The latest Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II opens next week in theatres. I cannot wait to see it! In this seventh and final episode of the Harry Potter saga, Harry and his friends have the ultimate confrontation with the Dark Lord, Voldermort, and his wicked allies. It’s a brutal battle in which Harry, Ron, Hermione and the other adolescents fight fearlessly alongside their adult compatriots to defeat evil. In the end, of course, goodness and truth prevail.
Although some in Catholic circles criticize the witchcraft and wizardry in the Harry Potter series, I believe that Harry Potter can teach those of us in RCIA ministry something about forming kids in faith. And, the climax we see in the final movie points to what it is that Harry Potter teaches.
Harry, with the supportive guidance of Headmaster Dumbledore and others, teaches his Hogwarts friends that if they are loyal and true and stand united that they can overcome anything – even evil itself as embodied in Lord Voldermort. Indeed, the Hogwarts band of friends defeats the Dark Lord in the final scene and goodness triumphs. So, what does Harry know about teaching kids and what’s this got to do RCIA ministry?
Harry teaches us about the power of adolescent peers “teaching” each other. For a number of reasons, the professors at the Howgarts School are not able to teach the students to defend themselves against evil forces. In a previous film (or book), Harry brings a group of students together and he teaches them how to defend against, and ultimately defeat evil. It’s a type of peer teaching. Kids can teach kids in a way that adults cannot. Harry teaches his friends to believe in the good and to believe in each other. It is this point, the importance of peer formation, which I believe we should take to heart.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults speaks urgently about the importance of peer companions in the journey of faith. Indeed, the Rite says that the children’s formation “depends on the help and example of the companions” (RCIA, no. 254). Similar to the way Harry’s classmates learn from him; defense, courage, unity, and importance of standing up for what is just and right; our young catechumens learn faith in Jesus Christ and the ways of discipleship from their Catholic peers.
There are other “lessons” we can take from Harry Potter that can help us in the way we form kids in faith. Harry has a mission to fulfill and he, along with his companions, makes a difference in their world. I am not suggesting that Harry Potter has overtly Catholic Christian overtones or that we should read too much into the books or movies. (Although, I will say that I love the banquet scenes in the films and in the books). I’m simply suggesting that you take a look at Harry Potter and what he is able to accomplish with the help of his friends and his community.
In the end, for the fictional Harry Potter and the wizarding world, good triumphs over evil. In our world, God triumphs over evil – always. Not a bad lesson to teach our young catechumens.
4 thoughts on “What Harry Potter Knows about Forming Kids in Faith”
Thanks so much for this article! I have always enjoyed Harry Potter and, like anything else, the parents should be reading along with their children. This is what I did with my now 9 yr old granddaughter and while doing so I was able to draw comparisons to our faith. Thanks again!
Pat, great point about reading along with your kids and knowing what they are reading! It can be surprising sometimes. Also, this makes me think about all the great literature that can be used in children’s RCIA. Sometimes, I have kids talk about their favorites books and then we connect that with the Bible. I know I’ve used “Old Turtle,” “Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon,” and the old classic “The Giving Tree.” Would love to get ideas from others, too, on what you use!
Stories do offer a great connection and an incredible opportunity to link faith with our lives. Too often we see and hear about the separation between Church and the rest of our lives; we need to find ways to unite them more and more.
The preparation for Sacraments are not just for the individual, but for the whole family, and their family of faith (Church) too. We all have a role in preparing for each one’s Sacrament. We must be part of each other’s support group, encouraging one another in our faith-filled journey.
Ian brings up a really good point about the communal nature of sharing stories. Most often stories are shared in community and the communal dimension of our faith and sacramental life is essential!