School-Centred Preparation for Sacraments ‘Not Fit for Purpose’: ACP

Aug 8, 2021 | 1 comment

In a blunt statement on Sunday 8th August 2021 the Association of Catholic Priests calls the traditional school-centred model of preparation of children for sacraments ‘no longer fit for purpose‘.

“The ACP believes that the current model whereby the bulk of sacramental preparation takes place in school, in a partnership involving school, parents and parish, is no longer fit for purpose. This way of doing things has to change. It is the role of the family and parish to nurture faith and introduce children to the sacraments.”

In Dublin archdiocese a 2020 experiment in family-led preparation for early sacraments was pronounced a success, but it is not yet known if Irish bishops will commit their dioceses to that or a similar model – or whether the declared move towards ‘synodality‘ will encompass this issue.

ACI also strongly supports a move to end over-reliance on schools for sacramental preparation and faith formation – a key factor in the clerical denial of necessary dialogue to adult lay people on matters of faith, and of faith formation, since 1968.

To read the full ACP statement of 8th August 2021 click here.

Ireland’s Faith Formation Crisis

1 Comment

  1. Kathleen Faley

    Four Sacraments: Baptism Confession, First Holy Communion and Confirmation

    Baptism

    Baptism of infants is the preferred method of introducing infant children to their Christian faith here in Ireland. Baptism as the first Sacrament of Initiation ( the other Sacraments being First Holy Communion and Confirmation), is important as the Sign of Christian Identity in Christ. In the present custom of the Baptism of infants, days, weeks or months old these infants personally are not conscious of what the Sacrament really means for them. Sponsors may not always take their responsibility as seriously as they should to ensure that the infant is instructed in what their Baptism means for them.

    What can be said is that the Blessed Trinity becomes conscious of the Baptised infant before she/he becomes conscious of their Christian faith. For this reason I believe that young children should be taught about the importance of the Sacrament of Baptism that they have had administered on them when they were infants without their own conscious knowledge.

    Parents could do this by celebrating the birth date of the infant’s Baptism every year marking it as equally important as the date of the infant’s birth. Baptism is the infant’s Spiritual Birthday.

    Confession

    The Sacrament of Confession does not get mentioned equally with the Sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation when they are being talked about even though it is a separate Sacrament with its own significance and grace. The Sacrament of Confession for young children is linked primarily to preparation for First Holy Communion but it should be given its own space and developed as the separate Sacrament that it is from First Holy Communion.

    The Sacrament of Confession should concentrate on forgiveness and love which are the more positive aspects rather than the legalistic dark confession box idea of Confession in the past. First Confession for young children usually takes place before the Altar and Tabernacle in preparation for their First Holy Communion this should be maintained for them. The older idea of young children being expected to enter a Confession box for the remainder of their lives into adulthood is wrong. Sinfulness is a turning away from God but emphasizing darkness, shame, secrecy and punishment which the Confession box is synonymous with is not far off creating a sense of coercive guilt. In the past this was how a person was meant to feel and it over-rode the love and forgiveness aspect of the experience of grace that the Sacrament of Confession was and is meant to confer.

    The Catholic Church should provide parents and their young child/children with a different model of the Sacrament of Confession as the Sacrament of Reconciliation with God rather than a form of guilt inducing penance. There should be a special provision made for Parents to bring their child/children to a Sacrament of Confession as separate from the Sacrament of Confession for adults. In preparation for the Sacrament of First Holy Communion the Sacrament of Confession young children should have time to learn and internalise the meaning of this Sacrament which is equally important as the Sacrament of First Holy Communion.

    First Holy Communion

    First Holy Communion is the most important Sacrament because of its central place in the Celebration of the Mass. This is the Second Sacrament of Initiation bringing the child into a deep and unifying Relationship with Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. This is why parents of young children have to be more committed to attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion themselves.

    When a young child sees her/his parents making it an important part of their weekly routine to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion then there is a better chance of a good grounding in the child’s own practice of their religious faith in their adult life. The spiritual aspect of Holy Communion as spiritual nourishment for the child/children on their journey through life should be emphasized to them as they grow up.

    Over past decades the sense of responsibility towards respect for the family’s sacred duty to attend Mass has been diminished by too many distractions, sports training or travel to sports events on Saturday evenings or Sunday mornings. When parents opted or indeed felt pressured to let their child go to their sports training the resulting consequence was and is the diminishing of the Sacred in favour of the secular.

    It has not gone un-noticed how RTE provided the facility through ChurchServicesTV the celebration of Mass on Television on weekday mornings from Monday -Friday at 10.30am during the Coronavirus Lockdowns. Providing this Religious Service recognises the necessity of Spiritual Nourishment complete with the Act of Spiritual Communion during this time of crisis in the lives of people of this country.

    This same recognition should be re-introduced by sports associations in regard to parents being able to ensure their child/children’s Spiritual Duty on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. That was what the Sabbath/Sunday was created for. The Day of Rest from work and for Spiritual nourishment and renewal. This is vital.

    A Catechist trained to provide a Children’s Liturgy during the Liturgy of the Word should be introduced in Churches in every parish where the young children would go to a separate place for their Children’s Liturgy and return to the Church again in time for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

    Sacrament of Confirmation

    The Sacrament of Confirmation is very important for young children as they are growing into their teenage years when they are going to experience their own changing from child to pre-adult and young adult. As the last Sacrament of Initiation that prepares young boys and girls for their adult lives it is important as it confers the Spiritual Gifts of the Holy Spirit on them.

    These Spiritual Gifts are Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Trustfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. Each of these gifts should be given their own individual importance because as these young boys and girls move into adulthood and relationships in Secondary School, College, Work place and every day living these Spiritual Gifts will help these boys and girls to become mature in their decisions and also as to how the quality of their lives manifests in the future.

    Conclusion

    In conclusion I say that when a young engaged couple take the decision to have their Marriage celebrated in a Church then they are opting in for an ongoing committment to their being Spiritual Leaders in the formation of the Domestic Church in their own family home and by being interested in the Spiritual nourishment and well-being of their child/children during their childhood years within the home.

    Parents need to take a mature stand against the demands of secular interests such as sports and extra-curricular activities that turns parents into slaves to their children’s demands for involvement in everything that is going on in their parish or town.

    Natural giftedness has to be encouraged but not at the cost of ignoring their spiritual duty to their child/children as this is equally necessary towards their child’s overall development and maturity towards a life of good quality in the future.

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