The Spirituality of the Catechist

Catechists must have a deep spirituality, i.e. they must live in the Spirit, who will help them to renew themselves continually in their specific identity.

The need for a spirituality proper to catechists springs from their vocation and mission. It includes, therefore, a new and special motivation, a call to sanctity. Pope John Paul II’s saying: “The true missionary is the saint”, can be applied without hesitation to the catechist. Like every member of the faithful, catechists are “called to holiness and to mission”, i.e. to live out their own vocation “with the fervour of the saints”.

Their spirituality is closely bound up with their status as lay Christians, made participants, in their own degree, in Christ’s prophetic, priestly and kingly offices. As members of the laity, they are involved in the secular world and have, “according to the condition of each, the special obligation to permeate and perfect the temporal order of things with the spirit of the gospel. In this way, particularly in conducting secular business and exercising secular functions, they are to give witness to Christ”.

Guide for Catechists, no. 6

“I must establish this firm conviction…”

“If God calls me to apply my activity not only to my own sanctification, but also to good works, I must establish this firm conviction, before everything else, in my mind: Jesus has got to be, and wishes to be, the life of these works.

My efforts, by themselves, are nothing, absolutely nothing. ‘Without Me you can do nothing.’ They will only be useful, and blessed by God, if by means of a genuine interior life I unite them constantly to the life-giving action of Jesus. But then they will become all-powerful: ‘I can do all things in Him who strengtheneth me.’”

Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, OCSO, The Soul of the Apostolate

Photo Credit: KOREphotos via Compfight cc

The Art of Teaching


“The art of teaching is a vocation. It calls for fitness and training as well as a consecration; hence it is a special kind of vocation. Whether one is called upon to teach religion or one of the secular subjects is of no vital concern. All knowledge comes from God and is a remote reflection of His divine wisdom. The teacher participates in the creative power of God in the sense that he forms and educates the mind and will and other spiritual powers which the Creator left for others to develop in His children. The ultimate objective of education is to know God better, to love Him unselfishly, and to serve Him prayerfully.

“Pope Pius XI, in his famous encyclical, “On the Christian Education of Youth,” thus defines the aim and nature of Catholic education:

This is the preeminent educational mission of the Church… The proper and immediate end of Christian education is to co-operate with divine grace in forming the true and perfect Christian, that is, to form Christ Himself in those regenerated by baptism… For the true Christian must live a supernatural life in Christ.

“The teacher’s vocation is a dedicated service that is second to none in importance. Speaking particularly of the priest’s obligation to teach religion, a document of the Holy See declares: ‘The office of teaching has precedence over the sacramental and liturgical ministry according to the divine command of Christ to the Apostles. The Apostles, obeying this command, placed the work of teaching ahead of any other activity; for St. Paul himself could affirm, “Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the Gospel.” The reason for the precedence of the teaching office is evident; one cannot enrich the soul with grace if it has not first been enlightened with truth.'”

– Very Rev. Joseph B. Collins, SS; Confraternity Teacher’s Guide (1960)

“Religion teachers engage in an apostolate”

apple“First of all, therefore, in this ministry of teaching, a spiritual formation is necessary. Religion teachers engage in an apostolate: that of living the truths of the faith and of explaining them to others, that these in turn may know and live them. As in any true apostolate, its members must first form themselves in order to inform others. This consists essentially in carrying out a rule of life which includes daily prayer, recitation of the rosary, faithful attendance at Mass, frequent reception of the sacraments, and periodical days of recollection and retreats, according to one’s station in life. Provision must be made, moreover, for spiritual reading and daily meditation or mental prayer. Sermons, instructions, and spiritual direction from a regular confessor are almost indispensable aids for growth and development of the heart and soul of one engaged in the apostolate of teaching. From all these means of sanctification the religion teacher will be inspired and empowered to carry out the difficult duties of his special vocation.”

– Very Rev. Joseph B. Collins, SS; Confraternity Teacher’s Guide (1960)

“For I have given you an example…”


Then after he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, being set down again, he said to them: Know you what I have done to you? You call me Master, and Lord; and you say well, for so I am. If then I being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also.

– John 13:12-15

The Precept of Confession

Statue: angel praying

When you first examine the Church’s precept of confession, you may tend to wonder at it a little bit, just as you do, perhaps, at the precept of Holy Communion. Once a year seems a foolishly rare reception of these wonderful sacraments. On further examination, though, you discover that this law isn’t too bad an idea at that, both spiritually and psychologically, and we can begin to give the Church a little credit for some sense. First of all, the yearly precept is precept, but the desire of Christ and His Church is that you go far beyond the precept of yearly confession and Communion.

