What are we to do?
Something we as catechists need to address when embarking on our ministry is not only the question of what we are to teach but more importantly what God wants us to accomplish. What is our ultimate goal as a catechist when engaging those we catechize?
We could provide our students with all sorts of information, after all the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the “sure norm for teaching” the Deposit of Faith, is made up of 2,865 articles. Sacred Scripture is made up of 73 books, over 1300 chapters and more than 35,000 verses. Add to Sacred Scripture our Sacred tradition which is made up of the writings of 266 Popes, numerous saints and the fathers of the church, and one finds more than a lifetime worth of knowledge to pass on to our students. But knowledge will not bring our students far enough. That is why in the General Directory For Catechesis the Church tells us...
Truly, to help a person encounter God, which is the task of the catechist, means to emphasize above all the relationship that the person has with God so that he can make it his own and allow himself to be guided by God.
Our goal is clear...It is to help our students encounter the living God. But the question now is, how do we do that?
Let us turn to our Mother, the Church for that answer.
The Pedagogy of God
Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.
God incarnated Himself and became man. In becoming man, Jesus shows us the way to be fully and perfectly human. With that understanding as a basis, we can understand when the Church uses the term Pedagogy of God, she means that we should teach as God teaches and do so with the same end in mind. That end is the revelation of God’s love and His salvific work to restore man to Himself.
In the Old Testament God reveals Himself as a loving father through His works and deeds, through the covenants and promises and through the laws and prophets. He incarnates Himself as Jesus Christ in the fullness of time and we hear from the authors of the Gospels, Jesus’ revelation of the Father. In the age of the Church, the Holy Spirit rules and guides the Church so that she may effectively reveal God to man.
It is this threefold pedagogy of revelation that makes God known to man and accomplishes the guiding of man to God. We as catechists must therefore not rely on our own created methods of instruction. While modern educational theories may be used to assist us instructing, they can not be the guiding principle behind our catechesis. The guiding principle of our catechesis must be rooted in faith in God’s Divine Pedagogy, for He is the only one that can bring man to Himself. We are just the ones who point our students to Him.
To point our students toward Jesus, we must look to Him to guide our action. He gives us this guidance when we turn to the Gospels. By prayerfully reading and meditating on His encounters with man we can learn from Him they way to guide souls to God. Looking to the Gospel of John in Chapter 15 we see that an important aspect of His pedagogy is establishing a bond of friendship with His apostles. He says, “I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” It is this bond of friendship we must build with our students to gain their trust so that we may lead them to Jesus. Without that bond of trust and friendship they will not follow us to Him.
In Luke 11 we see Jesus teaching the apostles to pray. We too must teach our students to pray, because it is in prayer that we encounter God’s desire for us. Reflecting on the encounter of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, the Church recognizes that prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours.
There is a wealth of guidance we can glean from the Gospels. Therefore, if we desire to be effective catechists we must be students of the gospels. We must spend time prayerfully reading the life of our Lord.
Go and make disciples.
The making of disciples, should be the goal of every catechist. It is the task given to the apostles by Jesus prior to His Glorious Ascension. It is the charge that the apostles passed on to their successors the bishops who have handed that role on down through the centuries. And it is our role as lay catechists to support the Bishops in answering that call of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church has given us the way to answer that call and that way is the Pedagogy of God.
1 General Directory for Catechesis(GDC) 139
2 Gaudium et Spes 22
3 GDC 139-142
4 Gospel of John 15:15
5 Gospel of Luke 11:1-2
6 Catechism of the Catholic Church 2560