The Liturgical Catechist: 10 Ways You Can Make Your Lessons More Liturgical
by Joe Paprocki
Every catechist, no matter what curriculum he or she is using, could easily integrate a number of small but significant elements from the liturgy into every catechetical session.
Since the Second Vatican Council, there has been a concerted effort to bring liturgy and catechesis into a closer relationship. The result is liturgical catechesis or catechesis that draws from and moves toward the celebration of the Eucharist, thus preparing the People of God to celebrate the liturgy more fully. Every catechist, no matter what curriculum he or she is using, could easily integrate a number of small but significant elements from the liturgy into every catechetical session. Here are a few simple suggestions:
1 Introduce your sessions by saying, “As we begin today, let’s ask God to be in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.” As you say these words, invite your participants to trace the sign of the cross, using their right thumb, on their forehead, lips, and heart.
2 As your learners are gathering and at various times in your session, play a CD of liturgical music in the background. Choose music that reinforces the theme of your lesson. With groups that like to sing, invite them to sing along with the CD.
3 Write on the board or announce the day of the liturgical calendar on which you are gathering. For example, “Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost things and missing persons, and we wish our own Anthony (Last Name) a happy feast day.”
4 Use the color of the liturgical season in your prayer space: green for Ordinary Time, violet for Advent and Lent, white for Christmas and Easter. You can make your own seasonal prayer cloths using low-cost materials from a fabric store.
5 Place a bowl of holy water in your prayer space and teach your learners the habit of blessing themselves with holy water as they enter and leave the room.
6 If you are moving from a classroom to a chapel or church, don’t just walk: process. Designate individuals to carry a cross and/or a candle, Bible, or sacred icon and to lead the group reverently from one space to another. Incorporate mini-processions in your own learning area by having designated individuals process slowly around the room with the sacred images to be placed on the prayer table: a cross, a candle, a Bible, holy water, or icon. During the procession, play a CD or sing a liturgical hymn.
7 Teach your learners a liturgical greeting that you can use at the beginning of every session. Each greeting is intoned by you and the learners respond. For example: “Our help is in the name of the Lord…who made heaven and earth” or “This is the day the Lord has made…let us rejoice and be glad” or “Blessed be God…now and forever.”
8 Occasionally begin or end your session by inviting your learners to pray a Mass prayer such as the Confiteor, the Gloria, the Creed, the Sanctus, or the Lamb of God.
9 Incorporate moments of silence in your sessions, as part of prayer experiences or just as opportunities to reflect on what is being learned. Silence is a major liturgical principle considered by many spiritual teachers to be the primary language of God.
10 At the end of each session, liturgically dismiss your learners by saying “Our session today is ended. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” and have them respond, “Thanks be to God.”
The more we can incorporate elements of our rich liturgical life into our catechetical sessions, the more we will help those we teach to enter into the “mystery of Christ by proceeding from the visible to the invisible, from the sign to the thing signified, from the ‘sacraments’ to the ‘mysteries’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1075).
Joe Paprocki is Associate Director of Catechetical Services at Loyola Press in Chicago. He is the co-author (along with D. Todd Williamson) of Bringing Catechesis and Liturgy Together: Let the Mystery Lead You (Twenty-Third Publications).
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