New-IdeasIs the New Evangelization merely about New Methods?

It is true that communicating the faith in the Third Millennium does call for a re-proposing the Gospel Message in a way that will be received by the People of God today.  We know that people are less receptive to lectures regarding the truths of the faith than they once were.  Therefore, various tools and methods need to be incorporated (e.g., Video, dialogue, small group interaction, etc.).

At the same time Our Faith must be presented from the living sources of the faith – the liturgy, the Fathers of the Church, the saints, Council documents.  The Catechism does this is an unprecedented manner.   The reality of presenting the immeasurable riches of the Faith from these living sources is key to the New Evangelization.

What do you think?  It would be great to hear your thoughts on this.

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.


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.


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.


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?

Do you have Confirmation in the 8th grade?  Do the students in your program want to attend class each week or do you see that they are less than excited?  Last year we began a new program that we entitled S&L (Spirit & Life).  We promoted it as a Confirmation experience for all 8th graders – both our School of Religion students and our Catholic School students.

Here what we did: Our School of Religion/Religious Ed. office have teamed up with the youth ministers to create an out of the classroom experience.  It is more of a group gathering model.  We knew if we could help teens grow in their faith in a way that was not the traditional classroom model we would have a better chance of engaging them in their faith and fostering in them a desire to stay involved long after the 8th grade year.

Our Format on a given Sunday goes more or less like this:

~ Gather in the Gym where many adult mentors are around greeting them, talking with them and playing basketball, frisbee, & hacky sack.

~ We begin usually with an icebreaker/activity.

~ We move into the Youth Room and either show a video, have some kind of skit/role-play and intro to the topic of the night.

~ Usually one of our youth ministers shares something about the topic and gives some thoughts about it.

~ Then we break everyone up into small groups to explore further the topic of the night.

~ Finally, we gather in the Youth Room to de-brief and encourage them to live their faith.  We often have something that we give them to remind them of the night – a bookmark, a sticker that they put on their shoe (I will follow Christ), etc…

The feedback we received last year and so far this year is very positive.  Almost all the students prefer this format to the classroom model.  This year we asked all the parents and students to attend on the first night where we gave everyone a glimpse of what we do and what our vision was.  That too was well received and really helped give parents an insight to it all.


What are you doing in your program that is helping your Confirmation candidates want to stay involved even after Confirmation?

I came across the blog Reverend Know-It-All and found a very interesting post about his thoughts on the current state of Religious Education and Catholic Education.  He shared about how we is going to start over and do something completely different.  

I’d be very interested to hear what you think about his thoughts?  Check out the post and please share with me your thoughts about the following questions:

  • Do you think our current system of once a week religious education is unfruitful?  On a scale of 1 to 5 (1=great and 5=completely unsuccessful/fruitful) – where is the state of the average religious education program?

  • What do you think about his comments regarding Sacramental Preparation?

  • Where do the parents fit in?

  • What do you think about this comment he made: “In this country, we can’t manage a religious life because we are up against team sports.”?

  • What would you propose as solutions to our current challenges in Religious Education?

  • Are there any unique or interesting religious education models that you know about?

Upcoming Symposium on the New Evangelization

Recently, the Vatican News Agency reported that the symposium on the New Evangelization will address “the necessity to revisit” those areas of the world “that have been evangelized maybe for 1000 years or 500 years and where the faith was once very strong” but where “now people are rather cold in the faith.”

It will also stress the need for this “new freshness” and “new ardor” to be communicated using new technology.

Cardinal Arinze believes that life in the Western world has “many other offers to the human person” which are “attracting” or even “distracting” people away from Christianity so that “the message of Christ can sometimes be forgotten, given a second place, put as a footnote.”

Eye Opening Quote:

“So someone has to come who has the enthusiasm of an evangelizer, who has the convincing power of a witness who lives with conviction what that witness is preaching” and who is also “ready to use modern methods to contact people.”

What Is Needed?

