I have long-argued that one of the problems with how we form people in faith is that we don’t present Catholicism as a “spiritual path.” Too often, we present it as a set of doctrines to adhere to or simply a way of belonging to a group of like-minded people. This explains why so many young people end up being attracted by New Age movements or Eastern religions that present themselves as a spiritual path toward some type of fulfillment.
A spiritual path has a goal and stepping stones. One of the ways we can assist those we teach to recognize Catholicism as a spiritual path is to help them set goals. A good example of this in action in the secular world can be found in Scouting’s merit badges: Scouts have opportunities to identify areas of interest and then to set goals to achieve knowledge and skills as they work with a merit badge counselor (a mentor) to help them achieve their goals.
Discipleship is a way of life—a path toward a deeper relationship with God through Jesus Christ—that is characterized by specific behaviors. In faith formation, we can help young people to recognize these behaviors or habits as stepping stones to a deepening relationship with God and then assist them in setting goals to achieve them. We can encourage young people to keep a journal in which they track their progress through the year and write thoughts about their experiences.
Here are a few discipleship behaviors that I might include for intermediate-aged children. What other habits would you suggest?
With God’s grace, I hope to achieve the following goal(s) this year in my quest to live as a disciple of Jesus:
- Begin and end my day with prayer.
- Learn to pray the Daily Examen or lectio divina.
- Recall from memory the Ten Commandments.
- Practice an act of kindness each day.
- Pray grace before every meal, even in public places.
- Wear a scapular or some other symbol of faith, and be prepared to talk about it.
- Identify a virtue, and work to put it into practice regularly.
- Integrate principles of Catholic Social Teaching into everyday life.
- Attend Sunday Mass regularly.
- Become involved in an ongoing service activity at my school or parish.
- Go out of my way at least once per week to reach out to someone who’s hurting.
- Participate in a liturgical ministry, such as altar servers.
- Read and pray with Scripture regularly.
- Recall from memory the Act of Contrition (or another prayer _______ ).
- Learn to pray the Rosary.
- Begin recycling at home.
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