Catechetical Sunday will be celebrated on January 27, 2019 in Malaysia with the theme Christ, Our Mission. This year’s reflection is by Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim, the President of the Malaysian Catechetical Commission.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The theme for this year’s Cat- echetical Sunday, Christ, Our Mission (Phil 1:21) is a call to all baptised Catholics to make Christ known to others, especially those on the peripheries.
“For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21). In this verse, the apostle Paul is saying that everything he has tried to be, everything he is, and everything he looked forward to becom- ing, pointed to Christ.
From the time of Paul’s conversion until his martyrdom, every move he made was aimed at advancing the knowledge, gospel and Church of Christ. Paul’s singular aim was to bring glory to Jesus.
The phrase ‘to live is Christ’ should be central to each one of us. “To live is Christ” means that we proclaim the gospel of Christ. It means that we imitate the exam- ples of Christ. “To live is Christ” means that we pursue the knowl- edge of Christ. It means that we are willing to give up anything that prevents us from having Christ.
“To live is Christ” means that Christ is our focus, our goal, our chief desire. Christ is the cen- tre point of our mind, heart, body and soul. Everything that we do, we do for Christ’s glory. In his first apostolic exhorta- tion, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis reminds us that as baptised Cath- olics, we are all catechists and evangelisers. Thus, as baptised Catholics, we are always encour- aged to learn about our faith but, above all, we are called to give witness to the life of Jesus Christ that is at work within us.
The strength of our faith, at a person- al and community level, can be measured by the ability to com- municate it to others, to spread and live it in charity, to witness to it to those we meet and those who share the path of life with us.
St Pope Paul VI eloquently taught us that “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses”. We need to know our faith so that we can bear witness to it. “Nemo dat quod non habet” … We cannot give what we do not have.
Therefore, knowledge of the essential teachings of our faith is important. It’s a founda- tion that is essential to building life-long faith formation. Many youths ask, “When does Cat- echism finally come to an end?” It doesn’t! We are never through learning about, and experiencing, our faith. The truth of the Scrip- tures and the teachings of our Faith have been described as a great pool in which the smallest child can play, but one in which the brightest of theologians could never touch the bottom. We can and should spend a life- time swimming in that pool. As we celebrate Catechetical Sun- day, it’s a great opportunity for us to check in and ask ourselves if we have learned everything there is to know about our faith or if, perhaps, Christ is asking us to go a little deeper into the pool.
Let us rekindle our excitement for the gift of faith and develop our en- thusiasm for this treasure that we carry in earthen vessels. Our mission, our calling, our vocation as Catholics is to make God apparent in the world. We should let others see Him through us. This Catechetical Sunday, let us recommit ourselves to our vo- cation as teachers of the faith. Let us vow to proclaim the Good News, to be heralds of the gos- pel, to be messengers of heal- ing and hope.
We need to strive, very simply, to make our lives examples of what it means to be a Catholic: To love without con- ditions, to pray without ceasing, to be compassion and mercy in a world full of desperation and fear.
The writer M. Craig Barnes put it beautifully: “God is always present,” he wrote, “but not usu- ally apparent.” So let us live to make Christ, Our Mission, as in the words of St Paul, “conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ”.
Some ideas to celebrate
Here are some ideas to help you cel- ebrate Catechetical Sunday as a parish community.
Host Brunch The most timeless way to say “thank you” is with food! Cater brunch or ask the participating families in your class to sign up to donate dishes.
Host a brunch in your parish centre before the Mass in which catechists will be commissioned. Let catechists come together, share stories and laugh- ter with other catechists around the ta- ble, and feel appreciated!
A spiritual bouquet is a great way to pray for catechists, to invite students to do the same, and to say thank you! Pre- pare a poster board for each catechist. On each poster board, draw a group of flowers in the shape of a bouquet. (You can do this any way you like! Get creative, involve the students, and have fun!)
Invite each catechist’s students to write a prayer for their catechist on a slip of paper. In this prayer, invite stu- dents to tell God how thankful they are for their catechist and to include the things they’d ask God to bless their catechist with. Glue each student’s prayer to the individual stems drawn on the poster and present to catechists for a beautiful keepsake filled with gratitude!
Provide a Spiritual Experience just for Catechists
Often, once someone becomes a cat- echist, they spend more time giving themselves in their faith than receiving formation. While this can be a beauti- ful gift of self, it is important that we help to keep the faith lives of our cat- echists full and healthy.
A great way to do this is to provide opportunities that will inspire them on their own faith journey, completely separate from the classroom. As a way to say thank you, plan a day that focuses specifically on your catechists’ walk with the Lord which helps them grow deeper in their own relationship with Jesus Christ. Con- sider a retreat experience or a day of formation focused on this year’s Cat- echetical Sunday theme.
As part of your parish’s celebration of Catechetical Sunday, ask parents to write thank you letters to a particular catechist. Perhaps it is the catechist who taught their child this year, or one that has been particularly special to their family. Letters should extend gratitude for the catechist’s gift of service, with inspirational words, and maybe even anecdotes about ways she or he has inspired the family. Ensure you have a letter for every catechist, and then mail letters to the catechists’ homes. Try to time the delivery of let- ters to arrive the Saturday before Cat- echetical Sunday!
Celebrate the Eucharist
As Catholics, the most important way we celebrate any occasion is together around the table of the altar in the lit- urgy. Work with your pastor to plan a liturgy for Catechetical Sunday that fo- cuses specifically on the catechists and thanking them. Plan a special commis- sioning, ask your priests to speak par- ticularly about the catechists in their homily, and present a small token as a gift to catechists as they leave Mass.
About Catechetical Sunday
Why do we celebrate Cat- echetical Sunday?
In 1935, the Vatican published On the Better Care and Pro- motion of Catechetical Edu- cation, a document that asks every country to acknowl- edge the importance of the Church’s teaching ministry and to honour those who serve the Christian community as catechists. For the first few years after Catechetical Sun- day was established, national catechetical congresses were held in conjunction with the celebration.
What Does the Word “Cat- echetical” Mean?
The word might be more fa- miliar than you think. Many Catholics have used the word “catechism” for years, and they know it has something to do with the compendium of the Church’s teachings. The root word, “catechesis,” is from a Greek word meaning “to echo, or resound”. Catechesis is the act of resounding or bringing the Church’s teachings to the world. A catechist is one who teaches in the name of the Church.
Why do we have a special day set aside to commission cat- echists?
Catechesis is a distinct and special ministry in the Church. As the Catechism of the Cath- olic Church makes clear, “Cat- echesis is intimately bound up with the whole of the Church’s life . . . her inner growth and correspondence with God’s plan depend essentially on cat- echesis” (no 7). This ministry of teaching in the name of the Church has a profound digni- ty, which is why catechists are formally commissioned by the Church. It is only fitting that we set aside a day to highlight this ministry and invite the entire Church community to think about our responsibility to share our faith with others.
How are parents, the primary catechists of their children, recognised on Catechetical Sunday
Parents are truly the primary catechists of their children. They prepare the soil and plant the first seeds of faith. On Cat- echetical Sunday, we not only highlight the work of cate- chists in parishes and schools, but we also commend parents and guardians and encourage them to take seriously their role of making their Catholic households a place where faith is passed on to the next gen- eration. This is why the rite of blessing of catechists used on Catechetical Sunday includes an optional blessing of parents and guardians.
Article reproduced from Herald Malaysia online