For years I’ve understood that the textbook was just a tool and not the end-all of the catechetical lesson.  One of the challenges today is to equip volunteer catechists to go beyond the textbook, i.e., not relying on the textbook as a crutch which they have to teach from in order to convey the content of the chapter.  Although I have some ideas on what we need to do about that, I want to share a few things that seem to be essential in this Ministry of the Word and the Proclamation of the Good News of Christ and His Church today. This are some things needed for Catechesis in the Third Millennium:

 

1. We need a holistic approach to catechesis.

As many have been saying, we need to do more than pass on content – we need to see our catechesis as initiating people into the Christian Life.  Much has been said about this, especially in the last number of years. Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that it’s not a victory to get through the 30 chapters of the textbook.  It’s a victory if over the course of a year we have helped those we catechize be inspired, grow in hunger for being in communion with Jesus Christ and desire to continue that friendship they have with Him.

2. We need to help Catechists see that what they are transmitting is something that is unified.

Textbooks, among other resources, can have a tendency to compartmentalize the content of the Faith.  At times for the sake of order this is understandable and necessary.  However, too often we struggle to catechize seeing that the faith is unified not just a set of various truths.  For example, in the 3 part of the Catechism in the second paragraph of that section it expresses this truth I’m speaking of beautifully:

The Symbol of the faith confesses the greatness of God’s gifts to man in his work of creation, and even more in redemption and sanctification. What faith confesses, the sacraments communicate: by the sacraments of rebirth, Christians have become “children of God,”2 “partakers of the divine nature.”3 Coming to see in the faith their new dignity, Christians are called to lead henceforth a life “worthy of the gospel of Christ.”4 They are made capable of doing so by the grace of Christ and the gifts of his Spirit, which they receive through the sacraments and through prayer. (Paragraph 1692)

Even in the 3 part of the Catechism it has not “moved on” from the first two parts to now cover the 3 part (although it does cover the Christian Life lived out and what we believe about that).  But it does so in a unified manner helping the believer see that the faith in intricately woven together as a unified whole.  Catechesis today needs to keep this in mind and make positive strides in helping others see the unity of the Catholic Faith.

3. We need to root our Catechesis in the Holy Trinity.

Yes, I’m sure we all have heard that the Trinity is the central mystery of the faith and how as the Catechism says: “It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them” (#234).

If what we are teaching does not relate to one of the persons of the Trinity then we should not be teaching it.  As stated above regarding the unity of the faith we have to show those we catechize that God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit is revealing Himself to us and inviting us to community with Him.  When you have a moment take a look at Ephesians 1:3-14 which conveys beautifully the Trinities Mission.  Our catechesis should always be linked with the Trinity.

4. We need to present the faith today as a compelling story — of God’s loving plan.

The Good News is a story to be told, a story to be celebrated, a story to be lived and a story to be in communion with.  It is not romanticizing to say that it is a love story because it truly is, but it is a love story that has tragedy, hope, love and joy which are all a part of the human condition.  We have a tendency in catechesis to present the faith as a lot of great truths but can struggle to help those we catechize see that it’s more a story we are a part of than a number of great truths that happened in the past.  The more we can show others that what we are proclaiming and teaching is all part of a beautiful story of God’s plan and purpose for creation then we help others see just how compelling God and his ways are.

5. We need to put people in contact with Jesus (in relationship with Him).

If we begin and end each catechetical session with a brief prayer lasting no more than 30 seconds then it is not likely that we are able to allow for the proper setting to help those we catechize come into contact with Jesus.  We need to have more prayer in our catechesis, more time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, more time of silence and reflection (as challenging as all this can be).  I recently heard a story about how two priests had devoted much time to being present to the First Communion class by stopping by the classes to talk with the 2nd graders and how they also were present at the parent meetings.  Even so, after First Communion none of the parents brought their children to Mass.  One of the things the priests discovered is that they never took to time to take them to the church and have direct contact with Jesus.  They did not take them into the church to show them how this is where the Christian community gathers to celebrate, proclaim and encounter God.  Therefore, helping find more opportunities of putting people in contact with Jesus Christ is essential for fruitful discipleship.

6. The Catechism needs to be better utilized in elementary catechesis

When Blessed Pope John Paul II spoke of the Catechism as a reference text he did not intend for it to merely be something we use as one among many resources.  Textbook publishers have a tendency to site the Catechism as a reference or a way to show that the teaching in a particular chapter is linked to a teaching in the Catechism.  Although this is a great first step to what we had 20 years ago it lacks something significant.  The Catechism is the essential Deposit of Faith which the Church guards as a most important and vital treasure to the universal Church. The Catechism helps articulate the beauty of the Faith.  The Catechism shows how the Faith is organic and unified.  The Catechism threads the faith together in a way that we can see just how unified and simple the faith is.  When I say simple, I mean that at the heart of the Deposit of Faith we see the simple Gospel Message that God so loved the world that he gave his only son that we may not perish but have eternal life (Cf. John 3:16).  The Catechism conveys the simplicity of God’s plan accomplished through Creation, through His relationship with us, through sending His Son to redeem us and sending the Holy Spirit to sanctify the world and prepare us for the world to come.  Therefore, the Catechism needs to be used more fully in equipping catechists in their ministry of catechesis.

