The Saintly Catechist

joyful catechist and student

The director of our faith formation program asked if I could help her develop a saints’ syllabus for the eighth- and ninth-grade classes. This was right up my alley.

We met for coffee to work on the syllabus, which would complement our regular curriculum. Our discussion turned to the canonization process: how does someone become a saint? As we talked about the steps in the canonization process, I wondered, “What do we have to do to be saints today?”

The answer is threefold: we have to be people of joy, love, and contemplation.

We do not find joy in the pursuit of pleasure. We find joy in the pursuit of communion. Joy does not exist in isolation. Joy exists in our relationship with others. Joy turns our gaze outward. It is not simply a good feeling or emotion—it involves entering into relationship with others. Catechists are saints because they form their classrooms into joyful communities where faith can be explored and shared.

What propels joy is love. Love is the desire to seek out and be with others as they are. Love is what draws us out of our comfort zones to go beyond ourselves so we can encounter others. Love is the key to being an authentic witness to the Gospel. It is not enough to know the Gospel; we have to fall in love with it. Catechists are saints because they love the Gospel and their students.

To love God, we have to be with God. This is the art of contemplation. Contemplation is simply the act of making ourselves present to God’s presence. We can do that anytime, anywhere. In everything we do, we can make ourselves present to God and recognize God’s presence to us by asking, “Where is God in this?” Catechists are saints because they are present with God as they prepare their lessons, teach the class, and respond to their students’ needs.

In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis tells us that, “Jesus wants evangelizers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God’s presence.” (259) To be a saint, all one has to do is allow oneself to be transfigured by God’s presence. Catechists can do this by bringing joy to their classrooms, sharing their love for God and others with their students, and by finding God in all things through a practice of contemplation in action.

How do you make your classroom a place of joy and love? Where do you find God in your classroom?

About Bob Burnham 23 Articles
Bob Burnham, OFS, is a catechist for both high-school youth and the RCIA at Resurrection Catholic Church in Wayne, Illinois. In addition to being involved in youth ministry, he is a spiritual director, speaker, and writer. Bob is the author of Little Lessons from the Saints: 52 Simple and Surprising Ways to See the Saint in You. Bob is also the councilor for youth and young adults in the Mother Cabrini Regional Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order. Read his blog about the spirituality of commuting at www.mtransit.org.

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