Greetings in the name of Our Lord,
I ﬁnished reading the book Soul Searching recently and believe that it has a great deal to say to those involved with the catechesis of children and youth. The authors, Christian Smith and Melissa Lundquist Denton, conducted a research project to ﬁnd out about the religious and spiritual lives of today’s youth. The subject of my essay “Christianity’s Mis-begotten Child” is one of several topics treated in the book. Although the researchers surveyed mainly Protestant youth, the results are important to us too, as we live in a predominantly Protestant culture. My title ties the secularization of Christmas to the beliefs expressed by the majority of youth surveyed.
One major ﬁnding of the researchers was that today’s Christians are very inarticulate about their faith. Years ago I determined that our salvation in the pluralistic society of North America demanded that our children be able to articulate their faith. "The Way, The Truth, and The Life," the text for high school, was written with educational standards so that the students would memorize the main doctrines of Orthodoxy. The online program, “Knowing Your Faith,” continued that approach, and, ﬁnally, this year “Passport for the Journey of Faith” was developed as a pilot program for Kindergartners.
Soul Searching validates the ideas that I proposed ten years ago. We need to provide ﬁrm knowledge of the faith to our students, but we also need to offer them the opportunity to become spiritually mature. By its very nature, spirituality seems to elude deﬁnition. Yet as spirituality is the genius of Orthodox Christianity, it was time to tackle the topic in order to pass on what is radically life-giving about the true faith. We can’t expect Orthodoxy to win the hearts and minds of our children unless they know and live in its Spirit.
Spiritual maturity was presented in "The Way, The Truth, and The Life," and called “the ﬁve movements of the Holy Spirit which lead to theosis.” Since the writing of the text, I’ve changed my position somewhat: the ﬁve movements of the Holy Spirit should be ﬁrst in priority, and knowledge of the faith should serve spiritual maturity. I put forth a proposal for authentic Orthodox Catechesis in an interview, entitled “New Season of Learning Begins .” I hope you will take the time to read it.
Reading Soul Searching renewed my conviction that our Orthodox students need to be able to articulate their faith and live lives rooted in Orthodox spirituality. They need to realize that while Jesus Christ has saved them by opening the path of salvation, it is they who must walk it. They need us to show them the ﬁve movements of the Holy Spirit that guide them on the path. It is time for a new curriculum, informed by a survey of Orthodox children. Let us pray to Christ in the words of St. Innocent of Alaska, “Warm our hearts with thy Spirit and we shall joyfully and fervently go the way which Thou hast shown us.”
Many training events and three very successful Orthodox Institutes were held in the last several months. Also, after the New Year, the Facebook pages will be “under new management”; check them out. Last, but certainly not least, we extend a welcome to Fr. Christopher Rigden-Briscoll, the new Christian Education Coordinator for the Diocese of Ottawa, Upstate New York and Eastern Canada.
May you celebrate a Holy Nativity of Our Lord and a Blessed New Year.