Investing your money is wise, but it also involves risks. Likewise, we need to invest our energies, time, commitments, and dreams wisely. The invitation to the alternate reality that we call the kingdom of God requires an investment, one that sounds risky at first glance. Can this kingdom be trusted? Who is the face of this kingdom? It might be wise to set up an appointment to meet this person in the flesh.
Luckily, when it comes to investing in Jesus Christ, we truly can meet him “in the flesh”-especially in the Eucharist. As catechists, it is our job to introduce young people to Jesus “in the flesh” and invite them to invest their lives in him.
Encounter the Living God
This means we are not introducing them to an idea, a philosophy, a pattern of behavior, or a method-we are introducing them to a Person who is alive and in our midst. If catechesis was simply about information, we could simply give the textbooks to our young people, have them digest the contents, and test them on their comprehension. However, catechesis is about more than information. It is about transformation.
When we limit catechesis to the acquisition of information, we reduce it to a subject like all the other subjects young people study in school all day: social studies, science, history, mathematics, and so on. We catechists, however, are not teachers of a subject. We are facilitators of an encounter—an encounter with a living God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The church teaches us that the purpose of catechesis is to “put people not only in touch, but also in communication and intimacy with Jesus Christ” (General Directory for Catechesis, 80). Intimacy is not achieved solely by reading a book. The GDC goes on to tell us: “When catechesis is permeated by a climate of prayer, the assimilation of the entire Christian life reaches its summit” (85).
Climate of Prayer
In other words, the most effective setting for this transformative catechesis to take place is within a climate of prayer, and to establish this climate of prayer, we can take our cues from the liturgy where we meet Jesus in the flesh.
In many ways, faith formation can be compared to acquiring a second language. As catechists, we are teachers of a second language, a language of mystery. This language involves more than words—it relies on signs, symbols, images, rituals, actions, gestures, and song-all ingredients, so to speak, of the prayer we call the liturgy. When we teach faith as though we are teaching a second language, we increase not only the brainpower of our learners but also their heart power. When we learn a second language, we become more capable of integrating ourselves into a new and different culture. When we learn a language of faith in a climate of prayer, we become capable of integrating ourselves into the “culture” of the kingdom of God. When we are integrated into the kingdom of God, we encounter the Person of Jesus Christ in the flesh.
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 was originally published in RTJ’s creative catechist November/December 2013.
Photo by David Beale on Unsplash