Francis, Catechist in Action | Fr. James V.
Schall, SJ | CWR
Thoughts on the Holy Father's recent address about "one of the most beautiful educational adventures"
“If a needy person requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind. Offer the deed to God as your prayer. Do not become upset or feel guilty because you interrupted your prayer to serve the poor. God is not neglected if you leave him for such service. One of God’s works is merely interrupted so another can be carried out.”
— St. Vincent de Paul, (d. 1660), Letter #2546.
“Even if at times it (catechetical teaching) can be difficult, if it is so much work, if it presses upon us and we do not see the results we wish, still to educate in the faith is beautiful! The faith is perhaps the most beautiful heritage that we can give because it makes you grow. To help children, boys and girls, young men, women, and adults to know and to love the Lord ever more is one of the most beautiful educational adventures, for it comprises the Church!”
— Pope Francis, Address to International Catechetical Congress, September 27, 2013.
“Old Jesuits,” Pope Francis explained to the Catechetical Congress in the Paul VI Audience Hall in the Vatican, this past Friday, always divide their talks “into three parts.” In fact, practically everything I have read of Pope Francis divides into three parts, like Caesar’s Gaul. This discourse to the catechists is no exception. In his recent interview with the Jesuit editor, the Pope also recalled the famous Jesuit advice to learn to “contemplate in action.” Though he does not neglect times of prayer and solitude, as we see in this discourse, still Pope Francis seems, like St. Vincent de Paul, to be a man eager for action, for getting things moving.
In his exhortation to the catechists, Pope Francis continues his almost relentless attack on those who think that an office or a status is sufficient. Just to have the name or diploma of being a catechist (or a professor, or a vicar, or a bishop) is not enough. “To be a catechist is a vocation.” What really counts is our personal “testimony,” not our titles. This witness is what people watch for. Francis cites Benedict XVI: “The Church does not increase by proselytism but by attraction,” by the attraction of those lives that live the faith. “To be a catechist means to give testimony to the faith.” Francis also cites Francis of Assisi who told his brothers: “Preach, always preach the Gospel, and, if necessary, also with words.” That is, our best “preaching” is not with words but with the witness of our lives. People see the Gospel first in the way we live. That is where they “read” the Gospel.
Obviously, Francis puts a great responsibility on every one who has the faith—the responsibility of passing it on. To be a catechist requires love, always one that is “stronger.” This love comes from Christ. It is a “gift.” We do not concoct it by ourselves. If we think we can, we depart from the love that Christ gives to us. “What does it mean to be a catechist?” the Pope asks. What does it mean for you, “even for me?”
First of all, to go forth from Christ means to be “familiar” with Him.