There has been a lot of talk about the changing role of the catechist now that catechesis is an official ministry of the Church. But what does that really mean? Does the Church want us to think about catechesis differently? In the first episode of Catechist Stream, Steve and Deacon Matt tackled these and other questions. Here are some key takeaways from their first livestream that may change the way you think about catechesis.
The Church is reclaiming the truth that our Baptism is the source of our call to catechesis.
Catechesis is modeled on the baptismal catechumenate. In this ministry, people are usually gathered in small groups, a dynamic that reflects the Church’s wisdom because it helps to grow a community and surround that community with prayer. It cultivates a critical spirit with opportunities for fellowship and quality time together. The purpose of this ministry is to prepare the group to become disciples, together, in the context of the larger community. This happens in stages. It’s unlike the sometimes confined, pressure-filled and formal catechetical sessions we may think of, and there are benefits to this.
The first stage of the catechumenate is called the pre-catechumen, or the inquiry phase. The inquiry phase is designed to help people feel comfortable about being in a new group, about asking questions, and exchanging stories to get to know those sharing the journey of faith. Imagine taking those three things and applying them to your experience of catechesis, which might be a weekly 45- to 90-minute session, perhaps on Sunday after the Mass. Imagine if you could emphasize really getting to know the children or the teenagers or the adults in front of you, taking time to get their stories. It would provide the opportunity to understand what these people value, what their concerns are, what information or misinformation they might have about the Church or the faith, and the challenges they might be facing in their lives. In this way, you can begin to think about the faith as a catechist and not just as a doctrine that needs to be shared. This connection allows an application to people’s lives, and it can be very fruitful.
Another stage in the catechumenate includes beautiful liturgical milestones, like the handing over of the Creed and the Our Father, the right of acceptance, and the right of election. The reason the liturgy is so key for helping us to catechize is because it brings all that we say and do into focus and to a culmination because we find the whole purpose of our discipleship in the celebration of the liturgy and particularly in the Eucharist. Mystagogy allows us to continue to engage with this group and to continue to have conversations around their journeys of faith, especially from the point of view of sacraments and their experiences of the sacraments. Keeping a catechumen or vision as we do catechesis helps us keep the focus on how the faith really impacts our lives.
Catechesis is rooted in the baptismal vocation. In his pontificate, Pope Francis has focused on the need to catechize more from the Gospel. Part of being able to catechize this way is understanding our own identities as catechists. By the virtue of being baptized, we are all called to be a catechist. Now there are different tiers, if you will, or different kinds of catechists. There are those that have had a lot of training and education and specialization who are master catechists. But 99% of us are just generous people in the pews. Here is an opportunity to move from catechesis as volunteer to vocation.
To be a good catechist-—which we're called to be, by virtue of our Baptism—we must focus on our own relationships with Christ and use those relationships as the foundation of the ministry of catechesis.
Through Baptism, we’re called to be priests, prophets, and kings. Catechesis is a prophetic action; it’s echoing the faith. That’s literally what catechesis means—“to sound down or echo.” Prophets echoed the law of God and the covenants God has made with his people. The idea of casual catechesis is catechesis that isn't confined to a classroom. It's not confined to a hybrid or a remote session. There are more than just formal moments of catechesis that tend to take place within a church or a parish. Catechesis is something that is carried within the heart, and it's in the heart of every baptized person according to the Church. The baptized are in fact all called to echo the faith. That means we are called to catechize in our homes, in our workspaces, in our social circles, online or in person. We're called to be echoing our love for Christ and Christ’s love for us and others. We can catechize in different ways, taking into account the unique ways we relate to others and the God-given gifts we have. We can give both verbal proclamation and silent proclamation about the Kingdom of God. We should give a silent witness for as much as we talk about the faith.
By virtue of our Baptism, we are all called to be catechists. These three insights will help you rethink catechesis that is modeled on the baptismal catechumenate, rooted in baptismal vocation, and not limited to the classroom. Being a catechist is about being faithful disciples who often “swim upstream” in their efforts to share the countercultural message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We hope this recap of the first Catechist Stream show and future episodes will help you to become more informed and prepared to swim upstream!
More Ways to “Swim Upstream”
In addition to this recap, you can also connect with Catechist Stream:
In real-time, on Mondays at 7:30pm EST in Sadlier’s Advance Your Expertise in Catechesis Facebook Group. Be sure to turn on notifications by clicking the bell button and selecting “all.” Go to the Advance Your Expertise in Catechesis Facebook Group to view Catechist Stream live on Monday nights!
By watching the full recordings of previous episodes.