Welcome to Week 3 of our Online Catechist’s Retreat (The Spirituality of the Catechist) as we take a look at the second characteristic of our spirituality: An Openness to the Church.
Thanks so much for insights posted last week on the theme of our openness to God! Your stories were very inspiring as we venture forth in this retreat. If you’re just joining us, you can go back and “catch up” and then come back to jump in to week three.
As we did in previous weeks, I invite you to begin this week by viewing the following brief video introduction on the theme of An Openness to the Church.
An Openness to the Church
When I was teaching in the high school seminary here in Chicago some years ago, I recall talking to my students about the religious life and explaining the evangelical counsels: poverty, chastity, and obedience. After a thorough explanation, I invited the students to ask questions or make comments. One young man said, “I don’t know about this poverty, chastity, and obedience stuff…that seems pretty challenging. I think I’d rather get married.”
Right. Go for the “easy life!”
I went on to explain that all of the baptized are called to practice the spirit of these counsels: poverty, chastity, and obedience and that those in religious life dedicate their lives to a heightened practice of what we are all called to live. I explained that in a marriage, we practice
- poverty (a detachment from possessions – e.g. parents share all of their possessions – home, furniture, cars, stereos, money, food - with their children);
- chastity (faithfulness to one’s sexuality – e.g. married people are celibate to the entire world except for one person…their spouse);
- obedience (accountability – e.g. family members do not come and go as they please but remain accountable to one another).
In other words, these 3 counsels remind us that we are members of a community – not isolated individuals.
Today, in Western culture, individualism is worshipped. Society’s mantra, as articulated by Oprah and Eckhart Tolle is “You are your own best authority.” In other words, no one can tell you what to do. It is no wonder that all of the superheroes in contemporary movies are loners: Batman, Ironman, the Hulk…today’s versions of The Lone Ranger.
As catechists, we have a profound sense of community. We recognize that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. We are not inviting others to a “me and God” experience. We are inviting them to an “us and God” experience. We take great inspiration from men and women religious who live lives of poverty, chastity, and obedience – exemplifying for us that living in loving relationship with community is key to our salvation. The catechist’s spirituality is characterized by an openness to the Church.
You and I have been called to serve as catechists. We have a vocation. Vocations come from the Church. We serve the mission of the Church and have been authorized (entrusted with the responsibility) to proclaim the Gospel message faithfully.
Living in community is not easy. It requires sacrifices. Sometimes the life of a lone ranger is appealing. Our true calling, however, is to live in the image of God who is, in essence, loving community: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In all that we do as catechists, our goal is to initiate/apprentice others into the life of the faith community. It is our responsibility, then, to know what the Church teaches and has entrusted to us to transmit. We dedicate ourselves to learning about the Church and its teachings so that we can more effectively invite others to enjoy the fruits of belonging to Christ’s community of faith, especially if we teach that the Church is a hospital for sinners (like ourselves) and not a museum for saints. We are all broken and in need of healing grace. The Church is the vehicle of this healing grace and we are blessed to participate in its life.
In the days and weeks ahead, let us continue to deepen our openness to Jesus’ Church – the Church that has called us and sustains us.
Week Three Reflection Questions (click here for week-3-reflection-questions; a downloadable pdf) – over the next few days, feel free to ponder these reflection questions pertaining to this week’s theme. Then, return here to Catechist’s Journey and share some of your reflections with your fellow retreatants.
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For Further Reflection: Saint Anthony of Padua taught his monks to love the Church: http://www.saintanthonyofpadua.net/portale/santantonio/spirito/francescano/fra8.asp
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Spiritual Exercises – During the course of this week, practice one or more of the following spiritual exercises designed to deepen your opennes to the Church. Feel free to share the fruits of your exercises with your fellow retreatants by posting your comments any time this week.
- Think about your oldest Church-related possession. Is it your First Communion prayer book and Rosary? Is it a scapular? Is it your baptismal gown? Locate this special heirloom that represents your relationship to the Church. Place this treasured heirloom in the space where you pray for the coming week as a reminder of your relationship with the Church. Read and reflect on John 17, Jesus’ prayer for the Church.
- In the coming week, pray each day for a different person who was instrumental in entrusting the Catholic faith to you. Reflect on how these people did so and how you can emulate them in your vocation as a catechist. Prayer in a special way for the leaders of the Church: the pope, bishops, clergy, and lay ecclesial ministers who are responsible for transmitting the faith.
- In the coming week, spend some time reflecting upon your own understanding of the 4 “pillars” of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: the Creed, the Sacraments, Morality, and Prayer. Reflect on one pillar a day over the next four days. Journalabout your own understanding of these pillars: (Creed) what beliefs are at the core of your Catholic faith? (Sacraments) how have you/do you encounter Jesus in the Sacraments? (Morality) what is your understanding of Catholic morality? (Prayer) Why and how do you pray? Which of these areas do you feel you need to work at in terms of deepening your understanding of the Catholic faith/your openness to the Church? Commit to pursuing an opportunity this year to do just that.
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Recommended Reading on the topic of openness to the Church:
My Life with the Saints (James Martin, SJ)
Ecclesiology: The Church as Communion and Mission (The Catholic Basics Series)