Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This weekend traditionally we celebrate Catechetical Sunday. This is a time for us not only to support the catechists of our parish, but it gives a time to reflect about the importance of religious instruction. By instruction, I not only consider the Children in CCD, but also adult faith formation. God and our faith cannot be summarized in a course of a period of instruction. These fundamental elements of our life require a lifelong formation.
Our faith journey begins first when we are born. Many Popes have always considered the family as the first school of love. There we first learn about God’s love. We read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2223, Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. It adds “Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel.”(#2226) By raising a child in an environment of love and respect, the child can see God’s love reflected in the love of their parents. Our formation continues after we receive baptism and are slowly introduced to our faith as infants. Our parents, as the first teachers in the ways of faith, teaches us that God loves us and to love him back. As we learn our night prayers and how to make the sign of the cross, we are also taught how God is present in the church and during mass.
When we enter first grade, the formal teaching of religion begins in our parish. It is the first of two-year preparation to do first communion. As the generous brothers and sisters share their talent helping the children to prepare for first communion, they also continue teaching them the other elements of our faith through grades 3 to 8. At 9th grade, the teens begin their first year of preparation for confirmation. The teaching is not merely intellectual, but also very existential. We teach the youth their faith from their day-to-day perspective. We aim to help them to live out their faith that they were instructed up to that time.
After confirmation, we are all called to continue deepening our faith either on our own, or with the participation of some group of the church. There are many groups today that help us through this process, such as the Bible Study that meets on Saturdays, the book club that read and discuss different topics of our faith, St. Vincent de Paul that lives out the call to charity, and some others. We also offer different talks through the year covering different topics. There are some resources as formed.org (free for all parishioners) that also offer series on the sacraments, documentaries, audiobooks, classes, movies and much more. This year we also have some plans to offer more formation to all parishioners. Another very important element of adult faith formation is the sacramental preparation for adults who, for whatever reason, need to receive baptism, first communion or confirmation. The RCIA, which stands for Ritual of Christian Initiation of Adults, which is also used for anyone who would like to join the Catholic Faith. Each year we always have a class to help people to be initiated in the sacraments.
Finally, I would like to ask your prayers for all those in our parish that are called and exercise the ministry of Catechist, whether as parents, teachers, group leaders or people of good will who teach others by their witness of life. As we pray the following prayer from USCCB, I ask you to keep them in your prayers, so that they maybe the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do.
Prayer for Catechists
Loving Father, we pray today for our catechists. We thank you for their gift of ministry in your Church. Grant them your wisdom that they may grow in the understanding and teaching of your Word. Grant them also your love that they may be fruitful heralds of your Word and lead others to love you. Pour forth your Holy Spirit upon them to grant them wisdom about what is important; knowledge of the truths of faith; understanding of their meaning; right judgement about how to apply them in life; courage to persevere even in the face of adversity; reverence before all that is sacred and holy; and that loving zeal which leads others to a transforming encounter with your Son. We pray this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Father Steven Clemence