Catechists



I recently gave a catechist retreat/In-Service to a group of catechists at a parish in the Archdiocese.  One of the things I shared with them is the importance of them bringing everything together.  It is not the textbook, the DVD, the music, the pictures or the great use of the powerpoint/smartboard you used that helped make your class a fruitful one.  Although helpful and very important in passing on the faith in a suitable manner to young people in the Third Millennium, nothing replaces the person of the catechist.  The catechist is the person who unites, organizes and links all the great tools available together in order that our Catholic Faith can be made known in the lives of their students.  Our Faith is full of life and has the potential to draw students into the life and mission of the Church.  It is the person of the catechist who is the linchpin, the crux, and central to helping students encounter Christ and the Gospel Message.

The National Directory of Catechesis says: “No number of attractive personal qualities, no amount of skill and training, and no level of scholarship of erudition can replace the power of God’s word communicated through a life lived in the Spirit (pg. 243).” A person who desires to grow in holiness and proclaim in word and deed a life rooted in Christ is irreplaceable in the ministry of Catechesis.

Come Holy Spirit lead us as catechists to radiate you through our teaching, and through our very being!  And students will be saying…Ahh see how they love Jesus…I want that too”.

Advertisements

Monsignor Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington posted a wonderful explanation of the qualities of an evangelist.  I have included most of the post below.  The General Directory for Catechesis and the National Directory for Catechesis are clear about the need to evangelize those we are catechizing.  Here a 7 qualities to consider:

At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.  (Luke 10:1).

Now these lead teams, these evangelizers,  received seven basic instructions from the Lord on how to effectively evangelize. These seven basic habits are also for us who have receive the mandate to evangelize (cf Matt 28: 19). Let’s look at them briefly:

1. Supplication – Jesus said, The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Hence before any effective evangelizing takes place there must be prayer. In my own parish we are preparing to go out two by two in the Fall. Prior to this we have prayed for over a year, holding Eucharistic holy hours, praying at Mass and Bible study for a fruitful team of laborers sent, not by man, but by God. On Pentecost Sunday 50 people signed up to walk door to door. They are the fruit of prayer. So step one for effective evangelization is to have a praying community asking for laborers. When we go door to door fifty others have signed up to stay in Church and pray as we walk. Habit one: Pray!

2: Sobriety. The Lord tells them Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves (Luke 10:3) We do have to be sober about the fact that we are in world that is both critical of and hostile to our faith. We are bound to experience persecution, ridicule, anger, being ignored,  misunderstanding, misinterpretation, misrepresentations and just plain missiles. That we experience the world’s hatred or anger does not mean we have done anything wrong. The Lord was clear that the hatred of the world was a sign of true discipleship: If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. (John 15:18-20). Too many Christians today want the world to like them and think that holiness is about winning a popularity contest and being nice. Well the fact is that Jesus did not end up on the cross by winning a popularity contest and just being nice. He had enemies and so do we. We are not to hate them. We are to love them but we have to be sober about accepting some degree of hatred from the world. And to those who have won the popularity contest and have no enemies Jesus warns: Woe to you when all men speak well of you,  for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets (Luke 6:26). The true disciple and true evangelizer will experience some degree of hatred, anger and scorn. We must be sober about this. We do not look for a fight, but hatred will come. An old spiritual says, “I been ‘buked and I been scorned. I been talked ’bout sures yo’ born…..” Habit 2 is sobriety

3. Simplicity – The Lord tells us to travel light: Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way (Lk 10:4) We are to bring nothing along that will weigh us down or hinder our task. The fact is we all have a lot of baggage in this life that hinders us from the more important work of Evangelizing our family and others. Too many parents barely know their kids because they work long hours at jobs to pay for a life style that is too expensive. On top of this we add endless projects and pursuits that keep us running all over God’s green acre. Perhaps good in themselves, they become too much of a good thing and we end up barely knowing the first people we are to evangelize, our children. The Lord says, lighten up, less, is more, simplify and do with less. Do what is more important first: God, family, parish and community. Learn to prioritize and say “no” when necessary. Bottom line is that we have too much baggage, too many distractions and the Gospel goes unlived and unpreached. The unusual instruction “Greet no one along the way” means that we ought not allow any relationship to hinder us either. There are folks who can sidetrack us hinder our progress and we ought to limit such contacts charitably.

4.  Serenity – The Lord says, Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household’ (Luke 10: 5) Though the world may be hostile at times, the Lord tells us, upon entering into any place to say “Peace to the his household.” We do not go forth with hostility but with a serene joy and love. We must love those to whom we announce the Gospel. We are to radiate a serene confidence, joy and peace. We are not picking a fight or trying to win an argument. If we need to clarify a misunderstanding someone has we ought to do so peacefully and with serene confidence.  Because we are confident in the truth we are serene in it. Shalom, peace is at our core, not hostility or aggressiveness.

