I get emails every morning and some speak to me more than others. This past Thursday, I was inspired to write an article.
A common thought about religious education or even about theology is that it is limited to doctrine and dogma, instructing people in what the church believes to be true. If the catechist is talented or well-informed, there may even be information about why the church believes what it does. These are important topics, but religious education – and educators – often neglect the spirituality and mysticism of the church. If you’ve attended the Alpha course, you may remember Nicky Gumbel speaking on the difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge. Both are knowledge, and so belong to the responsibility of religious education to foster and encourage in students of all ages.
Part of our education in faith should be learning to worship, learning to seek God, learning to listen to the various, unusual, and unexpected ways he speaks to us. I use the word ‘speaks’, but God rarely communicates to us verbally – at least, not to me – unless we are reading the bible. Religious education should take the faithful out of the classroom and into the school of life. Heart knowledge is practically impossible to impart through teacher-student methods. It requires experience and so religious education has an obligation to create opportunities for people to experience God. New Age spirituality or spiritual-but-not-religious tends to use the natural world to inspire awe and wonder, and so provide such experiences. Worship music, with all its potential faults, is another route. It’s why many of the most popular Protestant churches have moved closer and closer to Christian music concerts. Music reaches the emotions far easier than even the most impassioned speaker.
Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Adoration is the most direct way to have a profound experience of God. It is, however, becoming more and more difficult in our modern culture to participate in Adoration, especially where 24 hour chapels are not available. Eucharistic Adoration goes against everything our busy schedules and hyper-connected jobs ask of us. It’s even difficult to fit it into the trending concepts of self-care and “me-time”. It doesn’t provide instant results. It doesn’t change our lives in a moment. It takes time and repetition to build us up until we are ready for the deeper and truer experiences, like children starting to swim in the shallow end of the pool.
Spending time with God in Adoration develops our relationship with him. If we need to learn to trust him, the best way to do this is to remember that God is a person. Like any of our friends, the more we spend time with them and get to know the, the easier it is to trust them.
Director, Religious Education