All posts tagged: catechesis

Metaphors in the Catechetical Imagination

Christ and his Church have always used metaphors to fashion and to articulate meaning, to express the inexpressible presence of God, and to communicate his truths,[1] such as “I am the good shepherd” (Jn 10:11, 14). The National Directory of Catechesis [NDC] has taken the lead in urging catechists to use metaphors. [2] The NDC advocates metaphors because Christ taught that way. So did the early Church. On their face, metaphors and similes compare one thing or idea with a seemingly different thing. But they are much more than fancy figures of speech. Examining how the Church has used metaphors can teach and transform how contemporary catechists do likewise. Why Metaphors are Made for Catechesis First, metaphors are fundamental, cognitive software through which we map our world, make decisions, and understand ourselves, others and God. We all naturally think and talk using metaphors. So does the Bible, Christ, and the Church. Metaphors (and similes) create associations between seemingly unrelated images, memories, and ideas; they form “maps” by which we understand life, express our thoughts, and …

Forming Lifelong Disciples through Developmentally-Responsive Catechesis

A pressing question in the area of faith formation today is whether or not we are indeed forming people for a lifelong practice of the faith and celebration of the sacraments. A 2015 study by the Pew Research Center indicates that 42% of adults in the United States have left the faith of their childhood. In the book Forming Intentional Disciples, Sherry Weddell points out that the lack of attachment to one’s childhood faith is particularly significant among Catholics.[1] She cites an earlier Pew study that showed only 30% of Americans who were raised Catholic are still attending Mass at least once a month. A number of parish catechetical leaders also report declining enrollment in their parish religious education classes for age levels that are not sacramental years, suggesting that perhaps parents are perceiving less value in the curriculum offered by the parish program in non-sacramental years. In addition, parish leaders continue to be frustrated that even the families who are involved in the parish religious education program often seem to treat it as one …

Catholic Culture in the Classroom

Last summer I took a course on Catechesis and how to approach the work of sharing the Gospel through education. At some point during the course I was confronted with the question, “What is the culture of my classroom?” I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Initially, I thought about the experience my students have in my class, the generally positive student evaluations I receive, the comfortable relationships I have with the vast majority of my students. Then I thought about what my classroom actually looks like and how that informs the cultural milieu of the class: plenty of crucifixes, icons, and religious art, some Notre Dame swag (pennants and such), and half the Ignatius Press catalog on my bookshelf. Then I realized I have a rather shallow understanding of culture. In Truth and Tolerance, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said that culture “has to do with perceptions and values. It is an attempt to understand the world and the existence of man with it . . . guided by the fundamental interest of our existence.”[1] …

Inexhaustible Stories

I repeat my question, but the class stares blankly toward the front of the room and then shuffles with nervous looks at the floor to avoid being called upon. The sun pokes through the little windows on this bright Sunday morning as I teach a Confirmation preparation class for seventh grade students at a small parish in town. At the beginning of the morning I had picked up over a dozen teenagers from a bustling basement cafeteria and embarrassingly stuttered through conversations with their parents as my students translated my English into Spanish. I prepared to begin our class in prayer and looked out to a scene of fourteen-year-olds in varying stages of rapid and unpredictable growth spurts sitting in the tiny chairs of the third grade classroom we had been assigned. The noise of cars whooshing on the streets outside our windows seemed distracting as I asked the class to consider the images used by Christ himself: vines and harvests, mustard seeds and sowers, fig trees and shepherds. As we sifted through our Bibles …

The Rosary: Back to the Basics

I became aware early in the year that the task of catechizing their children overwhelmed the parents of my students. They walked into my room and felt out of their depth. They were perfectly at ease criticizing the approach of the new Social Studies teacher but walked on pins and needles asking me about my curriculum. One interaction at parent-teacher conferences summed this up: a couple sat in front of me, clearly trying to find out more about the Religion class’s content than their son’s performance. “You know,” said dad, “this is really important. This class is why we come here.” After an uncomfortable pause he added, “So what are you guys talking about in Religion?” He knew it was important that they learned about their faith, he just had no idea what that looked like. This conundrum of invested but confused parents popped up again when I decided to do a day on the Rosary. It was actually our second Rosary day, and this time I told the students to bring in a rosary …

