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What poor catechesis teaches us about being good catechists:

htm Having received most of my formation from very holy religious and lay men and women in the mid to late 80s, my CCD classes were filled with a mixture of the Baltimore Catechism and personal reflections that often focused on Gods unimaginable love and mercy. I was blessed to grow up in a parish that informed our daily lives, not just a fleeting hour on Sundays including CCD on Thursdays, KofC socials on Tuesdays, Fish Fries, funerals, parish festivals, and the like. I remember sitting on my grandfathers lap as he prepared to lector at Mass. I remember Fr. Paul whom heard my first Confession and many subsequent ones. All of this religion was genuine, lived, and foundational to our lives. Praise be to God that I received good catechesis, one in which the teachings of the Church were not foreign to my lived experience at home. It is unique that all of these experiences came when I lived with my grandparents. None of my cousins had similar affinity for the faith. In the times when I reflect on my parents, whom love and affection was noble and often sacrificial, their witness to the faith was very different. All of this came to mind as I read a recent study from the PEW Charitable Trust. How could 13 simple questions about faith and life given to over 35,000 respondents be answered so differently by people who called themselves Catholic? What do their responses teach us about catechesis? What areas do we as catechists need to re-inforce or sometime re-introduce to a people who we know need their faith more than ever? Catholics in the Public Square: What is the appropriate way ones Catholic faith should inform them in how they interact in public affairs? This question has been asked in countless interviews during times of heightened political awareness. This question seems reasonable, but only because we have dispensed from the assumption that authentic faith, lived with integrity, necessarily means that faith affects and informs our lives, even when inconvenient (cf. 2 Tim 4:2). The fact that only 9% of Catholics rely on their religious beliefs to influence how they approach government and political affairs, illustrates how quickly we dispense from faith in the Public Square, and how large the separation between faith and life for many Catholics may be.1 St. Paul recognized this need for integrity. It is not enough to just profess, but we must believe it in our hearts (cf. Romans 10:9). This point comes down to the very notions that lead to Luthers critique of the Church, and continues to this day: What is faith and what is the proof of ones faith? James is clear faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Our faith in Christ

PEW Religious Landscape in America Question #3.

and His Church must inform our daily lives and as catechists we need to call people to this. We can reinforce this connection in 2 ways. 1) Christocentric Catechesis: The most essential role of any catechist is to help the student grow in relationship with Christ. After one comes to know Christ, it is important that we assist them in growing in this relationship. I think immediately of Aquila and Prisca correcting Apollo (cf. Acts 18:26), who after being instructed more clearly in the truth went on to water what Paul had planted (cf. Cor 3:6). Calling people to a deeper relationship with Christ by revealing the truths of the faith puts our teaching in its proper context. We are not simply offering data, we are helping them dive deeper into their relationship with Christ. When our teaching is Christocentric, that is, centered on this relationship, people start to understand that by ignoring a truth of the faith, they are not simply ignoring what they heard last week in class, they are ignoring an opportunity to fall deeper in love with their Lord.2 To do this effectively every catechist should be able to apply to himself the mysterious words of Jesus: My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me."3 Always recognizing as Paul did it is God who brings the growth (1 Cor 3:6). 2) Forming Conscience: Helping people form their consciences is an essential work of the catechist.4 Perhaps this has been dispensed from in common practice in favor of letting one discover the truth on their own terms. We constantly proclaim the truth, teaching the beauty and goodness of our faith. However, less often do we help our students understand how decision A leads towards and upholds that truth, while decision B leads away and ignores that truth. This simple exercise may be common for a student versed in basic philosophy, and good critical thinking skills, however we cannot assume that people engage the truth this way, we must help them recognize that faith authentically lived means conforming your will to Gods (cf. Romans 12:3).

Morality Simon Peter answered him, Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:68). When Catholics look for the answers to what is right and what is wrong, where do they look? It was no surprise that in a culture that prides personal experience so highly, ones own experience is sought more often than the 2000 year history of the Church guided by the Holy Spirit. This is a culture in which the creation and marketing of compelling personal narrative
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Catechesi Trandendae para 6 Ibid 4 Cf. GDC 185

has replaced the contest of issues and ideas as George Wiegel apply commented.5 The study referred to found that 57% of Catholics turn to personal experience and common sense while only 22% turn to religion.6 Is trusting personal experiance a bad thing? Can personal experience and common sense be guided by the Spirit? Yes it most certainly can, however in a culture whose conventional wisdom is based so frequently on utilitarianistic and hedonistic tendencies, we need the revealed truth that is so often ignored. Without belaying the point my thesis is this, if people do not have a relationship with the Lord, they can not even ask to whom shall we go? Without the revealed truth of Christ, we sometimes do not even know that we are blinded by darkness. Far too often we have not let people ask the question of themselves to whom shall we go? Who else can we trust? Who else has the words of eternal life? When asked in their proper context, the Christian imbued by grace will come to the right answer. It is Christ, who has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). It is His Church of which He said the netherworld will not prevail (Matt 16:18). It is the church of God that is the pillar and bulwark of truth (1 Tim 3:15). But the catechist must help them answer these questions. This help comes in two primary ways. 1) Engaging the Faculties of Reason: First catechists must be willing to present the truth in light of the alternative. If abortion is not wrong, than does all life have innate value? Who determines that value? What is the end result of a philosophy in which the powerful determines the inalienable rights of the weak? Whose kingdom are you serving? We must help them follow the errors of society (relativism, utilitarianism, materialism to name a few) to their natural conclusion. And we must allow them to come to this knowledge in light of the love of Christ, always sharing the reason for our hope in gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15). 2) Applying and celebrating the Good News: Each and every teaching of our Faith regardless of how difficult, challenging, are contrary to popular opinion, is Good News. Sometimes we need to dig through the wounds of our culture to expose the value of the truth we are teaching. This proclamation takes courage and boldness. Remember Pauls words in his last letter to Timothy, the young Lycaonian youth who was but a child when Paul first visited and baptized his mother in Lystra (cf. 2 Tim 1:3). As a son to a father he compels him to proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth (2 Tim 4:2-4). These words of St. Paul were not the rantings of a bitter
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First Things, A Campaign of Narratives. Pew Charitable Trust Question #5

