The Catechetical Review - Communicating Christ for a New Evangelization

Children's Catechesis: The Pedagogy of Silence

Authored by Sr. Mary Michael Fox, OP in Issue #9.3 of Catechetical Review

As we know, the term “catechesis” derives from the Greek word katechein, which means “to echo.” Our work as catechists is to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ—to hand on to others what we have received, what we have heard, seen, and touched (1 Jn 1:1). For this reason, it might seem counterintuitive to write an article on the specific pedagogical need for silence during one’s catechetical instruction. However, the conundrum gives way when we understand the role of silence in fostering an authentic dialogue of salvation between God and the person receiving catechesis.[1] First, a personal story.

I have been a catechist for over 30 years and have taught “children” from three to 93  years of age. In my glory days as a junior high religion teacher, I had the reputation of having such a rigorous religion curriculum that my former eighth-grade students never took notes in religion class their entire freshman year of high school and still got all A’s. Many students would lovingly tease, “Sister, your quizzes are like tests; your tests are like exams; and your exams are like dissertations.” Yes, we were rigorous in our study of Catholic doctrine, but it took me many years (and a doctoral degree) to realize that I had failed to teach my students the one thing necessary: how to listen to God’s silent voice. More egregious, I had failed to let God speak.

An Education in the Faith

The various catechetical directories have consistently referred to the work of catechesis in educational terms. The 1971 Directory spoke of catechesis as “catechetical education” and the formation of the child’s heart as an “interior education.”[2] The 1997 Directory asked catechists to envision catechesis as a “school of faith” and to recognize that it serves “the simple objective of education in the faith.”[3] The 2020 Directory likewise recognizes that catechesis draws its inspiration from the “great educational work of God.”[4] We instinctively know that an education in the faith differs substantially from an education in other subjects.[5] Yet, for years, catechists have adopted a pedagogical approach that mirrors their counterpart teachers of math or science.

To be sure, the math teacher’s cycle of instruction, guided practice, student evaluation, and remedial instruction as needed has proven successful for many students seeking to master algebra. In catechesis, however, our aim is not to have students master knowledge but to have a knowledge of the Master. This is no clever play on words. The 2020 Directory exhorts catechists to “evangelize by educating and educate by evangelizing.”[6] This means that we must include in our unique educational pedagogy a way for the child to encounter the Lord—a way for her to hear God’s voice. We must provide a way for the child to contemplate—not master—God’s truth, beauty, and goodness.

The rest of this online article is available for current subscribers.

Start your subscription today!


This article is from The Catechetical Review (Online Edition ISSN 2379-6324) and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of The Catechetical Review by contacting [email protected]

Articles from the Most Recent Issue

RCIA & Adult Faith Formation: Forming Missionary Disciples as Prophets and Witnesses
By Scott Elmer
In 2017, the bishops of the United States held a convocation focused on unpacking and applying Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”). It was a beautiful moment of solidarity around the essential mission of the Church. Throughout the convocation, the bishops often repeated the mantra “We all are missionary... Read more
Catholic Schools: “What Am I Doing?” Reflections on Teaching with Fascination
By Bryce Crandall
As the students cleared out of my classroom at the end of the day, I leaned back in my chair, staring at the peeling painter’s tape framing a poster in the front of the class of Christ washing the feet of his apostles. It hadn’t been a bad day, but it hadn’t been a good day, either. My colleague—a good friend who accompanies me, sharing concerns... Read more
Encountering God in Catechesis: The Attraction of Holiness
By Colleen Rainone
When I close my eyes I can still see her. The woman who had just stepped to the front of the room preferred not to use the microphone, but her soft voice just didn’t carry in the small meeting area seating a posse of teenagers. We were on retreat, one of the few required prior to our confirmation. “Maria” had just arrived that morning. I had spent... Read more

Pages

Watch Tutorial Videos

We've put together several quick and easy tutorial videos to show you how to use this website.

Watch Now