Offertory Catechesis

Teachings on the offertory In the Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, the Holy Father Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI affirmed that the presentation of the gifts at the offertory ought “not to be viewed simply as a kind of ‘interval’ between the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the Eucharist. . . . It enables us to appreciate how God invites man to participate in bringing to fulfilment his handiwork, and in so doing, gives human labour its authentic meaning, since through the celebration of the Eucharist, it is united to the redemptive sacrifice of Christ” (Sacramentum Caritatis, §47). At every Sunday Mass, after the Prayer of the Faithful, a money-offering collection is taken by the ushers. The Catechism provides guidance on how worshipers are to appreciate their participation in this money-offering collection: From the very beginning Christians have brought, along with the bread and wine for the Eucharist, gifts to share with those in need. This custom of the collection, ever appropriate, is inspired by the example of Christ who became poor to make …

Catechesis Through Love

My parish embodies a probably not uncommon reality in the shifting demographic and identity of American Catholicism. As I arrived at my parish a year and a half ago, our Director of Religious Education and her assistants were in dialogue about a rising number of high school students, specifically from the Spanish-speaking community, who were out of step with their sacrament preparation. At sixteen or seventeen years old, many had only received their first Eucharist a few years ago, and with Quinceñera expectations hurrying parents to the Religious Ed office by the dozens, these kids needed to be confirmed. “So what do we do?” asked our DRE. “Put them in Confirmation prep classes with a bunch of seventh graders?” Deciding that approach wouldn’t be particularly fruitful, we envisioned a class specifically for these high school students, to effectively catch them up on whatever catechesis they’d missed, fill the gaps in their knowledge, and get them ready to be fully initiated into the Church. So I offered to take on the class, found a brilliant co-catechist …

Editorial Musings: Does Evangelization Require Cultural Catholics?

This week at Church Life, we’re happy to publish an essay by one of our 2016 Liturgy Symposium presenters, Dr. Michael McCallion. Using the discipline of sociology, Dr. McCallion assesses the evangelization efforts of two parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit: one that uses a rational-intellectual approach to evangelization, while another focuses on an affective-volitional one. According to Dr. McCallion, the affective-volitional approach has generated more activities associated with the New Evangelization than the rational-intellectual one. Thus, the former approach seems better placed to renew ecclesial life in the present. Our editorial group spent some time discussing the findings of this article. While we were persuaded that an affective-volitional approach may be an essential catalyst in spurring activity within parish life, we also concluded that the article only measures the efficacy of evangelization at the level of the individual. That is, Dr. McCallion focuses primarily upon individual transformation that results in new forms of activity in parish life rather than the transformation of culture itself. The tendency to treat evangelization merely as an individual’s attraction to …

How to Talk to Young People about the Dangers of Pornography

As pornography becomes increasingly pervasive, the distinct divide between sacred image and profane picture is threatened; increasingly erotic images have less and less shock value. The previously middle ground between the two poles has been hijacked by “soft-core” pornography, which according to society, should no longer offend.[1] The day-to-day life of the modern person is fraught with pornographic images, as sacred or beautiful images, along with neutral images, are pushed out of the mind. What effect does this change in vision’s scenery cause in the human person, especially in the young child and adolescent? How can today’s parents, educators, and catechists properly form young children so that they might not fall prey to pornography? Theologians from Christianity’s beginnings have expressed the power found in viewing both icons and idols, and have much to say to today’s modern situation. A Christian understanding of idols, icons, images, and the transformative power of vision can uncover new tools for catechizing on pornography by closely examining the unique role that vision plays in the formation of the human self. …

The Catholic Imagination in the Classroom

My students have grown accustomed to their senses being bombarded with stimulation. They find it difficult, as do I, to cut off from the noise of the fast-paced world swirling around them. Too often, the media that falls in their lap, or rather pops up on their screen, is less than hopeful. It portrays a cold world where nothing is certain, only hard facts and “science” can be trusted, and faith must be kept at arm’s length, as all superstitions should. This worldview, in my opinion, is causing an existential crisis among our students before they even enter high school. This environment does nothing to help me as a teacher of theology to nourish the Catholic imagination of my students, a task I feel is at the center of my work as a catechist. In this world, a sacramental view is seen as foolish at best and willful ignorance at worst. This hermeneutic of skepticism makes it nearly impossible for conventional approaches to catechesis to break through the noise and open their eyes and ears …