We know that catechesis is more
than learning the faith by memory; it's learning the faith by heart.
Head and heart learning are two different things. We can teach someone
about the faith through explanations and discussions, but people's
hearts are more often touched through personal experiences, prayer
We are a Church of rituals. We communicate who
we are and what we are about through our rites and symbols. Rituals
teach; it's that simple. People, young and old, learn by observing
and participating, breathing in the mystery that is faith. As catechetical
leaders, we have an opportunity to facilitate this learning every
time we preside at parish rituals; every time we gather youngsters
or adults for prayer; every time we meet with catechists or small-group
When presiding at parish rituals, consider the
symbols and words you use. Follow the rite, using appropriate gestures.
Prepare and practice beforehand, but remember the most important
preparation is personal prayer.
In her book Called
to Preside: A Handbook for Laypeople, Theresa Cotter talks
about the importance of preparation and practice and reminds us
that the foundation of presiding is the prayer life of the presider.
She tells us that effective presiding is both a skill and an art.
Through practice and study we can learn the skill, but the art of
presiding comes from within. (For
more on the art of presiding, click here.)
Use the same prayer ritual at the begining and/or
the end of classes, sacramental preparation or commission meetings.
Keep it simple; no need for wordy handouts or elaborate settings.
Consider adapting the "Blessing Candles" idea offered
in the "Every Family" column below. Use the same two candles
for every catechetical gathering: one representing the past, the
other the future. As you light each candle say a prayer appropriate
to the gathering. If the candles are lit at the end of the meeting,
the group itself can decide what to pray for (a catechetical moment).
Finally, make sure catechists and small-group
facilitators know the importance of rituals. Help them understand
how important it is to use appropriate symbols (such as candles
or water) when they gather, and to begin and end each gathering
with the same prayers and practice.