“Me, a catechist? Not at all. I ‘fraid.” Why? To many, the vocation of the catechist can be scary. Perhaps one of the reasons is found in Matthew 18:1-10 and particularly in 18:6 where Jesus says, “But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down any one of these little ones who have faith in me, would be better drowned in the depths of the sea with a great millstone round his neck.”
Scary yes, if our focus is on giving a lot of information and following rules and regulations to spread the Good News. Many of our Religious Instruction classes, whether in schools or parishes, are so insistent on formal tests to ‘determine’ the religious ‘knowledge’ of the child or how ready he/she is for reception of the particular sacrament. Are we afraid because we feel incompetent? James 3:1 states: “Only a few of you, my brothers and sisters, should be teachers, bearing in mind that those of us who teach can expect a stricter judgment.” So does that mean we must shy away? Not at all.
Recently I remembered a piece in God’s Caribbean people: A sourcebook for religious teachers. It’s titled: “An adapted parable”. I never found its author, but as a young catechist then, I thought it very inspirational and poignant. I trust it will inspire others to change their mindset and methods to bring God to those to whom they minister lovingly.
“I took a little child’s hand in mine. He and I were to walk together for a while. I was to lead him to the Father. It was a task that overcame me, so awful was the responsibility. And so I talked of the Father; of the majesty of His mountains; of the awesomeness of His clouds high above us. And I hoped the child would understand the glory and the strength of God the Father. I painted the sternness of His face were the child to do something to displease Him. I spoke of the child’s goodness as something that would appease the Father’s wrath. We talked under the trees. I said the Father had the power to send them crashing down, struck by His thunderbolt. We walked on the seashore. I told him of the greatness of the Father who made the crashing waves and the boiling surf. And one twilight we met the Father. But the child was afraid. He would not look up at the face so loving. He remembered my pictures. He would not take the Father’s hand. I was between the child and the Father. I wondered. I had been so conscientious, so serious.
“I took a little child’s hand in mine. I was to lead him to the Father. I felt burdened with the multiplicity of the things I had to teach him. We did not ramble; we hastened from spot to spot. At one moment we ran in water. In the next, we jumped into it. While the child was questioning me about it, I hurried him away to talk of air – how you can float balloons in it, and fly kites, how it turns windmills in the sky. Did he chance to fall asleep I wakened him, least he would miss something I wished him to see. We talked of sand. We saw how you could play with it, and jump on it, and run across it. We spoke of the Father, oh yes, often and rapidly. I poured into the child’s ears all the stories he ought to know but, at the same time, we were following a brook, which we must trace to its source. And then, in the twilight we met the Father. The child merely glanced at Him and then his gaze was not interested enough to stop. He dropped exhausted and fell asleep. Again I was between the child and the Father. I wondered, I had taught him so many things.
“I took a little child’s hand to lead him to the Father. My heart was full of gratitude for the glad privilege. We walked slowly. I suited my steps to the steps of the child. We spoke of the things the child noticed. We looked at the ripples on the ocean waters. We picked up the tiniest of the Father’s shells and wondered of the small creatures that had lived there. We looked at the way wet sand stuck to our hands and the sun sparkled off it. Sometimes we stopped to rest, letting the Father’s cool air touch our brows, and never speaking. And then, in the twilight, we met the Father. The child’s eyes shone. He looked lovingly, trustingly, eagerly up into the Father’s face. He reached out to the Father and put his hand into the Father’s hand. I was for the moment forgotten. I was content.”
– Leonora De Verteuil, Catechist