Parents want the best for their children

Parents know the Christian faith offers an alternative to the culture of self-absorption

Parents are gathering in school halls and parish centres all over the country these evenings for the sacramental preparation talks ahead of next year’s Confirmation, first Penance and first Holy Communion.

Many, if not most, who attend these sessions are not regular church goers so these meetings become a rare opportunity to discuss the Faith with a group of people we don’t often meet face-to-face like this. Each year I help a few parishes with their parents’ night by giving a presentation, “Why bother with faith?” 

That title arises from a conversation I had several years ago with the mother of a child preparing for first Holy Communion. She wasn’t a regular Mass goer but she wanted her son to make his first Holy Communion. She admitted she was dreading the parents’ meeting, expecting to be either bored or bullied. I asked her what she’d like from the evening and she volunteered three suggestions: “Keep it short, don’t talk down to us and remind us why this is worth the effort.”

Some members of her family, she explained, had decided not to bring their children for the sacraments and she had experienced a few doubts of her own. She wanted to be reminded of what she instinctively knew to be true: that passing on the Faith and preparing her  son for Holy Communion was a good idea.  

In response, we crafted a session that explores why the Christian faith is worth passing on to the children. We highlight how friendship with Christ is a beautiful gift; how it will help them in life but also challenge them to look beyond themselves and care for others – Christ will be a comforting friend but a demanding one. With references to the popular culture we look at some testimonies of faith. Then we explore the basics of the sacraments and how these are beautiful moments of encounter. The tone is one of invitation, encouragement and empowerment.

In order to be effective, this has to be delivered in a crisp and focused way, ideally with some humour. It’s hugely encouraging though to see how parents respond to this encouragement.

Parents want the best for their children and, though it might not manifest itself in weekly Mass attendance, they know the Christian faith offers hope, comfort and consolation and an alternative to the culture of self-absorption.

Though they might not articulate it as such, this is what parents want for their children.


Church’s noisy engine room

The Synod on the Family was marked by media hype, public disagreements and plenty of speculation and intrigue on Catholic blogs.

Fr Robert Barron, founder of the Word on Fire online evangelisation initiative, produced a particularly insightful commentary on the whole thing. He noted that the level of public disagreement among synod participants ought not to surprise us.

He helpfully pointed out that Church councils and gatherings across the centuries have been marked by acrimonious debate. At the time, such disagreement would have been known only to the participants and, later, to the historians.

While the teachings of those councils are well known, the process that produced that teaching was consigned to the shadows. In contrast, during this synod we saw disagreements playing out publicly in a 24/7 media environment. Contentious debate is nothing new: weíre just seeing it all happening now in ëreal timeí.

Quoting Blessed John Henry Newman, Fr Barron notes that ìthose who love the barque of Peter ought to stay out of the engine room!î


500 years of St Teresa

2015 marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of St Teresa of Avila and already events are underway to celebrate this Carmelite mystic and Doctor of the Church. Bishop Kevin Doran launched the commemorations at St Teresaís church in Dublinís Clarendon St last week with a Mass which has been followed with a series of talks, concerts and even a flower show.

At a time when many consider themselves spiritual rather than religious, perhaps thereís an appetite for an introduction to the insights of the Churchís great mystics and spiritual traditions. Earlier this year I saw a Dublin parish draw a particularly large attendance to a well-advertised and appropriately pitched series on Ignatian spirituality.

Parishes and faith groups planning their gatherings for the coming year might consider a session on St Teresa and her message.