Catechetical Sunday

Today was Catechetical Sunday, set aside to recognize the importance of well-trained catechists in passing the faith on to the next generation.  Or even just of catechists in general, regardless of their level of training.  The parish we’re at in Alexandria doesn’t actually make a very big deal out of said celebrations mandated by the Conference of Bishops.  We mark them, yes, but the focus is, as it should be, on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Everything else is ancillary to that purpose.

The way we marked it was all the catechists attended the same mass so that we could recite the oath of fidelity in public and receive a blessing.  Pretty quick, barely a blip in the course of the mass, and we continue on.  The priest did make passing reference to catechists in the homily, mentioning that the job is about helping our students to get to know God so that they can love Him, and that it is a large task.  Like I said, barely a blip in the course of things, which is how I like it, especially when I’m one of them standing up to recite:

I. PROFESSION OF FAITH

I, N., with firm faith believe and profess everything that is contained in the Symbol of faith: namely:

I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, one in Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgement or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed.

I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.

Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.

Yep, I volunteered to be a catechist this year.  As an aside, this week’s post almost wound up being titled “In Over My Head part II,”  but I figured that would be a little misleading.  Besides, there’s another technology post in the works, depending on if/how things download (or not).  While I consider myself fairly well informed about matters of the faith, and relatively well-prepared to navigate my way around a religion textbook, this is pretty daunting.  We’ve had two weeks so far, and they had me teaching 5th-6th-7th graders who have yet to receive their sacraments (maybe they’ve been baptized, maybe not).  In essence, the first year of a two-year rite of initiation for children program.  Not such a bad thing since there is a text book and it’s a small class.  On the other hand, the text book is geared towards children in the Second Grade, so a little bit simple in its writing for this age group.  I find myself doing a bit of elaboration on what’s in the book because the students can probably handle a more in-depth explication of the topic.  For example, last week was in essence the idea of God existing.  There wasn’t much beyond “God is, always has been, always will be and He made everything.”  We opened that up into a discussion about God making people with a temporal body and an eternal soul.  I used the line from the Baltimore Catechism about why God made us (“To know Him, love Him, and serve Him is this life so we can be happy with Him in the next.”  Sorry, paraphrasing since I don’t have it in front of me.).  I also talked about how you can reason your way to many, if not most, things in the faith (except for things we call Mysteries) and how faith and reason are complimentary, and not at all in opposition.  I think, in spite of my lack of a clear lesson plan, that it was fairly successful.  This week we talked about the mystery of the Trinity (which built nicely on last week’s discussion).  I spent a bit of time talking about how the Trinity is very difficult to discuss without lapsing into heresy, but that we keep on trying because we want to know God.  My addition to the collection of bad Trinitarian analogies was to use the primary colors:  They’re distinct colors that you cannot get by mixing other colors, and they form the basis of getting all the others.  Yes, I know, it breaks down (and I told the class this) because you have to mix them to get the other colors and the Persons of the Trinity don’t mix together; they are and they remain distinct.  It also fails because if you mix all the primary colors (pigments, that is, since I was using crayons to illustrate) together you get black (while if you mix the primary light colors together you get white), but I think it might have helped, at least some.

Now, to add to the fun, it looks like next week I’ll have a different class.  They’ve reshuffled some students to get a better balance of class size and level of religious education, so the students I had been teaching will continue their course, but with a group of slightly younger kids.  This isn’t actually too bad since it’ll just be some extra 5th graders and maybe a 6th grader in with 3rd and 4th graders.  There weren’t any 7th who would fall into that group, so, it works.  I, on the other hand, wind up with a larger group of students who are in the second year of the initiation program, meaning they will be making their sacraments this year.  That is, if I (and, with luck, a co-teacher) can get them adequately prepared in time.  Talk about a significant, important task and probably being in a little over my head.

So please, if you’ve made it this far, say a short prayer for me, and for all catechists, including parents who aren’t formal catechists commissioned by the church but who absolutely have the primary role in teaching children the faith.  I know I could use the extra prayers.

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