“Youcat for Kids” to be presented during the World Meeting of Families

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“Youcat for Kids” to be presented during the World Meeting of Families

By MARIA TERESA PONTARA PEDERIVA / lastampa.it

Elaborated in Austria, the version of the handbook that condenses the Catholic faith for children will be presented by Cardinal Schönborn during the World Meeting of Families. The preface is by Francis.

About thirty publishers are at work for translation and by the end of the year the handbook will be published in a dozen languages, but soon they will increase to as many as 72 so as to allow its use in the most remote regions of the earth. A universal initiative that can be considered “Catholic” in the true sense of the term; on August 1, it marked a milestone with the publication of the German edition of “YOUCAT for Kids”, the new catechism for children that, in the English version, will be officially presented in Dublin during the World Family Meeting.

After “YOUCAT” for the youth – released seven years ago with millions of copies circulating around the world – a similar text comes to light. It is aimed at the younger brothers and sisters (approximately (6) 8 to 12 years old) but, above all, to their parents, since the first education in faith should take place within families.

In fact, in the preface, Pope Francis also speaks to the parents: “Dear children, Dear parents!”. Bergoglio begins with a question one day a Canadian boy asked him: “What did God do before he created the world?” The Pontiff confesses he reflected a moment before answering so as to make him understand his thought well, then he said: “Before God created anything, he loved. That’s what he did: he loved. God always loves. When he created the world, then, he didn’t do anything else except love”.

“When flipping through the pages of ‘YOUCAT for KIDS’ – continues the Pope – I come across questions children ask their parents and catechists millions of times. That is why I consider this catechism as useful as the greater Catechism, in which you can find answers to the most important questions of life: where does this world come from? Why do I exist? How and why shall we live here? What happens after death?”.

But Bergoglio also adds a meaningful expression: “‘YOUCAT for KIDS’ is a catechism very different from the one I used to have. YOUCAT for KIDS is suitable for children and parents to spend time together and, in doing so, discover God’s love more and more”. A warm encouragement is directed to the families to share the faith between generations, a topic very dear to the Pope, a common thread that has been present in several of his speeches aimed at adults and the elderly.

A text that can boast this authoritative appreciation does not come out of nowhere: it is the result of a four-year-long gestation and of a very respectable editorial group established by the Austrian Bishops’ Conference led by the Archbishop of Vienna, the cardinal and theologian Christoph Schönborn – the coordinator of the previous YOUCAT project. His attention for family life is well known and it also emerged during the two Synods and the post-synodal exhortation “Amoris laetitia” (The joy of love).

It was a long theological and pedagogical reflection that involved the work of a team of theologians and clergymen from all the Austrian dioceses: some texts were also submitted to Catholic families and schools, feedback then came from the youth and catechetical ministry and finally, last spring, the text was authorised on May 24 by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation. “Children and parents discover together the Catholic faith, suitable for the whole family and also for schools, particular attention is given to the catechesis of First Communion” read the websites of the publishers, and many copies have already been purchased online, also thanks to the imminent resumption of school activity.

The final draft is signed by Martin Barta, Michaela von Heereman, Bernhard Meuser, Michael Scharf and Christoph Weiss, and some of them will be present for the official release on August 22 in Dublin, together with Cardinal Schönborn and the bishop of Limerick, Irishman Brendan Leathy.

During the Meeting days, a lively programme specifically aimed at children and their parents will also host two more events led by the two Austrian co-authors priests, Michael Scharf and Christoph Weiss (formerly responsible for the pastoral office of the diocese of Vienna) entitled “When little philosophers ask big questions”.

Recently, Bernhard Meuser commented on the idea of preparing this new catechism: “Weiss came to me in 2012 emphasising the need for something new in the sense of as a more modern understanding also suitable for the preparation for the First Communion. We thought about it, we then identified other collaborators and the project went on”.

The result, at a first and partial reading, seems successful: the text has an excellent layout (very colourful!) suitable for the age of children and it systematically addresses the pillars of the Christian faith. “We are convinced that the transmission of faith must take place decisively on a relational level and this happens, first of all, within the family, in the intimacy of conversations between parents and children”, explains Meuser.

“Do not remain silent when your children have pressing questions, but always have the strength to hand on the faith. Help your children discover the love of Jesus! It will make them strong and brave”, says Pope Francis to encourage the parents, and he continues turning to the children: “I entrust you with ‘YOUCAT for KIDS’. Do not get tired of questions or of sharing your faith”.

The catechism was prepared bearing in mind that, despite what some people might think, there is no need for special theological studies to talk about the faith, but what is much more important is the testimony of Christian life and, within a family, the love between spouses and between parents and children. Throughout 240 pages, the fundamental elements of the Catholic faith are explained in child-friendly language, in a question-and-answer format. Not only words, of course. The handbook is full of illustrations, comics and stylised figures, testimonies of athletes and saints, more extensive information for parents and also the presentation and reading of twelve works of art by famous artists. Additional material will be made available on the specific website, maintained by the YOUCAT Foundation, which in the last seven years has produced a whole series of teaching aids for the youth version.

“We are convinced that the main hub for religious education is not the classroom nor the church. Maybe it is a corner in the children’s room, a beach chair by the sea, a bench in the garden or at the foot of the bed in the evening” write the co-authors in the preface of the German edition, suggesting to parents a preventive reading of the text, alone or together – if possible – to start a reflection before addressing the children.

Four chapters, preceded by an introduction to the world and all that exists: The Creed (12 facts about God), the Sacraments (7 meeting points with God), the Commandments (10 rules of the game, by God), the Prayer (God always has time). The questions come out of a deep pedagogical experience and of an equally real, non-theoretical knowledge of family life: how can God be known if He cannot be seen? Why do some people not believe in Him? As it happens in the youth version, the focus is not on punishment in case of mistakes, but rather on the embrace of God’s infinite understanding and mercy.

“What happens to me when I will be dead?” «My body disappears, but my soul goes towards God who is waiting to embrace me along with thousands of angels and so many surprises that we can not even imagine and a new life will start». “More adult” questions are also present, such as: “But why cannot women become priests?” “Because Jesus called the apostles who were men and they were the first priests of our Church. But in his group of friends, he also had many women who followed him too. Women played an important role in his life, starting with her mother Mary and Mary Magdalene. Without women, the whole Church would paralyse”.

The updated and immediately comprehensible reading of the Commandments is worthy of note: “God knows how to move, He says how He is made, and nobody is more important than Him; Do not say silly jokes about God and do not wish anyone to go to the devil; Respect your parents; Do not kill anyone! Do not reject anyone!; If you marry, keep your promise!; No illegal downloads!; Do not lie! Do not be showy!; You cannot have everything, OK?”.

Finally, the time of prayer and how to “stay in touch” because “God always has time”. “God speaks through the Bible, but more often also through the words of comfort of your mother, through nature, music and even silence: ‘Prepare your heart to welcome his word!’”. Various prayers are also proposed for the time of meals and in the evening: “Whoever prays only when he feels like it, is like a friend who remembers you only when he feels like to or when he wants something from you”.

A reflection in several local Churches is already underway in the coming months: the new Catechism also addresses the pastoral care of Families (many may find confirmation and new strength to carry on, others will see a change of course) but, above all, the Catechesis, where a reflection has been going on for years: it is necessary to address the parents first, because faith is transmitted within the family and the energies destined in the parishes exclusively for the little ones are still too many, while neglecting the education of adults, constantly lacking moving figures.

Sat, 08/18/2018 - 22:33
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