Jesus: Not What the Church Teaches but Who the Church Lives

“But how do we know Jesus was an actual person and not just made up?” John, one of my tenth-grade students, asked. “I know what the Bible says, but do we have any other evidence?” As catechists we are often asked this kind of question, and it can catch us by surprise. The temptation when faced with a question like this is to offer a standard response such as, “Well, the Catholic Church teaches us […]

Beatitudes and the Catechist: Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake

This is the final article in a series exploring the Beatitudes as they relate to being a catechist. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10) Happy are the catechists who live in hope, for they will always find God at their side. I asked my ninth-grade class: “Do you want to know what I really get out of our faith?” That got their attention. […]

Beatitudes and the Catechist: Blessed Are the Merciful

This is the fifth article in a series exploring the Beatitudes as they relate to being a catechist. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) Happy are the catechists who support, comfort, and guide young people, for they will witness God’s unfailing love. “God’s love for us is so great,” Pope Francis reminds us in The Church of Mercy. “It is an unfailing love, one that always takes us by the […]

Beatitudes and the Catechist: Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

This is the fourth article in a series exploring the Beatitudes as they relate to being a catechist. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) Happy are the catechists who help young people find God in all things, for they will find God in them. “I’m sorry Carrie was absent last night,” began the e-mail from the parent of one of the young people in my […]

Beatitudes and the Catechist: Blessed Are the Meek

This is the third article in a series exploring the Beatitudes as they relate to being a catechist. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) Happy are the catechists who meet kids where they are, for they will win over the classroom. I had quickly lost control of a recent class. One of the boys kept laying his head down on the table. Another boy was more interested in having […]

Beyond Memorizing Words to Meditating with Traditional Prayers

This past year I was a substitute catechist for my parish’s faith-formation program. When a young man in one of the classes learned that I had written a book of meditations based on the lives of the saints, he said, “Of course it’s a book of meditations. It’s Bob.” Even though we didn’t spend much time together, he knew that prayer and contemplation are the source of all that I am and all that I […]

Three Ways to Teach the Saints According to St. Teresa of Ávila

I hate to admit this, but I often give the saints short shrift in my faith-formation classes. Since I am helping ninth-graders prepare for the Sacrament of Confirmation, my focus is usually on having them pick a Confirmation name. To that end, I ask them to write a paper, produce a video, or perform a skit about a saint. If I can find the time, I will set aside a lesson in which I give […]

The Student Teaches the Catechist About Reconciliation

I often wonder if I am effective catechist. Too many times, the ninth graders I teach sit with blank stares and respond to questions with disinterested shrugs. I suspect that many of them are simply counting the days until their Confirmation, because they will no longer have to go to faith formation class. I often wonder what will happen to the seeds of faith I have scattered: will they take root or will birds come […]

Lent with the Saints, Part 3: Giving Alms with St. Katharine Drexel

This is the last of three articles on the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Whenever I talk about the three pillars of Lent—prayer, fasting, and almsgiving—the conversation I have with young people about alms usually goes something like this: “What are alms?” one youth will ask. “Are those the things we get on the Sunday before Easter?” “No,” I’ll correct gently, “those are palms.” “I know,” another will say, “it’s a book in […]

Lent with the Saints, Part 2: Fasting with St. Vincent Ferrer

This is the second of three articles on the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Lent is a season in which we respond to the Lord’s call to “return to me with all your heart, / with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” (Joel 2:12) As I remind young people of the requirements for Lent, I usually share this passage with them to remind them that this obligation is nothing more than responding to […]

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