Faith that is New and Alive

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I spent one of the most joyful weeks of my life last week in Rome, celebrating the mysteries of Holy Week with our Holy Father. We were seriously blessed. A few of our group greeted him during the Audience, and our week included many other wonderful moments: climbing the Scala Santa on Good Friday; being at the Easter Vigil in St Peter’s; a second-to-none cultural and spiritual itinerary, and being with an inspiring group of young people. 

I came back really loving the messages of Pope Francis so far. I wonder how many of us are already feeling challenged by his words? He is speaking to us constantly about the ‘newness’ of the Christian message, which, for us catechists, is our greatest challenge in handing on the faith. It means that we can never, ever allow ourselves to “get comfortable”, to allow our spiritual lives to slide into something habitual or stale. I have experienced, and I am sure we all have, the danger of becoming even a tiny bit complacent in handing on the faith.

We have a course or programme that “works fine” so we use it every year, without stopping to discern what these particular people need, what the Lord might want us to do differently. 

We’re used to structuring something in a certain way after many years, never questioning whether it produces the greatest fruit, the deepest conversions, for the Lord.

As soon as we get complacent or presumptuous, I find, we’re distanced from the Holy Spirit who is the Master evangelist and teacher, the One who teaches through us.

The Christian message, the Christian event of the Paschal Mystery, is new, fresh, every day, always able to convert and transform us more deeply, always there to make us new in our relationship with the Lord, renewed disciples, ready to go out and evangelise, catechise, again. 

Each morning we wake up, we never know when the Lord might need us to witness to Christ, to explain something to someone, to encourage, to present an alternative outlook, to evangelise, to catechise. Every day, as his disciples, we need to be spiritually “on our toes”, with hearts made new through our prayer and sacramental life, vigilant against sin that separates us from Christ. This is the way, through us, each day, Christ attracts new people to himself. How can we ever get tired of it!

Today, so many of us can see right in front of our eyes that there is an urgency within the Church to hand on the faith; we see the effects of a lack of catechesis for some decades. Precisely because of this urgency, the Church needs, first and foremost, for us to stay very close to Christ, being constantly renewed by prayer, Mass, Confession, by not losing the joy that comes from having our hearts united to Jesus. I heard a priest say recently that a Sister in his community knows when she’s sliding or coasting, because she “loses her joy”. Isn’t this so true? 

I love what Pope Francis, as Cardinal Bergoglio, said to his catechists in Buenos Aires in 2012 about remaining new and alive in our faith (you can read the full letter here): 

There is nothing more opposed to the Spirit than settling down and closing oneself in.  When one does not enter through the door of faith, the door shuts, the Church closes in on herself, the heart falls behind, and fear and the evil spirit “sour” the Good News.  When the Chrism of the Faith dries up and becomes rancid, the faith of the evangelist is no longer contagious but has lost its fragrance, many times becoming a cause of scandal and estrangement for many.  

 

Let’s promise ourselves: the day we stop praying, let’s also stop giving catechesis.

About transformedinchrist

I live in Southsea and work for the Diocese of Portsmouth. My first love is for catechesis and evangelisation: until January 2013, I worked for a busy, thriving parish in south London coordinating the catechesis - sacramental programmes and adult formation. In November 2013, I completed my MA in catechetics at Maryvale Institute, Birmingham. View all posts by transformedinchrist

One response to “Faith that is New and Alive

  • Paul Rodden

    Whilst reading this piece I thought of how important it is that we have more people in the laity who can write as beautifully about our Lord as you, simply because you have a relationship with him.

    As we’d agree, Catechesis has so often been synonymous with ‘instruction’, as if the Faith is merely a set of facts to be appropriated, but, although Baptised, I was brought up as a ‘None’, so what I know I’ve had to learn myself, which has been an upward battle over many years.

    The reason I mention this is that as soon as I started showing any interest, almost everyone suggested I ought to go forward for ordination (I was unmarried then), as if taking one’s faith seriously indicated one had a vocation to priesthood or religious life – and boy, that was attractive – because I could have learned the Faith to my heart’s content!

    But I also believe this mentality has done a lot of damage as it’s reinforced a ‘them and us’ ecclesiological model (clericalism). So, ‘from the other side’, however well-intentioned, it seems to be marking one off as a ‘religious weirdo’ (‘You like that “sort of thing”, so you’ll be at home “with them”, doing “that.”‘).

    Even now, people say I ought to have been a priest, or they should allow married priests so I could ‘be one’…

    I believe we have to break this mentality more than anything else as I see it as the biggest block to the sentiment of your title, ‘Faith that is New and Alive’, because it encourages a two-tier view of the Faith and seems so prevalent. That ‘all that stuff’ isn’t ‘for us’, and I have to say, I’ve never heard a regular priest (i.e., excluding American ‘celebrity’ priests who’ve made it their mission) make any effort whatsoever to correct that mindset.

    I don’t want to hi-jack your blog, H, but may I ask a question of you and other readers of this blog? If not, then fell free not to post this comment or edit out what’s below, if it’s possible.

    Have you had a similar experience? Do people think – if you’re male or female – you ‘ought’ to have been a priest (yes, female priest that the Church desperately lacks) or religious? Or, if you’re single do you feel ‘pressured’ into going in that direction? I wonder how many of our priests and religious who are alcoholic, sexually deviant, or just plain miserable, might have felt under similar duress, especially if Irish?

    I think we desperately need a laity who love Jesus so it becomes like the water we swim in, as I believe it would be the most powerful tool of Catechesis. In other words, a ‘sound’ laity will breed vocations though its momentum, rather than any Catechist who’s any way decent, hopping ‘over the fence’ into priesthood or religious life, making Holy Orders look more like an aviary for exotic birds, which doesn’t send out the right message, does it?

    What do you think?

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