In working out some theory with our new parish Director of Religious Education we’ve been looking at the various resources for catechesis and it seems that they fall into two extremes which might be called Doggies and Dogma.

By “Doggies” I mean puppies and kittens. Sugar and spice and everything nice. The books are full of charming pictures. They are well laid out and attractive. They have great activities and the emphasis seems to be on the encounter with Christ, life of Christ within a caring and compassionate community and the personal experience of the faith. This is a very huggable Catholicism.

The other extreme might be called “Dogma”. These resources are heavy on content. Very few pictures, and what pictures there are tend to be traditional, devotional classic Catholic art. There is an emphasis on authority, the Church and learning the facts of the faith. If the first extreme is all subjective and “heart”, then this extreme is all objective and “head”.

I am exaggerating to make my point, but it does seem that the contrast in resources also indicate a contrast in our approach to the Catholic faith. We have the “heart” Catholics and the “head” Catholics. Those who center the faith in community, compassion, caring and concern while the other side centers the faith in doctrine, dogma, discipline and duty.

The problem I have is that I always see the best of both sides. I’m a “both-and” guy rather than “either-or”. I can see the benefits and deficits in both approaches. Surely we need to devise a catechetical program that is community based-which leads the child to the encounter with Christ and unlocks the way of sacrificial, compassionate Christian life while at the same time teaching the fundamentals of the faith and making sure the content is mastered. Surely our approach should be “head and heart”.

While we’re doing the Scarecrow-Tin Man thing maybe the missing factor is courage. We need courage, strength of will and resolve to bring the two together. We need to live the faith in a courageous and self sacrificial way so our children see what needs to be done and wish to follow our adventurous example.