I’m beginning my Theology on Tap talks this week with the following story.
At the time of 9/11, I was working for the Archdiocese of Chicago, Office for Catechesis, as a Vicariate Catechetical Coordinator. The DREs I was working with felt that it would be good to engage in Muslim-Catholic dialogue and I agreed. I visited a mosque and invited the Imam there to meet with a group of DREs and he cordially accepted. A few days before his visit, the Imam called me to let me know that he personally would not be able to make it but that he would send a representative. I assumed this meant a member of his “staff.” He did indeed send a representative who did a wonderful job of explaining the basics of Islam to about 10 DREs. I asked him what his position was at the mosque and he said, “Oh, I don’t work at the mosque…I run a video store on 95th street.” In other words, in Catholic-speak, he was a “parishioner!” It would be as if a Catholic priest was invited to speak to a group of Muslim teachers and because he could not attend, asked a parishioner to fill in for him and explain the basics of the Catholic faith. How many of us would feel comfortable doing that?
The truth is, most ordinary Catholics would feel ill-equipped to do so. And yet, our faith is summed up for us in the Creed. Likewise, the Catechism provides us with 4 pillars to talk about: Creed, Sacraments, Morality, and Prayer.
As catechists, we can help those we teach to learn to be able to talk about their faith with confidence. Hopefully, we will reach a place where pastors could easily feel that they could call on a faithful parishioner to stand in for him to describe the Catholic faith to those who are not familiar with it.
p.s. If a pastor really needed to do this, I bet he would turn to a catechist! How would you feel if this happened to you?