Wednesday, December 31, 2008

One more from The Presence of Grace

Some of the most interesting parts of the book are hints thrown off in passing which show that attention to the study of archetypes could benefit the Church in some of the acute pastoral problems she faces today. In discussing the prevalent lapse of Catholics brought up in Catholic homes and educated in Catholic schools, Fr. White observes that this is very likely a failure of our sacred images to sustain an adequate idea of what they are supposed to represent. The images absorbed in childhood are retained by the soul throughout life. In medieval times, the child viewed the same images as his elders, and these were images adequate to the realities they stood for. He formed his images of the Lord from, for example, the stern and majestic Pantacrator, not from a smiling Jesus with a bleeding heart. When childhood was over, the image was still valid and was able to hold up under the assaults to belief. Today the idea of religion of large numbers of Catholics remains trapped at the magical stage by static and superficial images which neither mind nor stomach can any longer take. (100 Soul and Psyche)

1 comment:

Gail F said...

You may be interested in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program, based on the work of Maria Montessori. I help teach a class for children ages 3-6. One of the main differences between this program and others is its thesis that children develop their faith in a very different way from that posited by a "traditional" religious education system. Montessori taught that the young child is primed for big ideas -- language, behavior, mathematics, and so on. A child ages 3-6 doesn't learn arithmetic, he learns about quantities, about adding and subtracting, about the generalities of multiplication and division. He learns these naturally, as he learns grammar, and when you develop materials and lessons based on how he already learns, you teach him the basics for formal mathematics later. Ditto with other subjects -- including religion, which was originally a integral part of Montessori's classes.

The young child, she said, is ready for the big ideas of religion: salvation, sin, redemption, and so on, including the crucifixion of Christ. She learns these through exactly the same images and readings adults do. So in these classes, children hear the Bible (not a "child's version"), view sacred art, and learn the parables. The main difference is one typical to anyone familiar with Montessori -- child-sized replicas of real things, such as the altar and the vestments, and "works" that the child can touch and handle. Children learn all the real names for things (this is the time when they pick up names -- ask any child the names of dinosaurs).

The idea is that as they grow they deepen their knowledge and understanding, based on their age and development. They don't learn a childish version of things that they then have to abandon for an adult one -- if they make that step and don't just abandon it.