Thursday, July 30, 2009

Community as Vehicle for Teaching

Over the years I have attended many workshops and seminars that Maryknoll has sponsored for the energizing and renewal of the men. One seminar that I attended, many years ago, left its mark on me. We were asked to bring what we were using for catechetical instruction in each of the countries in which we work. I did my homework and filled a traveling bag.

The seminar was not more than a few hours old when I realized that my bag would remain closed. They were talking about catechetics but not the kind I had in my bag. They are part of the teaching process but not the one that was being treated in that particular seminar.

Catechetics in the words of those attending the Seminar "was found to embrace the total process of discovering, developing and living Christian values and convictions". The Church, the living Christian Community, is the essential vehicle of catecheses; catechetical programs, with their personnel, aids and facilities are instruments of the Christian Community in this task.

Can we say that community is alive and well in the Church? Community requires cooperation: to have a catechetical meaning it has to be evident and central to the apostolate. We have prayed, played, celebrated and met together but worked together? From my experience it is this working cooperation that becomes a behaviorally induced form of catecheses and the one that makes the the biggest impression on those concerned.

This morning the small community here in the mission station, at the recommendation of the catechist, came to do some weeding and work in the rock garden. They began about 5:30 am before the sun came up and worked to about 8:00 am finishing with breakfast. They returned to their homes by 9:00 am. This working together has a dynamic that is different from the other types of being together. It is not only manual work but any type of working together. It is non- threatening, it gives the Christians time to talk with each other without a need to talk. It has a target they work to accomplish, find satisfaction in doing something that is bigger than their own needs; the by product is that the community becomes stronger, and the Spirit has plenty of time to work with us as a community.

We hear today of behavioral and affective approaches to belief. It has become very obvious that in many of the works of the Church we have limited ourselves to the cognitive so that those who have been exposed to the Christianizing process have everything but the heart for the work. The differences of Catholics to others in behavior is very little. This makes many think long and hard on what we are doing in preparing our Christians. We can not ignore the feelings of people and think we are reaching the whole person. It is in community that we can best reach the whole human person and it is only a community behaving like a community that is a vehicle of catecheses. If we forget this, we will continue to do a good job imparting knowledge, but do little to move the heart.

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