I’ve been asked a lot recently about what I think about other Confirmation programmes on the market, and why a Confirmation group should use Transformed in Christ. Let me first of all say, there are some other great programmes currently on the market (someone said, ‘No buses come for years, then three come all at once’ which expresses it quite well). And yet, Transformed in Christ is the only Confirmation programme to have come out of the UK in the last year, and therefore it is rooted in our culture, which is important I think. [The photo above is from a recent training day for catechists who are using Transformed in Christ]
So, here are ten reasons why I think you should use Transformed in Christ for your Confirmation programme next year:
1. It focuses on discipleship.
Discipleship seems to be the ‘fashionable’ word of the moment, but I am not just using it as a buzzword. I really mean it. A disciple is someone who has encountered Christ, and after sincere seeking, decides intentionally to “drop everything” and follow him within the midst of his Church. This is the main goal of TIC from the initial evangelisation retreat, right up to the sessions on vocation and life in Christ at the end. It acknowledges that discipleship does not happen overnight, that it happens gradually, as a person gets to know Christ, and learns to trust him, then decides to walk with him. Only towards the end of the programme does it use the language of “letting down the nets” (in the time of prayer during Session 21). It sincerely and gradually seeks to form young disciples, helping them to let go of and overcome whatever is holding them back.
2. It acknowledges the role of the catechist.
If you ever come across a catechetical resource that promises to do the hard work of evangelisation for you, here’s a piece of advice: Do not believe a word! “Plug in and play we’ll take care of your disciple-making.” Uh-uh. It’s not going to happen. Let any great disciple-maker tell you that a DVD, a book, a resource, an app will not form disciples – only God will do it, through you. The vast experience of the history of the Church, the lives of the Saints, will testify that conversions happen person-to-person – through witnesses. I would say, therefore, that the formation of catechists is vastly more important than the resource itself. (Read more in General Directory for Catechesis, 234). I cannot really say this strongly enough. If a catechist is on fire, but does not have a book at her disposal, it doesn’t matter. It is likely she will ignite fire in young hearts anyway. If a catechist has no fire, and has a great resource at their disposal, a young person might learn something, but the likelihood of their catching the fire of God’s love is slim.
That is why TIC places great importance on the formation of catechists. In fact, a full 27 pages at the start of the resource are given over to catechist formation (designed to be read and discussed by the catechists together). One priest told me it was the best introduction to a resource he’d ever read. Indeed, I would be suspicious of a resource which does not mention the formation of catechists, let alone give some space dedicated to it. This is absolutely key.
3. It prioritises evangelisation before catechesis.
In the years I’ve been a catechist, and especially while I studied for my Masters, I have seen dozens of good, solid catechetical resources that gave no time to evangelisation. In my view, if a resource does not acknowledge the need for evangelisation – even of Catholic young people from Catholic families – it is stuck in the past, it is “maintenance-driven”. (This is hard for UK catechists to understand because we have been so deprived of solid catechetical material in the last decades that there is a temptation in us to swing the other way. We can easily forget evangelisation when we are determined to give badly-needed knowledge. I’ve written about this here.) And yet, knowledge is like seed falling on hard ground unless there is a heart disposed to receive it. That heart has encountered Christ and is beginning to fall in love with him, and it is hungry for knowledge about him. Evangelisation must precede catechesis – and yet so many of us pretend that it is not needed at all.
TIC begins with an evangelisation weekend retreat. I know that many who have used the programme this year did not have the time to plan a full weekend at the beginning of the year. If you use it again next year, I beg you to plan a full weekend right at the beginning of the year! You will be amazed at the difference it will make.
4. The kerygma is at the heart of each session.
The Gospel message is not something we proclaim once before moving onto the more meaty stuff (see Evangelii Gaudium, 165). No, we must keep proclaiming it, again and again. Each one of us can be struck by the newness of the kerygma every day. We can never hear it enough.
On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” Evangelii Gaudium, 164
I have been intentional in making sure that the kerygma, the Good News about each doctrine that we’re teaching, is up front and centre. But only the catechist can be sure that this comes across. Only the catechist’s own conviction and personal experience of the saving kerygma will convert hearts.
5. The catechesis is nourishing and comprehensive.
On the other side of the coin, what many have commented to me is that the catechesis is not “lite”. We tend to have low expectations of what will interest young people or of what they will understand. One priest who looked at the first session seemed baffled when I told him it was aimed towards a 12 to 16 year old. And yet, what a Key Stage 3 or 4 student learns in science or in maths can be pretty complicated! Why would we not have the same expectations in the faith? For too long, many have had a childish understanding of their faith, mainly because of a lack of adult formation. I think it is time we vigorously reversed that trend. Catechesis gives the revelation of God that “responds to the desire for the infinite which abides in every human heart” (EG, 165). Let’s not neglect to ‘feed’ our young people with all that God has revealed of himself.
Part Two coming soon…