Catechist Corner

It's all about sharing the faith.

Hitting a Brick Wall

Spiritually speaking, I feel like I’ve been hitting a brick wall lately.  I feel like the passion is gone.  I feel like I’m talking into dead air.  I feel like there is no one listening or answering.  HELLO-O-O-o-o-o …  See?  Echo.  That’s what prayer has felt like lately.  This must be what they mean by Spiritual Dryness.

Now, I realize that what I’m feeling is not reality.  It’s not dead air and my faith tells me that someone, namely God, is always listening even if I don’t feel like He is.  With that faith as support, you keep on going.  You don’t give up.  You don’t let temptation win out.  And here’s the kicker … you need to PRAY about overcoming the dryness and until God reveals to you how to get past it, you offer up that dryness as suffering.

There is a great series about dryness in prayer over at Catholic Spiritual Direction.  Fr. Bartunek’s comments are very helpful in putting this into perspective.  If you are feeling spiritual dryness or want to read about it, I recommend going over there and reading the three articles Father has posted.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith!

Here I come to save the day!!

Mighty MouseSuperheroes.  Who’s your favorite?  Maybe it’s Superman, or Batman, or Wonder Woman, or maybe it’s even the Green Lantern or the Flash.  Mine happens to be Mighty Mouse, for those of you who remember the little guy.  No matter which superhero is your favorite, they all have a couple of things in common … they use their gifts and talents to help people, and they all suffer in one way or another while doing their good deeds.

We focused on superheroes last night in class with the 6th graders.  We spoke about their favorite superheroes as well as some of their real-life heroes.  We discussed some of their qualities, like courage and love of their fellow man.  We spoke about the challenges that they each face and how difficult it truly is being a hero.

Then we transitioned to one of the great Old Testament heroes.  To quote the movie, it was “Moses, Moses, Moses.”  We reviewed Moses’ early days and how he came to leave Egypt, but we focused mostly on his calling.  We spoke about what it means to be called.  Each and every one of us is called to impact the world, albeit in different ways; but being called can be a scary thing.  Most times, you are being called to do something that you haven’t done before or that you think you just cannot do.  I know I’d be a bit scared if I saw a burning bush that was telling me to take off my shoes, because last I checked, bushes don’t speak.  We know that’s how Moses must have felt, among feeling other emotions.

What if Moses had said “No thanks, God, I’m not your guy so go with your backup plan”?  News flash – God doesn’t make backup plans.  We each have a purpose for being here, most likely more than one; but we all have a choice to fulfill that purpose or not.  If I had not accepted my call as a Catechist, then maybe some kids would not learn their faith as fully.  Sure there are other Catechists, but there is only one Catechist that does things “exactly” the way I do it (we are all unique, after all) and maybe my style impacts some students in a special way; or maybe this ministry is preparing me to help someone in the future who is struggling with their faith that would not otherwise be helped, or maybe I help set an example that will touch someone’s heart.  None of us truly know what our purpose is, but saying no to our calling will definitely have an impact that none of us will ever truly understand, sort of in the same way that saying yes will have an impact.  If Moses had said no, then who knows what might have happened to the Israelites.

Luckily, Moses said yes.  Afraid and unsure, but trusting in God, he went back to Egypt to demand that the Hebrews be freed per the command of God.  We discussed how God supported Moses’ words and reviewed the first 9 plagues.  Then we discussed the biggie – The Angel of Death, and why Passover and the Passover Seder have been and continue to be so important for the Jewish faith.

That was the perfect segue over to the Eucharist.  We all know the Last Supper occurred at the Passover Seder that year.  Just as the Jews celebrate and remember through a meal the saving power of God by His freeing them from Egypt, we too remember the saving power of God through Jesus through a meal.  Of course, there are differences between the two celebrations as well, but it was interesting to see some of the links.

So, whether it’s one of the Super Friends, Mighty Mouse, Moses, Jesus, or even your grandmother; heroes love, sacrifice, trust in good, help others and show people the way.

Next time, the class will discuss the rest of the Exodus and the Ten Commandments.  Until then, keep sharing the faith.

Moving Backwards

mad-man-pulling-hair-outTonight’s class was not a good class, but honestly I suspected it would be challenging.  Classes last for one hour.  Normally, I take control from the very beginning and can maintain it throughout that hour.  Tonight however, we had every student go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  While I love this sacrament and profess it’s importance to my class every year, when it is all said and done, it has the impact of a field trip on the class.

We basically spent the first half hour doing an Examination of Conscience, me trying to ease some students’ fears at the realization of what was going to be happening and then going upstairs to the Church for the actual sacrament.  When we returned to the classroom, somehow it all fell apart.

We were supposed to review the story of Abraham, Issac, Jacob and Joseph.  To tie it into what we already learned, I reminded them of the story of Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel and the story of Noah and the Great Flood. That’s as far as we got.  The questions started like if this was the first time they had ever heard this story (we only covered it two weeks ago) and it digressed from there.  Questions like:

Why was it Adam & Eve’s fault?  The snake made them do it.
What does God look like?
Does God have hands?
God killed everyone on earth?
Why did he pick Noah?
God killed?  That’s mean! Didn’t he commit a sin?
What if there were other good people on earth?  How could God kill them all?
What if God does it again?
What if he doesn’t keep his promise?
What if …
What if …
What if …

I’m always torn with how far to let questions go.  I see myself heading into the spiral, but the questions show some amount of interest and curiosity on the students’ parts that I don’t want to discourage.  The problem with allowing it to continue is that I can’t cover the material I’m supposed to cover.  In tonight’s case, I was able to cover none of the material I needed to.  Additionally, 90% of tonight’s questions came from the same student and were becoming slightly argumentative.  I couldn’t really tell if they were sincere questions or an attempt to take control of the direction of the class.  In any case, I probably allowed this to go on too long before the light bulb in my head went off … “These are all good questions.  Why don’t you stay after class and we can discuss it further?”

