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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Black Holiness Matters

Casey Mullaney (Theology PhD Candidate, University of Notre Dame)

In the United States, we just finished celebrating Black History month. Here in Indiana, we can feel that the days are lengthening and the rays of the sun are getting stronger. We can feel spring coming, and even in the cold of February and early March, there have been glimpses of light and warmth. Black History month feels like that, too. For our Sunday school class, Black History month was a chance to recommit to honoring the courage, creativity, and perseverance of Black people, who as individuals and within their communities have preserved and nurtured the Divine light within themselves throughout centuries of racism. Our young students of all races need and deserve examples of Black excellence, which though abundant, have often been overlooked by majority-white communities, even within the Church.

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Using the Compendium in Catholic Education 3: Prayer

Dr Leonardo Franchi (Lecturer, School of Education, University of Glasgow)

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Prayer

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret (Matthew 6:6).

Catholic educators will appreciate that to know Jesus involves both study and prayer. The Compendium recognises this by its inclusion of an Appendix containing common prayers and doctrinal formulae.

The phrase ‘prayerful study’ encapsulates neatly the modus operandi of the Catholic scholar. Authentic Catholic Education will draw heavily on the faith of the teacher who has ‘known’ Jesus in prayerful study in his/her own formation and, consequently, teaches in a prayerful yet scholarly way.

A second point to note here is the structure of this section. The prayers are also presented in Latin as well as English. Some may regard this as a hankering after an alleged pre-Conciliar spirituality yet the Second Vatican Council itself recommended that Latin remain in use in the Latin Church (Sacrosanctum Concilium 36, 54). The Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Benedict XVI Sacramentum caritatis, goes further, asking that ‘the better-known prayers of the Church’s tradition should be recited in Latin’ (62). The use of Latin is a clear reminder of one of the roots of Catholicism. It is a common heritage which binds us together.

There are also prayers from the Byzantine, Coptic and Syro-Maronite traditions, reminding us that the Church can accommodate within its intrinsic unity a legitimate diversity of liturgical expression. This is a message which is needed in a fractured society which often looks upon difference with some suspicion.

Practical Exercise: Catholic educators may wish to consider including a short daily reading from the Compendium as part of their prayer life. The 598 short questions and answers are, in many cases, excellent points for meditation although they should not replace Scripture in meditative prayer (see Compendium, 570). This is a practice which could be recommended to students: perhaps some could be encouraged to come together informally for such a purpose – with their tutors there too.

Concluding Remarks

Catholic education is a gift to live, celebrate and hand on to others. We ask Mary, the Help of all Christians and Sedes sapientiae, to intercede for us.

A version of this paper was published in The Sower, July-September, 2007.

Catechesis and the Classroom

William Liston (Former Religious Education adviser to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Motherwell).

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In 1974, the first post-Vatican II document relating to religious education in Scottish Catholic Secondaries was published by the National Religious Education Committee appointed by the Scottish Conference of Bishops. 

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