This article is the third in a series about the word catechist, which comes from the Greek word, “to echo.”
“What is truth?” This is a question that we as a culture continually wrestle with; in the last few years, it seems that the truth has been put on trial and found guilty. It is a time when what is presented as true is actually false, and what is false is considered true. Truth seems to be at odds with reality, and we find that we are constantly asking if what is being presented as true is actually true and if the message and the messenger are communicating reality.
Over two thousand years ago, truth was put on trial. Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate.
Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37–38)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church emphasizes that Jesus “is the Truth” (2466) and that “God is the source of all truth” (2465). Thankfully, we are made with a natural inclination for the truth: “Man tends by nature toward the truth” (2467). In fact, to experience truth is to experience God, since Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)
As catechists, we strive to live a conscious life that is consistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are not inviting others to a “me and God” experience but a “we and God” experience. The “my will be done” mindset, which characterizes so much of society, will be replaced by a “thy will be done” attitude as we learn to place God, the truth, and the needs of others above ourselves.
Two principles that have served me well as a catechist are the following:
Clarity with Charity
Nemo dat quod non habet—“No one gives what he/she does not have.” Before proclaiming truth, we must ask ourselves if we have internalized the truth and are living by that truth. Before doing the work of catechesis we must first of all be catechists. The truth of our lives must confirm the message. We are called to model love for those whom we teach and to teach the truths of the faith with clarity and charity. Charity is the love of God in which we are called to participate and extend to others. Being clear about the teachings of the Church is critical. At a time when vast amounts of information are available online, witnessing to the truths of our faith in a loving manner is even more important.
The word fraternal means “like a brother,” and the heart of fraternal correction is nestled deep in the Gospel. Jesus tells us to practice it in the context of serving little ones and practice unlimited forgiveness. “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.” (Matthew 18:15) When correcting another, we must not do so out of irritation, offense, or pride, but out of love. St. Augustine reminds us that, “we must correct out of love, not out of a desire to hurt, but with the loving intention of helping the person’s amendment” (Sermon 82, 4). But we can only fraternally correct those with whom we have a good relationship. Relationships can be damaged by correction applied too quickly; being prudent and loving is the key to using fraternal correction.
In all that we do as catechists, our goal is to initiate and 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 so that we can truly be echoes of truth.
How do you echo truth in your classroom clearly but with charity?
In Praying the Truth, William A. Barry, SJ, helps us deepen our friendship with God by examining how to approach God, at any time and with any problem, in complete honesty.