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Encountering God in Catechesis
The Treasure We Give With the smell of Domino’s pepperoni pizza in the air and the sound of girly giggles that had not quite settled down, a group of 50 or so high school students crowded in small groups on the carpet floor of the parish center on a Sunday night, ready for another catechetical lesson in the St. Gertrude youth ministry program. As a Freshman in high school, I would carpool with friends 40 minutes across town just to be a part of this group. It wasn’t my home parish, but the faith was alive and well at St. Gertrude, and a friend invited me to come and see. On this particular night, after tummies were filled and icebreakers were done, we sat down for the weekly teaching from our youth minister and the conversation made its way to the topic of sin. The floor was opened for questions, and I raised my hand: “I don’t understand how the original sin of Adam and Eve could be passed down to all of us. It wasn’t our sin.” The youth minister gave an explanation that I’m sure was catechetically sound and thorough, but it didn’t stick. One, then another adult leader chimed in, hoping to explain in a way that would resonate. I felt bad. I knew I was asking a difficult question, and I really didn’t want to embarrass these nice people who welcomed me every week with pizza and side hugs and gave their Sunday nights to help me grow closer to God. Worse, I didn’t want to seem uncool in front of my youth group friends and draw attention to myself. I was starting to say it wasn’t a big deal and I didn’t need any more examples, when someone else spoke up. It was Fr. Stephen, a Dominican friar who was assigned to the youth group as our chaplain. He had a quiet, kind demeanor; so when he spoke, I listened. He told me that God created humanity perfectly, like a priceless painting. Through sin, that painting was damaged. Parts of it were marred and torn, even missing. That same human nature was passed on to each of us, and while we did not commit the original sin of Adam and Eve, we are the heirs of that broken humanity. He finished explaining that it is Christ who redeems and restores us, once and for all through his death and resurrection, and in our daily living through the sacraments and grace. It clicked. I understood.