Those of us who have families to raise may feel a little apprehensive when we realise the importance the Church gives to families in their role in faith formation. The Church, with all the strength and tenderness of a mother, a father, a grandparent, ‘holds’ us with just the right amount of gentleness and firmness as we each make our unique journey through the joys and sorrows of life. The family though is, in a very real sense, the very first ‘church’ to which we belong and where we are held in love.
The Church recognises our foundations in family life, teaching that family is the primary place of education in all things, including faith, and that parents are the ‘first heralds of the Gospel’. This is so because family relationships reflect, however imperfectly, God’s creative and complete love. Home really is a holy place! When we first hear this most people’s reaction tends to be ‘not my family!’ Yet the Church upholds the essential holiness of family life despite our own experience of family being at times messy and disjointed. It is in the middle of the difficulties of real life that we find God, with us, always. The task of adults in families is to practice, as Mary did, having a listening heart so that we can know that God is here with us in all the joys and sorrows of our ordinary lives. God is with us because God is found wherever there is love, however imperfect that love may be. No parent would ever say that raising a family is easy, even Jesus gave his own parents that moment of absolute panic when they realised their child had wandered off and they hadn’t noticed (Luke 2:42-43). Jesus was ahead of our children and was talking with the elders in the temple. In our time, parents choose to introduce their child to the parish community through the Sacrament of Baptism and then hopefully want to walk hand in hand with them praying often at bedtime, attending church and supporting preparation for first Sacraments and beyond. In this way do we join our families to the family that is the church.
The word catechesis comes from a Greek word which means to echo. In catechesis we pass on our faith by echoing it to somebody else. Family catechesis is a method for helping parents and carers echo the faith to their children particularly when they are preparing for the celebration of the first sacraments: Reconciliation, Holy Communion and Confirmation.
- Family catechesis brings parents and carers into the process of preparation for first sacraments
- It supports parents and carers to be the ones who prepare their children
- Parents/carers stay with their child throughout the preparation sessions
- Parents/carers sit with their child & work through a resource with their child
- Catechists support the parents
- The whole parish community supports the parents and the child’s family
- The school works with the parish to support parents and carers (and, through RE, to re-enforce what parents and carers are teaching their children
Through Family Catechesis:
- parents and carers act as the child’s first teachers in the faith
- parents and carers talk to their own children
- families pass on the faith