The Gospel according to Ben

John Sullivan
Professor of Christian Education
Liverpool Hope University

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

On Sunday I sat behind Ben, a five-year old little boy.  I was enchanted by him throughout the Mass.  It would be wrong to say that he distracted me from the Mass.  Rather, he helped me to appreciate some aspects of what is at the heart of our Christian faith.  He deepened my appreciation of the essence of the Gospel.  I felt graced by Ben.  He was a gift to me, a gift which enriched my experience of the Mass.  

What was it about Ben that had this effect on me?  

Ben had two little cars.  He told me that his favourite colour was red.  He was captivated by these two cars.  He patiently rolled them back and forth along the bench and delighted in catching them before they fell onto the floor.  He was quiet throughout the Mass, a model of good behaviour.  But he was not cowed by what was going on; he was not frightened into being quiet.  No doubt, in his own way, he had some sense of the solemnity of the occasion and of the reverence expected of this holy place and sacred time together.  

Next to him was Roseanne. She was watching over him but without needing to intervene.  There was no heavy hand needed to keep him under control.  Roseanne was relaxed, and her calmness was transmitted to Ben.  Ben knew she was there and her presence, along with his evident experience of her love and support no doubt made him feel completely at ease.  He knew she was otherwise engaged and did not expect her to play with him at this time.  He was full of trust in her presence.  She was there if he needed her.  She was doing something special and important and he respected that and he did not press her for her attention as she took a full part in the Mass.  

Because of this relationship between Roseanne and Ben, he could live in the present moment, fully in that moment, with no worries about the past and no fears for the future.  He delighted in the colours, in the movement of the cars, in the smoothness of how they moved along the bench; he was thrilled by the sensation of speeding them along and taking the risk that they would fall on the floor (which would make a noise, a noise he knew would not be suitable in this time and place).  He rejoiced in the repetition of doing something so enjoyable, yet so simple.  

He took a special delight in repeating the sign of the cross multiple times, proving to himself that he knew how to make this gesture.  He could tell that this was part of what the grown-ups were doing.  It was obvious to me (but, of course, I could be wrong about this) – it was obvious to me that Ben knew he was present at a holy event, one he was glad to be attending, although attending in his own way, a way fitting for a five-year old boy.  

If I could feel that level of trust displayed by Ben; if I could be so patient as he so evidently was; if I could leave aside the worries of the past and concerns for the future and live fully in the present moment in the way Ben did; if I could attend to what was immediately around me with the intensity and appreciation that Ben did – I am sure I would find myself nearer to heaven – though not as near as Ben is.  

RE in Catholic high schools: Challenge and Hope

Contemporary academic writing on RE in Catholic secondary schools no longer conceptualises it as the serene passing on of Catholic faith to practicing Catholics (catechesis). The Catholic RE classroom will contain a wide spectrum of practising and non-practising Catholics, pupils of other denominations and religions, and many seekers, doubters and agnostics.  So the key is for RE to be truly educational, and to foster the spiritual growth and religious literacy of all pupils.  Nonetheless, the faith formation of the next generation of committed Catholics is a reasonable aspiration of RE in the Catholic high school. Promoting spiritual growth in the Catholic tradition while presenting the reasonableness of Catholic faith will be legitimate aims of RE, all the while opening the faith to debate and scrutiny within the educational environment.  Such a task takes on a crucial role, given that very possibility of lifelong faith commitment is challenged by the current postmodern, secular environment in which the pupils live, work and study.

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GEN Z RELIGION: THE FUTURE OF THE CHURCH

Photo by Roman Gordienko on Unsplash

Blog by Chiara Dell’Orfanello

For a year now, the lives of each of us have been devastated by the pandemic, and who could have thought that one of its consequences would have been an unprecedented increase in young believers. Recent studies by the University of Columbia indicate a divide between generations: on the one hand the Millennials, most of whom still do not identify with any faith and on the other Gen. Z who, during this period of crisis, reflected on their belief, getting closer and closer to religion. This juxtaposition is not entirely a revival of traditional values and customs, but a rediscovery of a sense of belonging that is not manifested only in worship, but which instead highlights the importance given by young people in applying theological teachings more than in merely hearing them recited.

