The word catechist comes from the Greek word “to echo.” As catechists, we echo the teachings of the Church. We also echo our own personal relationship with Jesus Christ through our words and deeds. This series of blog posts will look at the ministry of catechesis through the lens of the word echo. We will explore what it means to be a catechist who echoes hope, love, truth, and mercy. First, we begin with four characteristics of hope—healing, openness, prayer, and Eucharist—and how they apply to the ministry of catechesis.
Much of Jesus’ public ministry was spent in doing three specific things: healing, proclaiming the Kingdom of God, and teaching; about 25% of his time healing the blind, the lame, the paralyzed, the hard-hearted, and those who were angry and despairing. Nobody who needed to be healed was turned away. Jesus teaches us that proclaiming and teaching are built upon the foundation of healing. This insight holds enormous potential for us as catechists. If we understand that our ministry of catechesis is to heal, proclaim, and teach, how can we build healing into our ministry?
- We can offer our students encouragement.
- We can pray with them individually and as a class.
- We can introduce our students to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
- We can speak about Jesus’ healing ministry in the Gospels and in the lives of the saints.
Speak about healing in your classroom, and help those you minister to see that we are all in need of healing. Jesus and his Body, the Church, provide many ways for us to be healed.
As catechists, we are called to become disciples and make disciples. We are called to engage people with a new ardor (or zeal), and use new methods and expressions to bring people to Christ. Openness to God, to the Church, to others, and to new ways of seeing how God works in our lives and in the lives of our students is critical. Pope Francis, writing in Evangelii Gaudium, invited “all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them” (1). Note Pope Francis’s focus on the word openness. Every time we step into our classrooms, we have the opportunity to help our students encounter one another, new information, and new ways of seeing and living—all of which point to Christ. Help your students become more open by speaking about your own encounters with Christ and encouraging them to share these “encounter moments” regularly.
God has called each of us to be in an intimate relationship with him. Prayer is how we nourish this relationship. Through prayer, we are refreshed, renewed, and refocused. Incorporate different kinds of prayer into your class, and encourage your students to have a healthy spiritual diet.
Many of our students might not attend Mass regularly. As much as possible, ensure that your students understand that celebrating Mass is one of the most important aspects of our Catholic faith, and affirm their desire to attend Mass. There is no more personal way to encounter Jesus than in the Eucharist. Prepare your students for “encounter experiences” with Christ by gradually introducing devotions such as Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction.
Hope is not the same as wishful thinking. Hope has a name: Jesus Christ. Helping our students feel a connection to the living sense of hope we have in Jesus Christ can go a long way to helping students through difficult moments in their lives. As catechists, being an echo of hope means that we can help our students find comfort and strength in Jesus Christ.
In his book, On Hope, Pope Francis shares a simple, life-changing message: God’s love can grace each of us with a lasting and sustaining hope, no matter how dark or confusing our situation.