Three things Cardinal Arinze says are needed: 1) Enthusiasm 2) the convincing power of a witness and 3) one who will use modern methods to engage others and lead them closer to Christ and His Church.

As a catechist and as a lay member of the Body of Christ, I am called, you are called and the faithful are called to have these three qualities in order to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those they encounter in their everyday lives.

Many are confused about why it has to be “new” regarding evangelization.  It goes without saying that the Church as always evangelized and exists in order to evangelize.  However, what is need today is a “new ardor”, “new expressions” and “new methods” of proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ who is “the same yesterday, and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

Fleshing It Out

How have you “fleshed out” this new “ardor, expression and methods” of the New Evangelization?  I would be grateful if you took a moment and left a comment.

Love of Jesus or Knowledge (Church Teaching)?

Is it the love of Jesus that matters most to convey to this generation?  Is it to pass on what the Catechism says so they will “know” their faith?  Those in ministry have clear opinions about these questions.  Sometimes people say the content gets in the way of helping children, youth and adults encounter Jesus and know His love. Others assert “if they only knew the content they would live their faith better”.

Pope Paul VI was the first pope in history to talk about catechesis as being a means to evangelization (Evangelii Nuntiandi #44).  We are familiar to the notion of evangelization preceding catechesis but Paul VI saw catechesis being a means of evangelizing, of proclaiming the Good News of God’s love and abundant life.

As catechists and disciples of Christ our goal should be to bring about both a greater understanding and knowledge of the faith so that a greater love and acceptance of the Good News will be embraced and lived in the lives of those who receive it.  Our catechesis must be evangelistic in nature so that it is not merely “doctrine” that we are passing on but “life changing doctrine”.

Both Are Essential

The answer is both the love of Jesus and the knowledge of God plan of salvation (doctrine) are key to handing on the Faith.  Before Vatican II the emphasis tended to be placed on memorizing the content of the faith at the cost of the proclamation of the Good News of God’s love and Mercy.  After Vatican II the pendulum went the other way and the emphasis was on proclaiming the love of God and his great mercy and minimizing the content and the importance of knowing/learning it.  What we need is to unify the two by understanding that we are catechizing and proclaiming this life changing doctrine so as to draw the learning into a life-giving relationship with Jesus. Blessed John Paul II said it very well in Catechesi Tradendae when he said:

Catechesis aims therefore at developing understanding of the mystery of Christ in the light of God’s word, so that the whole of a person’s humanity is impregnated by that word. Changed by the working of grace into a new creature, the Christian thus sets himself to follow Christ and learns more and more within the Church to think like Him, to judge like Him, to act in conformity with His commandments, and to hope as He invites us to.

To put it more precisely: within the whole process of evangelization, the aim of catechesis is to be the teaching and maturation stage, that is to say, the period in which the Christian, having accepted by faith the person of Jesus Christ as the one Lord and having given Him complete adherence by sincere conversion of heart, endeavors to know better this Jesus to whom he has entrusted himself: to know His “mystery,” the kingdom of God proclaimed by Him, the requirements and promises contained in His Gospel message, and the paths that He has laid down for anyone who wishes to follow Him. (Paragraph 20)

The understanding of doctrine and the goal of bringing about a change (conversion) is the “aim of catechesis”.  Today we need both in order to authentically pass on the deposit of faith and all its riches.

Catechetical Takeaway

A few ideas on how to accomplish this are worth considering.

1) Always open your catechetical sessions in prayer – prayer that helps draw others into the Mystery of Christ.

2) Share the topic of the day with enthusiasm and with conviction.  This will be noticed and those receiving it will be more inclined to be drawn into what you are proclaiming and sharing.

3)  Pray to the Holy Spirit (The Holy Spirit is the interior teacher).  Catechists are the instrument, the conduit, the mouthpiece helping others to know and love Christ.

4) Be faithful to proclaiming the Church’s teachings.  Proclaiming this life changing doctrine will lead others to the love of God and to encounter Him more fully.

How do you see catechesis being a means of evangelization?

