This is the fourth article in a series on the five characteristics of Catholic identity and how we can nurture those in our children.
An important part in developing our Catholic identity is fostering a deep appreciation for the source of the knowledge of our faith. The Catholic Church recognizes that God’s Revelation comes to us in two ways: Scripture and Tradition.
Many children may not get an experience of Bible passages in context, as a part of a whole. To help children appreciate Scripture as a source of Divine Revelation, we must read and pray Scripture with deliberate purpose. Teach children how to read God’s Word with intention by placing a Bible on your prayer table. When you encounter Scripture passages in your textbook, read them from the Bible.
Model how to pray with Scripture. Allow silence for reflection, and ask students what God might be telling them about their own lives in this passage. You may also want to reflect on the readings for the upcoming Sunday and discuss how they relate to one another.
The Tradition of our faith comes to us through the writings of the popes, bishops, and Church councils over the 2,000-year history of our Church. These documents help us unwrap the gift of God’s Revelation and apply it to our current experiences.
Older students will benefit from documents such as the YOUCAT: The Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church and pastoral letters from our bishops and the pope that address Church teachings on current issues the students encounter at school and through media. For their own formation, catechists can read through a current encyclical or pastoral letter as a group, taking one section at a time and discussing its implications for faith and ministry.
There are many other practices that make up our Catholic identity. Help students learn more about the heritage of their faith by including one or more of the following practices in your classroom.
- Go on a Pilgrimage. Our faith is a journey towards God, and we symbolize this faith journey by visiting holy sites. Take a class pilgrimage to your church, and talk about the importance of the church in your community. Share the history of your church and the art or relics it houses. Some holy sites offer virtual pilgrimages online. You may also want to invite parishioners who have been on a pilgrimage to share their stories and pictures.
- Learn Traditional Prayers. Memorizing prayers not only gives us words when we are at a loss, but connects us to the history of our faith and to the holy people who spoke these same words with their own lips. When teaching traditional prayers to children, explain the meaning of the prayers line-by-line. Point out the scriptural roots of prayers such as the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary.
- Read Catholic Literature. Many classic and current fiction and non-fiction books can nourish our faith, inspire us, and catechize us. Read about the lives of the saints from sources such as the Loyola Kids Book of Saints. You can also include weekly readings in your class from popular books such as The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. For your own formation, pick up a classic such as The Confessions of St. Augustine or My Life with the Saints by James Martin, SJ.
How do you foster a reverence for Scripture and Tradition in your class?
Read the first three articles in the series:
Promoting Catholic Identity, Part 1: A Sense of Sacramentality
Promoting Catholic Identity, Part 2: A Commitment to Community
Promoting Catholic Identity, Part 3: A Respect for Human Life
Darcy, I’m glad you mention pilgrimages because these are often overlooked as a form of catechesis, especially local pilgrimages. Today, many parishes are finding that local pilgrimages are a great vehicle for adult faith enrichment…sort of a “classroom on wheels!” What a great way to learn about our Tradition!
I think a mini-pilgrimage around one’s parish church or the local cathedral is a great catechetical teaching tool. There are so many objects that even long-time Catholics know little about. I’m thinking of correct terminology like ambo and ambry. I’m thinking about the statuary and who or what is represented. And there’s more!