by Joe Paprocki
In Chicago, where I live, you don’t go to someone’s home; you go “by” their home. In Hawaii, elderly women are referred to as “aunties”. In the Middle East, one of the worst insults you can direct at someone is to hurl your shoe at him or her. Needless to say, if you plan on relocating to a region of the country or world far away from your present locale, it helps to know the language and the customs.
Destination: Kingdom of God
The truth is, folks in the kingdom of God speak and act very differently. In the kingdom of God, the poor are considered “blessed”; enemies are loved; persecutors are prayed for; the exalted are humbled and the humbled are exalted; sins are forgiven, not seven times, but 70 times seven times; feet are washed by the master, and new life is gained through death. Likewise, when folks in the kingdom of God speak, their conversations are laced with references to compassion, charity, forgiveness, gratitude, patience, kindness, gentleness, and a host of other uncommon concepts. This is indeed another world!
This language is precisely what we are called to proclaim in catechesis! The gospel of Jesus Christ is not something added to our lives, like frosting on a cake. Rather, it is an entirely new recipe for living that arranges our priorities and replaces selfishness with selflessness. All of our catechesis needs to contribute to this rearrangement of priorities, which is why catechesis must involve more than words; it must also include initiation into new habits.
In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explains that the key to developing new habits is focusing on “keystone habits”-habits which, when changed, “dislodge and remake other patterns.” Jesus, of course, identified three “keystone” habits: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. In essence, our catechesis needs to teach young people the habits of:
- Prayer and making God the center of their lives.
- Fasting and developing an attitude that finds joy in having less.
- Almsgiving and engaging in selfless works of mercy in service of others.
In the movie 42, Branch Rickey, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, challenges Jackie Robinson, who is about to become the first African-American in major league baseball, to develop the habit of not responding to the terrible taunts and threats he is about to face. Jackie, who developed the habit of standing up for himself, says, “You want a man who doesn’t have the guts to fight back?” Rickey replies, “I want a man who has the guts not to fight back!” The movie goes on to show what Jackie endured and how he struggled to develop the habit of not responding to the horrific ridicule from the crowd. Every time Jackie Robinson bit his tongue, he was venturing deeper into humility and using humility and using the language of the kingdom of God, where people have the habit of turning the other cheek. Invite young people to adjust to living in the kingdom of God-where people have the guts to develop new habits that reveal the face of God to a world that has grown accustomed to looking in the mirror.
Joe Paprocki, DMIN, is the national consultant for faith formation for Loyola Press. He is the author of Beyond the Catechist’s Toolbox: Catechesis that Not Only Informs but Also Transforms. Joe is a 6th grade catechist and blogs about his experience at catechistsjourney.com.
This article originally appeared in RTJ’s creative catechist October 2013.
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