Skip to comments.I Donít Need your Catechism! (Catholic Caucus)
Posted on 07/22/2010 5:57:02 AM PDT by NYer
A couple of years ago, a Pastor asked me to provide a catechetical training day for teachers in his Catholic school and CCD program. One of my first questions to him was what issues had developed requiring my assistance. The Pastor voiced to me his concern over poor doctrinal formation he suspected the children were receiving. I asked him how he finally came to this point. He said; I knew things were off when all I saw was glue, crayons, construction paper and scissors during an eighth grade religion class. Right there and then I realized what I had to work with.
The inevitable day arrives. As the catechists walked into the parish center, we began with prayer and introductions. I typically begin with a short story reflecting on the catechetical formation for the day. This process helps to gauge the audience and determine when to run when they have had enough. Kidding aside, the first segment involved preparing them for the day, the aim of the instruction, purpose, goals, desires and application for the classroom. A good strategy when teaching teachers is not to patronize them. They are teachers and know everything. I know I am one of them. In reality, the heart of instruction here lies with an authentic witness of the living Gospel of Jesus Christ in a gradual loving way.
Knowing that many teachers resort to arts and crafts because of a genuine fear and ignorance in teaching the Catholic faith to students I began the training by asking the catechists for the one thing they would like to know about the faith they still had questions on. After a subtle pause (pretty typical) hands were drawn. The questions asked centered on sin, true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, confession, purgatory, mass participation, is the Church biblical, Mary, how to read the bible, other religions etc. My next question to them was why they wanted to know about these particular doctrines. Their response was nothing short of amazing. They did not know how these particular teachings came to be! Keep in mind, these catechists are supposedly teaching children the Catholic faith. Right there and then I realized we needed to start at the very beginning e.g. Do you believe in God the Father the almighty?
If the teacher does not have a sound understanding of how their life reflects the Gospel let alone living within the Story of salvation, then how are they going to impart the story onto their students? Hence, the focal point of the problem we face in the catechetical field. Our catechists lack basic doctrinal formation. I charted a different course of action realizing that this group needed a systematic engaging approach to learn and apply Catholic doctrine in the classroom.
The result was a mini-RCIA course where I went through Salvation History and presented to them their role in light of Jesus Christ the Divine Teacher (Heb 11:6). In other words, they needed to see how the Church came to be, their role within the Church and the graces given to us by Christ at Baptism to continue His work in the Church He founded. A basic outline of the curriculum for this training session looked something like this:
It was important the catechists saw the biblical basis for these doctrinal pillars. In addition, how the Catechism references the teachings of the Church through the footnotes. A short primer on how to use the Catechism of the Catholic Church and view the references, cross-references, and articles numbers to find a particular teaching gave the catechists a better grasp of the information.
This experience is common. A generation of uncatechized faithful over the past thirty-years has drifted throughout their Catholic life not knowing the graces they received through their Baptism. The recitation of our Baptismal promises appears as an afterthought to many. When asked within the Rite of Baptism, Do you reject, sin, and all his empty works, and all his empty promises . . . it begs to ask the question to these teachers whether they truly understand what sin is in order to reject it.
When I posed this very question to one of the teachers in the training session, the response was a common one. Why do we need to concentrate on sin, it is more important to focus on the works of Jesus? Do you see where this particular catechist has quietly misaligned the purpose of Christ and His Church. Whether its ignorance, issues with the doctrine of sin, or a personal experience initiating this response, the opportunity to discuss the nature of sin was difficult. Now, we must be careful when discussing the doctrine of sin from this pastoral perspective; we do not know what the person has gone through personally where a certain sinful act may have caused negative, spiritual harm or drawn out a bad experience. It is vital that a catechist be carefully aware of the audience they are instructing. However, we cannot shy away from addressing the dangers of sin itself.
Another teacher, noting her frustration in sitting through a dreadful class in her opinion said these magic words: You can keep your catechism, how do you expect me to apply it in the classroom? Moreover, there you go, this brave soul echoed the sentiments of others who had resisted on using the catechism in the classroom. This shot heard around the classroom, reflected the genuine mentality of many teachers viewing the catechism as a useless tool because it probably did not provide cutouts for the kids to draw and cut-out. This comment troubled me because of an apparent ignorance towards the application or appreciation of the Catechism. There is fruit to the argument that it is not the teachers fault. From one perspective, this may be true; nonetheless, it does not negate the fact of what we are dealing with now. St. Augustine-the Father of Catechetics describes catechizing the ignorant in this way:
The best method for instructing ignorant men in Christian doctrine, one that will bear much fruit is to ask questions in a friendly fashion after the explanation; from this questioning one can learn whether each one understood what he heard or whether the explanation needs repeating. In order that the learner grasp the matter, we must ascertain by questioning whether the one being catechized has understood, and in accordance with his response, we must either explain more clearly and fully or not dwell further on what is known to them etc. But if a man is very slow, he must be mercifully helped and the most necessary doctrines especially should be briefly imparted to him.
