The Faith on Fire

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. ~ 2 Timothy 4:1-5

Welcome to Be an Amazing Catechist, a weekly column on teaching the Catholic Faith. I'd like to begin by asking God to bless all who read this column, and all those whom you love and teach. I salute all your guardian angels, and ask that beautiful Cloud of Witnesses, the Heavenly Host, to watch over us and help us to revolutionize the teaching of the Catholic Faith. I ask for your prayers that this column be pleasing to God.

Each week, I'll be sharing tips and teaching methods that work for me, as well as what works for other catechists (send me your tips!) from elementary right through RCIA and beyond.

As a revert to the Faith, saved from despair by the healing and transformative power of the sacraments, here's my personal motto:

If you want to teach the Catholic faith truthfully, you must teach it thrillingly!

Some of you are rolling your eyes. But the good news is: Anyone can do this.

I can do all things in Him who strengthens me. ~ Philippians 4:13

Fun fact: Right before he taught, Archbishop (Servant of God) Fulton J. Sheen always prayed, "Lord, send me Pentecostal fire!" He was a wise and realistic fellow. He knew that without heavenly help -- as brilliant and talented as he was -- his work would never bear fruit. But he became one of the great evangelists of modern times because he trusted so completely in the power of God.

Describing the qualities of Christ Himself, here's what my colleague, Peggy Clores, a wonderful, veteran RCIA director, says to anyone hoping to launch a truly inspiring and effective program:

You collectively want to be: Compelling, dynamic, infectious, passionate, convicted, inspiring, sincere, substantive, relatable, interesting, intelligent, relevant, practical, competent, credible, sane . . . and majorly irresistible! In a nutshell, you want to take their breath away!

(Read more from Peggy here. I'll be sharing more of Peggy's RCIA tips in future columns. Incidentally, Peggy's program is so successful she had to create a "graduate" program for all the people who completed their RCIA training and were still hungry for lots more delicious goodies from their beautiful Church.)

Don't be intimidated by Peggy's list. With a little help from your friends upstairs, you will become an Amazing Catechist in baby steps, yielding your "littleness" to God and trusting Him to complete what you cannot. (For help and inspiration, check out the life and writings of St. Therese of Lisieux.)

But where do you begin?

First, you can't share what you don't have. Authentic witness comes from a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. So, make a genuine assessment of where you are in your relationship with God. A spiritual director can help you begin to sort this out. But the single best thing you can do to jumpstart the process of becoming lit up in the love of Christ is to get to confession. Start with just that. (Here's an excellent resourceto help you make a good confession.) The graces you receive will strengthen you and, in combination with the power of the Blessed Sacrament, will intensify the healing process that your soul -- like mine -- needs so badly.

And of course: faithful Mass attendance, daily prayer, spiritual reading, and study of the Faith are essential. Run -- don't walk! -- and get yourself a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It's cheap and widely available (or use the free online version at www.usccb.org), and check out its amazing index. You can ask it almost anything. (Watch for Pat Gohn's articles at this site. She's a wiz with the CCC and a great, great teacher.)

Think your ministry in catechesis is important? Yes, of course. You could even say critical. But it's still not as important as your own walk with Christ. If you want that Pentecostal fire, there's no better place to begin.

Next week: Tips on creating a great lesson plan.

God bless you!