As summer gives way to fall, and especially in the next week or so, the religious education school year starts up once again and the urgent call for Catechists rings out throughout parish communities far and wide from Directors of Religious Education (D.R.E.’s) still scrambling to fill teaching positions. The vast majority of religious education instructors in any diocese are, more than likely, women. Men are also needed and more than welcome to fill these vacancies and to function in the important role of passing on the faith to future generations. Good, faithful men also serve as excellent role models to young girls and boys who view them as the standard for fostering their own future vocations as religious, married or single while still in their formative years. The harvest in the area of catechesis is great, yet the workers with a Y chromosome are relatively and comparatively few. The qualifications are, surprisingly, not so rigorous. Have you received the Sacrament of Confirmation? Are you willing to be trained in learning more about your Catholic heritage and sharing your faith with young people? Do you have a pulse?
Answering “Yes” to these three questions eminently qualifies you as a Candidate for being a Catechist.
If you are reading this and thinking you, as a man, might like to give it a try, but you do not perceive your skill set or knowledge base to be adequate enough, think again. See? You are thinking. We need good thinkers like you. What if you were told that you were absolutely assured of the fact that you have recourse to all the practical information and answers to all kinds of questions at the ready, easy to access and understand? What if you could go to one particularly proven and powerful source of reliable, Church-approved teaching time and time again that makes explaining the faith both informative and interesting? How about using a singular text that will cover all the basics from the Creed to the Ten Commandments, explaining in detail the more salient points of the Seven Sacraments and the Lord’s Prayer In one compact and easy to use reference guide?
Have we got a book for you.
Do you find it a challenge to wrestle with sacred scripture and have trouble making sense of it for yourself, much less for others? Are the traditions of the Church often concepts and ideas difficult to grasp and even harder to discuss with others or impart to them? Does the very thought of exploring what the Church teaches or defending the precepts of the faith seem to be a task beyond your modest capabilities? One publication can eliminate all these doubts and fortify you with a veritable compendium of instant expertise. It is truly a treasure-trove of wisdom from centuries of the greatest popes, saints, theologians and doctors of the Church ever known. And it fits comfortably in the palm of your hand, in the glove compartment of your truck, or in the zippered side pocket of your hunting bag. You can even download it on your own personal digital device.
It is far less costly, yet vastly more valuable. It is not exclusively available with any TV offer. You do not have to enter any special discount/product codes or passwords when ordering. As a matter of fact, the paperback version can be purchased online or at your local Catholic book store for a very modest price, probably less than a burger, fries and a drink at your favorite fast food drive-up. Your parish may even give you one if you ask politely. So, what is this book which will make teaching a religious education class a joy-filled experience for both you and your students?
It is the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).
If you have a CCC, you are battle-ready, prepared to face any group of elementary, junior or senior high students with the confidence and self-assuredness of a Catechist who knows his way around a Table of Contents and a Glossary. CCC in hand, you will be in a position to answer some of the greatest questions that have been puzzling young people for eons, among them, “Will my ferret Bongo go to heaven?” “Is eating a hot dog on a Friday during Lent a sin, you know, the ones made out of pork and chicken and turkey, not the beef ones?” and “Is it wrong to hit my sister back if she hits me first?” And all you have to say before cracking the book open and flipping through the pages is, “Let’s see what the Church teaches…” Because questions like these will, most assuredly, arise.
You will be an Apologist and an Evangelist as well as a Catechist, earning the honored title of “Apolovangechist,” which, although a completely contrived word, something I just made up right now for the purposes of having it sound cool and official and getting you to think about teaching religious education this year, with a copy of the CCC, you will be viewed as wise, learned, scholarly, perhaps even holy. You will be called “teacher,” “instructor,” “Bill” (only if your name is “Bill”), and in some cases, “Hey, there’s the Church Guy.” At the beginning of the year, you will be “commissioned” as a Catechist, often during Mass. It is a relatively painless procedure. This may involve having you stand up, walk to the front of the Church and receive a special blessing, possibly followed by a round of applause from your fellow parishioners, some of whom may be thinking, “Golly, perhaps I, too, could become a Catechist one day like Bill.” As is the practice in many dioceses, after some training, they will award you the “Basic Catechist” Certificate, suitable for framing. And, of course, in time you may earn the august title “Master Catechist,” in which case you will still be called “Bill.”
Let’s talk benefits. The work is hard, the hours are long, and the pay is, well, you typically don’t get paid. You might receive a coffee mug at Christmas time with the words “World’s Greatest Catechist” written on one side. Now let’s talk rewards. They are eternal, grace-filled and blessed. You will pray with and for your students and know in your heart that as two or three or more of you gather in Christ’s name, He is there with you also. You will be an architect in helping to build the New Jerusalem, the forthcoming Kingdom of God by what you do and who you are as a Catechist. A crown and a new name await you, presented and pronounced by the mouth of the Lord. Your efforts will not go unrewarded. It will be one of the most important things you will ever do in your life.
Ideally and practically, you will team-teach with another adult in the room. Your partner will possess the same three qualifications as you, be likewise commissioned, and clutch a CCC firmly between both hands like yourself. Both you and your co-teaching partner will quickly master and frequently repeat the words, “I don’t know. Let’s look it up in the Catechism.” Chances are highly likely whatever information or answer you seek will be there. And ask the Holy Spirit for His help, beginning and ending each class in prayer.
You got this. Go get ‘em, Bill.