5.  Stability– The Lord instructs us Stay in the same house…..Do not move about from one house to another. (Luke 10:7) Thus the Lord tells us to find our place and stay there. In the end, the best evangelization takes place where there are deeper relationships. But deep relationships cannot exist when we are running all over the place and relating to others only superficially. We ought to stay put more with family, parish and community and have deep roots. Too many people barely know their own family. No wonder the faith is not passed on in the diffuse, rushed and sporadic climate of the family. Find home and stay there routinely. Build deep relationships.

6. Sensitivity – the Lord says Eat and drink what is offered to you,…..cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ In other words the Lord counsels simple human kindness where we do not criticize about unnecessary things like the quality of food, or matters of preference. Further he counsels that we have a charge to bring healing and help to others. We may cure the sick by physical cures but the kind of healing necessary is often more emotional and spiritual. We ought to manifest care for others. Even the simple act of listening to someone can bring great healing. Without simple human kindness, declaring that the Kingdom of God is at hand can not only be empty but it can make the kingdom seem odious. The say to others that the Kingdom of God is at hand means that they can start living a whole new life. We ought then to manifest kindness, bring forth cures by helping people find wholeness and healing from the many blows this world inflicts. The Kingdom of God is not only about doctrine, it is about healing, holiness, and the wholeness that comes from both as well as from true doctrine.

7. Soulful Joy– The disciples returned with great joy and the Lord celebrates with them and helps to deepen their joy. There is nothing worse than a sour-faced saint or a bored believer. In the end, the greatest evangelization is to manifest a joy at what God is doing in our lives. This joy is not a sentimental emotional joy necessarily but a deeper serene joy rooted in confidence, hope and love. Do people see you in this way? If they do the ground is fertile for evangelization. St. Peter says, Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15). Now of course giving an answer presupposes that someone notices the hope and joy in us and noticing this they ask. Does anyone notice this about you?


Is your catechesis evangelistic?  What does that even mean?  Well, it means a lot of things, but most importantly it means being a person to brings the light, joy, life and love of Jesus to others.  The heart of our catechesis to children, youth and adults must be evangelistic or it is not authentically Catholic/Christian.

How do I shine Jesus in my catechesis?  How do others encounter Jesus through my classes, presentations or by encountering me?  These are questions worth thinking about.  I found a compelling video clip by Fr. Robert Barron about Evangelization.  It’s a little academic, but it’s really good.  Take a couple minutes and check it out.


saint paulThe New Evangelization is one of the key focuses of the Church in the Third Millennium. It is an exciting time to be a part of the Church and see all the great works of the Lord that are happening, especially with the emphasis on the New Evangelization and all that it entails. When you hear the word “old” it gets little attention, but in reality I wonder if the core of the New Evangelization is old.  The Apostles and their successors in the first few centuries after Christ were evangelizers “par excellence”!  St. Peter and St. Paul, St. Thomas, St. Andrew, St. John and all the apostles set the world ablaze by proclaiming and making manifest the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Their successors – people like St. Polycarp and St. Ignatius of Antioch witnessed to the life, death and resurrection of Christ with their very lives.  People saw with their very eyes the conviction they had admits the threat of death.  This proclamation that was not mere lip service but also lived out even at the cost of their own lives was key to the evangelization of the people of their day.

Today, the New Evangelization must rely on that “Old Evangelization” in order to draw hearts to Christ.  As you may know, St. Francis never said: “Preach the Gospel always use words is necessary”.   But he did testify not only with his life but with the constant proclamation of the Good News to Christ to every town and place he went (and even to the birds).

2 Things to share with students about evangelization:

1) They are called by their Baptism to share the Good News of Jesus Christ; to tell others about who God is and what His plan for us is.  Kids evangelize most successfully often times and we need to give them the tools to do this.

2)  Help children see that ones actions speak something about what she/he believes.  Do you choose the sports game over Mass, do you say no to watching TV because you have not prayed; do you avoid talking negatively about others because that is not loving your neighbor, etc.

 

What are ways you help your students to evangelize?


St. Peters BThis time of year marks the half-way point (more or less) of the year in religious education.  I want to share a few things that DRE’s and especially catechists might consider half-way through the year.

1) Do you believe the way you’ve catechized has helped your students actually grow in their relationship with Christ? Consider why you would say yes or no.

2) How have you helped your students experience being a community?  Is your class more bonded and interactive now than they were during the first month?

3) Do you believe your students know more about their faith? Is there anything you’ve done so far to measure (as imperfect as it is) what they know or don’t know?

4) How are your students sharing their faith with others outside the classroom?  Are you finding that they are applying what they are learning and experiences in the class to what they do outside the class?