This past Sunday evening at our S&L meeting with 8th grade Confirmation students we explored the Works of Mercy in a very unique way.  They learned specifically about 3 of the Works of Mercy.  We split 125 teens up into 3 groups where they rotated to 3 different stations.  

Here is a description of each Stations:

Feed the Hungry

Kids came into a room where they were given a colored piece of paper representing the country they were from.  Then they sat together at a table and would be given a certain amount of food based on how much food is available in that country.  The teens were asked a series of questions: 1) Did any of you get to choose what country you were from?  2) Is the population of the world evenly distributed on each continent?  The teens were then shown 1 large pizza which represented all the food in the world.  Africa got 8%, Asia 23% Europe 36%, South America 11% and North America 22%.  Teens quickly realized after we distributed the food by continent how not all the food in the world is distributed equally.  A third question was then posed: What do you notice about the food distribution.  Some examples were: Asia doesn’t have enough for everyone, Europe sure has a lot, North America has a lot also, South America does not have enough to go around.  Then every table was able to share their portion of the food (pizza).  A representative from each table then shared a little about their experience.

Give Drink to the Thirsty

At this station the large group was broken up into 4 smaller groups where each participated in a relay.  Here’s how it went: They went to the first line and took off 1 shoe and sock and then ran to the 2nd line where they had a pick up a 40 pound piece of luggage and carry it about 20 feet to a small water bucket where they had to stick their foot into it and pull out a twizzler (I’d recommend a gummy worms) and then they had a carry the luggage back to the place to they originally picked it up.  Finally they put their sock and shoe back on and tagged the next person in their line.  The 40 pound luggage represented the weight of the water that people have to carry back to their homes (average is about 2 miles).  The twizzlers represented all the kinds of tapeworms that are found in unclean drinking water (resulting in malnutrition, diseases & infections).  Putting their feet in the water shows that the water was not clean but 884 million people in our world do not have access to clean drinking water.    We discussed what we could do to make an impact and live out this work of mercy.  Giving money so a community could get access to clean drinking water, making spiritual sacrifices like taking shorter showers and not wasting water are some examples that we discussed.  

Shelter the Homeless

At this Station we had a woman who was homeless as a teenager.  She’s now 23 and doing alright.  She shared some of her experiences of being homeless.  The teens were mesmerized by what she had to share.  

At each station there was a donation basket where kids donated spare change they brought.  We probably raised between $25 and $35 (I am going to have to get it counted today).  We will donate it to Catholic Charities.

We closed the night by showing a video by Audio Adrenaline called Hands and Feet and had different students read a line from a prayer by St. Faustine about serving others.  It was a great night!!!
What have you done in your ministry to help make the works of mercy more concrete?   







A New Curriculum

Last night we had our 7th grade catechists gather for our In-Service.  We rolled out a new vision and curriculum.  There was great excitement about it all. 

Toward the end of last year’s religious education program we decided we needed our middle school program to look different from what religious education students were use to going to from K-6 grade.  By middle school we want to avoid a mentality of “this is the same old thing every year”.  Yes, we want them to continue to grow in their knowledge of faith, but more importantly we want them to be formed in their faith and able to witness to it in their everyday lives.  Not to mention the need to do it in a way that engages them and keeps them guessing what is going to happen next.  While, we are not professional entertainers nor experts in engaging middle schoolers, we wanted to create a curriculum that draws them into the Scriptures as well as how it relates to their current lives.

Nuts and Bolts

Our curriculum aims to cover the key aspects of Salvation History through the 6 major covenants (5 in the Old Testament and 1 in the New).  We will be covering the key aspects through the following method:

1) We will spend between 30 to 45 minutes each week cover the topic of the day.

2) Students then will switch classes (each class has what we call a “team class”) and cover either “practical application” or “spotlight”.  After 25 to 30 minutes of that they switch again and cover whatever they did not cover in the previous 25-30 minutes.  Practical Application seeks to make application of the topic and help them respond to it.  Spotlight aims to highlight something via a video, a testimony or activity that assists students in further applying and understanding how the topic affects and relates to them.

