Instruction in spiritual atmosphere
From the Headmaster of Worth Sts,-1 am sorry to think that there should be parents who are afraid that religion at boarding schools is a cold and impersonal affair, forced upon children by threats and compulsion, Your "Worried Parents" have made good suggestions; but surely those who direct our boarding schools have for tong been trying to act up to them?
The teaching of religion must result in a way of life: any attempt to label it a subject like geography is clearly wrong. Children who go away to school must breathe a spiritual atmosphere, must be immersed in the practice of the Faith almost without knowing it. Compulsory Mass attendance over and above the Sunday precept is sometimes necessary; but, unless there is room for voluntary attendance as well. most children are mystified by the extra demands made upon them.
I urge the desirability of permitting a child either to get up to Mass or to stay in bed on at least half the days in the week; of voluntary May and October Devotions: of voluntary Rosaries said at bedtime by children who as to be allowed to organise them; of frequent dialogue Masses in which the server's part is said by all: of boys leading their own morning prayers before the Blessed Sacrament; and of their feeling that they want to make visits without being pressed. All this can be, and is. brought about in a Catholic boarding school. That is why a Protestant school can never take the place of one of ours.
Finally, the Catechism explained and taillight in class cries out for rewards for concentration and effort, as well as for understanding. On the analogy of the primitive penances once imposed for talking in church, it cannot he wrong to impose school penances on those who destroy the harmony of the religious instruction class. Such punishment will rarely be inflicted if the school has the right tradition of interest and attention in this its principal subject on the timetable. One hardly needs to say that private talks with a priest in a school conducted by priests or religious, or with the chaplain in a lay school, are a regular part of school life.
(Fr.) Maurice Bell
Worth Preparatory School, • Crawley, Sussex.
Sna-In the dockland school in which 1 teach, the ways of capturing interest in secular lessons are applied to religious lessons. A happy atmosphere is maintained. Along with the usual Catechism learning, the child's active co-operation is secured by such activities as miming, say, for example, some incident in the life of Our Lord. the keeping of private notebooks with pictures and cuttings, the making of models (for example, a model altar with its equipment in miniature, or small replicas of vestments).
Older children studying the Mass are sometimes allowed to sit in a special place near the altar. where they can observe every movement of the priest. These same children are taught to sing the Mass or to take part in a dialogue Mass.
At least one member of the staff obtains 100 per cent, attendance for First Friday'Holy Communion by gentle persuasion and certainly not by fear, while other members of the staff frequently come fasting from good distances in order that the
children may see them receiving Holy Communion.
A Catholic teacher receives extra training in religion and voluntarily accepts a post in a Catholic school for the love of God. For the same reason a Catholic parent voluntarily sends his child to a Catholic school to receive his tuition from an expert. Therefore a normal healthy child who is not pulling his weight at his religious lesson must he made to realise that he also has a responsibility in the matter.
SIR.-As a teacher I should like to support the plea of "Catholic Mother" that "love and kindness" should play a bigger part in the teaching of religion in our schools. She complains of "Catechism classes carried out by beatings and threats of more beatings," and writes from Dublin. I can speak only for London, and I am sure it is safe to say that in no school here today are such methods used. There are, however, other weapons beside the cane. Nagging, scolding and sarcasm can do quite as much damage to the religious lesson. For the undoubted harshness in the past the annual diocesan examination must, I think, take some of the blame. In natural anxiety to gain a good report, teachers too often resorted to fear in their efforts to make the children reach the quite terrifying word-perfect standard demanded by the examiners, and "helping the children to live the Faith" became a secondary matter to "knowing the Catechism." This is no longer true, thank God, and for the past 15 years I cannot remember a religious inspection that was not pleasant and friendly. Thanks also largely to the persevering pioneer work of Fr. Drinkwater it does seem to be at last fairly generally accepted that the technical, compact theological definitions of the Catechism are n.ot the most suitable food for young children-nor for all older ones eitherr-and our methods have gradually improved.
But old traditions die hard, and the religious lesson (alas that in a few places it is still known as "Catechism") is not always an inspiration. Teachers being, alas, all too human (children also!), it is ve7 easy for the religious period to be just another lesson, only with rather more and harder information to cram in. No one would disagree that the better the relationship between teacher and taught the more effective the teaching and in no case is this•more true than in religious instruction. Here is where that "love and kindness" "Catholic Mother" asks for comes in. On the whole the children in our schools do "know their religion," remarkably well in many cases. but somehow the life and the love seem often to have got left out, hence some, at least, of the lapses.
May Day procession
1 was an interested spectator today of the Communist May Day March and Rally, and could not help being impressed by their sincerity, and also by the undoubted interest they aroused all along the route between Temple Station and Hyde Park. Would it not be possible for Catholics to hold a similar procession? Carrying banners depicting Our Lady and the Saints, instead of Communist flags and crudely painted pictures? C. I.