5) What have you done as a catechist to grow in your faith this year as you seek to pass it onto the students you catechize?


catechesis of childrenI had the privilege to be a lecturer for adults in the Maryvale Certification in Catechesis program at the Maryvale Center in Kansas City.  My topic was Catechetical Methodology.  Before discussing methodology I covered the things that must be included in our catechesis.

Divine Revelation is given to mankind through Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Tradition and is celebrated within the Liturgical Life of the Church.

Catechesis therefore must be…

1. Scriptural

2. Doctrinal

3. Liturgical

Each of these components is essential if our catechesis is to be systematic and organic.  We always want to present the faith as a unified whole.  St. Thomas Aquines said The Catholic Faith “is one thing”.  It is not merely a whole bunch of teachings, rules or regulations, but it is one.  When we catechize with this in mind we will help others see that the faith is a unified whole rather than seperate topics all under the umbrella of Catholicism.

Scriptural

Catechism Paragraph 102 says: “Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely:

You recall that one and the same Word of God extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, since he who was in the beginning God with God has no need of separate syllables; for he is not subject to time.”

The Scriptures reveal God’s plan of salvation through history.  Jesus is the interpretive key to the whole Bible (everything in the Old Testament points to Him and everything in the New Testament is referenced to Him).

Our Catechesis must be grounded in Sacred Scripture.  Scripture should be a “driving force” in your adult presentation, retreat, RCIA, evangelization efforts and in the classroom with kids and teens.  The more a disciple of Christ is “soaked” in the Scriptures the more efficacious is his catechesis.

Doctrinal 

Doctrine means “teaching”.  In the Catechism paragraph 89 it speaks about Dogma’s being “lights along the path of faith”.  Dogma’s are doctrines formally defined.

The Teachings of Christ and His Church are rooted in Scripture and passed on through the Apostles and their successors.  Doctrine is not dry and static but it is God’s revelation and leads others to a greater understanding in what we as Catholic believe.  There are for key foundations of our Faith: The “Faith Professed” (as expressed in the Creed), the “Faith Celebrated” in the liturgy and Sacraments, the “Faith Lived” in and through the Commandments and the “Faith Prayed”, as seen in the prayer that Summarizes the Gospel Message (the Our Father).

The 4 foundational truths that need to be not only included in our catechesis but should also be integrated in order to show that the faith is organic and unified.  In addition there are the hierarchy of truths that need to be considered in our catechesis: The Holy Trinity, first and foremost, being the central mystery of our Faith.  Also, the Incarnation, the Paschal Mystery, the dignity of the human person and the Church.  These are considered the “Golden Threads” which are seen on every page of the Catechism.  Catechesis to truly “echo” the Faith must include the foundational truths and interrelate the golden threads.

One thing we often forget is that teaching about doctrine assumes that we are catechizing with the awareness of 1) The primacy of grace (God’s initiative is always first), 2) The Faith is attractive and beautiful.  And how what we believe is 3) personal – Christ’s message to us is a personal invitation and a personal encounter. When we pass on the faith with these three things in mind we help others discover the beauty of our Catholic Faith and its treasures.

Liturgical

Liturgy is “the participation of the people of God in “the work of God” (CCC 1069). Our Catechesis should help people participate in the work of God in the present moment (during our catechesis) and lead them to the communal Eucharistic Liturgy at Mass.

Why?  I can’t say it any better than the Catechism

“The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all her power flows.”13 It is therefore the privileged place for catechizing the People of God. “Catechesis is intrinsically linked with the whole of liturgical and sacramental activity, for it is in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, that Christ Jesus works in fullness for the transformation of men.”14  (CCC 1074)

Since it is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed we would be remiss in not seeking to draw those we catechize more deeply into the life of the liturgy which includes their participation in the Sacraments – most especially Reconciliation and Eucharist.

When our catechesis is scriptural, doctrinal and liturgical the faith is authentically being handed on with the mind and the heart of Christ and His Church.  What a privilege it is to hand on the faith, whole and entire, with the assistance and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

How is your catechesis scriptural, doctrinal and liturgical?


The Church has called for a “New Evangelization” to meet the situation in which many who would describe Catechism of the Catholic church picthemselves as Catholics have moved away from the practice of their faith. The Catechism was written precisely to help those who transmit the faith of the Church to address this situation. It is enormously important that the Catechism shows us how we can announce the kerygma in and through our presentation of each aspect of the faith. This means that when we catechize, we can reach out to those who are already committed and need a catechesis for the deepening of their faith, and at the same time make a proclamation of the essentials of the faith so that those who need to receive the more basic message with its call to conversion also benefit from our teaching. Whatever a person’s situation, and however far a person is from the full practice of the faith, he or she will be able to hear the core message of the Good News and can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, make a response to this call that comes through us from the unfathomable love of God made flesh in the divine Son.

~ Dr. Petroc Willey

Next Page »