By David Cooley.
Since becoming co-director of the Office of Catechesis and Faith Formation, I have been reflecting on what I call the three C’s — catechesis, confidence and courage. These three C’s are connected in many ways. One thing they have in common, unfortunately, is that they are often lacking in today’s society. The reason we see so much sorrow and pain in our culture is because catechesis, confidence and courage are in short supply or are compromised for lesser things.
Catechesis is one of those words that when you are Catholic and you use it all the time you forget how strange it sounds to someone who is unfamiliar with it. The word catechesis originates from the Greek word meaning “instruction by word of mouth.” In the Church it refers to the basic Catholic religious education of children and adults. A book that summarizes the teachings and principles of the Catholic faith is called a catechism. A trained instructor is called a catechist.
Every baptized Christian is called to be a catechist, to evangelize the faith, to go forth and “make disciples of all nations.” (cf Matt 28:19) We are all called to be teachers of the Gospel and we are all called to live out our life according to God’s will. It is in pondering that mission that we discover the great adventure of our lives. Yes, we are to make disciples of all nations, but in order to do that we must first make disciples of ourselves.
It was the Baltimore Catechism that very succinctly answered the big “why are we here?” question. Officially the question (#150) was “Why did God make you?” and the answer, of course, was (and is) that “God made me to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.”
The very next question in the Baltimore Catechism was “Why is it necessary to know God?” The answer: “It is necessary to know God because without knowing Him we cannot love Him; and without loving Him we cannot be saved. We should know Him because He is infinitely true; love Him because He is infinitely beautiful; and serve Him because He is infinitely good.”
So, we must ask ourselves: how well do we know God? Do we take the time necessary to listen to him, through his Word, in our studies, and in the silence? Do we seek out the answers to the more difficult questions in life that can be found in countless resources provided by the Church?
We must know the faith to have faith. We must have faith to experience the joy of the Gospel. We must experience this joy — which can only come from the Lord — if we are going to have the confidence to share it with others. That confidence to share the Gospel with others also comes from a noble motive – love. Love is willing the good for our neighbor simply because they are our neighbor.
Not unlike the disciples on the road to Emmaus, when we encounter Jesus and hear the Word of God our hearts burn within us. And it is that burning that we feel which gives us confidence to share the Gospel with others. If our hearts are on fire we can’t help but try to set the world ablaze. The more people are converted to Christ the more the world will be renewed.
It takes courage to be a follower of Christ. It always has and it always will. There is a lot of pressure to just go with the flow and become what the world wants you to become. Remember, the world rejected Christ first and he promised his followers that it would reject them too. Picking up that cross and following him every day is not for the faint of heart.
The Christian adventure is not for anyone looking for an easy way out. This brings me to another important word that begins with “c”— Catholic. There is no doubt that it takes an extra amount of courage to be Catholic today.
Yes, catechesis is a word that we should all get more familiar with. Catechesis leads to confidence, confidence leads to courage, courage leads to community, community leads to Communion, and Communion is in Christ.
David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Department of Catechesis and Faith Formation in the Diocese of Covington.