Monday, May 19, 2008

The Pope talks to Catholic Educators

Just out of pure interest, I have been reviewing Pope Benedict’s addresses to various audiences during his trip to Washington D.C. Anyone who claims that this man, or his Church, is out of touch with the “real” world, hasn’t been listening.

In his address to Catholic educators, he spoke to this Catechist’s heart. He reiterated his thoughts from his encyclical Spe Salvi, that “First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth.” The second emphasis was that “This relationship elicits a desire to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and his teaching.”

Simply put: Catholic schools (not to mention parishes in general, and Catholics in particular!) should be an encounter with Jesus. This encounter should be so significant that it causes one to want to grow—not only in their knowledge, but also in their understanding—of who Jesus is and what he teaches.

That’s huge. That’s a great challenge to anyone interested in spiritual formation.

First and foremost, you need to be practicing the faith you are teaching; by doing so, you will draw others to Christ. That is evangelization. That is your mission. That is your partaking in the mission of Christ. To achieve this, your life must be a considered response to questions Pope Benedict asked in this address:

Do we really believe that only in the mystery of the Word made flesh does the mystery of man truly become clear?

Are we ready to commit our entire self—intellect and will, mind and heart—to God?

Do we accept the truth Christ reveals?

Is the faith tangible in our universities and schools?

Is it given fervent expression liturgically, sacramentally, through prayer, acts of charity, a concern for justice, and respect for God’s creation?

Even if you have never taught a religious education class in your life, you certainly have encountered members of your family, friends and neighbors who are in need of God’s healing love. You may be raising children (or grandchildren) that can benefit from an increased desire for Christ as well.

Take a bit of time with these questions and reflect on them. I welcome your comments.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Educating Catholic Children

I was reading an article in the National Catholic Register about Pope Benedict's speech to educators and administrators. An educator, Andrew ABela, who heard the address said:

"For us teachers, it is not just about what we teach, but about who we are; for our students, not just about what they learn, but who they become--and, in particular, to what extent we help them to overcome their reluctance to entrust themselves to God."

Amen, I say. Amen.

As a Catechist (one who instructs Religious Education teachers) his words struck at the heart of my beliefs about religious education. Anyone can stand up in front of a group of students and pour information into them. It is the work of a teacher (particularly a rel. ed. teacher), to be concerned about who that student becomes and how they relate to God in their lives.

At the forefront of the religious education changes that are necessary, is the reality that the teachers themselves must be of a certain mindset and lifestyle if they are to convey the truths of the Church to their students. Students must see "lived faith in action" if they are to comprehend any idea of what it means to be a Christian.

Additionally, families must gather around their faith and cling tight to what they know and believe to be true, as the tides wash against their children. Christ is the one we can believe in and trust; He is the one who will set our course straight. In a related article, Pope Benedict said that this is a springtime of hope for Christians.

The struggles we are going through now will certainly work to make us stronger.

He is a wise man and one to whom we should pay very close attention.