As a catechist, you hopefully talk about Jesus constantly. You talk often about prayer: teaching people how to pray, leading them in prayer, and organizing retreats and times for your students to encounter Christ. You study Scripture to prepare for your lesson and ground your teaching in the Word of God.
But do you know him? Do you talk to him?
It is easy to confuse our work for Jesus with our time with Jesus. But if we are not careful, we will pour ourselves out day after day until we find ourselves dry.
Talking about Jesus all day or studying the Scriptures for the sake of a lesson can give us the false impression that we have a healthy prayer life. Continue to pour yourself out without frequent attempts to refill, however, and burnout is inevitable. The burned-out catechist will lose his temper, say the wrong thing at the wrong time, or be a bad example of Christian charity. Even worse, a burned-out catechist will become disillusioned with the Church and lose faith.
This is not something that only happens to others. We are not immune. Even if we are talking about Jesus all day, our spiritual life can suffer.
Words of Caution
C. S. Lewis wrote to a friend, Sheldon Vanauken, with some words of caution. Vanauken was asking Lewis’ advice regarding theology as a career. Lewis suggested the following:
I think there is a great deal to be said for having one’s deepest spiritual interest distinct from one’s ordinary duty as a student or professional man. St. Paul’s job was tent-making. When the two coincide I should have thought there was a danger lest the natural interest in one’s job and the pleasures of gratified ambition might be mistaken for spiritual progress and spiritual consolation: and I think clergymen sometimes fall into this trap. Contrariwise, there is the danger that what is boring and repellent in the job may alienate one from the spiritual life. And finally, someone has said, “None are so holy as those whose hands are cauterized with holy things”: sacred things may become profane by becoming matters of the job. You now want truth for her own sake: how will it be when the same truth is also needed for an effective footnote in your thesis? In fact, the change might do good or harm.
It might be helpful for catechists, particularly those whose primary occupation is working for the Church, to read this quote often. What is he cautioning against?
First, we might confuse our work for our prayer. Simply because someone loves studying Scripture does not mean they love God. Just because you are energized after teaching a great lesson about Jesus does not mean you are advancing in the spiritual life.
Second, he warns that hardships in the job will turn us away from the faith. Perhaps we become bored. Even worse, we may become scandalized by something that eventually turns us away from God and the Church.
Third, he warns that it may all become monotonous or “just part of our job”, rather than sacred, beautiful, and special.