Q: These weeks before the start of the new school year are so busy, especially since I am a mother and a religious education teacher in my parish. Can you please offer some encouragement to me and my fellow teachers and maybe a blessing? Thank you.
A: The new school year means a return to classes, both in school and in faith formation programs. Teaching the Christian faith to young parishioners by word and example will likely receive some attention at the coming Synod on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment” at the Vatican Oct. 3-28.
Religious education teachers make living the Gospel of Christ the heart of their lives. You model your lives on the mystery of the Lord’s cross, a mystery of self-sacrificing love. You give your time, attention and reflection, and I hope prayer as well, to your classes with young parishioners, who are the future of the church and of every parish.
Are you teachers doing all of this to get a reward? Hardly. There must be easier ways to do that. You do the work we see and the work we don’t see for one reason: love, a selfless giving of love to your students.
Educators in elementary school and high school teach many valuable life skills, like math and reading. But you religion teachers teach living skills, skills for living with God in this world and in the world to come. “Enlightened by God’s word and the teaching of the Church, catechists impart to others an initiation or a deeper formation in those realities that they themselves have learned as truths to be followed in living and to be celebrated in liturgy.” (“Order for the Blessing of Those Appointed as Catechists,” in “Book of Blessings” [Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1989], p. 162).
Your hours of class preparation and teaching are hidden to many, but your efforts keep the light of faith burning in our world. When so many aspects of our culture would snuff out the light of faith, the generous, week-by-week service of you who teach and assist with religious education classes is most necessary and appreciated.
I am so grateful that your love for Jesus Christ helps our children to share that love through your teaching, liturgies and prayer services. Please be people of prayer: before class, during class and between classes, for Louis Lallemant correctly observed: “A person of prayer will do more in a year’s apostolate than another will in a lifetime.”
This is why Pope Francis encourages us to be attentive to prayer in his apostolic exhortation “Rejoice and Be Glad” when he writes: “Trust-filled prayer is a response of a heart open to encountering God face to face, where all is peaceful and the quiet voice of the Lord can be heard in the midst of silence. … For each disciple, it is essential to spend time with the master, to listen to his words, and to learn from him always” (Nos. 149, 150).
And we do well to ask powerful pray-ers among the saints to join their prayers to ours: “St. Charles Borromeo and St. Robert Bellarmine, patron saints of catechists, pray for us! And St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, too!”
Benedictine Father Michael Kwatera, a monk of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, serves as the abbey’s director of liturgy. Please send your questions on liturgy to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at St. John’s Abbey, P.O. Box 2015, Collegeville, MN 56321-2015.