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By Fr. Dominic Allain, Catholic Herald, 14 November, 2019
Ignorance, says Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest, is like a delicate, exotic, fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. She would have recognised a similar ethos in a lot of so-called child-centred learning, and indeed in much of what has been proposed as catechesis recently.
In the encounter with God’s Revelation we have focused excessively on the religious experience of man, as though Revelation and the Tradition of the Church were handmaids to some prelapsarian sense of the divine which is the origin of our encounter with God. While it may be true that in previous ages catechetical instruction could mean the mere imparting of information, the current paucity of content has resulted in the failure to pass on a faith sufficiently coherent as to reveal the true face of Christ and certainly even less able to demonstrate the essential connection between the knowledge of Christ and the concomitant new life of grace through his body the Church. Child-centred catechesis does not have to be devoid of informative content, as Maria Montessori’s wonderful book on the Mass shows, nor is imparting knowledge exclusive of inculcating praxis.
Montessori manages to explain to the children what St John Henry Newman would define as the stages of assent. We do not unite in the Catholic Church, she explains, merely to remember the Messiah who loved us and died for our sins. We are “living a miraculous new life because as we believe we become one with Christ”. “Man can learn the very noblest teaching, but he needs the grace of God if he is to practise it.” To be a Catholic, she explains, is nothing less that to aspire to be able to say with St Paul, “I live now, but not I, but Christ who lives in me.” ….