Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Git Fired Up

 This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

Y'all come to my Catechist presentation in Columbia SC on Sept 21. Surprisingly, it's called "The Bible Tells Me So." What could it possibly be about? Come and see.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Catholic Teachers' Conference

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

Loaves and Fishes excerpt from one of my sessions from last March. This sketch goes with the content:

Monday, July 15, 2013

There Is No Substitute

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets and Convert Journal

good guess, but wrong

wrong again- sorry

still wrong

that's it

Among all the Christian churches, the Catholic Church has the most to gain from a Bible-literate membership, given that the Bible is a Catholic book.  Yet the Catholic Church must have the most Bible-illiterate flock on the planet. Of course the Church is well-aware: at least since Vatican 2, she has been exhorting a billion or so of her sheep to just pick it up and read the thing:

"The sacred synod also earnestly and especially urges all the Christian faithful, especially Religious, to learn by frequent reading of the Catechism the "excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:8). "For ignorance of the Catechism is ignorance of Christ."

Just kidding. Here ya go: "The sacred synod also earnestly and especially urges all the Christian faithful, especially Religious, to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the "excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:8). "For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ." [St. Jerome] Therefore, they should gladly put themselves in touch with the sacred text itself, whether it be through the liturgy, rich in the divine word, or through devotional reading, or through instructions suitable for the purpose and other aids which, in our time, with approval and active support of the shepherds of the Church, are commendably spread everywhere." [Dei Verbum, 1965]

Umm...yes! We should all "gladly" do as the Church asks. But as Pork said, "Askin' ain't gettin'," and who knows that better than the Catholic Church? Regardless, being a catechist I focus on the "instruction" bit of that long last sentence.
Catechetical Sunday is coming up in September along with the start of most RCIA programs. In response, I've been looking at catechetical/ RCIA stuff such as this; and this; and this; and these. And once again I draw this conclusion:   

Institutional Catechesis continues to make inadequate use of the Bible.

By that I mean the Catholic catechetical system has had 48 years since Dei Verbum to raise its Scriptural game to an appropriate level; and is still nowhere near doing so. And what level would be appropriate? Well, maybe the level of our fellow Christians (and especially the Fundiegelicals who comprise the majority of Christians where I live), who were making maximum pedagogical use of Scripture long before there was a Vatican 2. Around here (and I assume elsewhere) Catholics of all ages are way behind their Christian peers in following the recommendation of the Catholic Church "to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the "excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ." That would be a good joke if it were funny. And BTW, hearing the divine Scriptures read aloud at Sunday Mass ain't the same as "frequent reading of the divine Scriptures." 

Now as to catechetical materials, I speak only of my own experience. Most of my religious instruction was via the Baltimore Catechism (B.C.). It was an excellent system to keep one Catholic in a culture that was already Catholic. It worked just fine in the South Louisiana of my childhood; it was a disaster in Upstate South Carolina. Either way, rote-memorization catechesis was an outmoded and soon-to-be obsolete method of faith-formation. I know some Catholics are fond of the B.C., and suggest it should be tried again. My opinion is that catechesis must be more about thinking, and less about memorizing: the B.C. is DOA in the 21st century. And in that respect I like the catechetical series my parish uses, Faith and Life by Ignatius Press. It expects the 6th-graders to think, and it's way Bible. Yet at the same time, it ain't Bible-enough. I expect a child who goes through the whole K-8 series will come out with a comprehensive grasp of Catholicism; but only a fragmented and separate grasp of the Bible. It's still the old problem: the Faith (and the Catechism) is here, and the Bible is over there. That's wrong: Faith and Scripture are part of a single entity, the way a man and wife form a marriage, fused and complementary in all respects. Jesus is the Word made Flesh; the Bible is the Word Written Down. That's how catechesis should be understood, but that's not how it is understood. Part of the problem is that the old Baltimore Catechism has been replaced by the CCC, which instead of supporting the Bible, shunts the Bible to the side as the B.C. used to. In other words, the Bible currently serves as a resource to add depth to the CCC and the textbook, but it should be the other way around. When the Baltimore Catechism was rightfully retired, there was the chance to pick up the Bible; but the new Catechism has been picked up instead. That's a mistake. The Catholic's primary faith book is the Bible: not the Catechism, and not a textbook. The CCC and textbooks are the handmaids of Scripture; the framework of catechesis, and what happens in the Catholic classroom should reflect that. Catechetically, the Bible should come first, supported by the CCC and the textbook. Put another way, catechesis needs a new paradigm.

Catholic theologian and author R.R. Reno recently wrote, "...we...should do more to create a platform for the reconstruction of a biblically-informed culture..." Indeed we should: Reno anticipates the benefits of the New Evangelization.  But if Catholics going through the Church's educational systems can't explain their faith and morals scripturally to their friends and neighbors, Reno can fuhgeddaboudit.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

f u cn rd ths...

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets 

Originally posted at New Evangelizers, but it applies to you lot as well.

