Are You Being Called?

One Sunday evening, ten years ago, my wife went to a meeting at church. Our parish had a new DRE, and she was attempting to create a real religious education program for the parish’s growing number of children. My wife can speak to her own reasons for going to that meeting, and maybe she will in the comboxes.

I did not go. It was of no interest to me whatsoever. I had two young children of my own, was still recovering from the damage done to my body by the onset of arthritis in my early 30s, and had only really returned to the church a short time earlier. I was still feeling my way and deciding not what to believe (I had already decided to believe Catholicism, and all of it), but how to believe. Teaching others seemed beyond me.

As she was walking out the door on her way to the meeting, someone said, “If they’re still short of teachers at the end of the meeting, I guess I’ll take a class.”

I found out later it was me. I’d said that.

I honestly don’t remember saying it, but I do recall her coming home later that evening with a stack of books and telling me, “You’re teaching fourth grade.”

I was floored. I had no real experience with teaching, and gathering 20 nine-year-olds for 75 minutes on the floor of the church to teach them about a faith I had only recently re-embraced seemed insane. But I was committed (or soon would be, ha ha), and decided to make the best of it.

The first year was horrible. Fourth grade is that transitional year when kids start morphing from cute, fun kids into tiny soon-to-be-teenagers. Later, I’d realize that I’d started during one of those “bad years.” Some years, it just seems like an entire grade of kids has more than its fair proportion of difficult children.

Maybe something was in the water when they were conceived, or a comet passed too close to the earth the year of their birth, but you watch a an entire batch of kids progress from one level to the next making nervous wrecks of every teacher they get. They were so bad they left my poor assistant in tears, and I had yet to find the all-powerful secret to classroom discipline. (For those wondering, it’s this: seating. The majority of classroom disruptions can be handled by moving kids around the room and seating them in the right place.)

I decided I was better suited to teaching older kids, and moved up to 8th grade the next year. (When I got my original 4th grade class again in 8th grade, they were still a nightmare.)

I’ve been teaching 8th grade and confirmation ever since, and now I’m teaching RCIA and completing my masters in order to train and certify other catechists and teach ongoing adult education.

Catechesis is my vocation. It’s what I was called to do.

Here’s the thing, though: I never heard the call. I have no memory of it. I’ve been bashed on my thick head enough by the Holy Spirit to know when He’s trying to get my attention. But back then, it just happened.

I did a weird thing without any prompting and retain no memory of having done it, but it changed my life completely.  I acted of my own free will in response to some deep prompting that I was trying desperately to ignore. But to this day, I cannot tell you why I did it.

It’s like when I fell in love with my wife. A few hours after we met for the first time, I said to the friend who was dating her, “If you don’t marry her, I will.”  I was 18. Twenty-seven years later, here we are.

What prompts that kind of deep motion in the soul? The materialist would tell us it’s all reducible to the mere firing of neurons, but that’s not even good nonsense.

The Spirit moves. It moves in us. If we quiet ourselves and give in to His promptings, it will never fail to lead us on the paths of righteousness.

The Spirit breathes. It breathes in us. Each breath we take is not ours but His. The same ruach elohim that swept over the face of the waters at the dawn of time now lives in us through the grace of baptism.

It’s there, prompting us in ways we rarely choose to heed. Sometimes–despite ourselves–we heed them nonetheless. That, too, is a grace of baptism.

The question isn’t “Are you being called?”

You are.

The question is “To what are you being called?”

Because you are being called to something.

And, just maybe, this September, you’re being called to make sure the flame of faith that shines in you is passed on to the next generation. 

Around this time of year, in parishes around the country, DREs and catechists are making their annual plea for volunteers to teach in religious education programs.The larger the parish, the more likely they are to be short-handed.

BONUS! You get a free pin!

Our program teaches more than 800 children each year, and requires over 100 volunteers. They’re not all catechists. There are also assistants, classroom helpers, hall monitors, and other support staff. Most diocesan programs operate under strict rules that require multiple adults wherever children are taught, and no catechist is allowed to be alone in a room with students for the duration of a class.

This isn’t–or at least it should not be–the catechesis that failed so many of us in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The days of “Cut, Color, and Draw” are over. We can’t afford it any more. If that’s what’s going on your “CCD” classes, then your children are just being taught how to waste time, not how to live their faith in a hostile world.

Your kids–and all the kids of your parish–deserve a solid, authentic education in the truths of the faith: one that is faithful to the Magisterium and strongly orthodox.

And you know what? You–the person who cares enough to read this far on a Catholic blog–may be the person to do that. You don’t need to be comfortable speaking in public (few people are) or a tiny Aquinas. You just need to a) learn all you can about your faith, b) accept it, and c) teach it faithfully.

See, that call that goes out each year for a gray mass of general “volunteers” is all wrong. It says, “We need anyone with a pulse.”

No. We need you. You specifically. Your talent, your fidelity, your skills.

Many programs are just beginning now. Even those that have already begun are likely to need extra people. Quiet your mind, think, breathe, pray, and listen to the Spirit working you. He may just be calling you to catechetical ministry.

UPDATE: My wife replied to this update.

About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • http://www.parafool.com/ victor

    Oh, I know that God is calling me. I just don’t like what he calls me.

    In all seriousness, this is a very compelling post. I don’t know if it’ll get me off my proverbial log this year because we’re blessed with really amazing RE teachers in our parish, but we’ll see if there’s not something I can do…

  • Jakeithus

    This is a very timely post. Although not a Catholic myself, I think just about every church, everywhere, faces shortages of leaders willing to teach the faith to those who are younger. I agree wholeheartedly that the question shouldn’t be about whether one is called to serve, that is a given.

    My Dad taught Sunday school as long as I could remember, until he was no longer able to due to his cancer. I’ve taken on the role and am in my second year doing it, and I see what a blessing it is. Looking back, I see that my experience with the Church was certainly missing something when I was not involved in some way.

  • TheReluctantWidow

    Loosely related, I had a “calling” experience. My husband and I had adopted two children, we were in the middle of a third adoption and I did not want to do it. I felt like I wasn’t up to the task of mothering three. Then after receiving the Eucharist one Sunday about three months into the process, I was kneeling and praying and I had what I can only describe as a vision in my mind’s eye (my eyes were closed). I was walking up to receive the Eucharist and there were FOUR little brown-haired heads in front of me. I started crying. Once Mass was over, I began weeping. I knew that the Lord planned for us to have four children but I didn’t even want to pursue #3. Well, we met #4 when we traveled to adopt #3, and both those adoptions were fraught with doubt, fear, and spiritual battles (on my part, not my husband’s – he never wavered).

  • http://platytera.blogspot.com/ kkollwitz

    All true! Years ago I agreed against my will to catechize 6th grade. Turned out to be a great fit, and a rewarding vocation.

  • http://platytera.blogspot.com/ kkollwitz

    Adoption is mos def a leap of faith.


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