One day Cristina presented herself in the catechism classroom as a substitute for an absent colleague. The sixteen eight and nine-year-old children who were waiting for their catechist did not know her. And so she, as she had shopping bags in her hands, approached the situation in an original way: “I was coming back from the supermarket,” she began, “And I saw all of these children coming into this building. And so I came in too. What do you all do here?” “This is catechism!” “And what’s catechism?” “We learn how to pray, how to know Jesus better…” the children respond. “And who’s Jesus?” “He’s the Son of God! He’s that guy there, on the cross!” they responded, pointing towards the wall. “And then you go to have a picnic in that big building next-door, with the big table and all of the benches?” “No! That’s the church! And the table is called an altar! On the altar, you celebrate the Mass!”
During the hour in which she substituted her friend, Cristina enjoyed herself by asking question after question to the children. And they, conquered by her good nature, had a sort of “review” of the things that they had learned in the first two months of catechism. It was a bit unconventional, but very effective. We would like our catechism to always be like this.
In Alverca, children from six to twelve years of age come to do an hour of catechism, either Saturday or Sunday: at the meetings, we alternate with other activities, like group games, meetings with the priests, visits to the nursing home, small outings. And obviously, the Mass for the families, in which the kids participate as altar servers, readers, cantors. In this way, the essential contents of the faith are communicated by both the words of the catechists and the priests as well as by the gestures we have together. This year, we have a mailbox where the kids can place their written questions. The quantity and quality of these questions astounds me. We adults have our own questions, but we do have hearts simple enough to ask them. “Why are the saints so important?” “What is the meaning of life?” “How do we know if good people go to heaven or to hell?” “Why don’t we say Amen at the end of the ‘Our Father’ during Mass?” “Why can’t I receive communion yet?”
Listening to these children, and praying to God that they can discover their path in life, is a beautiful adventure. They receive some responses here, and they are waiting to receive others, but in any event, it is the beginning of an exceptional relationship, forever.