...then you should be catechizing in a classroom. I already know you are a self-selected follower of New Evangelizers. Therefore I also know:

A. You take evangelizing seriously.

B. You can read.

I have to digress already. About 30 years ago I worked in a small Southern mill town. Once during lunch I overheard a remark about a candidate in the mayoral election: "So Jones is running, eh? I already got his campaign slogan: "Vote for Jones: He Can Read." I love that: it was actually a riff on another saying, "A Methodist is a Baptist who can read." I don't remember if Jones was a Methodist or not. Regardless, it's still true: if you can read, and take evangelizing seriously, you should try being a catechist.

But Christian, there are already enough catechists; my parish doesn't need any more.

Maybe. But many (if not most) catechists are parents of children in the program. When a child ages out, so does the parent. And they do the job out of duty more than vocation; and because the DRE asked them; and because three people quit last year; and....get it?

Yes, but I don't think I'm called to be a catechist.

Yes, but you don't know unless you try.

But no-one has asked me.

I'm asking you right now.

But you aren't the parish DRE or the pastor.

Well, God is asking you through me instead of going through the usual channels.

But I'm not prepared. I don't know how to teach.

Then volunteer to be a helper. Even illiterate Cossacks can be helpers. But being the evangel-serious reader that you are, after one year of helping you will be itching to run your own class the next year.

I don't really know my faith well enough to teach it to anyone.

You probably do, but just haven't been in the right situation. Besides, the Holy Spirit will support you. And teaching something is the best way to know it.

I'm already volunteering at my parish.

Me, too. I do stuff with the Knights of Columbus. But catechizing is essential. Serving the parish breakfast, as much I like doing it, is not. And many people can do that as well as me, if not better. Not everyone is called to be a catechist. Maybe you are.

I’m not hearing that call.

Giving it a try may open your ears. It opened mine.

Our Religious Ed program seems too fluffy. It doesn't suit me.

All the more reason for an evangel-type like you to get in the classroom. As long as you cover the material, you can be as un-fluffy as you like. Catechists have a lot of discretion as to how they teach.

The parents of the kids won't help with anything, they just drop them off and pick them up.

That's enough; the rest will be up to you. You'll focus on the kids in front of you, not their parents.

And they don't take the kids to Mass or teach them anything at home. The parents don't know or practice their faith.

That’s just another reason for the kids to spend time with a motivated Catholic such as you. Don't blame the kids for their parents. And don't blame the parents too much; they were probably badly catechized when they were kids.

Teaching catechism isn’t the same thing as evangelizing.

It is the same thing if you decide that’s how it’s going to be.

I'm more interested in evangelizing adults out in the world, not kids in a classroom setting.

You can still do that. But dozens of adults don't reliably show up in a classroom 30 times a year to be evangelized. Ya can't beat that gold-plated opportunity. And I used to teach Adult Ed and RCIA before I was Shanghai'd against my will into teaching kids. Turns out dealing with kids is better: it's like pouring water on a sponge. Besides, you're also evangelizing the adults they'll become. You don’t just change the present, you change the future. So there.

Well, if you didn't want to be a catechist you were no different from me.

That's right. That's my point- I wouldn't give it a try until I was asked; and only by giving it a try did I discover that I liked it. But remember- I'm asking you not because you're a warm body. I'm asking you because you are already interested in evangelizing.

nd bcs u cn rd.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Hindsight Provided by Jesus

In Wednesday Night Sunday School we cover this bit of 1 Kings 19:

Elijah set out and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat,
as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen;
he was following the twelfth.
Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over him.

As I read, the kids explain the significance of 12 oxen:

 "Why 12 oxen? 'Cause there are 12 tribes! Yes. Why 12 tribes? 'Cause he had 12 sons! Who? Joseph! No, Joseph's daddy...he grabbed his brother's heel...Jacob! Yes, whose name was changed to...he wrestled all night with the angel...Israel! Yes, so the twelve- Israel! Yes, ya too fast!"

We go on to discuss the significance of Elisha allowing Elijah to put his cloak over Elisha's shoulders, which a boy and I act out with my suit jacket. And we finish with these lines:

Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said,
“Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,
and I will follow you.”
Elijah answered, “Go back!
Have I done anything to you?”
Elisha left him, and taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them;
he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh,
and gave it to his people to eat.
Then Elisha left and followed Elijah as his attendant.


That vignette was the O.T. reading for the Mass on June 30. It was appropriately paired with this Gospel reading from Luke 9:

And to [someone] he said, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

And another said, “I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”

To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” 

Since we have the benefit of a complete Bible, OT and NT, it's easy for the Church to pair stories like this so we can see the connection. But at the moment that Jesus had this conversation, would anyone have realized Jesus was riffing on Elijah? Let me guess: probably not, excepting any 'well-versed' scribe or Pharisee within earshot. So my next guess is that's why Jesus mentioned a plow: to help the average illiterate listener link this teaching moment to Elisha's discipleship; and to see that Jesus set a higher standard than Elijah.

I don't have time in the catechetical year to cover that NT story. But if I did, I expect the kids would nail the plow reference with no trouble because it had been vividly portrayed earlier; and via the usual Q&A process, figure out what Jesus was driving at.

Catechetical points:

1. When the NT alludes to the OT, make sure the kids get the connection.

2. Put the kids into the live context of a story, and remind them if necessary that most people at any given moment had no idea how something would turn out.