The student of course could not stay tonight, so I immediately offered staying after next week’s class as an alternative.  But by that time, the damage was done.  There was 5 minutes left to class and I needed to close up the impromptu Q&A discussion with some very specific points to ensure that everyone left the class with an accurate understanding.

By the time I left class, I was completely exhausted, totally frustrated and had nothing accomplished from my lesson plan to show for it.  Did I do the right thing by allowing the questions to continue?  Should I have covered the material and just left Q&A for after class time for those that wanted the information?  I’m sure I would have gotten no takers and would have lost an opportunity there.  All I know is that next week I now have two weeks of material to cover in a one hour time span.  I also have an new appreciation for what school teachers face on field trip days.

What do you other catechists do in situations like the one I encountered tonight?  When do you cut off the Q&A and focus on your lessons and when do you let your lessons slip to help satisfy your students’ thirst for understanding?  I’d love your thoughts since I suspect this will happen again.  In the meantime, I need a stiff drink to recuperate.  Time for some hot chocolate!!

Thanks and until next time, keep sharing the faith.

Me? RCIA? Are you sure??

RCIASo I got a call.  It was a call I saw coming but was not looking forward to.  It came nonetheless.  It seems that my pastor and my CRE recommended me to our Director of RCIA as a possible addition to the RCIA team.  The reason I saw it coming was that my CRE mentioned that she was hoping to get me more involved in the parish and said “maybe RCIA”.  I guess I’ve made a few fans over the last year of teaching catechesis.

Now one might ask why I would not be looking forward to such a call.  For me, it was intimidation.  Similar to my initial discernment for becoming a catechist, I didn’t think I was qualified to teach adults.  It’s one thing to teach 6th graders.  I can anticipate most questions and respond to most of what they throw my way.  Adults?  Not so much.

My primary concern was that adults can obviously pose more difficult questions and I feared getting into a debate over theology.  While I’m comfortable in my faith, I’m not the best debater; so I wasn’t sure I was the best one for the job. As I digested the information on the answering machine, it reminded me of another blogger who experienced the opposite type of request.  Christian from Smaller Manhattans was an RCIA catechist who was asked to teach a 6th grade class.  I remember him saying that he wasn’t all that excited at the prospect of switching groups, but he quickly began to love teaching the 6th grade.  While I was adding RCIA versus switching, I started to wonder if my experience would be similar to Christian’s.

It’s funny how the Holy Spirit works.  I got a message on a Monday and was supposed to meet with the director after Mass on the coming Sunday.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it all week long.  With prayer, intimidation became curiosity and curiosity turned into excitement, all before even having met with the director.  It didn’t take long for him to convince me to come to the next session to observe.

Two days later, I was sitting around a table with 3 other catechists and one catechumen.  Everyone was very welcoming and I felt quite comfortable for a fly on the wall.  I was there to observe as one catechist presented on the faith topic of that particular session and the other catechists offered additional insights.  All I can say is that for an observer, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut!!  I participated like I was a veteran of the group even though I had not prepared to do so.  If felt natural and it felt right.  The team is a great team with everyone bringing a slightly different perspective on how to “live” the faith.  The dialogue was insightful and I learned quite a bit myself.

So guess what.  I’m a RCIA catechist as well now.  I find myself looking forward to the next session with excitement and eagerness.  That’s a good sign, right?  I’m thankful for the wisdom of both my pastor and my CRE, because if they hadn’t initiated this, I don’t think it would have ever happened.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith!

Back to School

Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on DiscoverySchool.comBackpack – Check!

Notebook – Check!

Pens and Pencils – Check!

Loose Leaf Paper – Check!

Pocket Folder – Check!

Brain – Question_Mark

As you know, I’m going to be working towards my diocesan Catechist Certification over the next few months and my first course starts next week.  As you can see, I’ve got all my school supplies ready.  Unfortunately, they are all going to sit in the closet unused.  Why?  Because for the first time ever, I’m going to be taking an online course and, aside from the books I have to read, I’m going to do this “paperless”.

Starting tonight at midnight, the mystery will be revealed to me.  When I wake up tomorrow, I will have access to the course materials and the course will start the following day.  I’ve known this was coming for quite a while, but somehow I don’t feel ready.  I’m not sure if it’s because it is Summer and it feels like “slow down” time or if it’s because it has been eight years since I’ve been a student in a class, but I’ve becoming somewhat apprehensive about it.

As I reflect on this, it hits me.  This is the exact same feeling I felt when I was trying to decide whether or not to help our parish out by becoming a Catechist.  Apprehension.  Insecurity.  A feeling that maybe I’ve made a mistake and this is just not for me.

This made me recall a homily given by a new priest, Fr. Hugh Macsherry, OFM at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Boston last Wednesday.  During that homily, he spoke about discernment.  It wasn’t just about the traditional discernment of a vocation, but about discernment of what we are called to do in all parts of life and at all points in life.  A big part of discernment is trust.

You’d think that by now I’d have this figured out.  It is time to put aside my doubt once again and begin to trust.  I need to trust that the Holy Spirit is calling me to further my faith so that I can help further others’.  Maybe it’s time to put a check next to “Brain” too?  I think I’ll keep that school supply with me though.  I’m pretty sure that I’ll need that one.

I’ll be sure to keep you guys posted on my progress.

*”Back to School” clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on Discoveryschool.com.