3) At times we will not have them switch but we will gather all the students together (e.g. gather in the church for a prayer/blessing or watch a video as a whole group.  

Engaging Middle Schoolers 

We are very excited about this new program and last night our catechists and aides responded very positively and with enthusiasm about this new curriculum.  We currently have 4 lessons created and are working on developing the other lessons.  It’s a time-consuming process since there does not really exist a program out their that covers salvation history for middle schoolers and engages them.  There are textbooks that cover the Bible but not in a way that is less classroom presentation style.  We are looking to be less textbook driven and more engaging as our students gather.  There will be a component of presenting material while not relying on a textbook.

Please say a pray for our endeavor and let me know if you’d like me to share more.   

Here is another methodology to consider.  I use this method in 1st – 6th grade class lessons.  Catechists find the outlines I’ve created and connected with this method very helpful.

The goal of a method is to replicate or imitate the way God teaches us.

A. He reveals gradually and in stages
B. He reveals and seeks our response, He reveals more and we respond again, etc.

The Method: Gather, Proclaim, Break and Send
A. It is a way to replicate God’s way of teaching

B. It helps bring structure to an hour and fifteen minutes or an hour and a half class period.

C. It helps catechists clearly articulate the topic of the lesson and bring life application to it.

D. It helps the catechist recap and “send” students out to go ponder and live their faith.

III. The Specifics

1. The suggestions given are aimed at helping the student be open to what will be discussed.  It seeks to get students “docile” to what is about to be taught.
2. Prayer should always be an important part of the opening section. However, it is more than merely an opening prayer.

B. Proclaim
1. This is the heart of your message (the nuts and bolts) – sharing the truths of the faith. The info provided to you under the proclaim section are the “key points” regarding the topic at hand.
2. It is important that this section hands on authentic Catholic teaching.  This is the Church’s teaching we are passing on, not our “personal ideas” or “opinions”.
3. It is recommended that you look up the Catechism reference so you as a catechist can understand the topic better and more fully. You are not expected to read to the students out of the Catechism.
4. Note: Some of the textbook chapters simply try to cover too much material.  There is a conscience effort in the outlines to keep the topic at hand more focused than the book sometimes does.

C. Break
1. This section is the “Practical Application” or “Life Application” component.
2. Be creative.  Feel free to add your own ideas.
3. The goal is to “make it real” to your students the content just discussed in the proclaim section.

D. Send
1. This section is aimed at bringing closure to the day’s lesson.
2. It helps summarize/recap what has been discussed.
3. It should encourage and challenge students to go and live their faith.
4. Always close in prayer, even if it is brief. If you run out of time to cover the majority of the “send” part, please seek to end your class with a brief prayer.

I have taken all the lessons grades 1st – 6th and formatted each lesson according to this method.  Catechists really appreciate it.  It is empowering to them and gives them the focus and clarity they are looking for.  This method I believe is very similar to the Ecclesial Method and is equal to it.  It just covers it in one less step or stage.  As I mentioned in a previous post, LIFE TEEN, a international Youth Ministry organization, uses this method in their model of interacting with Junior High and High School Youth in a gathering model (as compared to a classroom model).  The Gather, Proclaim, Break, Send is the 4 parts of the Mass.   I believe very strongly in this method and believe it helps accomplish God’s way of teaching us.

What method have you used that helps replicate God’s Pedagogy?  In the near future I will post some thoughts on why all methods are not equal in successfully passing on the faith.

One method that has proven to be successful in authentically passing on the Faith is the Ecclesial method put forth my Msgr. Francis Kelly in his book, The Mystery We Proclaim: Catechesis for the Third Millennium.  Instead of recreating the explanation of the method, I thought the explanation of each step from was good.  Here is a detailed explanation of the method which seeks to replicate God’s pedagogy.  In teaching the Faith, it is appropriate to imitate God’s way of drawing us to Himself. When God reveals something to us in the Scriptures, through a presentation or lesson or in prayer, He showers us with actual grace so that we can understand. He then waits for us to make a response of faith. When we respond, He reveals more. God repeats the process with each person, over and over again, so that we come to know Him always more intimately.  The Ecclesial Method is a effective means of accomplishing this desired goal of drawing students into a deeper knowledge and relationship with Christ.

