Recent events in our community, our nation and the world have not only been the fodder for broadcast news organizations and social media sites, it has also been the catalyst for conversations among friends and family on what it means to be a just society, compassionate and a faithful Christian disciple. Our questions and concerns are immense. Many of the events of the last five weeks have touched each one of us in a very personal way. It is easy to see this when we read or hear the tenor in each other’s communications. As I have pondered the events of the last few weeks and listened to people of good will be very hard on each other, I have asked myself the question, “How does a Christian disciple navigate oneself through the wilderness of our secular world?” God answered this, I think, while on a short hike I took on Saturday. God showed me that the environment can be both beautiful and challenging at the same time: flowers alongside poison ivy, birds singing a short distance away from a snake sunning himself on a rock, and a terrain changing from mild to rugged. The lesson I believe God had in store for me is if I had packed everything I needed to encounter the fullness of the environment I found myself. Perhaps this is the question God has in store for me and you as we navigate our way through our world which is both beautiful and challenging at the same time?
In May I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 79th Annual National Conference for Catechetical Leadership (NCCL) Exposition and Conference. On the last day the keynote was provided by Julianne Stanz and Joe Paprocki titled “The Catechist’s Backpack: Spiritual Essentials for the Journey” (Loyola Press). It was a wonderful presentation and I ordered the book as soon as I returned home. However, after my revelation, I realized that the lessons Julianne and Joe had for catechists, to make sure they are equipped for the task of helping children and teens form a personal relationship with Jesus and learn about our faith, were lessons for all of us too.
The General Directory for Catechesis tells us that there are three dimensions for formation in helping prepare a person to be a catechist: knowing about the faith, learning to teach the faith and being in love with Christ. However the being dimension is the most neglected and yet the most critical when it comes to evangelization. Being in love with Christ brings joy even in the midst of great persecution and suffering. Pope Francis has said the “joy is a pilgrim virtue: one that moves Christians to journey out into the world preaching the Gospel and proclaiming Christ” (Catholic News Service, May 10, 2013). So how do we prepare a supply list for this journey of faith in helping each of us grow in love with Christ? Over the next 6 reflections we will be exploring together what should be on our spiritual supply list for this faith journey.
“Item #1 – Radical Reliance on God”
Joe and Julianne shared that on any journey it is essential to have an abundant supply of water. Water is used in many ways in our faith beginning with the waters of Baptism and refreshed often when we bless ourselves with holy water. There are so many powerful actions that happen in baptism that when reflected upon provide a lifetime of sustenance for each of us on our journey.
Prayer over the water: “You have called your children to this cleansing water, that they may share in the faith of your Church and have eternal life. By the mystery of this consecrated water lead them to a new and spiritual birth.”
Anointing after Baptism: “The God of power and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin and brought you to new life through water and the Holy Spirit. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation, so that, united with his people, you may remain for ever a member of Christ who is Priest, Prophet and King.”
Clothing with a Baptismal Garment: “You have become a new creation and have clothed yourself in Christ. Receive this baptismal garment and bring it unstained to the judgment seat of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that you may have everlasting life.”
Presentation of a Lighted Candle: “You have been enlightened by Christ. Walk always as children of the light and keep the flame of faith alive in your hearts. When the Lord comes, may you go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.”
Pope Francis, in his Angelus address, said, “Faith is not something decorative, or ornamental, it is not there to decorate your life with a little of religion. No, faith involves choosing God as the center of one’s life” (Vatican News, August 18, 2013). May you and I respond to the abundant waters of grace in our baptism by choosing Christ as the center of our life today.
Reflection written by John Gaffney, Diocesan Director for Evangelization & Catechesis.
Julianne Stanz will present a workshop for catechetical leaders in the Diocese of Des Moines on March 3, 2016.