An Easter Reflection for Catechists

As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ in this Easter season, it is a good time to reflect on the meaning of the Paschal Mystery in our lives and for our ministry. The Church proclaims that

In the sacraments of Christian initiation we are freed from the power of darkness and joined to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. We receive the Spirit of filial adoption and are part of the entire people of God in the celebration of the memorial of the Lord’s death and resurrection. (Christian Initiation, General Introduction, no. 1)

As catechists this is not only true of us personally, but it is also the basis of how we form those in our charge. All catechesis finds its root, its hope, its end in the Paschal Mystery, because it is through that mystery that God’s promises to his people are completed:

If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as [being] dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:8-11)

In the RCIA, Catholic schools, religious education programs, and adult faith formation sessions, the Paschal Mystery should have pride of place and be a constant touchstone for our teaching and formation. As catechists it is our privilege to lead people to a relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship finds its culmination in Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist, because these sacraments unite us in an unchangeable way with the life of Christ.

My prayer for you in this blessed season is that your life and ministry will be increasingly touched by a radical encounter with Christ and his Pascal Mystery. Have a happy and blessed Easter season!

What Does the Book of Acts Tell Us About Catholic Education?

One of my favorite parts of the Easter season (pilfering jelly beans from my kids’ baskets aside) is the readings from the Acts of the Apostles we hear proclaimed at Mass.  Acts tells us the story of the early Church “ how, after the Lord’s Ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the apostles “did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” to the Jews and the Gentiles (5:42). We are told that “many of those who heard the word believed” (4:4) and the “more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women” (5:14).

We are also told of the great deeds done by these believers: miraculous healings (3:7; 5:16) and speaking in tongues (2:4-6), yes, but also providing for widows and the poor (4:32; 6:1ff) and proclaiming Christ even in the face of martyrdom (7:59-60; 12:2-3).

So what does the Book of Acts have to tell us about Catholic schools?

As our bishop, Thomas John Paprocki, stated so well in his homily at our recent Principals’ Leadership Conference, the purpose of Catholic schools is not to impart academic knowledge or focus on the “Three Rs.” If that was our purpose there would be no difference between Catholic schools and public schools.  Similarly, the faith-based character of our schools is not simply an “add-on,” something tacked on to the public school model.

Rather, the imparting of the faith — the preaching of the Gospel in word and in deed — is at the very heart and purpose of our Catholic schools. Like the early disciples, our task is to preach Christ to our students and show them through our works what it means to take on the name “Christian.”  We are charged with building up our students to be disciples for Christ. Everything else, no matter how valuable or important in the secular world, is secondary to that charge.

As you listen to the readings from the Acts of the Apostles over the next weeks, pay attention to how the early Church worked to spread the Gospel. It was hard work (and dangerous!) but they persevered with charity and joy. We are called to imitate these saints and martyrs by passing on this faith to those in our care — to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19) and build up the Body of Christ.

He is risen! Alleluia!

Again make sure of a coherent narrative – burial in a rock-hewn tomb, sealing of tomb, the guards, the Resurrection early on Easter morning, the holy women, Magdalen, the disciples on the way to Emmaus, the appearance to the Eleven in the upper room. Don’t do this casually – get your facts right – this is the event on which Christianity is built.

–  Rev. F.H. Drinkwater,  Doctrine for the Juniors (1933)