(The first part of this post can be found here.)
6. The methodology of each session aims towards conversion.
As I’ve written countless times on this blog (just do a search for “methodology”), method is absolutely vital in achieving your goals. Are you seeking to make disciples? Well, the steps you take to achieve this are essential. When you’re examining a new catechetical programme, it is good to ask yourself about the method that is being used. In Transformed in Christ, I’ve loosely followed the ecclesial method (preparation, proclamation, explanation, application and celebration) because it’s one of the best methods I know at reflecting God’s own pedagogy, the way he himself teaches us. (I’ve written about this in more depth in pages 22 to 24 of the resource.) In short, when we are creating the conditions for God to move hearts, we can’t just tell the candidates to be quiet, stick on a DVD and hope for the best! Everything needs to be geared towards creating the greatest possibilities for conversions to happen (that includes everything from opportunities we offer for socialising, to how we lead small group discussions – and there is a thorough guide to these in the appendix). How you teach is equally important to what you teach.
7. It is easy-to-use for the well-formed catechist (and it forms catechists at the same time).
I cannot tell you how happy I was one day when one of our catechists (I’d invited her to help with a small group rather than give catechesis) told me she’d been reading the guide (in one of its earlier forms) on the Tube. She told me she was amazed how much she was learning! A number of people have told me similar stories – they are learning more from teaching. Of course, this is what inevitably happens when we give catechesis. References throughout to further reading from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the YouCat and Peter Kreeft’s Catholic Christianity help ensure the catechist is deepening their understanding. However, having said this, the main catechesis in each session (there is always a Catechesis 1 and Catechesis 2) should only be given by a catechist who (1) has a deep grasp of the doctrines of the Church and who can answer questions effectively; (2) is a skilled communicator to young people. These knowledge and skills will only come from high-quality catechist formation (if you haven’t already got this from point 2!)
For the catechist who is well-formed in this way (perhaps they have studied at Maryvale Institute or School of the Annunciation) the Guide is beautifully-presented and thoughtfully laid out. Kathy Kielty (a wonderful Confirmation catechist herself who I miss working with!) understood exactly what the catechist would need at their finger-tips, and how the information would be best laid out on the page. She has done a brilliant job which countless people have found helps the sessions move more smoothly.
8. It has the way teens learn in mind throughout.
My team of catechists and I learned very early on that no activity in our sessions could extend beyond 10 or 15 minutes. We held the sessions after school, and for this reason, we had to keep things fast-paced and snappy. This methodology admittedly requires planning and preparation to achieve a slick presentation. You can’t just rock up and open up the book. But we found that it works. Each session moves swiftly between film clips and spiritual journal reflections, from discussion to catechesis. In doing so, it makes use of varied learning strategies, and before your candidates know it, the accumulated effect of these techniques make an impact, and deeper understanding and conversion is taking place.
9. It integrates the four dimensions of Christian life.
You’ll know that one of the key requirements of a catechetical resource for me is that it includes all four dimensions of the Christian life. (This has been something of an obsession ever since I researched it for my MA dissertation…) But, let me assure you, this is not a mere eccentricity on my part, it is a real invitation of the Church to form the human person as God does – through four means – teaching, liturgy, life in Christ, and prayer (see Acts 2:42). I’ve written more on this topic here. Some resources can be heavy on teaching with little time for prayer; some can be crammed with opportunities for socialising, discussion and games (third dimension), without time for Adoration or experience of the liturgy (second dimension). Throughout Transformed in Christ, I’ve been intentional about ensuring that every session is balanced in terms of teaching (the catechesis itself), liturgy (the liturgy of the Word and opportunities for the sacraments), life in Christ (discussion and interaction) and prayer (each session ends with a prolonged time of prayer). This is why I would recommend not altering the sessions at all (adding or subtracting) as it is likely to affect this balance between dimensions.
10. It seeks to lead teens to intimacy with Christ in prayer.
What more can we say? This is the most important thing of all. The programme offers 22 short sessions of prayer, introducing candidates to authentic Catholic traditions of prayer, designed to lead to an encounter with God. If we are serious about this, we have to be serious about how we use music, how we lead them into silence, how we create an environment conducive to prayer, how we frequently recall them to Jesus’s Presence in the tabernacle. When you’re looking at a resource, review the prayer materials it offers. Are they superficial, or will they help you in your task to draw your teenagers into intimacy with Jesus?
After all, if you achieve this, you have achieved everything.