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In a training recently, a group of catechists were sharing their experience of growing up in the faith. One woman who has been a catechist for many years said; “I learned the catechism, I say my prayers, I try to go to daily Mass at least 2-3 times per week. However, I have a friend, we have been friends for many years, who belongs to another faith. She could always share her faith so easily, she has always been so joyful when doing that. She has a relationship with Christ, and I have always wanted that, I still want that, but I don’t know how.” 

I was taken back with her bravery. Her honesty brings to light the question of how we approach catechesis. She had been well instructed in her younger years, she knows many of the details of the catechism, but has she been formed? Are we forming our young people today or are we teaching them, testing them on the material and sending them on their way? Many catechists may be surprised to learn that our main task as a catechist is to help a person encounter God, rather than to pass the test at the end of the chapter. The General Directory of Catechesis makes clear the scope of our task as catechists; “Truly, to help a person to encounter God, which is the task of the catechist, means to emphasize above all the relationship that the person has with God so that he can make it his own and allow himself to be guided by God (GDC 139).”

So then, how do we go about transforming our classrooms from places of instruction, to places of relationship, guidance and catechesis? Each catechist must look honestly at themselves and first and ask the question; “Do I have a personal relationship with Christ?” If the answer is anything but a resounding yes! then the work must begin there. Each of us must first work to develop a personal relationship with Christ before we are equipped to then in turn, be able to share that relationship with those we catechize. It is only then that we can help them enter in to a personal relationship with the Him themselves. This can be an unfamiliar and scary thing, but we are not alone in this journey. We must remember that God is there waiting for us. “God invites us into relationship with him. We don’t find God, God finds us (Joseph D. White; Teaching Others the Way God Teaches Us).” Taking time to enter into a personal relationship with Christ may be the most worth while time spent in your life. However, to be quite honest, it is not an option, rather a requirement for work in catechesis. “The pedagogy of God can be said to be completed when the disciple shall “become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself” (Eph 4:13). For this reason, there cannot be teachers of the faith other than those who are convinced and faithful disciples of Christ and his Church (GDC 142).”

It is only after this relationship is formed that successful catechesis can begin. “A catechesis patterned after the structured, systematic, comprehensive pedagogy of God will likewise reveal God’s truths as the learn is ready to hear and understand them (Joseph D. White; Teaching Others the Way God Teaches Us).” 

Christ himself has shown us how to do this and he has also demonstrated the success that is found with forming through intentional relationships. He did not gather the disciples and lecture them; rather he invited his disciples to follow him and passed on to them his pedagogy of faith as a full sharing in his actions and in his destiny (cf GDC 140). Even after his death he chose to teach through relationship rather than appearing in a bright light and speaking from the heavens. He instead appeared on the road to Emmaus, drew near and walked with them. Once He left them, they realized they should have known him sooner, while he was walking with them as they said; “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures (Luke 24: 32)?”

We must never lose sight despite the challenges that come to us personally and through our work of catechesis that Jesus has shown us clearly by his example what he would like us to do, and how we are to do it. The cover picture is by Greg Olsen and is a beautiful depiction of how we are to catechize our children. We are simply the instruments of his work. He did not say teach and test them, rather; “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven (MT 19:14).”

Jen Metzger

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