Catechism Class and Spiritual Care of Children

“How would Mary view and treat these, her children?’’

As members of the Legion of Mary, legionaries have a special interest in the preservation of the faith and innocence of Mary’s spiritual children.

One of the ways in which legionaries show this interest is by offering their services to their parishes as catechists. As catechists, we can take a direct role in teaching and guiding the children of our parishes.

Even legionaries who do not feel called to teach can play a critical role in the spiritual development of their parishes’ children. The Legion handbook has a great deal to say about the great value that can be found in simply seeking to return children whose families have strayed to Sunday Mass and Catechism class.

“Children are certainly the object of the Lord Jesus’ tender and generous love. To them he gave his blessing, and, even more, to them he promised the Kingdom of heaven. (cf. Mt 19:13-15; Mk 10:14) In particular Jesus exalted the active role that little ones have in the Kingdom of God. They are the eloquent symbol and exalted image of those moral and spiritual conditions that are essential for entering into the Kingdom of God and for living the logic of total confidence in the Lord: ‘Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven’. (Mt 18:3-5; cf Lk 9:48)” (CL 47)

If the preservation of the young in faith and innocence can be assured, how glorious the future! Then, like a giant refreshed, the Church could throw itself into its mission of converting the pagan world, and make short work of it. As it is, the great bulk of its effort is absorbed by the painful treatment of internal sores.

Furthermore, it is easier to preserve than later on to restore. The Legion will attend to both, for both are vital. But certainly it should not neglect the easier work of the two — that of preservation. Many children can be saved from disaster for the trouble it will later take to remake one debased adult.

Some aspects of the problem are as follows:—

(a) Children’s Mass attendance. A bishop, delivering a program of work to legionaries, placed as the item of first importance the conducting of a Sunday Mass Crusade amongst children. Mass-missing by children he held to be one of the chief sources of all later trouble. A Sunday morning visitation of the homes of children (whose names should be ascertained from school rolls, etc.) will be found to be of sovereign efficacy.

Incidentally, it is to be borne in mind that children are seldom bad of themselves. Where they are found to be exempting themselves from this elementary Catholic requirement, it can be taken as certain that they are the victims of parental indifference and bad example, and the Legion apostolate should proceed mindful of this additional evil.

In the case of children, more even than in other directions, a spasmodic or short-term visitation will accomplish little or nothing.

(b) Visitation of the homes of children. In connection with the visitation of children in their own homes, stress is laid upon an important consideration. It is that an entry to families which otherwise would be, for various reasons, inaccessible to religious workers, may readily be secured when the stated purpose is the approaching of the children of that family. For it is a fact, springing from the natural relation of parent to child, that zeal for the child is above zeal for self. Ordinary parents have regard for the interests of their child even when they are forgetful of their own. The hardest heart softens somewhat at the thought of its own child. Persons may be dead to religion themselves, but deep-rooted impulses bid them not to wish their children the same fate, and instinctive joy is felt at seeing the movements of grace in their children. As a consequence, one who would repulse rudely and even violently those who seek to approach him directly on a spiritual mission, will tolerate the same workers when their mission is to his children.

Competent legionaries, once admitted to the home, will know how to make all the members of that family feel the radiation of their apostolate. A sincere interest in the children will usually make a favourable impression on the parents. This can be skilfully utilised to cultivate in them the seed of the supernatural so that, as the children had been the key to their parents’ home, likewise they will prove to be the key to their parents’ hearts and eventually to their souls….

The following instance shows the efficacy of the application of the Legion system to the Sunday Catechism classes in a populous parish. Despite earnest efforts of the Priests, including appeals from the pulpit, the average attendance of children had fallen to fifty. At this stage a praesidium was formed which added to the work of teaching, the visitation of the homes of the children. A year’s work was sufficient to bring the average attendance at the classes to 600. And this surprising figure does not take count of the spiritual benefits conferred on innumerable careless relatives of the children.

In all works, the legionary watchword should be “How would Mary view and treat these, her children?’’

The Legion Handbook, Chapter 37, Section 7 — Works for the Young