Methodology



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.

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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?


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?   

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