The Year of Faith brings us to a point of reflection to answer two very important questions: 1) What is Faith? 2) How is it applied in our lives? As catechists, teachers of the faith, it is important for us to have clear in our minds the answer to these questions.
What is Faith?
Many definitions can be given for faith – things hoped for that cannot be seen; belief in the unseen God and God’s promises; trusting in a God when life is rough and no end to troubles are in sight; a spirit of wonder and awe in an unseen, magnificent, Creator God. Faith is also one of the theological virtues of our Catholic Church.
Teaching the Faith
In teaching the faith it is important to embrace both elements of the faith, the content and the spirit. Both psychology and behaviourist theories encourage us to be both tangible and concrete in all our teachings. This means that all faith education should be taught using as much tangible resources as possible. Taking into consideration the theory of multiple intelligence, we should use different media for different groups. Some people are stimulated to learn through hearing; others through the faculty of sight while others may need to see and touch, smell etc.
Faith, by nature is abstract and so we must try to make the components of the faith that we teach very tangible. The Liturgy is based around this tangibility. The Spirit of the faith is embodied in the person of the teacher and so it is important for us as teachers of the faith to spend ample time growing in faith through prayer and study as well as retreats and time of reflection. We cannot give what we do not have. In all our lessons and faith sessions it is important to create an atmosphere of wonder and awe in the presence of God. This can be done in several ways. For our lesson we can light candles, set up an altar with icons, light some incense to remind us of incense used in the liturgy (symbolising our prayers going to heaven), music, flowers, etc.
Children need to make tangible objects and do things with their hands for a particular lesson of faith to come home to them. The younger they are the more important it is for them to do hands-on activities. Faith lessons reach deep into our spirit. This is the work of the Holy Spirit who gives us the gifts of wisdom and understanding to develop our gifts and talents for service of the Kingdom. Hands-on activities tend to help people open their hearts to the workings of the Holy Spirit. It is important to note that we must embody faith and teach it in all its dimensions.
Faith in our day-to-day lives
If faith is taught properly, then its application should not pose too much of a problem. Faith teaching is different from the teaching of other subject areas in that it embodies formation and conversion, which is not instant change in behaviour, such as learning a particular mathematical skill or some scientific theory. It is about personalising a value or attitude that determines one’s actions. It is about the formation of a conscience that will determine the choices we make in life. It is about how we choose to live our life in this world.
These faith lessons can lead us to live a life of discipline which may encourage us to reflect on the following questions:
• How do I pray and what is the nature of my relationship with my God?
• Am I spending sufficient time each day with God so that God’s Spirit continues to work in me and guide me in decisions and actions?
•What is my relationship with people around me? Am I treating them with the respect due to someone created in the image and likeness of God?
•Is my faith reflected in every aspect of my life? Is it love in action?
•Have I identified the areas of my life where God’s Spirit is needed most to help me be more Christ-like?
Constant reflection is important for us to grow in faith. As catechists, let us create an atmosphere for faith growth in our classrooms and parish communities. – Bernadette Gopaul-Ramkhalawan, Archdiocesan Catechetical Office