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SPEAK UP Guwahati Province (ING)

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Paul Vadakumpadan, Guwahati says,
CAN CHURCH BE INTERESTING?
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Guwahati, Aug. 15. Once a programme was organised in a parish for school children.

Names had to be submitted in advance. Parents, especially mothers, took the initiative in sending the names of their children to the organisers. But I heard an amazing story about one child who was due to attend the programme. He intensely disliked the idea of attending it. He was afraid he would come under pressure to attend. So he devised a way of escaping. He bolted the room in which he was sleeping from inside. In the morning, he refused to open the door. Finally his mother had to phone the organisers that he was not coming and then he opened the door and came out.

How do we explain such intense dislike in a twelve year old, from a good Christian family, for a training programme organised by the parish? I believe there is something mysterious about it. Just as some children naturally take to the church, some others naturally distance themselves. Nurture is important, but nature too is significant. However, this does not explain the matter fully.

The great apostle of youth, Don Bosco used to say that children should find the liturgy interesting. There is no reason why prayer should be boring. Sometimes, I think some of our practices and traditions, instead of attracting children, repel them. For goodness sake, don`t put the blame on prayer. It is the method of prayer that is to blame. I remember a priest giving a boring sermon to a big group of small children. He got upset when he found they were not listening. I would have been surprised if they all had paid attention like novices in a religious novitiate. I wanted to tell him that he was to blame not the children. Prayer is not meant to entertain, but it need not be boring. Surely it cannot and need not compete with the TV. Duration of the religious service is not the only or the main factor in determining interest. Short is not necessarily sweet and long is not necessarily boring.

Some sects that conduct Sunday worship in the form of an attractive concert are not entirely wrong. I am reminded of a magician in front of the church. He was drawing large crowds. The priest could not get so many people into the church. So he asked the magician about his secret. He replied, ``Father, I tell lies as though they were true. You speak the truth as though it is not true.``

Prayer, we assert, is a conversation with God. A conversation with a loving father cannot but be interesting. So, it comes to a question of beauty, born of inner conviction. Some retreat centres conduct five day retreats for school children. And they attend the programme in large numbers. They do not seem to be bored at all. As Don Bosco comes to visit us this year, let us ask him for a little bit of his pastoral and liturgical creativity.
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