4 Ways to Prepare Your Students for the Role of Their Spiritual Lives

[This is a part of the Fundamentals of Effective Catechesis series. Have you seen the other posts?]

The mystery of Christ, God’s divine plan of salvation, is ongoing.

St. Paul wrote about it a long time ago but it’s not over and done with.

What’s more, baptized Christians are part of it and have an active part to play in it.

Evangelizing catechesis aims at making students aware of this and geting them fired up to play their part.

It’s like getting them ready for a play. They have to understand the storyline and what role they play. You could say participation in the mystery of Christ is the role of their lives. That is what it will take and the story is real!

So how do you prepare your “players”/students to take up their role and play their part?

There are the four ways of preparing students for participating in the mystery of Christ.

1. Biblical catechesis

It seems obvious but the Bible is the first place for kids learn about the Jesus and his great mission.

From the earliest grades, students need to hear the important stories. You know which ones–the ones that are always told. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc.

However, don’t just tell cutesy stories, relate them to Christ! Make Christ shine as the radiant center of the whole Bible by relating everything to him…Old Testament stories as well.

This is a progressive initiation adapted to age of the students. In the beginning grades, kids can’t grasp the whole big picture. You have to lead them into it gradually.

First, they learn the characters and the storyline. Gradually you add more and more pieces with greater detail.

Eventually, in middle school, the students begin to put everything together to a point where they can understand the entire system and how it all fits together.

2. Liturgical catechesis

Understanding the liturgy and taking part in it is vital to catechetical formation.

Jesus is not just a historical figure. He’s alive and active and at work in us. He’s inviting us to be with him.

Through personal contact with him, we receive him into our souls, and are made more like him. This happens in the liturgy.

The liturgy is unique and valuable for catechetical formation. Not only does it teach the mystery of Christ, it makes it a present reality. Even in the early grades it should have a primary role.

3. Systematic catechesis

Younger children aren’t as capable of grasping the whole system. They need concrete details backed up with concrete experiences–activities, actual participation in liturgy, and prayer.

However, as they get older, things start to shift. They need to understand more of how the Catholic Faith is organized and why. This is where systematic catechesis takes a front seat.

A systematic presentation gives the logical ordering of doctrine. Some truths form the foundation of everything else. These core doctrines must be understood before other, more complex connections can be made.

Systematic catechesis presents the Faith in the most logical and easily understood progression.

4. Relational catechesis

You often hear the faith is more caught than taught. This is the relational aspect.

The witness of an on-fire Christian is often more effective than great textbooks or awesome lectures (although those aren’t bad!).

Like it or not, for better or for worse, the example of how you live the Catholic Faith is a huge factor in whether or not your students will listen to you and take hold of your teaching. Your students are watching! Show them Christ!

Catechetical takeaway

These are four broad catechetical methods for initiating kids into the mystery of Christ.

Obviously, more methods can be used in conjunction with these. However, these most effectively prepare kids to understand God’s plan of salvation and their role in it.

Your students are living in this story! They need to understand what the story is about and how they should participate in it.

This is part of the Fundamentals of Effective Catechesis series.  I’m laying out the basics of the catechetical system I learned at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Check out the other posts!

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  1. “You often hear the faith is more caught than taught.”

    Never heard it but like it.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      You never heard that? I think it’s really true don’t you?

      • Yes. Actually I’m not comfortable with the idea of ‘teaching faith’ anyway.

        • Love these ideas. I agree, to a point about not “teaching faith.” It reminds me of Plato’s “Meno” where Socrates explores the question of whether or not virtue could be taught. In the dialogue he shows that learning is actually a kind of remembering (through showing that he could guide an uneducated slave boy to accurately complete the Pythagorean theorem). In essence, virtue cannot be “taught” so to speak but people can be guided to remember and to understand them.

          I think that the ideas in this post do the same when it comes to faith. They are steps to guiding young ones to the faith that is their inheritance. 🙂

          • Marc Cardaronella says:

            That is an interesting connection. Yeah, I like that.

            John Paul II talked about something along those lines in Theology of the Body. There is like a residual, spiritual “memory” in our souls from the time of Original Innocence before the Fall. There are vestiges of what complete union with God was like and deep down we long for that union with him. It calls to us and we’re not completely right without it. That’s the restlessness St. Augustine spoke of when he said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O God.” It sort of works along the lines of what you’re talking about.

            Thanks for the comment, Dean!

          • Hey, interesting you bring up Socrates, virtue, and the slave boy lesson. One of the themes in my class is the fusion of body & soul: the soul trains the body; the body trains the soul. As part of that emphasis, I tell the kids a bit that I credit to Socrates:

            Teacher, what is life’s goal?

            To be virtuous.

            But how does one become virtuous?

            By doing what virtuous people do.

  2. “However, don’t just tell cutesy stories, relate them to Christ!”

    It’s often possible to relate them directly to the Catholic Church as well.

  3. These four methods are key to authentically handing on the faith. The more we incorporate them the more we will be successful in passing on the faith. Of course we need parent involvement so that their are reinforcements. Actually, the more parents use these methods the stronger the faith of their children.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      That’s exactly what I was thinking! These are great ways that parents can informally catechize their children!

      Parents could read Bible stories to their kids starting from an early age. They already take the kids to Mass but they could try to become more involved in it, perhaps by explaining what’s going on more or asking questions about what was happening. Systematic might be a little harder. That’s where Family Formation comes in, right? 😉 And, of course, the biggest piece for parents is the relational! Their witness, above all others, is what makes the whole thing work.

      • “These are great ways that parents can informally catechize their children!”

        Oh man, I wish.

        My aim is more the other way: I want the kids to learn great ways that they can informally catechize their parents.

        • LOL. That’s funny and not funny at the same time.

          St. Peter Chanel over here has the parents coming to catechism every week with their kids (they are separately taught by the priests). Sigh….

          • What threat hangs over the parents?

          • Re: The threat that hangs ove rthe parents.

            Their kids don’t get confirmed (at least at St. Peter Chanel).

            The priests are hardcore. Only parish in SoCal where you’ll hear a homily on the evils of contraception, in vitro, etc.

          • Marc Cardaronella says:

            Parents come every week for catechesis! That is a feat! Or a really great threat.

            I run a family catechesis program where the parents come once a month while the kids go to classes. It’s very small. Not many people buy in. However, the ones that do buy in love it.

          • “a homily on the evils of contraception”

            We hear about it regularly from the pulpit, too.

          • I tootled over to California Catholic Daily and checked out St. Peter Chanel. If I’m ever in SoCal again I’ll try to check them out.

            Ya can’t be too orthodox.

          • Marc Cardaronella says:

            I heard that!


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