Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Review: The Spirituality of the Catechist

The Spiritualityof the Catechist: Feeding your Soul, Growing in Faith, Sharing with Others, by Sr. Janet Schaeffler, OP,  is a beautiful, deeply invitational short book for catechists who teach Catholic faith to people of all ages.

Sr. Janet, a national expert in adult faith formation, is a gentle soul and a wonderful storyteller. The pages of this simple and direct book are sprinkled with memorable, well-chosen  quotations and stories about spirituality and prayer, illustrating the dynamics of a fully-activated prayer life and relationship to the Risen Lord. She invites the reader to explore the possibilities inherent in spirituality in a deeply direct way.

Although the beginning is general enough to apply to any Catholic adult, the later chapters are more specific to how this should play out in the life of a catechist, who should pray for those he or she teaches as well as share prayer with them.

Yes, there is practical advice - lists of prayer types to explore, for example, and there are reflection questions at the end of each chapter, which makes this a great tool for further reflection or for discussion with others.

A much-needed book, which goes beyond the usual catechetical approach to how to pray with others and reaches the catechist where he or she lives, so that  having a deep and living relationship with God is foundational to sharing faith with others. This is a book not just for catechists and school teacher-catechists, but for catechetical leaders, RCIA teams and parish faith formation advisory boards.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

God is...

What is your image of God?  That's a good question.

I am facilitating a course on prayer, which asks as its first exercise, how the image one has of God affects how one prays, so I have been reading a number of descriptions of what the students think God is like.  For many of them, God is friend. For a few, God is an almighty theological construct to be feared and respected. For others, God has been a watchful judge.

Who is God for me?

Never Absent. Always. Forever.
A sometimes palpable presence I sense deeply near me and in me.

Yes, this presence is a Person. As I grow older, I am ever more aware that God is near. Even when I have been in the depths of pain or despair, I have known for a long time I am never alone. In the good things, God is with me, and we rejoice together.

Which Person? More and more, a triune presence - Jesus, trailing streams of the Father's glory and the
Spirit's encompassing warmth. Father-God, perhaps even more compassionate because of the suffering of his Son, oozing Spirit. Spirit - present in every breath, bringing Father and Son closer to me.

It has not always been this way. As a child, I only had a vague image of God as an old man with a beard watching me from heaven, usually with disapproval (no doubt the baggage of stern church ladies who watched us toddlers in the church nursery.)  As a teen during the 60's God was a mere intellectual exercise. Was God dead? That sappy sentimentalized Jesus guy - he was for people not smart enough to know better, right?

When did it change? Over time. With experience. With listening to the promptings of my heart. With the support of a community of faith. With the discovery that when I could rely on no one else, God was there. Over and over. Through it all. Once, when deep in meditative prayer, I saw myself walking through the corridors of the interior of my own heart toward a light glowing from just around the corner - a light I was in too much awe to approach...

When do I feel this Presence? Whenever I am mindful. When do I not? Whenever I let the tasks of daily life overtake and preoccupy me. Yet, beneath even that, I know.

I just know. God is...