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Forming those who form others

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Being Guided & Guiding Souls

The ministry of catechesis and the ministry of spiritual formation are ordinarily somewhat separate in people’s understanding. Yet in the Church’s mind, they relate naturally and necessarily. “Truly, to help a person to encounter God, which is the task of the catechist, means to emphasize above all the relationship that the person has with God so that he can make it his own and allow himself to be guided by God” (GDC 139). “The catechist is essentially a mediator. He facilitates communication between the people and the mystery of God, between subjects amongst themselves, as well as with the community.” (GDC 156). This workshop explores what it means to be guided – an intentional docility and trust of the Church ability to lead us to spiritual growth, to peace with God, to sanctity. Building upon this, we then examine the fundamentals of what it means for you to guide another soul in a catechetical context, so that you can more intentionally seek to be all that the catechetical vocational is graced to become.

"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery... But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such there is no law." - Galatians 5:1, 22-23

By the end of this workshop, you’ll:

  • Understand further what the Church means by spirituality, as well as experience the meditations written by a saint who was a master at spiritual guidance.
  • Have thought through your mission for your own spiritual growth and your mission for helping others grow in the spiritual life.
  • Deepen your appreciation of the experience of being guided before you seek to guide others.

As you enter into this workshop, notice what at first may seem to be an uneven amount of segments directed to guide you, the catechist, in spiritual growth (nine segments) and those aimed at directing how to guide others in their spiritual journey (two segments). This is a deliberate decision, for, as the Church says through the document called the General Directory for Catechesis (GDC):

“The formation of catechists is made up of different dimensions. The deepest dimension refers to the very being of the catechist, to his human and Christian dimension. Formation, above all else, must help him to mature as a person, a believer and as an apostle . . . formation, above all, nourishes the spirituality of the catechist, so that his activity springs in truth from his own witness of life. Every theme covered by formation should feed, in the first place, the faith of the catechist. It is true that catechists catechize others by firstly catechizing themselves." (GDC 238, 239)

In this segment, you will have the chance to ponder a meditation on guidance. Be sure you have the printed-out handout in front of you to follow along. We encourage you to listen quietly, perhaps underlining what stands out to you, and entering into a place of prayer as you walk with the soldier in this meditation.

For this task, find a quiet place, preferably in a church or chapel, and take some time to slowly and prayerfully read through the following verses: John 14:1-6; Matthew 11:25-30; John 15:1-11. Read through these verses several times slowly, reflecting on the fact that they portray the larger picture of the ultimate goal of union with Christ. Notice which lines stand out to you.

In the response box below, write reflectively about the one sentence or statement that stood out to you the most in these passages. Then write about why you think this particular statement stood out, and what our Lord might be seeking to tell you through highlighting this.

“As catechists, we have committed ourselves to the path of life-long conversion.” - The Sower, July 2006

When thinking about this topic of being guided and also guiding others, an analogy that comes to mind is from part of the safety instructions announcement that is made at the beginning of a commercial airplane flight – “Please put your own oxygen mask on before helping others with theirs.” While not a perfect analogy, what does ring true is that we can help others in their spiritual life only if we ourselves continue to take measures to allow our spiritual life to be strengthened. So let’s focus on our own spiritual journey.

For this task, take stock of how you have been guided in your spiritual life thus far. Who has done much of the guiding? How would you describe the guides you have had (or lack thereof)? How have they guided you? What difference has it made? Have you relied on any particular books during your walk with the Lord? At what points have you found the most spiritual growth? Where do you turn when you are looking for spiritual guidance? Write about these questions in less than 300 words in the response box below.

In this segment, we are introduced to examples of spiritual mentors, including St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (founder of the Daughters of Charity religious order), St. Francis de Sales (author of Introduction to the Devout Life), and St. John Bosco (the patron for this workshop – see his biography above).

In this task, we are going to meet one of the most popular spiritual guides among the saints in the last 400 years of Church history. This is St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622), a nobleman who lived mostly in the southeastern part of France. He became a priest and eventually bishop of Geneva, despite never gaining access to the city because it was a stronghold of the Calvinist form of Protestantism, at that time was dangerously hostile to the Catholic faith. In addition to his superb gifts as a catechist, St. Francis became a magnificent spiritual guide for lay men and women. His written works became and remain, spiritual classics. His most popular work, the Introduction to the Devout Life, will be discussed more in an upcoming segment.

For this task, let us reflect on the first meditation of this famous book as it introduces us to thoughts about the desire to grow in the spiritual life. Read this meditation (Chapter 1) in the handout you printed for this workshop. Then underline the line that stood out to you the most in this meditation and write that line in the response box below. Then write a paragraph or two explaining why that line stands out to you. 

“My vocation is to love.” - St. Thérèse of Lisieux

In this task let’s think about the question Prof. Keimig presents in this segment about how we love others as part of our walk with Christ. Find a quiet place – your room, the chapel, somewhere outside – and reflect on God’s will expressed as an act of constant, careful love for you, for your needs, for your joy. First, put yourself in the presence of God with an Our Father or another prayer. Then, prayerfully reflect on the questions:

“Who was I given to love in just these past 24 hours? People constantly in your life, or strangers who crossed your path today? How did you treat them with love? How might you have loved them even more as God wills that they be loved?”