As the Catechist trainer in this situation, you cannot scold nor demean these individuals. In many ways, ignorance is rooted in their responses due to a lack of formation. Thus, a gentle but firm disposition serves us well in this type of situation because we do not want to lose them. Our hope rests in a genuine conversion for these teachers (1 Pt 3:15). The you can keep your catechism statement by the teacher mentioned earlier should not detract anyone from teaching the faith. My call for this person was to help her find God. An opportunity arose to present the Gospel, reveal the importance of Christ in our lives and provide her with an open opportunity to seek Him.
It is very important that the catechist reveal the relevance of doctrine in the lives of the faithful. Our faith is naturally explicit (1 Thess 2:13) because God has made Himself visible through His Church. Man naturally seeks what is visible and revealed. For instance, when we are able to observe and recognize a moral act the exercise of the doctrinal action takes effect on our senses. We are able to witness doctrine exercised. The liturgy a public work, provides a visible reality of the existence of faith and the exercise of doctrine.
By the end of the day, the teachers who survived my training session realized in a small way the necessity of teaching doctrine to children. The success of the day came not by how much doctrine I could expose them to, it was helping them realize how little they knew about the faith and what to do about. Not only for their souls but also for the souls of the children they teach.
The religion instructor must be prepared to proclaim the truth of the Catholic Church. His/her responsibility is to aid the development of the person they are instructing by explaining Church teaching carefully and appropriately through a careful transmission rooted in Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The door to the nourishing a soul in Catholic doctrine must be convincing so the person applies these doctrines to everyday life. The need for the Catechism of the Catholic Church is more relevant than ever if we genuinely desire to impart the Catholic faith. Our duty and responsibility is to answer the questions our students have. Clarity of truth is primary in our instruction.
CCD: Catholic Civil Defense. :)
When I was on the education committee of the Lib church I left, the DRE told me that she wasn’t interested in teaching the Catechism because she just wanted the kids to have a “good experience”.
I told her that these parents had a “good experience” and because of that, know NOTHING about being Catholic. Those parents pay us 90.00 a year to teach the Catechism. She didn’t want to hear it.
Needless to say, I left.
Why the heck do these people bother teaching if they can’t be bothered knowing the doctrines? Honestly, THIS is the stuff that makes my head explode.
I am a sinner with a very sordid past that was primarily rooted in my ignorance of my faith. Sine I have rediscovered my faith, I am in love with it & want to know more. I have vowed not to let the same thing happen to my own child. I do not trust these DREs at churches to actaully arm my little gilr with the knowledge she needs to be a good soldier for Christ. I am gonna do it myself.
The way these teachers “teach” the Catholic Faith is just an example of the way other subjects are “taught” as well: people who don’t know the subject and don’t care about the subject, putting in their time with as little effort as possible.
Unfortunately, this is all TOO common. This is why, if possible, we should find those who are committed Catholics and meet regularly to pray for our parishes. This is especially important in the worst parishes. Prayer IS powerful and will eventually work wonders. Those who are committed to such prayer should also get involved in the various ministries of that same parish as led by the Holy Spirit. What God can do with even one person is pretty amazing. ;-))
Example: Influence the Women’s Club (substitute any group) to sponsor a seminar of Fr. John Corapi ...or inivte GOOD speakers, etc.
It takes time, faith and patience....but change WILL come.
So true! See the tagline:
>>I brought my rosary, the prayer to St. Michael (one copy for each student) and the Bible.<<
Did the DRE recoil from you, vomit and smoke? XD
Honestly, you don’t have to sit in the worst parishes.
I can’t tell you the amount of people who have “spoken with their wallets” and left that parish. Running, not walking to the one I’m in now.
We pray for that parish, A LOT. For five years (as directed by my current pastor) I continued to wash altar linens for them every January. Two years ago, I walked into the main and Low and Behold! a large crucifix hung behind the altar! This was a huge step for this parish.
Take your money to a good parish. Direct your prays at the old one.
Get her these books
They are the best. How do I know? We use them, Seton Homeschool uses them and the liberal parishes hate them.
Actual CCC references and the whole lot.
The really good thing about them is, they progress by age but not by subject. The same thing is taught every year. When my 5th grader is learning about the Eucharist, my 7th grader is learning the same thing, only with more information appropriate to her age. I love them.
Wow! Thanks so much! I’m sitting at work bored today so I will order them right now.
The one curriculum that I do have (the Who Am I thing) also builds on the same subject year after year for three years.
Thanks for this info.
Good tagline - except you need to type, instead of copy/paste the apostrophe.
That would be funny if it wasn't so sad.
I'd say two generations, going on three. And though I winced at the grammatical errors in this article, "drifted" is a very good way of describing the effect of the titanic spiritual battle which is being fought every minute of every day.
Our battle is against the evil one who wants the death of both the soul and the body. One way to achieve that goal is to ensure that the soul will only see darkly as it drifts; concerned only with the material, never lifting the eyes to what is beyond this life. Like St. Augustine said, the searching soul is restless until it rests in God, but what of the soul who doesn't know enough to search?
We must pray for our fellow members of the mystical body, pray fervently for them that they will receive the graces necessary for a radical conversion, no less radical than St. Paul's. I don't think many pray enough for the salvation of others; not only those they know and love, but for those they don't know, but are part of the same body.
No problem at all!
St. Monica Pray for us.
ROFL at Anoreth’s comment on “other cultures” ...