Step 1: Preparation

“This step suggests that the catechist must help create the conditions for the possibility of deepening God’s Word in the hearts of those being served. This is no easy task in the setting of modern, hectic life in the Western world, where the individual is daily subjected to a barrage of stimuli from the media of communication, advertising, competing ideologies, etc.” (Kelly, 138)

How can you accomplish a setting in the room that you will teach that will let your students know there is something different, something entirely unique about what they are about to experience? That what they will learn in your classroom will affect their lives in a deeper way than they experience in the rest of their life. The first part of preparation is the setting of the room. The room should be a place set apart. This can be difficult to accomplish in some instances. Feel free to use our forums to ask other catechists for ideas. But consider, for instance, a sacred space. A place in your classroom, such as a small table, with liturgical colors, a crucifix, a Bible open to a passage you will teach from that day. Use your sacred space to teach your students. If you are teaching about the Prodigal Son, use the famous painting of the Prodigal Son to teach them about the Father’s love for them, even when they stray in sin. We include more ideas about the physical settings under other portions of the catechetics material available on this website. Whenever you can, teach from the liturgy, and lead them to the liturgy, where true worship takes place.

The preparation also means how you begin the day. If you are in a youth group, consider beginning the evening with praise music and prayer. Lift their hearts up to the Lord, allow them to leave the cares of the world, and the million other things they have to accomplish. Get them away from their thoughts and cares and focused on what you will have to tell them.

Step 2: Proclamation

“It is this aspect that from the start gave us the word catechesis – coming from the Greek word meaning to reecho, to resound the Word of God.” (Kelly, 141).

Catechists know that students will not remember everything that they will set out to teach them. In fact if we can get them to remember, even one fact, one important lesson from the day, a teacher has been successful. The second step of the ecclesial method is to proclaim the Word of God to your students. The proclamation should be rooted in the truths of the faith. It should be simple, and encompass the whole of your teaching. Let’s say you are teaching an RCIA group about the Eucharist. What is most important? What do you want them to leave knowing, if nothing else? “The Eucharist is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Jesus, the Father’s ultimate gift of love. We must eat his flesh and drink his blood if we are to live forever.” Lead up to and draw back to your proclamation. Never leave it entirely. Repeat it, write it on the board, see if your students can say it back to you. Advertisers try to get the name of their product into a commercial no less than 7 times. See if you can accomplish the same for your students.

Step 3: Explanation

“In the third step, in a certain sense, the catechists’ personal creativity is now more challenged and evoked so that they may help participants come to a deeper personal understanding and assimilation of the message of faith. This explanation that will be made will, of course, be always in the light of the Church’s understanding of the Word, but the catechist is challenged to find appropriate ways to “inculturate” this message so that it can be adapted to diverse groups to whom it is addressed.” (Kelly, 143)

This is the step of the ecclesial method for direct systematic delivery, and yet, as we focused on before, organic delivery. The explanation should always come back to God. What does my doctrine have to do with Jesus is a good question to ask. Prepare for this step, which can be the longest step, but doesn’t have to be, by looking up all relevant scriptural and catechism texts. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the “sure norm” for teaching the faith, use it. Know it as well as you know scripture (assuming of course that you know scripture well, and if you don’t, well, what is stopping you?). Consider the key terms that your students may not know yet and be sure to explain them. Don’t ever let your delivery of doctrine simply be a lecture. Teach to various intelligences. Employ the use of visual aids (movies, art), audio aids (music), and other material (get them to move around) as often as you can when teaching. The more outrageous it is, the more memorable it is, but don’t take that too far of course. Consider St. John Bosco to be your guide in this (resource: The Educational Philosophy of St. John Bosco). Put together a presentation that will capture the attention of your students, and teach them about the doctrine, while giving them an opportunity for a change of heart in their own lives.

