Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review


Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review


Article excerpt

Will you be diligent in the reading and study of the Holy Scriptures, and in seeking the knowledge of such things as may make you a stronger and more able minister of Christ?

(BCP, p. 532)

Of making of many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh

(Ecclesiastes 12:12)

Living not only between these two realities, but also the demands of parish and family life, I offer these booknotes as my way of seeking that everelusive Anglican Via Media. I will divide my reflections among a book I have reread, books I use for prayer, and books about preaching, pastoral care, biblical studies, and current theology. I will conclude with some reflections about general periodicals.

A Book I Have Reread

I recently reread a book I encountered ten years ago that began in me a process which has deeply influenced my practice of liturgy, preaching, teaching children and adults and pastoral care. That book is The Religious Potential of the Child by Sofia Cavalletti (Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1992, 188 pp.). It is a description of the spiritual and theological foundations of the children's Christian education program, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a program that is spreading rapidly across the Episcopal Church. We began this program in my parish ten years ago, and I have taken training in all three age levels, and taught the older children. This past summer I formed a reading group with the parish catechists to explore the book again. Rereading The Religious Potential of the Child was a return to something wonderful made even richer by our long-term involvement with the program.

The Religious Potential of the Child is not a set of lesson plans for the program but an introduction to its spiritual and theological foundations. Sofia Cavalletti is a Hebrew scholar who lives in Rome. With her collaborator, Gianna Gobbi, she has engaged in a forty-year process of observing and then assisting the religious development of children. Her research has been guided by this question: "Of all the aspects of the Christian faith, which of those things speaks most fully to a child at particular stages of their human development?" Through forty years of trial and error, experiment and observation, they found out. Their discoveries have been confirmed in the work of catechists and children all over the world.

Cavalletti begins with the assumption that children have "religious potential." That is, God is already present in the child's deepest being. The catechist does not give religious information, but facilitates the child's personal discovery of God's presence and love in his or her own life. By means of a prepared environment that follows the principles of Montessori education, with hands-on manipulatives and furniture geared to a child's size, and using only scripture and liturgy, the children develop their own language of faith. It is language that is simple, beautiful, and profound. It is a language whose depths, hidden in directness and simplicity, often startle adults, but which brings tremendous joy to the catechists who relate to the children as co-wonderers on the path toward God.

Cavalletti makes certain theological assumptions. She believes that the child's first exposure to the faith should be centered in Christ. The image that speaks to the three- to six-year-old child is Christ the Good Shepherd who calls his sheep by their own names. The Good Shepherd lays down his life, that is gives everything for the sheep so that they are nurtured and protected. This is not a cute children's story, but is the center of our faith. Cavalletti starts with Christ and works outward from there. She does not begin with the, Old Testament and work forward chronologically. The only Old Testament images given to young children are small bits of prophecy that speak of Christ such as Isaiah 9:2, 6. It is not until age nine to twelve that children get an indepth exposure to the Old Testament. …

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