Toot Your Own Horn!
by Cullen Schippe
Nobody likes a braggart.
Nobody likes a braggart.
I learned very early in life that nothing is quite as empty or irritating to others as self-praise. I am sometimes struck by the lists of great accomplishments I read about in people’s annual Christmas letters. “Our vacation in Machu Picchu was perfect. Johnny got all A’s and scored more touchdowns than anybody in the history of the high school. Millie got the lead in the middle-school musical and was surrounded by Broadway agents immediately after the first performance. Scott was top salesperson in his firm for the ninth year in a row. Our dog Buster pulled three people from a burning building.”
And so on.
When my Austrian grandmother heard somebody tooting his or her own horn, she would use a simple German phrase (said under her breath, of course) that conveyed her feelings: “Eigenlob stinkt!” I understood her diagnosis long before I knew the definition of the words. To this day that simple phrase rings in my ears as “self-praise stinks.”
Today, you and I have almost limitless opportunities for self-praise. The Facebook and Twitter phenomena feed on the notion that what we have to say is of infinite importance and that everything we do or say will be of interest to somebody. I can conjure up a very humorous picture of my long-dead grandmother holding a 4G phone and reading a flutter of tweets—“Eigenlob stinkt!”
But wait! I am now going to suggest that an essential element of your catechetical ministry is your ability to toot your own horn.
Don’t look so shocked. I don’t mean that you should start heaping praise upon yourself. True, you are performing an essential service in the life of the parish. You are entrusted with the faith formation of a group of parish members.
What I am saying is that you need to share with others what goes on in your class. For those you teach, you are a witness to the faith. The parents and families are counting on you to help them bring Christ to the children and the children to Christ. To your fellow catechists, you can be a source of support, inspiration, and help. And in turn, you should expect that fellow catechists be the same for you.
Let’s get practical. How does this horn tooting happen?
It happens when you communicate regularly with the parents of the youngsters in your class. It happens when you share often with your fellow catechists. It happens when you and all the catechists in your parish program communicate with the whole faith family.
You know that a proper amount of horn tooting is going on if you can answer yes to all five of the following questions.
1. Is everyone in the parish aware of the details of your catechetical programs?
2. Are there regular announcements about the catechetical program in the parish bulletin, in e-mails, and from the pulpit?
3. Do all your friends and family know that you are a catechist and that you have great enthusiasm for this ministry?
4. Do you communicate frequently with the parents of your students and with your fellow catechists about your ministry—to share, to prepare, to celebrate, to learn, and to pray together?
5. Do you and your fellow catechists encourage others to share in the joy of this important ministry?
At your fingertips you have all the tools of modern technology to communicate—not how important you are but how important Jesus Christ, the life of faith, and the teachings of the Church are to you. Your catechetical ministry must not be hidden under a bushel basket. Jesus himself encouraged horn tooting: “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly father” (Matthew 5:16).
Oh, and if my grandmother were still around to see you share your enthusiasm for the catechetical ministry and communicate your love for Christ and his Church, she would utter another of her famous little German phrases, “Gelobt sei Jesus Christus”—“Praised be Jesus Christ!”
Cullen Schippe has been in Catholic publishing for over 40 years and currently serves as Vice-President of Religious Education for the Peter Li Education Group. He co-authored (with Chuck Stetson) and served as general editor of The Bible and Its Influence (BLP Publishing, 2005). E-mail Cullen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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