Catechists are more than a volunteer because to be a catechist is a “calling”. The Church sees the ministry of a catechist as an apostolate (the dictionary defines this word in two ways: 1. The office, or responsibilities of an apostle. And 2. A group of people that exists for the spreading of religious doctrine.). This is significant when we consider the importance of passing on the Catholic faith to our students.
The National Directory for Catechesis articulates 6 characteristics that are central to the spiritual life of a catechist (the italics indicate what the Directory says – Page 229):
1. A Love of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and of Christ’s Church, Our Holy Father, and God’s holy people. Many in my parish are catechists because their child is in the class they teach and this may be true in your parish as well. However, it is essential to help each catechist see that their authentic witness of the love they have for God, for His Church, the Holy Father and God’s people be evident in their lives. No knowledge, natural talent or charm as a catechist can replace a true love for God or the other people mentioned.
2. A coherence and authenticity of life that is characterized by their faithful practice of the faith in a spirit of faith, charity, hope, courage, and joy. The true mark of a disciple is an authentic and genuine witness of life. Do others see a spirit of faith, charity, hope, courage and joy in us? Pray for the grace to witness these virtues in your life.
3. Personal prayer and dedication to the evangelizing mission of the Church. Personal prayer is foundational to our spiritual lives. It is essential to our spiritual life. Through your personal encounter and experiences with God you will be able to draw your students into a deeper faith. If they don’t see that it is personal for you then it won’t be personal for them. Also, a dedication to the evangelizing mission of the Church is the calling of every baptized follower of Christ. The Church exists to evangelize. Evangelize what or who? The Good News of the Gospel Message to every soul in the world. The Church’s mission is to reveal God’s plan of salvation to everyone and to help them respond to God’s plan. We ought to catechize our students with this in mind – that we are helping them know and experience God’s plan of salvation for them.
4. A missionary zeal by which they are fully convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith and enthusiastically proclaim it. Even if we are only missionaries within our own parish there is a great need to have the zeal of a missionary who is “fully convinced” of the truths of the Catholic faith and desires to pass that on with an enthusiasm. After all, our Faith is dynamic and we ought to be compelled to share it in all its fullness and beauty.
5. Active participation in their local parish community, especially by attendance at Sunday Eucharist. Even though it happens, it is hard to understand how anyone would be able to stand in front of their students week after week without participating in the life of the parish – especially at Sunday Mass. The Sunday liturgy is at the heart and center of the Christian life.
6. A devotion to Mary, the first disciple and the model of catechists, and to the Most Holy Eucharist, the source of nourishment for catechists. Look at the saints – all of them had a devotion to Mary and the Holy Eucharist. Mary is our model and the Eucharist is our spiritual food that truly sustains us.
Consider these 6 characteristics as you grow spiritually as a catechist. Christ is calling you and the Holy Spirit is pouring out the graces you need to be the light of the world.
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