Tag Archives: Catholicism


20120318-222329.jpgOne of the most amazing things to experience as a catechist is fruitfulness. It reminds me I am a co-redeemer with God, that I am a co-worker with none other than the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes the reminders of God’s fruitfulness come out of the blue, like the lady who showed up on the doorstep over a year ago, who said the only way she could explain how she got there was that God guided her. She did not know who Jesus was but she felt she wanted to become a Catholic. This Easter, she will be baptised. This is definitely an extraordinary instance of God’s fruitfulness. Mostly, though, God uses ‘ordinary’ ways of drawing people to himself, ways which usually involve other people.

The Catholicism course has been an example of one of these ‘ordinary’, but yet extraordinary, ways of God drawing people to himself. There has been a wonderful grace about this course, an infectious joy and enthusiasm which mean people do not want it to end, and people discovering – some for the first time – the joys of being a Catholic. We have one person who will be received into the Church and another who will be confirmed as a result of this course. We have other cradle Catholics who are more determined to live seriously their Catholic faith. And this kind of joy and enthusiasm does spread. The people who have received a lot are among the first to be signed up to the School of Prayer we have starting after Easter. They are becoming more involved in Church life and telling their friends. Fruitfulness means ever increasing circles of people, more and more connections, and friends of friends drawn into the communion of the Church. It is beautiful to witness it.

It is true to say that working for the Church is often hard, for a variety of different reasons. But this fruitfulness is the main thing that makes it beyond worthwhile. This makes it the job I would do for free if it was practical. What other reason can there be to do a job like this?

New Beginnings

20120108-193153.jpgWe’re halfway through our Confirmation programme and Catechumenate, but even so, January is a great time for us all to come back to them fresh. For both, the next few months involve catechesis on sacramental life in Christ – that is, we’re trying to tie together the teaching on the liturgy and sacraments, and moral life in Christ, as much as possible. Why is this? Because we can only live a fully moral life through the grace we receive in the sacraments. The two are very interconnected. Next weekend, the Catechumenate embark on their retreat at Ampleforth Abbey to prepare them spiritually for the final stretch of catechesis before Lent. This is the time now when they will be challenged to live truly this life set before them – deeply in prayer, and authentically in moral life.

For the Confirmation candidates too, much of their moral formation we hope will be an inspiring and challenging experience for them. We use the film, The Human Experience, to root much of the moral teaching – we draw from it themes such as the dignity of the human person, what freedom is, the Beatitudes, the two greatest commandments, and the human and theological virtues. If you haven’t seen it, The Human Experience is a beautifully made, deeply inspiring film – I want to live so much better each time I watch it! We have found that rooting moral formation in some of the people and issues of the film makes it more alive and real. And following the classes, the candidates will hopefully visit the Friars of the Renewal and the Missionaries of Charity to witness the work they do with the poor. This is our plan, and I will let you know how it works with our candidates 🙂

The biggest new beginning we have this week is the first session of Catholicism, our new adult formation programme based on Fr Robert Barron’s DVD series. We’ve been so encouraged by the response to this programme – we have between 30-40 adults signed up, many young adults, from many different backgrounds and with lots of different reasons for taking part. The absolute deadline for bookings is Wednesday and at the moment, we have capacity for a few more… Come and join us! 🙂 I am really looking forward to a wonderful few weeks of deepening understanding of our faith, new friendships, and hopefully a renewed commitment to the Lord for many people. Please keep this project in your prayers!

Catechising or Publicising?

The role of catechetical coordinator can involve anything from mastering spreadsheets to catering for big catechetical groups. I find that one of the jobs I need to become super-good at is: publicising. Who knew that to be a catechist you also need the skills of a publicist? This is what I seem to spend most of my day doing – how to best reach out to publicise our next formation event. Mailouts are important, but being my parish priest’s PA I know that most of what comes through the post goes straight in the bin. Sorry Cafod. More and more I am realising that we cannot simply put on events – however excellent – and expect people to come to them. We need to reach out to where they are – but how? I am frequently mildly irritated by people bombarding me with their latest event on Facebook. Perhaps sometimes bombardment seems the only way to get your message out into the already saturated reality of people’s lives.

This is the million-dollar question: How can Christ’s voice be heard amidst the cacophony of other voices and messages and images? Perhaps there isn’t such a disparity after all between catechist and publicist, since in publicising we are evangelising, and a catechist must also necessarily be an evangelist. So, instead of mindlessly pumping out ‘noise’ about our next amazing event, I think that our evangelising and publicising need to be guided by prayer, diligence, intelligence, and sensitivity to what will attract people. Bombardment gets a message in people’s faces, but somehow, we need to open a person’s heart to the still, small voice of Christ calling them from the distractions of the chaos around them, and back into themselves, into Him.

As we publicise our next big event, my prayer each morning is that Christ guides those who are helping with this project to invite the people He most wants to be there. I am convinced that there are countless adults out there, hungry for this Good News in their lives, so I feel that if we end up with a small number of participants, we have not done our best for Him. More people need to hear this message! More people need to encounter Him!

Social media is an exciting opportunity for us at this time. Never has it been so easy to connect with so many people. We are currently planning a revamp of our parish website to maximise opportunities for evangelisation and easier communications within and outside the parish. There is much to be said about this, which it would be good to follow up on in future posts. However, above all else that could be said, of paramount importance is the need for us to master this media and use it for our ends – not for it to master us by idling hours away on Facebook.

The Newness of the Gospel Message

It seems to be increasingly common that we meet someone who has no idea what the Christian message is. Even though we are aware of how post-Christian our society has become, it still comes as a surprise when you encounter someone for whom this message is brand new.

This is what I have discovered recently with a woman who wants to become Catholic. This is a wonderful lady who has had an experience of God, but I discovered, on telling her the Gospel message, the kerygma, that it was completely new to her.

We are meeting up weekly for extra catechesis using the excellent Anchor resource. I told her what happened at the Annunciation and the meaning of this for the whole of humanity. “Wow,” she said, “that is just amazing.” The following week, I told her the whole story of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. I spend much of my life giving catechesis, but there is something extremely different about telling someone the Gospel message for the very first time. As I told her what happened to Jesus, the devastation of the Apostles, what happened on the Sunday morning, the realisation that he had risen, and some of the Resurrection appearances, it took on a new freshness for me too. I was telling something that really happened. When the lady heard that Jesus rose from the dead, she responded, “but that’s just incredible… that means he overcame death? So… we never have to worry about death, we never have to be afraid!” It was kind of strange and wonderful at the same time to witness someone’s initial reaction to the Good News that Jesus rose from the dead.

The title of the first episode of the Catholicism series is “Amazed and Afraid”. It is based on a line in Mark’s Gospel which says:

“And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.” Mark 10:32

The disciples, if they hadn’t done so already, were realising Who Jesus was, and this dawning realisation made them “amazed” and “afraid” – two powerful reactions to the Presence of God himself. This is the reaction the Gospel message should elicit in us – especially those two fundamental truths – that God became a man, and that God died in the flesh for us. I discovered, as I was telling the Gospel message to this lady for the first time, that if we stop being amazed and afraid by these incredible mysteries, it means we’ve stopped diving deeper into them, we’ve “domesticated” them.