The really big reason for this precept of yearly confession, however, is that the Church knows there are people who have so little grasp of what their Faith is all about that they need this sort of moral pushing around. These people go by the “principle” that if a thing isn’t commanded, it shouldn’t be done. Of course they don’t follow this “principle” in other matters – nobody ever orders them to eat between meals or take a drink now and then, for instance.

It is possible, too, that this precept may have brought some lost souls back to Christ and His Church. The person who has been away from the sacraments for many years often feels scared and embarrassed, a state that sets up an obstacle to his return. But with this precept in mind he will often be more at ease if he feels that there are a number of people going to confession during the Easter Season who, like him, might have been away for more than a week or two.

– Joseph T. McGloin, SJ, Burn a Little! (or, what’s LOVE all about?) (1961)

The Third Possibility

Presented with a strong challenge to one’s deepest convictions, three basic psychological possibilities present themselves: rejecting the challenge through a tenacious defense of those convictions; recognizing the merits of the challenge, and adjusting one’s ideas and behavior as a result; recognizing the merits of the challenge, and rearticulating one’s convictions in an effort to demonstrate that they satisfy the aspirations of the challenger better than the proposed alternatives.

Applied to the collision between Catholicism and modernity, one could say in extremely broad strokes that the first possibility dominated most of the 19th and early 20th centuries, with the Syllabus of Errors and the anti-modernist campaigns. It was a largely defensive reaction against secularism that still has echoes in influential circles of Catholic thought. The second possibility carried the day at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and has defined the project of Catholic liberalism ever since: the drive to reform the church to better reflect some of the core values of modernity, such as tolerance, pluralism, and democracy.

Much of church politics in the post-Vatican II era, again painting with a very broad brush, can be understood as a clash between these two impulses. To some extent, the third possibility has remained a path not taken, which is what makes the emerging outlines of Benedict’s magisterium especially intriguing.

– John L. Allen, “2007’s neglected story: Benedict XVI and ‘Affirmative Orthodoxy'” (January 3, 2008)

“The saints as a class are the least gloomy of people”

You really can’t say much that is positive about sanctity until you first get rid of the odd-ball ideas in circulation. So let’s deal with some of these absurdities first.

It’s hard to tell who could have first dreamed up the idea that the saints were overserious, morbid people, not laughing or smiling much, because life looked too glum from where they sat. Someone did dream it up, though, and the calumny persists, so that people who are bubbling over with youth and good spirits are naturally revolted by the idea of such “sanctity.”

And they should be. I wouldn’t say there has never been a saint who didn’t have his gloomy moments because, since they’re human beings, there have probably been as many types of saints as there are types of human beings. For the most part, though, the saints as a class are the least gloomy of people, because sanctity leads to happiness and joy, and only those on the road to hell have a right to be gloomy.

– Joseph T. McGloin, SJ, Burn a Little! (or, what’s LOVE all about?) (1961)

Bishop Paprocki’s Homily for the Opening of the Year of Faith

Our bishop, Thomas John Paprocki, gave a wonderful homily on October 14 marking the opening of the Year of Faith. In it, he laid out his plan for how Catholics in our diocese can live the Year fully:

To our sorrow, today there seems to be fewer and fewer people willing to apprentice themselves to Christ, to learn from him the will of the Father and the ways in which we may live in his love. You have heard the statistic, no doubt, that the second-largest religious group in the United States is non-practicing Catholics. I am sure that many of us know personally the people and stories behind these numbers. They are our sisters and brothers, our nieces and nephews, our sons and daughters, our neighbors and co-workers.

What can we say to reignite in them the fire of faith? What is Christ inspiring us to do to proclaim the faith anew to these lost sheep? These questions lie at the heart of the Year of Faith. Of this task, the Holy Father wrote: “To rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived, and prayed, and to reflect on the act of faith, is a task that every believer must make his own, especially in the course of this Year” (Porta Fidei, 9). To this end, I would like to propose to a three-fold plan to make the most of this Year of Faith.

First, we must be grateful for the faith we have received, for our encounter with the Lord. Families should strive to make their homes places where the family prays together, reads the Scriptures together, and is nourished together at Sunday Mass. Families should strive to allow their faith to influence everything they do, rather than reserving their faith only for an hour or so on Sunday.

Second, we must endeavor to understand all the more clearly the faith we profess. If a friend, family member or co-worker asks us a question about Catholicism, can we provide an adequate “ and correct “ answer? We ought to be able to do so.

Third, we must share our faith, not only with our family and friends, but with our co-workers and everyone we meet. As the Holy Father reminds us, “Confessing with the lips indicates in turn that faith implies public testimony and commitment “(Porta Fidei, 10).

This three-fold plan is the way of discipleship and through it we learn to apprentice ourselves to Jesus Christ.

The entire homily can be read on our diocesan web site; I heartily recommend it to you.