God is understood in the Catholic faith to be a unity of three ‘persons’ – the Trinity. The three ‘persons’, as expressed in the Sign of the Cross, are God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. These three form a dynamic relationship of overflowing creative and sacrificial love. The purpose of human beings is to live in this loving relationship with God and live out this love in their human relationships.
Young people in Catholic schools need to have access to learning about God that is appropriate to the level of their intellectual and spiritual development. Young people should have the opportunity to explore the mystery of God: The wonder of God creator of all, the revelation of God in Jesus’ incarnation and the guiding and sustaining activity of the Holy Spirit in their lives. These are complex theological ideas and it is appropriate to develop particular foci that give direction and understanding
especially for our time. For example, Laudato Si(1)has called the world’s attention to our relationship with creation and young people have significant and legitimate concern for issues of preserving our world and kaitiakitanga, therefore God as Creator is understandingly given notable time and regard.
It is also imperative that young people are given the opportunity to understand teachings about the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit in ways that make connections with their own cultures. For example, understanding the importance of manaakitanga in the life of Jesus.
(1). Francis. (2016). Laudato Si’: On Care For Our Common Home.
God is one and God is three. At appropriate levels, young people should have the opportunity to explore arguments for the existence of God, and traditional and popular images of God including their own images. The nature of God as Trinity – three persons in one God(2) — is essential for understanding the Christian faith, and the concept of ‘divine mystery’ and the inability of human minds to ever fully encapsulate the Divine should be communicated.
God The Father
Jesus revealed himself to be the Son of God and taught his disciples to call God ‘Father’. In Baptism, we too become children of God by adoption into God’s family. Seeing God the Father as creator and the source of life is core to understanding the dignity of all people, the preciousness of creation and the consistent ethic of life. This forms the foundations for a relational understanding of Catholic concepts of social justice and teachings on family, sexuality and the body, as well as ethical issues such as euthanasia. Young people, as they grow and move through stages of faith, need to be provided with increasingly well-presented reasons for the Catholic worldview, and be challenged to develop understandings of God’s transcendence beyond human language, gender and culture.
God the Son
It is important that young people become very familiar with the story, context, teachings and purpose of Jesus’ life, but also learn what that means for them personally. While the story of Jesus’ life and times is necessary for understanding his teachings and parables, it is essential that Jesus is understood to be alive now, present to us, especially in the Eucharist and that it is possible for the young person to have a personal relationship with Christ. The key Christian stories of the Incarnation, the Passion, the Resurrection and the theological concepts that they concern such as love, sin and forgiveness are soundly taught at a level appropriate to the ability of the young people to comprehend.
God the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit gives life to the Church and is at work in the minds and hearts of the people, calling them to serve God and serve others. The Holy Spirit is God living in and working through people. It is only through the presence of the Holy Spirit that humans can lead the lives God desires for them and act with pono, tika and aroha. The Holy Spirit was present at creation and inspired the prophets and writers of Scripture. Young people should be familiar with the gifts and fruit of the Spirit and understand how the Spirit enables humans to have a joyful and fulfilling relationship with God.