For the better part of the last five years, I have been involved in parish youth ministry and catechetical formation in two parishes, as both a volunteer and as a paid staff member. Anyone who has taken up the mantle of working with teens and adolescents can attest to the fact that this ministry is not for the faint of heart. Many sleepless nights and hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament are how I have coped with the stress that comes with it all. Now, in order to be a catechist training, education, and experience are always a plus but the truth is… catechesis is for everyone! If you’ve labeled yourself as “Catholic” in the “about me” section of your Facebook profile, then you are called to be a catechist. Seriously.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20
Our charge as Catholics is simple: go make more of us. Jesus’ final commissioning of his followers was to continue the ministry in which he had started; to fulfill the work of the Father in all nations! This can seem like a daunting task and it can be if you take it on, unprepared. So, how do we prepare? How do we become catechists? Well, to start: Pray. Prayer is the most essential aspect of our relationship with God. Prayer is our conversation and it must become a habitual practice in our lives. As we all know, prayer becomes awkward when we don’t put it into constant practice. It’s kind of like asking a favor of a friend with whom you have not spoken to in a while. Start small, go with what you know. A decade of the Rosary. Then two. Eventually, you’ll master the whole thing and you can begin to move on to other forms of prayer (the Church is a gold mine for this type of stuff…). I don’t mean to get all evangelical on you BUT you could even try spontaneous prayer which is, essentially, a prayer of petition, thanksgiving, and adoration all wrapped into one. The point is that prayer will lead you into a perpetual conversation with Christ and all of His family (the angels and saints). Next, and just as important as prayer, would be to embrace the sacramental life. After all, being a catechist will require a great deal of grace. It is important to educate yourself on the nature and meaning of the seven sacraments. Resources like the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the vast library of books written by laity, religious, and clergy alike are available on the subject of sacraments and apologetics. You’ll grow to find that a greater understanding of the Sacraments leads to a greater appreciation (and even desire) for the Sacraments. I would personally suggest frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession or Penance) and the Eucharist. It might be helpful to think of Reconciliation as a form of “spiritual maintenance” and the Eucharist (found in the Mass) is sort of the fuel for our entire lives (especially our catechetical ministry). All that we are and all that we will strive to do, as Catholics, stems from our relationship with Christ in the Eucharist. So then, you know what task lies ahead of you when it comes to the preparation for being a Catechist. Except for one big question: Why me? For starters, are you married? Do you have children? Do you have friends? A Family? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions then you have found your reason for becoming a catechist.
“From the theological point of view every baptized person, precisely the reason of being baptized, has the right to receive from the Church instruction and education enabling him or her to enter on a truly Christian life…” – Pope St. John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae (On Catechesis in Our Time), Article 14
Catechesis is a call for every one of us who profess the Catholic faith. We have the right, by our Baptism, to receive it and the duty, by our Confirmation, to practice it. Put simply, to be a catechist means you are in the disciple-making business. By the words you speak and the way you live, you are obliged to exist in such a way that is abundantly reflective of your own faith. You can’t give away what you don’t have. For that reason, it is of dire importance for you to fall in love with your faith, let it permeate every fiber of who you are. It may not be just your salvation that depends on it, but the salvations of others in need of a strong, Catholic witness of the faith.