Pope Francis has a vision of what a catechist should really be. How are we measuring up?
According to the Vatican’s own statistics on the Church, there are some 3.1 million catechists around the world. Catechists are lay people who teach the truths of the faith.
Pope Francis recently wrote a reflection about what key characteristics those catechists should have.
The pope sent out his letter to catechists on the occasion of the International Congress on Catechesis, which took place at the Pontifical Catholic University of Buenos Aires.
In his message the pope shared an anecdote about St. Francis of Assisi. When one of the saint’s followers wanted to learn how to preach, St. Francis replied “when we visit the sick, help children, give food to the poor, we are already preaching.”
With that in mind, the pope said being a catechist is not a job, or something we do only when we’re “clocked in.” Instead it is a vocation, a way of being that defines us 24 hours a day, and a service to the whole church. A catechist’s life should be built around their vocation. He said a person who is a catechist should be a person who walks with Christ and toward Christ instead of substituting their own ideas for Christ’s.
How does a catechist walk that path? By always recalling the very first encounter they had with Christ, the encounter that changed their lives. That encounter is a gift and should resonate in everything a catechist does to teach the faith, Pope Francis said.
When it comes to how they carry out their role, the pope said catechists should keep in mind Jesus’ style of reaching out to people: He adapted to the people around him in order to bring them the love of God.
The pope said that although God’s message is unchanging and always the same, a catechist needs to be creative and find ever new ways to transmit that message. There is no reason to be afraid of finding new ways to reach people, Pope Francis said, because Jesus has already done it.
Finally, catechists should be joyful messengers, guardians of goodness and beauty which should shine through in their lives.
The International Congress on Catechesis took place July 11 to 14 and was organized by the Argentine Institute for Catechesis, which is supported by the Argentine Bishops Conference.
Among the presenters were Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, the new head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Jose Luis Arenas, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.