Parents and catechesis

Enrico Finotti

With the catechists of the parish we try to interest the families of the children … Unfortunately, many are content with sending their children to the catechetical meeting, but do not commit themselves to participating in the Sunday Eucharist. They barely intervene when something specific is done or given to their children. Without a family, our commitment is as if beheaded and we are often quite discouraged. One sees immediately who has a regularly practicing family. We are at the point that the basic prayers are not acquired even after years of catechesis. This is because parents in the home no longer pray and do not follow their children in the spiritual life. Even the few things we recommend, such as the Advent prayer around the ‘advent wreath’ or the crib tends to become folklore, without a true adherence to faith. Despite everything, we go on trusting in the Lord…

–A group of catechists

The symbolic language of the liturgy becomes effective and educational if the two main agencies responsible for the spiritual education of the people of God and especially of children intervene in mutual agreement: the parish and the Christian family. In the first place it is up to the parish priest to take care of the liturgical symbols relating to the various holy feasts and times. He must set up a sacred environment, that of the church, which is able to ‘speak’ to the faithful and stimulate them to reflect on the different Mysteries, which are celebrated in the liturgical year. 

A church that is always the same, mostly bare and sometimes miserable, cannot represent an educational means for the people who gather there. Various ‘scenarios’ must alternate: one is that of Advent and then of Christmas, the other that of Lent and Easter, still another that of ordinary time. Solemnity must be such and so must feasts, unlike days of penance and austerity. Unfortunately, the taste for liturgical furnishings has failed and in the name of other sensitivities our churches have become gray and boringly always identical. In this way, even collaborators of good will roam the church and do not know what to do, or get used to the bare minimum. Certainly in this climate the amazement of beauty and the taste for the things of God has decayed. It is inevitable that from external neglect we can quickly reach laxity of the spirit and the trivialization of the holiest things. If we then pass from the church to the home, we note that the absence of any sacred sign corresponds to an increasing comfort and the place of prayer no longer finds any space in the home.

The use of lights and many other symbols could awaken, both in church and in homes, a return to prayer: more solemn in church and warmer and more intimate in homes. The gradual lighting of the candles in Advent, a quality nativity scene that attracts veneration, the multiplication of candles and the blessing of incense on the Epiphany, the delivery of the candles blessed to the ‘candelora’, an authentic and noble austerity in Lent, a true total extinction of the lights on Good Friday, a solemn inauguration of a precious Easter candle, a generous splendor in the Easter celebrations etc must return to being an eminent concern of every parish priest, who intends to render a worthy worship to God and to serve his faithful with responsibility.

All this should be taken up by sensitive parents, who make their families a domestic church, allowing them to breathe the atmosphere of the liturgical year. The lights and signs of the Church’s liturgy become the guide of the ‘domestic liturgy’: the daily prayer at the lighting of the candles and at the crib, the blessed incense burned in the Epiphany, the conservation of the candle of the ‘candelora’ and of the olive tree on Palm Sunday, Lenten penance and the contemplation of the Cross placed in a place of honor; the sprinkling with blessed water in the joy of Easter, the Marian rosary, the images of the Madonna and the Saints and all those traditions, which come from popular piety, should become, managed by attentive and convinced parents, a cyclical stimulus that acts to imprint on the children the tradition of faith of the fathers.

However, suitable masters are needed in this sense. Who but priests can restore the foundations of faith with the simple signs of the Church’s tradition? However, clear ideas, liturgical preparation and courage are needed in today’s climate of current secularization. Above all continuity over time, because it is the drop that digs the rock, not the impetuous wind of a moment, which is extinguished in a few moments.

After this work we must stop at the freedom of each one. The Lord does not force us to follow him and so we too must proclaim His Word, without expecting everyone to respond to it, but on our part to fulfill our duty as much as possible. 

(From La spada e la Parola. Il liturgista risponde, 2018©Chorabooks. Translated by Aurelio Porfiri. Used with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved)