. Those who give life to the child bring the child through Baptism to life in the Kingdom of God and continually nurture that life. (GDC 177-178)
As the children grown and mature, the witness and teaching of the parents continue to profoundly affect their lives. The scope of family catechesis is lifelong. As the family membership broadens, neither age nor role dictate who is learner and who is teacher. Each member of the family becomes teacher and learner by virtue of a sincere attempt to hear the message of the Gospel and to respond to it in worship and service. (GDC 227)
By making Gospel values the foundation for their way of life, parents prepare their children to bring these values into the environments where they will study, work and socialize. Family members recognize and live the Christian call to serve neighbors, friends, parish community and the broader communities of Church and world. By the witness of its life together, the family evangelizes the wider communities by which it is a part. (GDC 211)
6. Formal and informal
Informal catechesis is experienced through the atmosphere that permeates the home where children perceive and live the closeness to God in Jesus made manifest by their parents. Formal catechesis is experienced through the parents’ articulation of their faith by such means as teaching, prayer and moral guidance. (GDC 226)
Follow the Way of Love
A family is our first community and the most basic way in which the Lord gathers us, forms us, and acts in the world. The early Church expressed this truth by calling the Christian family a domestic church or church of the home. This marvelous teaching was underemphasized for centuries but reintroduced by the Second Vatican Council. Today we are still uncovering its rich treasure. P. 8
You carry out the mission of the church of the home in ordinary ways when:
"… You educate. As the primary teachers of your children, you impart knowledge of the faith and help them to acquire values necessary for Christian living." P. 9
We challenge you to examine the priorities you have for your family. Compare them with how you actually spend your time…we urge you to tame time to be together:
- Making shared meals a priority (even if you gather at a fast food restaurant)
- Praying and worshipping together, especially at the Sunday Eucharist and in family prayers, such as the rosary,
- Building family traditions and rituals,
- Taking part in retreats and family education programs. P. 23
A Family Perspective in Church and Society
This document has particular relevance for those involved in religious education as DRE’s, CRE’s, Program Managers and Catechists.
It states that a family perspective is an attempt to perceive reality in a different way. A family perspective, as a pastoral strategy, is both an orientation to think in terms of systems theory, as well as a criterion to assess the impact of policies, programs, ministries and services to families provided at the diocesan and parish levels of the church.
The four elements of a family perspective are outlined in the document:
- The family has a unique identity and mission that permeates its tasks and responsibilities.
- The family is not a collection of individuals, but a living and developing system whose members are essentially interconnected.
- Diversity in structure, economic status, special needs, ethnic and religious heritages, and the influence of societal trends affect the roles and activities of families today.
- Partnerships need to be formed between families and the institutions that share family responsibilities.
Some implications for catechesis based on what we learn from A Family Perspective in Church and Society are:
- A family approach to catechesis would demand
- an understanding of the family as a system
- the development of structures that would support the involvement of multiple family members across generations
- ministries that are poised to support the family in its catechetical effort.
- Adopting a family perspective would necessitate the development of new materials and structures that would promote and nurture an authentic family spirituality that would notimitate the monastic paradigm.
- This presumes a model shift from a spirituality which calls one to separateness and the extraordinary to a spirituality based on the sacraments of family life which are those of intimacy, of care for others and of the ordinary events of daily living—seeing the sacred in the ordinary.
Husbands and wives truly love each other when they are responsible before God and carry out God’s plan for human life and love. The love between husband and wife must be "fully human, total, exclusive, faithful and open to life." Further, responsible parenthood involves not only bringing children into the world but also taking part personally and responsibly in their upbringing and education. According to Vatican II, the role of parents in education has such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute. It is therefore the duty of parents to create a family atmosphere inspired by love and devotion to God and their fellow persons, which will provide an integrated, personal, and social education of the child. "Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children." P. 18
From Other Sources
Family Centered Church, A New Parish Model by Gerald Foley
Regarding Family-centered religious education…Evidence suggests that programs best affect students when the family is considered part of the religious education team. When faith does not support home activities, many youth fall prey to a religious skepticism that grows and festers. The most successful programs involve parents sharing their faith and receiving nurturance from each other, their children, and the extended family of faith. P. 148