Reminiscing back to the 90’s and perhaps early 2000 when the kiddies programme Tales by the moonlight running on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) was at its prime, I remember how many children await the commencement of the programme with great enthusiasm. Laying all play to rest, setting other activities aside, fulfilling hurriedly all domestic duties and chores, many children religiously mount their positions before the screen, minutes before the programme begins.
This programme which featured mostly children in nursery and primary schools, was an effort to reignite the age-long art of storytelling in the society, an art which had proven for our forebears a veritable tool, not only for entertaining and educating, but also for inculcating morals in the young ones right from the cradle. Pope Francis not oblivious of the efficacy of storytelling in the transmission of Christian values, aptly made storytelling the focal theme of his message for the 54th world communication day.
He opined that stories are what we hunger for from childhood just like we are hungry for food. Storytelling therefore is very necessary for us in transmission of faith especially in the domestic church which is the family. The Church identifies within the life of the family a domestic church, within which children are bred and taught the first lessons of life, that the parents occupy the position of their first preachers and instructors. Indeed, the parents play a foundational role in the work of catechesis, since children perceive and joyously live the closeness of God and of Jesus made manifest by their parents in such a way that this first Christian experience frequently leaves decisive traces which last throughout life.
Notwithstanding the utmost expedience of parents teaching their wards through lived out examples, it is equally of great importance that they take out time to groom their children through informed oral and sometimes written instructions, amongst which storytelling has proven to be of great relevance. Storytelling in the work of Evangelization Noting its etymology (euangelion), Evangelization simply put is the preaching of the Good News of Christ and given the interconnectedness of preaching and teaching, it becomes crucial to note the intrinsic relatedness of catechesis to evangelization. Catechesis is the process through which the gospel is transmitted by the Christian community, in the way and manner it has received, understood, celebrated, lived and communicated.
Through catechesis, maturation of faith is effected, as it exposes the individual to the knowledge of the truth which is rooted in Christ and taught unerringly by his Church. While there are diverse means through which the work of catechesis can be executed, however, of prominence among them is storytelling. Storytelling as defined by the National Storytelling Network; is the interactive art of using words and actions to reveal the elements and images of a story while encouraging the listener’s imagination. Giving its interactive and imaginative nature, storytelling stands as a profound means of educating and transmitting values, as it does not only facilitate easy comprehension of message, but also aids memorization.
The fresh memories of many childhood stories even at old age is a clear attestation to this. In furtherance to this fact, Christ himself during his earthly sojourn employed storytelling more often in the propagation of the Good News, no wonder, it was noted of him that “he will not speak to them without a parable” (Matt. 13: 34.) Right from the earliest moments of our existence “we hunger for stories just as we hunger for food”, noted the Holy Father. Again in his words, “Stories influence our lives, whether in the form of fairy tales, novels, films, songs, news, even if we do not always realize it… Stories leave their mark on us; they shape our convictions and our behavior.
They can help us understand and communicate who we are.” Thus, given the highlighted benefits storytelling as to offer as a means of instructing and educating, parents cannot afford to jettison altogether this means, in the discharge of their duty as first teachers to their children. From the forgoing, the family has an integral role to play in formation of their children, a role which if not properly discharged, can have a grievous and long lasting effect on the larger society and indeed the ecclesia community.
Bearing in mind the saying of the psalmist “foundation once destroyed what can the just do?”; the onus lies on the Church and indeed in a special way the parents to devise means through which the children can be duly catechized and groomed in the faith and giving the countless benefits of storytelling in effectively educating and instructing, such a means can by no means be left out of the catechetical enterprise. In light of the New Evangelization, the church feels the responsibility to devise new tool and new expressions to ensure that the word of faith, which has begotten the true life of God in it, be heard more and be better understood, even in the new deserts of this world. Pope Benedict XVI Emeritus, in his homily on the 28th June, 2010 remarked that we have New Evangelization not in its content but in its inner thrust as it opens the grace of the holy spirit which constitutes the force of the new law of the gospel that always renews the church.
Pope Francis teaching on new evangelization in Evangelii Guadium called everyone to be missionary disciple. Families can challenge themselves to be more united seeing themselves as disciples who need to impact the life of faith in one another. Since storytelling has been part of the human journey from the ab initio, the Holy Father has made us to realize a super story which is the Scripture as he calls it story of stories to be our guide in our families especially when we are made to be more united as a domestic church during this pandemic. Let the word of God in all it’s richness dwell among us, our families our church.