Step 4: Application

“In biblical and ecclesial terms, what is hoped for as a result of catechesis is a life of “witness” and service.” In the fourth step of catechesis , as I envision it, the focus is on having the truth and knowledge acquired in the prior steps now bear fruit. This involves a deeper level of conversion in the person being catechized and a commitment to expressing this conversion in his or her lifestyle.” (Kelly 145)

Why are your students in your classroom? The answer should have something with their conversion. This step in the process of the ecclesial method should give them that opportunity, and can come in a variety of ways. In RCIA it could be small group time where they can share questions and answer some presented to them about their journey to the Catholic faith. In a high school setting, it could mean personal reflection and journaling time set to quite music. Use creativity to find an appropriate application. Some people have used ‘mock’ confessions to help prepare students for first confession. Some people have used the stations of the cross with pictures of the Passion of the Christ to teach about His mercy. The ideas are endless.

Step 5: Celebration

“If the catechetical process begins, as I have suggested, in prayerful attentiveness and openness to the Word of God, I believe that it must also end in a prayerful gratitude and praise to God.” (Kelly, 146)

If you begin with a liturgy of the Word, end with a song of praise. If you begin with a song, end with a prayer. Read scripture together. What you can employ here, now that you have given your students the opportunity for conversion in your application step, will allow them to turn again back to God. It will help make this a concrete time set apart for God. Visit our forums and discuss other ways to end in a place of gratitude depending on who you are teaching.

“The cross should be one of the major symbols we use in our catechetical celebrations: ‘May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Gal 6:14).” (Kelly 147)

May what we bring to our students be Jesus. May they dwell in Jesus. May they learn to love Jesus even more. May they call on the name of Jesus. May they find a Savior, King, Lord, Brother, and God in Him. May they learn to decrease as He increases in their lives. May Jesus Christ live in our students, in you, and in me. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

This is a method that can be used in Religious Education Programs that meet for an hour or an hour and a half as well as RICA programs.  It provides a great way to truly hand on the faith and make it meaningful for individuals as well as fostering conversion.  I highly recommend it!

What Method have you found fruitful?

Recently I had a great conversation with Fr. Erbin Fernandez, a priest in the Diocese of Singapore who has had a great impact on the catechetical renewal going on in his diocese.  It sounds very exciting!  I really like the way Fr. Erbin has outlined a method of passing on the faith.  I had the opportunity to share it at my catechist in-service last night.  It goes like so (also see chart below):

We want to approach passing on the faith with a lens that goes deeper than what we find in a typical school classroom environment.   Our goal is initiating others into Christ.  We have to make our meeting spaces more than a “classroom” and draw those we catechize into prayer.  Having a prayer space is very important.  It helps cultivate a distinct environment in a classroom or meeting room.  The prayer space or sacred space should not merely be off to the side but should be more central and at the center of where you as a catechist are presenting and gathering your students.  Next we see in a typical classroom teaching situation students have a “teacher”.  When initiating into Christ, the catechist is more than a teacher but a “steward” of the mysteries of faith.  In addition, in a typical school setting you have “students”.  In Catechesis we want to initiate “seekers”.  Cultivating an environment where those you are passing the faith onto are seeking more and wanting to grow in faith is essential to truly drawing them into a relationship with Christ and His Church.  Next, we see that imparting “knowledge” to others is important but not sufficient in a faith environment – “faith” must be fostered and renewed.  The books that are used in classes to help students in a regular school know that subject are a good tool but the most important of books is the Bible.  The Bible is God’s living Word which speaks of his loving plan which He has revealed to us.  It also goes without saying that we are also passing on the Apostolic Tradition that was not written down but handed on through the preaching of the apostles and their successors.  Next, the “instruction” given in a typical school is necessary, but we as catechists are doing more than instructing, we are initiating seekers into Christ.  What is vital for initiating others into Christ is an initiation into the mystery of Christ and all that that entails.  We desire nothing greater than to initiate and draw others into a way of life and a way of being.  Finally, in a school setting the way students learn is through various “subjects”.  In a catechetical setting we cover different topics from week to week which should be in the context of the “liturgical year”.  The story of our salvation and how God has love, moved, worked and acted is remembered and celebrated though the liturgical year.   Here is what Fr. Erbin from the Diocese of Singapore sent me regarding how we should approach our catechesis.

