September 9, 2022

Catechesis Supplement

‘You’re wrong’—A great conversation starter?

By Ken Ogorek

Ken OgorekRecently, a parish catechetical leader told me what a parish council member said when arose the topic of adult catechesis—of lifelong faith formation. The council member said, “I don’t need to study the faith. I learned it all when I was a kid.”

“May I suggest we start with the nuclear option?”

It may sound like a scorched-Earth approach, but my first thought regarding what I’d say to that council member was, “You’re wrong!” Like drafting a snarky e-mail then thinking better of sending it, though, I realize that such an outburst is unlikely to keep a fruitful discussion going.

So, what to say? What to say when a person makes a statement so obviously off base? Internally, at least, maybe start with the basics?

An 11th and 12th Commandment?

We tend to equate learning with acquiring new information. And while it’s true that in catechesis a person can and often does hear information that’s new to her or him, much of lifelong faith formation consists of revisiting doctrinal or moral content learned long ago—but with fresh eyes. It leads people to ponder. “How have I changed since the last time I reflected on this truth? What experiences have I had that make me more receptive or appreciative of this insight that God is sharing with me?”

It’s not like the Church says “You know, there’s an 11th and 12th Commandment, but we’ve been waiting till you turn 40 to tell you about them.” Rather, when we hear the refrain, “I know this already,” we might say words to this effect: “I’m sure you do, and that’s great. But I bet you’ve changed a bit since the last time you asked God to help this teaching sink deep into your heart and soul. So, let’s take another look at it—together.”

A way Jesus speaks

As Catholics, we know that both sacred Scripture and sacred tradition together comprise the one word of God (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #97). We also know that when we reflect on a Bible passage or a teaching of the Church, Jesus sometimes speaks to us in a direct and personal way.

So, to say, “I don’t need to study the faith,” is like saying, “I don’t need to make use of a key way that Jesus might be sharing his thoughts and feelings with me.” Not exactly a rallying cry for a disciple of our Savior and Lord.

Our witness and invitation

What’s the best way, then, to counter this misperception of some Catholic adults that catechesis is just for kids or Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults participants? Your personal witness can be very powerful here.

When you share how meaningful it is for you to participate in adult catechesis—to deepen your knowledge of and relationship with Jesus—your example can have a life-changing impact on your fellow parishioners by God’s grace and mercy. Don’t hide your lamp under a bushel basket.

The next time an adult catechesis opportunity at your parish arises in a conversation (maybe because of your invitation) and you hear words like “I don’t …,” don’t succumb to my temptation—to proclaim a loud and blunt “You’re wrong!”

Let folks know that even though they learned a lot when they were kids, they can’t go wrong revisiting Church teaching prayerfully and reflectively. That bit of honey will likely be more attractive than the vinegar I was tempted to share.
 

(Ken Ogorek is the archdiocesan director of catechesis. He can be emailed at kogorek@archindy.org.)


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