Shaping the Christian Message: Essays in Religious Education

Shaping the Christian Message: Essays in Religious Education

Shaping the Christian Message: Essays in Religious Education

Shaping the Christian Message: Essays in Religious Education

Excerpt

Complaining against children's catechisms is an old business. It can be a tiresome one. Yet every Christian has the freedom to work for the improvement of a situation in the Church provided he has the needed knowledge and can bring his reforms to the attention of those who have jurisdiction. If it is they who take initiative in the task, as with the Catechismus Romanus of 1566, so much the better. It is worth while observing that the right to be heard on any question must be won. No one automatically deserves to challenge a present situation, thought by many to be praiseworthy, until he first knows all the reasons for the favorable judgment. The man of good will may oppose criminal action and moral wrong with all vigor. When, however, he sets about the reform of some social situation or institution, or theological monument (like the child's catechism), he may be heard effectively only when he knows how that thing came to be, and came to be approved.

There does not exist in English a large body of writing on the roots of the catechism as a handbook of faith. Informative summaries are not lacking, but neither are they numerous. What they summarize is the drift of things: the catechumenate as an institution, the great names in patristic preaching and teaching, the emergence of the creeds, and all subsequent use of the question-answer technique. The essay which follows immediately has no different goal, but it does employ as its means selections of some length. This is a field that is not crowded, any more than patristic and medieval writings in English generally can be said to embarrass by their profusion.

The first two studies in this book establish two things: that the special needs of children were not attended to in any special way, in a context either of liturgy or of formal pedagogy; and that because believing Christians multiplied consistently for the fifteen or so centuries under discussion, the family, the Sunday Eucharistic assembly, and sacrament preparation must have sufficed somehow. How effectively we cannot say.

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