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The relevance of Philosophy in our Catholic schools

Luca La Monica, teacher of Religious Education, Trinity High, Renfrew

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, The School of Athens, Vatican Museums

The teaching of Philosophy as a discipline has a millenary tradition which goes back to Ancient Greece (with regards to the Western world), where it assumed a key role as the highest form of human reasoning. Philosophy has historically maintained an important role up until the start of the XX century, when it has been gradually overshadowed by the rising of scientific subjects. In this way, Philosophy has been marginalized as a purely theoretical and abstract kind of knowledge. This type of definition differs hugely from the one that any Ancient, Medieval or Modern intellectual would have accepted.

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Prophets of the Future 5: Technology and Mental Health in Catholic Schools

In this series, 4th year primary Catholic Teaching Certificate students share the findings of their studies on a new elective course entitled Prophets of a Future not our Own: Catholic Schools and Contemporary Issues.

Nicola Ramsay, MEduc4 student

One of the growing challenges facing the Catholic school system is tackling mental health issues in children and young adults growing up in the technology-driven 21st century. I believe Catholic schools can take action to combat this and create meaningful change.

For many, mental health issues continue into adulthood and lead to harmful consequences which could have been avoided given the correct support and nurture. Schools have increasingly been targeted as sites for mental health promotion and teachers placed to identify issues concerning students’ social and emotional wellbeing, thus there is an expectation that schools can play a major role in reducing impacts of these pressures.

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Prophets of the Future 4: Results-driven Education and Catholic Schools

In this series, 4th year primary Catholic Teaching Certificate students share the findings of their studies on a new elective course entitled Prophets of a Future not our Own: Catholic Schools and Contemporary Issues.

Morgan Healy, MEduc4 student

Today, the view of education as a measure of success is a globalised discourse. Assessment-driven educational systems are controlled by large transnational institutions such as the OECD, with the PISA testing system in particular having a strong influence. This raises the question of how competitive results-driven education specifically effects our schools within the Catholic education system, which seek to balance a commitment to excellence with the non-rivalrous values of the Gospel.

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Narrating the Resurrection

James McDevitt (Head Teacher, Holy Cross Primary School, Edinburgh)

Photo by Gerhard Lipold on Pexels.com

All Christians are aware of the basic story of Easter. Jesus died on the Cross on Good Friday, and on Sunday, the third day, he rose from the dead. The stone had been rolled away, the tomb was empty and the Risen Jesus appeared to his disciples on a number of occasions thereafter.

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Fratelli Tutti: Pope Francis’ Vision for a Better World

John Dunlop and Callum Timms

Introductory Remarks

Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti is a timely contribution to the authentic social magisterium of the Catholic Church. It is as “a diagnosis for our social ills, which have been complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic” (Dulle, 2020). Fr Augusto Zampini, whose work on the Vatican’s Covid-19 Commission contributed to the Holy Father’s thinking, revealed something of its thought process in a recent conversation, explaining that the Holy Father’s challenge to the task force was to “prepare the future” (Jesuits in Britain, 2020). Thus, he embraced the call of Pope Paul VI to “become the artisans of [our] destiny” (PP, #65).

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Rediscovering Our Abrahamic Roots: A Shared Mission for Our R.E. Classes

Luca La Monica (Teacher of R.E., Trinity High School, Renfrew)

The latest Papal visit to Iraq has been a historical one for all sorts of reasons, which relate to the political situation as well as to the religious significance of the Successor of Peter visiting the land of Abraham, Patriarch of the three most important Monotheistic faiths. This visit has been a striking example of the outgoing and all-encompassing love that Christianity should always embody, and that Pope Francis has especially adopted during his pontificate. The phrase ‘You are all brothers’ resounded various times during the Pope’s encounters with various representatives of different faiths. More specifically, during his visit to Erbil, Pope Francis invited all Iraqi people to ‘work together in unity for a future of peace and prosperity that leaves no one behind and discriminates against no one’.

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