A catechist is not merely a teacher or instructor in the modern sense; he or she is one who makes another hear, literally ‘makes the ears ring’. Part of each catechetical session is, through proclamation, letting the catechumens or candidates hear the Word of the Lord echoing down through the Tradition of the Church. Tradition is ‘that which is handed down’, that which has been gathered into the Church’s treasury of doctrine and prayer over 2000 years. This is why the words of St Cyril of Jerusalem, St Ambrose, St John Chrysostom still ring out with such clarity centuries after they were proclaimed to catechumens in the Early Church.
A catechist’s task, then, is to hand on only the accumulated wisdom of the Church and this includes her rich heritage of liturgy, whereby we listen to God our Father and enter into dialogue with Him.
In anticipation of a new English translation of the Missal next year, this is an area that needs attention and proclamation. The prayers of the Mass form a great spiritual resource for catechesis and it is easy to miss some of the riches contained in the Mass that take up only a few seconds - before moving on to what may seem the more ‘important’ parts. The Collects, or Opening Prayers, are especially vital in that they set the tone, introduce the theme, of the whole Mass of the day. The Collect is intended to gather up, to ‘collect’ the prayerful thoughts of the people as they prepare to meet the Lord in word and sacrament; we cannot do that adequately unless we understand and appreciate what the Collect is saying on our behalf. It is for this reason that catechesis on these prayers will not only be helpful but will form an important function in handing on the Tradition of the Church.