by Christian Rada
The theme of pastoral accompaniment has been extensively discussed in the life of the church for several years. In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis points out to the personal accompaniment in the process of growth. He writes, “ordained ministers and other pastoral workers can make present the fragrance of Christ’s closeness and his personal gaze. The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this “art of accompaniment” which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Ex 3:5). The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates, and encourages growth in the Christian life.” (EG 169) What does this mean to the family life and how does this accompaniment play out in the family’s daily life?
The COVID pandemic has affected many families in a unique way like never before. Families have learned to navigate technology and distance learning. They have also been relying on technology, including video chatting, to stay connected with grandparents and friends. This has directed families to become more creative in their ways of sharing and teaching the gospel message. We have seen many families develop new ways and activities to foster a dynamic approach to family formation and catechesis. Nevertheless, their focus has never changed. These creative ways of view at the center of the family is Christ himself.
By way of catechesis, the family has turned from viewing catechesis as not just passing on information, but as formation which leads to transformation. The aim of family catechesis is that parents become so strong in their own faith and knowledge that they naturally shared it with their children. In other words, parents and guardians become not just teachers of the faith but more importantly witnesses of the faith.
How does becoming a witness of the faith lead us to personal accompaniment? The premise of religious education for a child, especially in the home, is to know that the child is loved by God and is part of the family. The child experiences that love through the actions that are expressed by the family as a whole. It is the responsibility of the family to be examples of authentic love that a child will see and experience.
What are some ways that families can develop and foster a personal family catechesis? First, understanding your roles as parents and guardians in the faith. Parents need to know the faith in order to share. How can a person give what they do not first have? How are you help your family members “meet Jesus”? How are they growing in “grace and wisdom” (Lk. 2:52) during the years you have them under your roof? Do your children see you taking the time to pray and grow in your faith? The habits and attitudes you model are the most important ones in your child’s life and make the most impact especially in matters of religion. Second, what is your attitude to faith? Your attitude can make a world of difference to your children. Weekly class attendance, family discussions about what was covered in class, and general attitudes on going to Mass, praying together, and involvement in the parish have an effect on your child. Third, pray daily for holiness in your family and for the spiritual needs of your parish community. Intercessory prayer is a lost tradition in the family life. Making time to intentionally praying for one other as a family can provide key moments of encountering Christ at a personal level and at a familial level.