Write reflectively about the answer to these questions in a couple of paragraphs in the response box below. Be sure to give relevant details about the people you are discussing (their relationship to you, etc.).

"Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." - Jeremiah 31:31-34

For this task, let’s take a moment to do some prayerful soul-searching. Begin by praying to the Holy Spirit: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.”

Now ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you anything that is holding you back in your relationship with God. Pray for the light to see what He wants to show you and the grace to entrust yourself more deeply into the Lord’s hands.

When you have finished, in the response box below just write a line of prayer of thanks to the Holy Spirit for His continual guidance, comfort and strengthening. 

Prayerfully ponder as you complete this segment, in what three ways in particular does God provide divine guidance for us?

After listening to this segment, think through what ways you currently have in place or practice as reliable ways for growth. Think especially about the three ways of divine guidance:

  • How often you are reading the Scriptures.
  • How you seek out Jesus’ example and mirror that example in your own life.
  • What your relationship is with the liturgy and sacraments through which we receive grace (for example, how often you make it to an additional Mass beyond Sunday and Holy Days).

Write your summary about what you are currently doing, as well as your plan for taking one step forward in one of these three areas. Write about this in a paragraph or two in the response box below. 

In the last segment, we considered how to grow in the areas in which we are divinely guided. Now we consider how God works through human guides in our life to help us grow in these areas.

In your handout (which you downloaded at the beginning of this workshop), read Chapter 4 from Introduction to the Devout Life.

After you have read the chapter, consider the role of spiritual mentorship. Praying with the passage above, first write in the response box the characteristics of a good spiritual director according to St. Francis de Sales and the video segment. Then write about who might fulfill this role in your life (feel free to think back and elaborate here on your answer to task two). Finally, include in your written response a reflection about whether this relationship needs to develop? Is there perhaps another person you might need to seek out for direction? What would be the value in seeking someone else out for spiritual guidance? 

Prayerfully ponder the main message of this segment; that all the messes of life can become your means to sainthood.

Prayerfully choose one fruit from the list on your handout that you hope to grow in. Take the Scripture verse listed under the fruit to prayer today – read it through and pray with that verse. Then write a paragraph or two in the response box below about the virtue you are working on, and a small step, but deliberate movement you are desiring to make.

“If you do not feel like you are on the edge of your comfort zone then you are not in ministry the way you are supposed to be.”

Spend time in prayerful gratitude over God’s plan and desire for relationship with you. He wants you beyond all telling. Then, prayerfully, with consideration of the nature of spirituality and the call to an ever-deepening conversion, consider where you truly are in your relationship with God and where you hope to be.

Write a personal mission statement for your life as a Catholic in a short paragraph or even a single sentence. Be sure you have worded this mission statement to show clearly that Jesus is at the center of your mission. 

Continue watching as Professor Keimig discusses asking questions to guide souls.

Let’s try out one of the suggestions from this segment. For this task, look for a conversation this week when a question from the list on Prof. Keimig’s handout can be inserted (you might need to reword the question, of course, for example, saying, “What does earnest listening look like to you?”

You might consider incorporating this question first into a conversation with your formation companion and then into a general conversation. Incorporate the question into this conversation. Describe in the response box below in about 200 words how you knew it was the right time to ask the question and how the conversation went. 

"And [Jesus] answered, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.'" - Luke 10:27

In a paragraph or less, write a personal mission statement for your calling as a catechist within the heart of the Church. More so than most of these exercises, it would be of great value to take this to prayer, and to take your time in developing what you really want to say. Enter this mission statement in the response box below. 

Before ending this workshop, we are going to pause to reflect on the teaching elements modeled in this workshop. In particular, let’s focus on the introduction to the topic as a model for introducing topics in catechetical sessions. Thinking back to segment 2, notice the clear way in which Professor Keimig introduces this workshop by (1) giving the reason why this workshop is important as well as a (2) statement of the overall goal and a (3) brief summary of the major points he will make in this workshop. This structure helps the listener know better what to expect, and thus to listen and learn better from the content. In the response box below, write down a topic that you will have to present on soon and draft an introduction for a catechetical session on that topic, ensuring that all three of the elements listed above are present. 

Congratulations on completing this workshop! The next step is to complete the final survey below letting your mentor know that you have finished the workshop.

What are your two most pressing questions after completing this workshop?

What was the one thing that surprised you most about the teachings in this workshop?

How could you see this information currently applying to your ministry (for example as a parent, as a parish catechist, as a teacher or pastor, etc.)?

What from this workshop will affect your own personal relationship with Jesus?

Congratulations on completing this workshop! As the Body of Christ, let us continue to pray for each other, praying for growth in our spiritual lives, and the spiritual lives of those we catechize, every day!

Patron Saint

St. John Bosco,
pray for us!

Workshop Presenter

Bill Keimig is currently the Assistant Director of the Catechetical Institute at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.  For 15 years, he served as the Director of... Read more

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