Christmas is the perfect time to think about how Christ our Saviour needs to be central in our lives (a lifelong work) and therefore, especially, in our catechesis.
We all know that Christ-centred is what our catechesis should be. But, when you’re caught last minute on a Monday evening because another catechist can’t make it to give catechesis on the Four Last Things, do we stop and pray and prepare a Christ-centred session unveiling the realities of death, judgement, heaven and hell? Or do we rush in with a hastily printed out handout, ready to zip over quickly some essential bullet points?
However doctrinally fluent and theologically well-formed we are, we can never dispense with prayer and preparation, if we have a true understanding of catechesis as a work of the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes if my day hasn’t quite gone to plan, and I’ve been consumed with unexpected but essential admin tasks, I am aware that, on my way to a catechetical session where I’m using last year’s class, in an ideal world, I should be better prepared and more thoroughly “geeked-up”. Going into visit the Blessed Sacrament before catechesis is a great habit to be in. Because of the craziness of our lives and the many pressures that edge in on our time, despite all our best intentions, the Lord is constantly working with tired, scattered, disorganised servants of his Word. And in those few moments in front of the Blessed Sacrament, we can offer our scattered work and intentions to him, and ask him to take over, to be active in the hearts of the catechised, and in our own words and actions.
As well as giving priority of place to Christ in our own hearts, our catechesis must also be structured in a way to witness to this. Structure and methodology in themselves teach key principles. If we give priority to Christ in catechesis, we are subtly, and in all things, teaching the catechised: Christ comes first.
Here are just two examples from our Confirmation sessions. We wanted to teach that all Scripture is fulfilled and finds its meaning in Christ. These two sessions were classes on both Scripture and the Person of Christ. In the first, we explored the five Old Testament covenants – the signs, foreshadowings and types which point to and are fulfilled in Christ, which the candidates uncovered themselves. No more were Abraham and Moses ‘nice Bible stories’, but rather hidden heralds of the Messiah. In the second, the candidates acted a scriptural narrative where they played the roles of Old Testament prophets proclaiming – hundreds and even thousands of years in advance – the Saviour. After participating in this scriptural narrative, they explored it in more depth to uncover in what ways the prophecies pointed to Christ.
Later in that session, we were discussing the full divinity and full humanity of Jesus Christ. The candidates had two-sided signs (one side ‘fully God’ and the other side ‘fully man’) to hold up as we stated certain facts about Jesus’ life (e.g. “he performed miracles – does this show he’s fully God or fully man?” FULLY GOD! Woooo!) After this candidates were invited to share any other facts from Jesus’ life to show that he was either fully God or fully man. One boy exclaimed, ‘He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey!’ He was referring to the prophecy from Zephaniah 9:9 they had just heard in the scriptural narrative: Behold, your King is coming to you; he is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey. Yippee! He got it 🙂 Maybe just one of them did, but that was worth it.