When it was time for my youngest to learn to tie her shoes, our family gathered together and knelt on the ground to take turns demonstrating and gently guiding her own attempts. Over the next few weeks Mom, Dad, or older brother would be sure to be at her side to coach and guide until, in very short order, she was tying them up right along with us.
Catechesis, at its heart “…is an apprenticeship of the entire Christian life, it is a ‘complete Christian initiation,’ which promotes an authentic following of Christ, focused on his Person” (GDC). Catechesis is intended to introduce us to the person of Christ in such a way that we become followers, and not just followers, but family: “He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Ephesians 1:5). As catechists our ministry is the building up of God’s family and teaching our newest members how to be active members of the family of Christ.
In this light, intergenerational catechesis makes an amazing amount of sense. How did we learn to be a part of our own families? By doing those things that families do, with all the other members of our families: older cousins, younger sisters, uncles and grandmothers. Each member had something to teach us. My little brother taught me how much fun it can be always to have someone to climb trees with; my grandmother shared with me her great gift of hospitality; my cousins taught me to read, to ride a bike, and to catch frogs in the mud. We grew together; shared life together; learned to love, laugh, and reconcile, together.
In the same way, each member of our parish family has something valuable to teach our newest members, whether they are actively preparing for sacraments or continuing to grow in their faith. In our parish, intergenerational learning and growing has become the norm. It hasn’t been easy, and many still ask if there will be time for the “little kids” to go off and learn on their own. Experience has shown that as moms and dads, older brothers, younger sisters, grandfathers, and aunts begin to share in the activities and share their own unique approaches to this life in Christ, the special gifts and graces that Christ desires to share invariably begin to shine. We can give no greater gift to the families of our parishes than to create open, welcoming, energetic learning spaces where seeing the relationship another has with Christ opens the door to seeing Christ with fresh eyes ourselves.