The more we “initiate” those we catechize the more they are not only drawn into a greater love of their faith but also able to encounter faith, encounter joy, encounter friendship, grace, love and mercy from the one who is our all in all: Jesus Christ.  What a gift we have to share and what a joy it is to witness and celebrate it!

What do you think?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

newThe National Directory for Catechesis speaks about the need in the modern world to “investigate new possibilities offered by the existence of the new technologies and imagine whole new models and systems if the Gospel message is to penetrate the culture, make sense to the next generation of Catholics, and bring about a response of faith” (from the Introduction under “challenges in the Ministry of Catechesis”).

What are the “new models” that we ought to be considering in Religious Education Programs, in our parish as a whole? What are the “new systems” to bring about the Gospel message to a modern culture?  I would love your thoughts on this.

When we talk about envangelization we often think of proclaiming the Good News to others by what we say.  The quote I posted yesterday by Pope Paul VI expanded on the idea of what it means to evangelize when he said… “to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection.”

The preaching and teaching aspect of evangelization is vital and key, but also being a channel of the gift of grace through your compassion to others, your kindness and thoughtfulness in other peoples lives is truly being evangelical and communicating the good news.  Also, catechists and the laity are a part of that mission to reconcile sinners with God by pointing them to God, by encouraging our fellow Catholics to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, by helping others see that Jesus is the remedy to our sin problem – we can’t avoid sin or pretend that sin is not really that big of a deal or as many seem to say “at least not my sins”.  Being an instrument to drawing others to be reconciled with Christ is at the heart of evangelizing.  Pope Paul VI goes on to mention perpetuating Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass.  When we invite others to participate in the Mass, the source and summit of our faith they encounter the good news Himself in the Eucharist.  Also, to help others see that Christ’s Sacrifice is at the heart of who we are as believers and without it we can not be united to Christ.  The Cross is a part of the good news not something to be avoided or to distance oneself from.

That is why I liked the quote by Pope Paul VI so much.  Evangelization is proclaiming the Good News by word and by deed.  The Church’s identity is to live this good news and make it tangible to those we meet – our students, our friends, family and strangers.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque contemplating the Sacred Heart

Yesterday I was listening to a presentation on CD by Dr. Petroc Wiley who is doing great work in the field of catechesis.  He is the Director of the Maryvale Institute in England.  One of the points that really caught my attention is when he spoke of the reality that catechesis is not based in praxis but in contemplation.  It got me thinking…

So often catechists and even directors of religious education programs (as well as other people in various ministries of the Church) focus excessively on the “practical application” tools and see the theology to be merely for theologians.  This causes one to lose focus I believe.  All the practical tools at our disposal are good at assisting us in helping make relevant the faith but it is not the heart of our work in catechesis.  On the other hand mere theory or theology about this doctrine or that doctrine is not the answer either.   Our catechesis must come from a knowledge and love for Christ and His Church.  Jesus says, “One thing is necessary, and Mary has chosen the better part” (Luke 10:42).

Contemplation of the divine mysteries is essential in catechesis.  When we seek to echo a message and most especially a person we must do so out of a heart overflowing with God’s life.  Prayer and reflection cannot be underestimated in the work of catechesis.  So often I want to get things done that I lose my focus regarding what is most necessary – prayer, entrusting this work to Christ, seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Come Holy Spirit, draw me to contemplate your mysteries so my catechesis will truly radiate you and draw others to know and love you more and more!

What are you thoughts about praxis and contemplation regarding the work of Catechesis?