September 13, 2013

Religious Education Supplement

Parish small groups help Catholics grow closer to Jesus

Ken OgorekJesus says that Satan is the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning who can disguise himself as an angel of light. Any effort focusing on truth, life and authenticity, then, turns the devil red in the face.

Parish small groups can be excellent opportunities for disciples of Jesus to grow in their relationship with him—the way, the truth and the life—as well as helping to make additional disciples.

This turns Satan so green with envy that he tries to get parish small groups off-track in at least three specific ways.

‘Truth? What is truth?’

Pontius Pilate wouldn’t have been a good parish small group facilitator.

Although sharing thoughts and feelings is a healthy part of group dynamics, it’s always with an eye toward basking in the light of truth.

Invite the light of faith to inform how God speaks to us so that Jesus, living in us, can truly be the light of the nations.

When both sacred Scripture and sacred Tradition are prominent in parish small groups, the living word frees us from the tyranny of relativism.

Opus Dei or Pax Christi?

I was once asked whether I’m a Pax Christi Catholic or an Opus Dei Catholic.

Knowing that “opus Dei” is Latin for “work of God” and “pax Christi” is Latin for “peace of Christ,” my first thought was “Do I really have to choose?”

Catholic social teaching often comes up in parish small groups, as it should. The devil—a murderer from the beginning—prefers a narrow definition of life so that disciples of Jesus bicker with each other about what aspects of defending life are most important.

Satan is yellow. He lacks the virtue of fortitude, so innocent, defenseless human life at all stages is a prime target for his bullying ways. Satan hates parish small groups, especially when an accurate understanding of Catholic social teaching is part of their efforts.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, accessible at, is an excellent articulation of Catholic social teaching.

‘I’m OK, you’re OK’

A Catholic rearticulation of this cliché might be “Neither of us is completely OK, but that’s OK because of Jesus!”

A parish small group member might erroneously state that God is telling him or her to do something that defies a basic doctrinal or moral teaching of his holy, Catholic Church.

Silence can imply consent like a fake angel of light. When parish small group members don’t challenge each other—always speaking the truth in love on our journey of accountability—Satan is tickled pink.

Conversely he turns purple with rage when group members show tough love by asking helpful questions based on sacred Scripture, sacred Tradition and authentically pastoral peer support.

Satan really does hate parish small groups—not because they’re bad, but because they’re profoundly good ways to live our Catholic faith.

This year’s annual Religious Education Supplement in The Criterion contains colorful descriptions of parish small groups in action. Enjoy!

(Ken Ogorek is archdiocesan director of catechesis.)

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