Welcome once again to the Spirituality of the Catechist, our online retreat. Remember that you can join in at any time, starting with today’s post or going back to catch up on earlier weeks. In this Week Three, we look at the second characteristic of a catechist’s spirituality: An Openness to the Church.
Whether you are a long-time catechist or starting for the first time this fall, your stories are inspiring as we share with each other in this retreat. Please continue to share your thoughts, questions, and encouragements in the comments section.
An Openness to the Church
When I taught in the high school seminary some years ago, I talked to my students about the religious life and explained the evangelical counsels of 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.”
I went on to explain that all of the baptized are called to practice the spirit of 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, as a detachment from possessions. For instance, parents share their possessions—home, furniture, cars, televisions, money, food—with their children.
- Chastity, as in faithfulness to one’s sexuality. Married people are celibate to the entire world except for one person: their spouse.
- Obedience, as in accountability. Family members do not come and go as they please but remain accountable to one another.
In other words, these three counsels remind us that we are members of a community. We are not isolated individuals.
Today, in Western culture, individualism is worshipped. We resist anyone telling us what to do. But 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 thus characterized by an openness to the Church.
You and I have been called to serve as catechists. We have a vocation. We serve the mission of the Church and have been 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 or 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 us) 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
Over the next few days, 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.
- Who are the people who have entrusted the Gospel message to you (family, friends, pastors, teachers, catechists, professors, etc.)?
- Describe your sense of belonging when it comes to the Church. Is your sense of belonging strong, or does it need to be strengthened?
- What Church teaching do you have difficulty understanding? What can you do to deepen your understanding of this and other Church teachings? What is a teaching that you have come to understand better in recent times?
- What sacrifices or challenges do you face as a catechist? Why do you endure them?
- What do you or can you do to deepen your openness to the Church?
- Who is someone you know who exhibits a great openness to the Church? How can you emulate him or her?
- How does your openness to the Church affect you in your role as a catechist?
- How can you help those you teach to be more open to the Church?
During the course of this week, practice one or more of the following spiritual exercises designed to deepen your openness 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 object that represents your relationship to the Church. Place this treasured object in the space where you pray this week as a reminder of your relationship with the Church. Read and reflect on John 17, Jesus’ prayer for the Church.
- Pray each day this week 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. Pray in a special way for the leaders of the Church: the pope, bishops, clergy, religious, and lay ecclesial ministers who are responsible for transmitting the faith.
- Spend some time reflecting upon your own understanding of the four 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. Journal about your own understanding of these pillars: What beliefs are at the core of your Catholic faith? How do you encounter Jesus in the sacraments? What is your understanding of Catholic morality? 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 and your openness to the Church? Commit to pursuing an opportunity this year to do just that.
Recommended Reading on the Topic of Openness to the Church
My Life with the Saints by James Martin, SJ
A Well-Built Faith by Joe Paprocki
May Crowning, Mass, and Merton by Liz Kelly
Ecclesiology by Morris Pelzel
Practice Makes Catholic by Joe Paprocki
Remember you can share your thoughts in the comments at any time. Come back on Thursday to read DeKarlos Blackmon’s reflection on our topic of openness to the Church.