What exactly is 'Faith Formation'? Do you believe 'faith' is a gift? If a gift, how is it cared for, nurtured? What are the long term effects of a life lived centered on God?
Years ago when children attended formal instruction in their faith – outside the family environment - the term used was ‘catechism class’ or ‘released time’ (this was when children were ‘released’ an hour early from their regular public school classes to attend ‘catechism classes’ in the local Catholic school). Then the wording changed to ‘CCD’ (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine). Progressive changes were taking place in our society demanding closer attention be given to our religious instruction reflecting a new review - a new name - thus, ‘Religious Education’.
Today the term used is ‘Faith Formation’. Over time we came to understand that we can be educated about our Faith at any age but that Faith, in and of itself, is a lifetime process forming us along the way. After all, it’s about a Divine, unconditional, relationship with God and, like any relationship, needs time to develop and mature. We are always being formed by an amazing, loving God. That searching and yearning we experience within our deepest selves is God inviting us continually to know Him ever more intimately. St. Therese, the Little Flower, once remarked: ‘O my God, the more You want to give, the more You make us desire.’
Faith Formation offers us three powers ~ the powers of information, formation and transformation. The information received about our Faith informs our knowledge, which knowledge, if taken to heart, not only forms us by giving us a place of reference from which to live our lives but hopefully encourages a deep prayer life in order to not just know about God but more importantly to truly come to know God.
When parents introduce their child to the formal Faith Formation process they are acting on the promises they made at their child’s Baptism to raise that child in the Catholic tradition. Parents have already laid the ground work at home by the practices of good deeds, reading Bible stories, helping the child learn how to make the Sign of the Cross and praying before meals and at bedtime. The Church instructs and enhances the child’s knowledge of the Faith. Meanwhile, at home, parents continue nurturing this knowledge by practices already established. Knowledge without good works is just information. Slowly this lifestyle begins to transform us all and then, through us, God can re-create the face of the Earth!