First Kill All the Catechists?

What place, then, for religious education classes? If schooling isn't education, and attendance isn't faith formation, and parents need to take responsibility for their children's education . . . should we have a purge?

I say no. I see several important roles for weekly catechism classes in all their various forms and flavors:

  1. Classes are an efficient way to teach some things. When you have a group of people who are all interested in learning the same thing, getting together with an instructor is a handy way to make that learning possible.
  2. It is good for us to have many mentors in the faith. That doesn't mean every mentor is going to be an instructor. But some? Sure. Why not?
  3. It's fun! Yes? If you teach a cool class, it is. If it's not fun – I don't mean bubble-gum fun, but exciting and interesting and energizing – what exactly are you doing? Maybe it's not that classes are bad; maybe it's that your class is bad.
  4. Parents might reasonably want this. Parents often decide that it's important for their child to study some topic, and that they'd like to avail themselves of an instructor to teach that topic. Either you think parents get to make educational decisions for their kids or you don't; if you do, that means you respect the judgment of the very many parents who discern that this is the best thing for their child.

And then, icing on the cake: It's a chance to evangelize. An hour a week talking about Jesus? I'm not seeing the problem here.

Soul-at-a-Time Discipleship

The fallacy that plagues us on both sides of the debate is in ascribing to catechesis too much power. Some swear that everything's just fine, or that it would be fine if only the class were a little bit more this, a little less that. Others kindle awe in the negative: Recognizing that catechetical classes can't fill every void, they conclude such classes can't fill any.

Formal religious education programs are a tool in the box. A good tool. But I sure hope you've got a pile of other tools, because the project you're working on is nothing less than the forming of human souls.

It's not an assembly-line job. If you want disciples rather than cogs, you've got to know, love, and equip each and every person who crosses your threshold. One at a time. A nine-month class doesn't cut it. It takes a life lived together. In person. Hour after hour, day after day, year after year. Listening, answering, serving and being served.

Discipleship is a life poured out

How much is the Lord asking of you? The whole amount. Everything. However much it is, that's how much you bring. All your piety, all your liturgy, all your affection, all your theology, all your firm-but-gentle insistence on the truth, all your organizational skills, all your works of mercy. You bring it all.

And you don't mind, because you're in love.