These are 6 things I see as vital to Catechesis in the 21st Century.  May God our heavenly and gracious Father direct us and lead us to greater renewal and communion with Himself.

What do you see as things that are needed for Catechesis in the 21st Century?


Where do we find God in our everyday lives as Catholics?  There are so many examples we could give on where we find God.  Loyola Press is even having a video contest to encourage Catholic Identity and Community building on where we find God in our lives.

The question of where do we find God brings me to an additional question:  What does God reveal about where to find Him?  Here are a few things the Catechism says:

~The world, and man, attest that they contain within themselves neither their first principle nor their final end, but rather that they participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or end. Thus, in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality “that everyone calls God”.10 ” (CCC #34)

~ “Man’s faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God. But for man to be able to enter into real intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith. The proofs of God’s existence, however, can predispose one to faith and help one to see that faith is not opposed to reason.” (CCC #35)

~ “God, who creates and conserves all things by his Word, provides men with constant evidence of himself in created realities”  (CCC #54)

~ “Sacred Scripture and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God” (DV 10), in which, as in a mirror, the pilgrim Church contemplates God, the source of all her riches.  (CCC #97).

~“Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us,” is present in many ways to his Church:197 in his word, in his Church’s prayer, “where two or three are gathered in my name,”199 in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned,199 in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But “he is present . . . most especially in the Eucharistic species.” (CCC 1373).   

When we ask our students questions like Where do you find God?, or Where to you experience Jesus in your daily life?, may we always remember that we want to link them back to what God has revealed.  We always want to connect them to some aspect Christian doctrine which is not stale and static but life giving and spirit filled.  God’s revelation and truth set us free (cf. Jn. 8:32) and gives us life (cf. Jn. 10:10).


Last week I hosted a number of DRE’s at my parish to discuss how to use technology and media within ones religious education program.  Many of the participants wanted to know where to find resources to use in the classroom and how I go about choosing certain media clips that I found on the internet.  We had some good conversation about using technology in the classroom as a tool.  I stressed that it is only a tool and that the catechist is the linchpin and the heart of transmitting the Gospel.  The textbook, the video, music, art, etc each are tools and instruments but it is the catechist who pulls it all together and helps their students be engaged and drawn to a relationship with God.  Nothing is more important than the catechist — even in the third millennium.

Also, I provided the DRE’s with some resources I’ve used in the classroom: Website Resources for DRE Mtg Feb. 2012.  Some of them are video links and others are good places to go for information on catechesis.  Overall it was a really good meeting and many of the DRE’s were grateful for the discussion on the topic.

Does anyone have some good video clips you use for younger children?  How about other resources that you’ve found helpful?  Please share!


This video is very inspirational!  Consider showing it to your class regarding the following topics:

Hope, Courage, living a joy-filled life, perseverance, redemptive suffering, loving like Jesus.  These are just a few themes you could use this video to further your teaching objectives. Our 7th graders just watched this regarding the sanctity of life. This guy really gets peoples attention. Enjoy!


Mary Byrne Hoffman recently came out with  new book entitled: Catechesis in a Multimedia World.  She asks some good questions that I would like to dialogue with you on.

1. Are media and Gospel in competition for the hearts and souls of the twenty-first-century audience?

2. How does the catechist make the Gospel relevant to the digital” generations?

3.Can media be an effective tool for catechesis? And I would add, How?

4. What is the role of the catechist in the media culture?

Let the commenting begin…


I stumbled across a really neat website by Cory Heimann who produced this great video clip about Easter. Check it out. It would be a great clip to show in a 5th – 8th grade class.


I found this great video about a teen realizing that it’s more than just going through the motions each week at Mass.  Check it out:


I found a funny video but also very poignant about how we tend to say that we have a prayer life but really it’s only us talking at Jesus and not taking the time to listen.  Prayer is about a relationship with someone but merely a monologue to someone.  This is a great video for Junior High and up.


Recently I found to great video links that last between 2 and 3 minutes teaching kids the meaning of the The Sanctuary Lamp and the Stations of the Cross. Click on the two links and you’ll find two great explanations from a child about the meaning behind the sanctuary lamp and the Stations of the Cross.  I hope to use these in our religious education program this coming year.  Did you find them helpful?


I found two clips from the movie “Letters to God” which gives a wonderful illustration of how Tyler, who has cancer, can lead or show others to God even when people are not kind or merciful.  This would be a great clip when speaking about living our faith when we are suffering – suffering from persecution, from being different, from not being like everyone else. It is also a good clip to use when talking about witnessing our faith in Christ to others.

http://www.wingclips.com/movie-clips/letters-to-god/gods-warrior   Or you could view it from my list of videos on the right side of my blog page.

Here is a second video from the same movie “Letters to God” about Tyler asking his Mom if the birth of a friends baby was born to replace him.  This clip illustrates wonderfully how no one is replaceable.

http://www.wingclips.com/movie-clips/letters-to-god/god-picked-you?play=1   Or you could view it from my list of videos on the right side of my blog page.


The following scene from Jesus of Nazareth is great to show during this Easter season in your religious education class.  I thought the scribe summed it up well when he said:  “Now it begins…It all begins”.  The Resurrection is truly a beginning.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UU6BerePfrA