Well, not really. What he said was that catechists are “pillars” for education in the faith. This came in the context of his remarks to the participants in the International Conference on Catechesis.
This was a neat article for Cathy and I as we are both catechists. Cathy is in her second year teaching a fifth grade formation class for our parish. She does sword drills with them (an idea we borrowed from our Protestant friends), has crafts, lets the journal privately and works to help them understand the sacraments. It’s been a great experience for her.
I’ve been asked to take on a special class for a group of young people who have never had any of the sacraments. I’ll be meeting them soon to set a schedule and get started. They range in age (I think) from about eight to about fourteen, so it should be an interesting challenge. I’m looking forward to it.
Cathy and I have also been invited to take formal catechist training through the Salt Lake Diocese.
So, the article resonated with us. As is his way, Pope Francis also dropped a challenge in along with the praise.
“This is a beautiful experience, and a bit paradoxical…Why? Because the person who puts Christ at the centre of his life is off-centre. The more you unite with Jesus and make Him the centre of your life, the more He makes you abandon yourself, decentralize yourself, and open yourself to others…In the heart of the catechist, there always lives this ‘systolic- diastolic’ movement: union with Jesus; encounter with the other…If at one of these two movements is no longer beating, then you do not live.”
This reminds me a bit of a story that Fr. Rolheiser shared in a recent column.
A priest friend of mine who teaches at a secular university was once asked by one of his students: “Father, have you met Jesus Christ?” His answer, no doubt, reflected some fatigue: “Yes,” he replied, “I have met Jesus Christ, and it messed-up my whole life! There are days when I wish I hadn’t met him!” What his answer, in its irreverence, correctly highlights is that meeting Jesus implies a lot more than a private, romantic, affective, and safe encounter with him and that meeting Jesus is more than having a private feeling in the soul that we are loved by and secure with God.
Like that tired priest, Pope Francis is reminding us that following Jesus is deeply countercultural and challenging and we cannot expect it to be easy. As catechists, we have to accept that challenge and expect that we will have moments of doubt and difficulty. At the same time, Pope Francis reminds us in his gentle, pastoral tone:
This is our beauty and our strength: If we go, if we go out to bring his Gospel with love, with true apostolic spirit , with frankness , He walks with us , before us always [preceding] us.