All posts tagged: formation

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd: Cultivating the Christian Imagination of the Child

Recently I was talking to a mother of two young children, who explained that she drops her youngest son off at childcare while she attends Mass because “he is too young to get anything out of it.” Implicit in her remark is the assumption that the child, particularly the young child, neither possesses within himself a hunger for God nor is capacitated for worship—that his age prevents him from meaningful participation in the liturgy. She primarily envisions worship in terms of utility. It exists in order for us to “get something.” Cast in therapeutic, moralistic, and individualist terms worship functions either to meet one’s subjective needs, to make one “feel good,” or to make one a generically “better person.” Such a view, both of the nature of the young child and of worship is deeply imprinted on the Catholic imagination in the United States. Children are seen as a distraction to adult worship—hence, the emergence of strategies to get kids out of Mass: “the cry room” and “children’s Liturgy of the Word.” In fact, there …

The Deacon’s Wife: Exploring Her Role in the Catholic Church

“How wonderful the bond . . . one in hope, one in desire, one in discipline, one in the same service!” (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], §1642) The identity of the wife of the permanent deacon exists in a uniquely uncharacterized, uncategorized reality. Examining both universal and national declarations and norms only validates the difficulty of finding any substantive (certainly, any consistent) theological understanding of this most particular relationship between Marriage and Holy Orders, wife and husband.[1] Indeed, while this most relevant dynamic has been addressed in part, it remains a lacuna within the theological tradition of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. Whereas the husband in this marriage is ontologically changed by the sacrament of Holy Orders, which confers upon him “an imprint that cannot be removed and configures [him] to Christ, who made himself the ‘deacon’ or servant of all” (CCC §1570), the wife in this marriage does not in any capacity participate in this particular sacramental characterization. Even as husband and wife “are no longer two, but one flesh,” (Mt 19:6, …

Two Principles for Forming Catechists

At the beginning of Notre Dame’s academic year, I accompany seventy Notre Dame students as they prepare to serve as catechists in South Bend area parishes. Over the course of the year, these catechists will spend countless hours planning lessons and teaching the Catholic faith to students ranging in age from kindergarten through high school. Together, we carry out the work of the Notre Dame Catechist Academy, one of the ways that the Institute for Church Life renews the catechetical imagination of the Catholic Church. Most of my work consists of forming these students through workshops, preparing them to take over a classroom of their own. It is my goal to expand and stretch their imaginations, sharing principles that invite them to consider not only what it means to be a catechist, but also what catechesis might say about living as a faithful disciple in the world. I wish to share two of those principles here. Good catechesis creates space for prayerful encounters with God’s Word. Catechesis stands apart from other “academic” subjects in that, …

From Fear to Love: Preaching in these Troubling Times

“Are the shootings and the wars going to happen here, Mom?” The little girl asked her mother after hearing yet another violent news story. Nice, Paris, Turkey, Syria, Dallas, Minneapolis . . . and, unfortunately, the list goes on of places suffering the complexity and heartbreak of eruptions of often unpredictable violence. Where next? We may wonder, along with the little girl, when and how terror and violence will arrive even closer to where we live. Often, a first response to violence is fear. Sometimes fear leads to a desire for revenge, to building barriers, or even to a violent lashing out against the ones who have instilled the fear in the first place. Christian preaching has something different to say to the violence that exists near and far in the world. The Christian response to violence is rooted in the bedrock of our faith and the substance of all authentic Christian preaching—the Paschal Mystery. Jesus saw in his time at least as much violence and death as we see today, and we know that …

Encountering Christ, the Eternal Word

Within the Catholic high school, formation often becomes fragmented. Differences in staffing, resources, and approaches to ministry lead to a lack of integration among different dimensions of the spiritual life. Students study religion in class, go on retreats, celebrate Mass, and earn service hours, often overseen by different departments or staff members. Yet, “it’s all curriculum.” What happens on the athletic field, in conversations on retreat, during class sessions, in afterschool activities, or while in prayer all contribute to the development of young men and women of faith. This holistic vision of formation guided the restructuring of our campus ministry department at a Chicago high school. In restructuring, we made the decision to lay everything on the table and ask first: “How can we best serve the needs of our students? How can we focus on ministering to people rather than administering programs?” Our response was to move from two separate departments of Pastoral Ministry and Community Service to create the Department of Formation and Ministry. Guided by a Director, the rest of the staff …

The Dangerous Art of Becoming

I stopped writing cursive in the sixth grade. If I were to handwrite this sentence for you, you would likely find my penmanship immature, unrefined, and inefficient. Its unwieldy form and bubbly profile—adorned with loopty-loops and fancy curls—would sit fat, proud, and unapologetic upon the page, the way a toddler wears her protruding belly. Such is my cursive, hopelessly stuck in the grasp of my pre-adolescent hand. My painting, ceramic, and clarinet playing skills are also frozen in an earlier time. I have just recently acquired a loom and an easel, though not with any intention of “showing” my work. Suffice it to say, no one would call me an “artist.” And yet, my experience of fashioning retreats for Echo apprentice catechetical leaders over the last eight years has made it impossible for me to consider faith formation without also considering art. “Art is not a thing; it is a way.” —Elbert Hubbard   The art experiences that have become inherent to Echo formation retreats are not a professional cover to explore a personal hobby. …

The Pedagogy of Faith

Blessed be God! During my Dad’s final years of life, he was unable to communicate through the gift of voice.[1] A victim of Alzheimer’s disease, Dad’s voice suddenly departed a few years before he died. Other family members, already Dad’s advocates, became Dad’s voice in new and distinctive ways. His own vocal expressions were gone but Dad, child of God, was not. I am convinced that Dad communicated during his last years through the gift of sight. On the day he died, his eyes scanned the room where he lay, focusing intently on each of the family members gathered around his bed. Dad, even in the moments leading up to physical death, continued to “speak” to us. He continued to proclaim the goodness of God. In today’s language, we might identify him as an emissary of the New Evangelization. Faith in God, the one true God of all who reveals himself to us, is faith that enables us to proclaim in word and action, in thought and look, in Gospel and glance, the goodness and …