JOE PAPROCKI, DMin
Along the journey, a backpacker may need to start a fire for cooking, keeping warm, or both. In order to do so, he or she needs matches to start the fire and a reliable source of fuel to keep it burning. Similarly, the vocation of the catechist calls us to be “on fire” for Christ. Our desire to share Christ with others is powerful and sometimes overwhelming. We can’t help but share the Gospel with others. In addition to this powerful flame, we also need staying power, a missionary zeal that is fueled by an infinitely reliable source. This fuel is the Holy Spirit.
It is the Holy Spirit who inflames our hearts as catechists and whose divine energy created the heavens from the chaos of nothingness. The Holy Spirit is ever moving, dynamic, and active. It is the Holy Spirit who calls us, propels us forward in our faith, and inspires us to form those we teach. Our vocation, faith, and inspiration do not come from our own efforts, but rather from our communion with the Holy Spirit who nourishes and sustains us. It is the Holy Spirit who will renew the face of the earth and keep the fire burning long after we are gone.
To keep the flame burning within ourselves, we nurture our spirituality through an active prayer life and ongoing formation that keeps us fresh and enthusiastic about our relationship with the Lord. Being on fire with the Holy Spirit, however, does not mean that you have to begin speaking about your faith with a megaphone, especially if you are the quiet type or even an introvert: passion and zeal can also be subtle realities. So, then, how can we catechists show our missionary zeal in ways that are authentic, personal, and not off-putting? Let’s take a look at several strategies.
Make sure the fire is coming from deep within. Paradoxically, missionary zeal is fueled by withdrawing into solitude on a regular basis, just as Jesus frequently withdrew to quiet places to pray in solitude.
Show your passion by thoroughly planning and preparing your lessons. A creative, well-planned lesson shows those we teach that catechesis is a priority in our lives; it shows them that we’re not just “phoning it in.”
Show your zeal by giving others your undivided attention. A major mistake that many Christians make when evangelizing, however, is doing all the talking and calling attention to themselves. The temptation is to show enthusiasm for the Gospel by speaking endlessly and with great enthusiasm. But while endless speaking is a turnoff, listening builds trust. And when people trust, they are open to being led.
Go one-on-one. Evangelizing need not consist of rousing speeches delivered to huge crowds. We can show our enthusiasm and zeal for the Gospel by engaging people in one-on-one situations that enable us to address individual concerns and needs.
Connect with others through the written word and through images. Words do not always have to be spoken out loud in order to convey passion and zeal. Sending someone a note, a card, an email, a text message, or a tweet that contains thoughtful words and an inspiring image can communicate to the person just how passionate you are about their well-being.
Show your passion through calmness. One of the ways Christians can show a zeal for the Gospel is by exhibiting a calmness that says, “Deep in my heart, I truly believe that all shall be well.” People are drawn to leaders who exhibit calm in the midst of chaos. As catechists, our job is not to put the fear of hell into our students but to invite them to recognize that heaven—God’s presence—has broken into their lives.
Just as the heat from a fire warms all those who sit around it, so too does the zeal of the Holy Spirit radiate from one person to another.
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is the National Consultant for Faith Formation for Loyola Press. His book (co-authored with Julianne Stanz), The Catechist’s Backpack: Spiritual Essentials for the Journey, is available from Loyola Press.
This article appeared in Catechist magazine, January 2015.
Image Credit: monkeybusinessimages, istock