I have some expertise in the area of heartburn. Not because I suffer from it personally, but because, growing up, I worked in my dad’s pharmacy and learned which medications to recommend for various maladies that customers described. When folks complained of heartburn, there was one and only one remedy: Paprocki’s Antacid Powder! (Yes, back in the day, pharmacists used to develop their own concoctions!)
Since entering a life of ministry, however, I’ve come to differentiate between the bad kind of heartburn that we want to be rid of and the good kind of heartburn that we want to cultivate. This kind of heartburn was the variety that the two disciples on the road to Emmaus spoke of when they said, “Were not our hearts burning within us as he spoke to us on the road?” (Luke 24:32)
During Advent, we hear John the Baptist speak about this good kind of heartburn when he announces that the one who will come after him will baptize, not only with water, but “with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11) Our role as catechetical ministers is to cultivate this kind of heartburn—by fostering in people a vision of a future filled not with despair and endings but with hope and new beginnings. In Ignatian spirituality, this sense of holy hope is referred to as “something more” (in Latin, magis)—the abiding desire for a greater good that can be found only in God.
Nurturing a desire for “something more” and for a greater good is not easy in a world filled with indifference, distraction, cynicism, and relativism—all of which diminish the human spirit rather than enlarge it. In order for us to tackle this challenge as catechetical minsters, we must do everything in our power to become and remain people of vision—of a great and wild imagination, capable of sparking a fire. Through his great imagination, Jesus envisions a world in which the hungry are fed, the thirsty are given drink, the sick are tended to, the homeless are sheltered, the imprisoned are visited, the naked are clothed, and the estranged are welcomed. The God we proclaim as catechetical ministers is on fire, has a vision and a mission, and has called us to invite others to help set the whole world on fire. May we cultivate the right kind of heartburn!
For more on how we go about cultivating this good kind of heartburn, check out my most recent book, Called by Name: Preparing Yourself for the Vocation of Catechetical Leader, part of the new and exciting series from Loyola Press and NCCL: The Effective Catechetical Leader.