Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Week 13: Expect Conversion

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets 

 LawnChairCatechism
 Week 13; y'all go see other peoples' responses here.

Have you ever felt isolated in your quest to follow Jesus?

Umm, no. Never. I simply can't imagine such a thing. My world would have to be upside down for that to happen.

What are ways you have built a community of spiritual companions?

I live in the Bible Belt where lots of Catholics tend to be fired-up. My wife and I are friends with so many like-minded Catholics that last time we had a Christmas party for them (2011), we had to throw two parties to invite all hundred or so of them. We meet more at parish breakfasts, parties, lectures, after Mass, on the internet, workshops, lifechain, KofC events...it's easy. For example, I just got back from a parish catechists' workshop, where I sat with a married couple. The husband will be the bouncer in my 6th-grade class, and his wife will teach third grade. I asked them right away if they were cradles or converts; they had converted from the Southern Baptist denomination a few years ago. We discussed their faith journey, their dissatisfaction with "Bible churches" they'd attended, their RCIA experience, why they converted to Catholicism in particular, why they were at our parish, how Catholicism suited them, their motivations and expectations for catechizing, etc. Then we talked with a cradle Catholic preschool catechist from Michigan, who commented on the number of proselytizers who came to her door. We discussed seeing those visits as evangelizing opportunities, and I said that preparing my 6th-graders to evangelize is a big part of class. Finally I invited them all to give the monthly parish breakfast a try: it's affordable, restaurant-quality food with a wide selection of dishes, and a chance to experience some Catholic Fellowship (yikes!) and plug into the parish family. It was a very agreeable and affirming evening- and not at all unusual.

You’ve put a lot of energy over the course of this study into learning about the need for evangelization and discipleship, and how to fulfill that need. Do you plan to take action? In what way?

I know this will make me sound like a smug spoilsport, but evangelization has been my second job since about 1998.

And regarding the post (and chapter) title: yeah, I expect conversion. I see it all the time.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Expecting a different result?

Bumbling around today I stubbed my toe on this 1991 quote by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger:

"The new evangelization we need so urgently today is not to be attained with cleverly thought out ideas, however cunningly these are elaborated: the catastrophic failure of modern catechesis is all too obvious. It is only the interaction of a truth conclusive in itself with its proof in the life of this truth that can enable that particular evidence of the faith to be illuminated that the human heart awaits: it is only through this door that the Holy Spirit enters the world."

I'd be curious to know if anyone who was catechizing back then can say that we're catechizing any differently now.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Well- How Did I Get Here?

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

 LawnChairCatechism

I ran into a lotta good content over here and decided to answer some of the questions.

How would you describe what your spiritual gifts are (or might be)?

Very briefly, and fueled by a gin & tonic: I was raised to have a Catholic imagination, have been curious about everything since I was little, and am a voracious reader of (mostly) nonfiction. First I loved history, maps, science fiction, and Ross MacDonald detective stories; then I discovered languages and classical music; in college I was fascinated by opera, art and architecture; then I married a relentlessly-curious woman and had kids, which explosively expanded my existential worldview; then God became an all-consuming interest about 25 years ago, and still holds the #1 position.

Out of the blue one day I was asked to teach Adult Ed- and it was terrific. Then RCIA- the same. Then 6th-grade Catechism, which has been, well, transcendent. I do believe my whole life has been a preparation to teach kids about God. So my charisms are: to see the biggest possible picture of anything in its smallest detail; to understand everything in relation to everything else, and see God in all of it; and to communicate the whole mess to 11 year olds.

In what ways could you evangelize or disciple others using those gifts?

Well, if you can explain something to 6th-graders you can explain it to anybody.

Think for a moment about the other members of your parish.  Who do you know who seems to have a very evident gift for some type of ministry, but perhaps is not aware of it? 

I know of a dozen or so who stand right at the end of the diving board and won't take the leap of faith. I ask 'em and they demur. Asking people in a way that gets results is clearly not one of my charisms.

Think for a moment about the lay leaders of your parish.

Huh...I don't think of my parish as having lay leaders. I think of the parish as having a critical mass of motivated Catholics who get on with the business of the Church without being led.




 Well- How Did I Get Here?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Organic Catechesis

This article was originally posted at New Evangelizers; and links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

 Angel Oak

Fellow blogger Ruth Curcuru (who uses the handle RAnn) commented on a recent catechetical post, observing that the current catechetical model takes "a topic-based approach that uses scripture as a resource, rather than a scripture study approach."  Her remark clarified something about my own catechetical worldview that has always been rather vague to me.

I understand my task as a catechist is to teach Catholicism evangelically. If you count time in Adult Ed & RCIA, I've been at it since 1998. Even in that first year of Adult Ed, I was using the Bible in the classroom; but it took 11 years, 8 of them teaching 6th-graders, until I truly noticed how comprehensively the Bible had revised how I thought about catechesis.

I started blogging in October of 2008. I was 51 years old, and annoyed with half-formed thoughts that never coalesced into anything definitive. Blogging would give this non-writer an easy, non-word-processing format for writing stuff down for my own benefit. October 2008 was also the second month of my 5th year of teaching 6th grade. Soon I was writing about catechism class; I hadn't expected to. On October 26, I posted about using Bible stories to teach textbook content.  I closed with:

"The teacher's manual has both Bible and Catechism references for each chapter which are valuable, but mostly for a 180-day academic year. I'm thinking that there may be a way to teach the required content better over 30 classes by mining selected stories one at a time, and applying those lessons to the subject matter in the book. At this point it's just an idea."

Teaching the textbook's topics with the Bible was just great. I had no explicit plan, but the more I used the Bible, the easier it was to teach within the 30-class-max Sunday School format. In May 2009, I posted a list of all the Bible stories I remembered using that year. I was surprised at how many there were, but they were still individual, unintegrated stories coordinated with particular subject matter. During the following 2009-10 year, I started to figure out that using Scripture as an adjunct to the textbook was not the most effective way to be teaching the kids. I was constantly jumping around in the Bible in order to align with the textbook. Maybe it would be better to align the curriculum to the Bible, and thus be able to take advantage of its intrinsic structure and Big Picture of Salvation History. In other words, I needed a new catechetical paradigm. To maximize the teaching potential of Scripture I had to drop the existing textbook curriculum. When the 2010-2011 year began, I had a whole new approved curriculum based on following the path that had been worn over 2000 years ago. It is so easy to teach Catholicism this way. It's as though the Bible had been cleverly designed for this very purpose. As Sherry Weddell would say: It Is Normal.

That gets me back to Ruth's comment. My Sunday-Schoolers don't learn topically anymore; instead they are doing Scripture Study. That never occurred to me until today; I always thought in terms of 'Teaching Catholicism from the Bible'; but never 'Teaching the Bible Which is Catholic'. So they are learning their Catholic Faith not just in its details, but in its Big Picture- which coincidentally is confluent with the Bible in its details, and in its Big Picture. Catholicism and Scripture are organically fused. The kids' Bible Study is inseparable from their Catholic Study. They thrive together, like parents and children. Or like anything that lives and grows: where should I plant a new tree in my yard? Wherever it would naturally grow best on its own. Does the Church grow best when the faithful are fully engaged with Scripture? Surely she must. So here's a New Evangelism concept for the existing term "Organic Catechesis:" the whole Faith; the whole Bible; the whole time.


* Angel Oak, only slightly younger than the Church herself.