So we have reached the mid-way point in the Beginnings Plus Institute here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It has been such a grace-filled week; God is busy within the community gathered and I have been so blessed to be a part of it! I apologize for not posting sooner, but there simply has not been time. Between revising my reflection for this morning's Celebration of the Word, and putting the finishing touches on my presentation on Evangelization the evening before, I have just barely had time to slip in a few winks.
However, there is a sense of getting over the hump this evening. Tomorrow I am on tap for a brief overview of the period of Purification and Enlightenment, and then my 'official' duties are over! So, I have had some time this evening to look back and put into words some of the wonderful things that have been happening.
This particular institute has a focus on the initiation of children within the context of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. In order to demostrate some of the ways this can be done, a group of local children are invited to take part in part of the institute to model how catechist teams could celebrate the Rites in their own parish. At several points over the past few days, these children (aged eight to 15) were asked to contribute in front of the group. Speaking up in front of a group of over eighty adults is pretty intimidating for a child to begin with; when the subject matter is about something as personal as your faith, that is something else! But children have an honesty from which we can all learn, don't they? Some examples:
On the topic of forgiveness:
Why is forgiveness important?
"Because we all need second chances."
What does Jesus mean when he tells Peter that he must forgive "not seven times but seventy-seven times"?
What does that tell us about God?"That we have to forgive each other all the time.""To always forgive"
"That no matter what, God will always forgive you?"
Later that evening, we celebrated an adapted Rite of Acceptance into the Order of the Catechmenate. It was a powerful liturgy, and each of the children again spoke up, asking the Church to strengthen them with knowledge, support, courage, and love. As part of the ritual, they were surrounded by the community, asked to embrace the processional cross as a sign of their embracing the Cross of Christ, and to touch the Book of the Gospels signifying their reception of the Word of God.
Right out of the gate, when asked about what it felt like to touch the book, a young girl, about ten years old said,
"When I touched the book, I felt like I was touching God."
It was a goosebump moment for me. There was Truth in what she said!
"When surrounded by the assembly at the beginning of the rite, I felt loved by God." Asked to expand on that a bit, she said "I felt like God was in my heart.""When I touched the cross I felt the Holy Spirit come into my heart."
Although these words may sound trite or cliche when spoken by an adult (again, I emphasize may), from the mouth of a child, they take on a new profundity and clarity! It is always important to remember that children have something to teach us.