Be an Amazing Catechist
The Bible Tells Me So: A Southern Gent Wows Catholic Kids with the Bible
We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders which he has wrought. He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children; that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.
Architect and catechist Christian Le Blanc is wearing a suit and tie and standing in front of a group of 15 sixth graders at St. Mary's parochial school in Greenville, South Carolina. It's the beginning of the catechetical year on a warm Wednesday evening in September, and a noisy crowd of raw recruits has just shuffled in and slumped into chairs, worn out from a long day at school.
Before they can droop any further, he engages.
"Hey y'all, welcome to 6th grade Wednesday Night Sunday School. This is your textbook. I don't want to see it again."
"Take it home, there's no time in class to be reading from the textbook; I'll let you know each week what you ought to read for next week's class, as in: read it at home."
An outburst of objection to this flouting of rules is quieted with the cool-eyed reassurance: "This year is the opposite of last year. Don't worry, you'll get used to it."
Now they're sitting up a little straighter.
"Now, who likes parties and crafts and games?"
"I do! Me, too!" they chorus, eyes brightening.
"Okay," he says, quickly, "you are going to be miserable this year. We won't have any time for that stuff, there's too much to learn. Yes?"
"No parties?" they gasp.
"Nope. Look here's what I want y'all to do this year [on the board]: SUFFER."
"Yes, suffering is good, and I'm the meanest teacher in Sunday School. Yes?"
"My brother says he really didn't suffer last year and he had fun."
"Oh. Well, he was supposed to suffer. If you do have fun in here it'll be a miracle, but keep it to yourself. Don't spoil the suffering of others. Hey there, daughter, stop smiling!"
It's only 6:35 and he has them laughing, engaged, arguing with him, and yes, paying attention. The learning quickly follows with Chapter One of Genesis, in a flurry of storytelling, scriptural references, explorations of deeper meanings via English, Spanish, Latin, Hebrew, Greek, classic art reproductions, cartoon drawings, practical and moral applications, personal witness, creative dramatics, and lots of comedy. They've been guided into guessing right so many times they think they're Bible geniuses.
When the hour is up, they are intrigued, excited, and armed with enough food for thought to begin to effectively engage their families and friends outside of class. When the year ends, they will have truly learned 50 Bible stories, and acquired a thoroughly Catholic appreciation of the progression of Salvation History culminating in Jesus Christ and the Holy Mass.
"From the get-go they learn that the body and soul are an integral unity," he says, drawing a parallel to what he does with scripture. "Catholicism and the Bible are not separate realities. The Bible is the literary manifestation of Catholicism."
Lisa Mladinich is a Catholic wife and mother, catechist and workshop leader, and the author of the popular booklets, "Be An Amazing Catechist: Inspire the Faith of Children," and "Be an Amazing Catechist: Sacramental Preparation" available from Our Sunday Visitor. She is the founder of www.AmazingCatechists.com.