imprisoned man, they were the words of an inspired man, who as he approached his death, declared I finished the race; I have kept the faith (2 Tim 4:7). We must be willing to proclaim the word and help people find the joy and freedom that comes from knowing the truth. Among catechists there exists a fear, like the rich young servant, that our people will go away sad because conversion can be difficult (cf. Luke 18:23). We must celebrate the Good News and allow people to experience the freedom that comes from truth, the freedom that comes from realizing what is hoped for (Heb 11:1). Catechists must venture to help people celebrate and embrace the Good News of Gods revelation, especially in the area of morality, even when inconvenient. Prayer: I purposely left this area to the end as it seems to be the solution to the above problems. When a Catholic has an active prayer life, conformity with Christs will and with His Church naturally seem to coalesce. Myriad of saints attest to this. St. Francis de Sales likens prayer to a compass that is always looking towards its God, who is its north,7 orienting us despite the distractions of our life. The more we pray, the more our life finds bearing in the truth. When only 58% of Catholics pray daily8, this conformity to Gods will, which comes ultimately from the intimacy with Jesus, becomes difficult. This lack of intimacy allows for people to dispense from the teachings of the Church or to challenge them as if they are an impediment to growing in holiness. This antagonism between ones desires and the truth is a direct result of this lack of prayer. For by prayer we can discern what is the will of God and obtain the endurance to do it 9. 33% of Catholics in the same study said that God seldom or never answers their prayers10. Perhaps this is because they do not understand the purpose of prayer, or how to articulate the working of God in their life. If prayer is based on conforming God to your own will it fails to be prayer. This is why prayer as gift, covenant and communion11 needs to be rediscovered. John Paul II reminded us on the eve of the new millennium that training in holiness calls for a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer.12 Much could be said about the centrality of prayer as we know prayer and the Christian life are inseparable13, however what is essential for the catechist is to create a climate of prayer14.
Saint Francis de Sales, Sermons THE HEART OF PRAYER April 12, 1615 PEW question 13. 9 CCC 2826 10 PEW question 13. 11 CCC 2559-2565 12 NOVO MILLENNIO INEUNTE, John Paul II, para 32 13 CCC 2745 14 GDC 85
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Creating a climate of prayer. Since it is the Holy Spirit who teaches us to pray (cf. Rom 8:26), it is the catechist who models this prayer and creates an environment where an active prayer life becomes a constituent part of being Christian. This means introducing those we teach to the purpose and components of Christian prayer. It has been posited that the reason more people do not pray is that they do not see the direct fruits of prayer, as if prayer has to be visibly efficacious when done right. Just look to the many new age errors (some of which purport to be Christian) that focus on praying the right way to gain blessing, wealth etc. The Catechism presents prayer in a way that may be foreign to how many understand prayer. Teaching prayer as a gift15 teaches us humility, challenging us to reverse our locus of attention from ourselves to God, whom knows what we need even before we ask (Matt 6:8). Teaching prayer as covenant16 connects us to the relational element with a God who loves and cares for us (1 John 4:19). Teaching prayer as communion 17 illustrates the dialogical nature of prayer, and the role of the Church in the divine economy. Creating a climate of prayer means keeping these elements of prayer always in mind, diving into the richness of the varied forms in a way that always unites us with God (cf. Matt 18:20). Prayer in this way cannot be the unconnected book ends of a session but become an integrated part of our presentation. Prayer in blessing and adoration when encountering a beautiful parable, prayer in petition when asking God for the clarity to understand a great mystery, prayer of intercession for those in need, prayer of thanksgiving for blessing received, simple praise because it is right to give Him thanks and praise18. A people that pray and encounter God in His richness both personally and communally are being made into a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). Prayer is an essential part of Christian life. 19 We must work hard to be a people formed in prayer, which starts with the reminder that ministry without prayer is the highest form of arrogance.20 Helping Catholics connect their faith to life is the urgent catechetical issue of our day. It is not only that Catholics do not know the faith, it is that Catholics are not living their faith in light of what they know. They profess but do not believe, in a way that is demonstrable. If the truth sets you free then ignoring that truth has the opposite affect. Finding the new ardor, methods and expression21 envisaged by John Paul II does not require novelty or dispensing from
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CCC 2559 CCC 2562 17 CCC 2565 18 CCC 2639 19 FC 62 20 Unknown 21 EA 66

the truth in favor of personal or popular opinion. Quite the contrary, it is when people stop listening to the truth that we must speak all the louder, with a great boldness balanced by greater still charity and patience confident that the truth will set you free (John 8:32).