Advent is a very special time when we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We await and prepare for the incarnation, God entering our human experience; his second coming when he will come in glory; and his coming to us each moment of our lives through our lived experiences.
Faith is a very special gift from God. It is also one of the theological virtues that empowers us to withstand the storms of life. It tells us that our God is real and he is a God of love who is always with us. It links us to our centre, The Father and Creator, through Jesus Christ his Son by the working of the Holy Spirit.
The most valuable gift that a parent can give a child is to provide opportunities for faith development. If a human person is rooted deeply in the person of Jesus Christ through a living faith experience then no matter what such a person meets in life, it will not uproot him/her. Life, especially our very own life and personhood, becomes a gift to be lived abundantly and God is everywhere and everything speaks of his infinite love. Such an experience brings one into communion with God and communion with the life around.
The Catechetical Office, in an attempt to help people from cradle to the grave to be formed properly in the faith and to pursue lifelong faith development has produced a number of different books and programmes. These publications do not exist in vacuums but instead form a systematic faith formation module that ministers to people throughout their lifetime.
It is important that the initial steps in faith are done properly since it is the foundation stone on which the other faith concepts will be built. The early year of a child’s life are known as the formative years and so it is during this period the child develops lifelong concepts that would determine how he/she would perceive life. It is important for parents to become an integral part of this process since parents have a God-given responsibility to form their children in the faith. Parents are the first catechists and the first to help the child encounter God.
Growing in the way of Jesus is one of the programmes that can help parents with this faith formation process. There is a student workbook packed with fun activities, games, puzzles, drawing and colouring, etc. together with a Parent/Catechist guide which helps the parents and catechists to work along with the child through appropriate stories, etc.
Growing in the Way of Jesus caters for the young child at the explorative stage of life. In his foreword, Archbishop Edward J Gilbert, states: “The structure of the catechetical text contains two units and a supplement. The first unit stresses that creation is a sign of God’s love for all people; it is good and helps the students to develop a sense of belonging in their own family and in the Church family. The second unit concentrates on Jesus. As the children learn Bible stories, they are invited to live these stories in their own lives. The supplement gives the children an opportunity to experience the meaning and flow of the Church Year. They learn that to celebrate faith is a joyful happening that they should cherish.”
As the child begins to explore the world around them, people and their environment, they begin to encounter the God who loves them and constantly gives them gifts. As they fall in love and develop a relationship with God the Creator, the gift giver, they begin to value life and creation. As they begin to value their own life and the life around them they begin to care for it. Values and virtues begin to grow.
Part of meeting the Creator God is a sense of belonging. Belonging to their family, their world and most of all the Church Family. Belonging develops a sense of purpose. Every parent wants his/her child to be accomplished and fulfilled and a sense of purpose aids this. The seeds of occupation and vocation are sown here, early in the child’s life as the child explores his/her own interest. The Church becomes a place to bloom and grow.
Meeting Jesus, the God who loved us so much that he became one of us, especially during this time of Advent, can become a real living faith experience for us all. Growing in the way of Jesus helps the children encounter the living Jesus who is always with us. Through this programme, Jesus and your child will become close friends. Parents, too, are evangelised as they encounter Jesus in new, creative ways through the use of the programme. The Incarnation is fulfilled as we live each moment. This is a gift that every Catholic home should have.