The midpoint of the faith formation year is the perfect time to reflect on how the faith formation year has gone so far. The following exercises, based on the wisdom of St. Ignatius Loyola, are meant to help you discern where God has been in the classroom and where God might be directing the classroom during the remainder of the year. Begin each exercise by warming-up with a Scripture reading, a prayer, or silence, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in this prayer time.
Exercise #1: The Classroom Spirit
“I call consolation,” Ignatius wrote in the Spiritual Exercises, “every increase of faith, hope, and love, and all interior joy that invites and attracts to what is heavenly and to the salvation of one’s soul by filling it with peace and quiet in its Creator and Lord.” Conversely, Ignatius described desolation as the opposite feeling: “The soul is wholly slothful, tepid, sad, and separated, as it were, from its Creator and Lord.” (SE 316–317)
Take some time to identify moments of consolation and desolation from the faith formation year. When have you felt confident and joyful about being a catechist this year? When have you felt satisfied and happy about the way the year has gone? Similarly, when has being a catechist been accompanied with feelings of doubt, anxiety, or frustration? Where might these feelings be coming from? Where do they lead you?
Talk to Jesus about these feelings as one friend to another. Share with him your thoughts. When appropriate, give thanks; when necessary, ask for forgiveness.
Exercise #2: The Call of the Catechist
Imagine the perfect DRE. This person gives you all the resources you need for your classroom. She or he answers your questions and helps you find spiritual nourishment. No catechist or student is left wanting for anything. This DRE is gentle, kind, knowledgeable, and patient. She or he is magnanimous.
Now, imagine this DRE asks you to take on a special project for the faith formation program. Maybe it’s leading a prayer service or participating in a retreat. Maybe it’s organizing a special service project. How would you respond to this perfect DRE’s request?
Now, imagine that instead of the perfect DRE, it is Christ himself, and he says to you, “Feed my lambs” (John 21:15). Jesus calls you to proclaim the Gospel to the young people in your class. How do you respond to his call?
St. Ignatius counsels us that we should “ask of our Lord the grace not to be deaf to His call, but prompt and diligent to accomplish His most holy will” (SE 91).
Exercise #3: Three Kinds of Catechists
St. Ignatius teaches us that we are created for one purpose: to know, love, and serve God. Everything on earth is meant to help us attain that goal, and if anything proves to be a hindrance, we must get rid of it. This exercise is meant to help catechists examine their attachments to things that may be a hindrance from knowing, loving, and serving God.
Imagine three catechists. All of them desire to know, love, and serve God. This is a given. Now, imagine all three catechists are given a lesson plan—a really good lesson plan. It includes interactive media, guided meditations, engaging discussion questions, and fun, insightful activities that students enjoy.
The first catechist reviews the lesson and loves it. When it’s time for class, the catechist follows the lesson plan to the letter, without awareness of how the young people are responding to it.
The second catechist reviews the lesson and loves it. But during class, this catechist only uses those parts of the lesson that pertain to a particular topic that the catechist wants to teach the young people.
The third catechist reviews the lesson and loves it. The catechist is ready to share this lesson with the young people but just as willing to abandon it if the young people need to discuss something else. This is something that is important to them but that the catechist hasn’t necessarily prepared to teach.
Which of these three kinds of catechists are you?
Exercise #4: Putting Love into Practice
“Love consists in sharing what one has and what one is with those one loves,” Ignatius wrote. (SE 231)
Take a few moments and think about all that you have shared with the young people this year. Think about what you might still share with the young people in the time that remains. How have you been a gift to the lives of these young people?
Now think about all the things that the young people in your group have shared with you. Think about what they might still have to share with you. How have these young people been a gift to you?
Take a moment and thank God for the gift of these young people.
Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts is rooted in Ignatian spirituality, a practical spirituality for daily life with a 500-year-old tradition.