Ministry Tip of the Week
Here’s the five-fold structure of the Ecclesial Method.
1. The liturgy begins with the PREPARATION of the faithful. Usually the people assemble first, and then, in the context of a hymn, a procession of altar servers and other ministers leads the main celebrant – the priest – to a place at the head of the gathering, in the sanctuary. Finally, there’s a greeting and an opening prayer to remind us of our true dignity as sons and daughters of our Father in heaven.
In a classroom or youth group setting we often employ the use of an icebreaker—a short game or comical story. It serves to prepare the hearts and minds of students to be more perceptive.
To ‘break the ice’ at mass, we publicly confess our sins. In this communal act, the hearts and minds of parishioners are prepared, made more perceptive and attune. Our confession of faults helps us to settle in and get focused on who we are about to receive.
Paying heed to this structure, the Ecclesial Method also begins with an intentional focus on gathering together. We don’t rush into our teaching, we greet one another. Often times, especially with youth, there’s music and an “icebreaker” of sorts. We make time.
In a ministry/teaching setting - outside the sacred context of the actual liturgy of Word and Eucharist - this is the stage of pre-evangelization. We create a welcome environment and facilitate a time to build friendships.
Ultimately, we want to facilitate joy.
2. Once we’ve gathered, the focus of the night is made known with an openingPROCLAMATION. This is the moment of evangelization proper. The specific teaching topic is laid out in relation to the mystery of Jesus.
Proclamation mirrors the Liturgy of the Word.
At Mass we hear the Old Testament Scriptures read aloud and meditate upon them with a psalm. Then we hear the fulfillment of those Old Testament verses proclaimed in writing, most especially through the reading of the Gospel.
In a classroom or youth group setting the “proclamation” is a loaded but specific phrase, a single sentence summary upon which the whole lesson or talk is based. It’s essential to craft a powerful yet easy-to-remember statement (especially in youth settings), and to let it resurface every few minutes throughout the talk as the hinge on which all points are made, the glue that unites our message and the word that stays with them when they leave (we hope).
3. The proclamation is immediately followed by an EXPLANATION.
This is the bulk of formal catechesis. After introducing the basic message and relating it to the mystery of Christ, we then elaborate upon it and give the message roots. Catechesis acts as a fertilizer to help Faith grow.
Through an applicable and culturally relevant breakdown of the specific Gospel message, the mind is stimulated and stretched to enter more deeply into the “whys” of doctrine.
(Mother Church never says “because I said so.”)
There’s always an explanation. If we’re wise this explanation appeals to the heart and the mind, using real life analogies, cultural examples, personal experience/witness, and intimately connects with our relationship to Jesus in the liturgy.
Focus on the love of God.
If someone leaves our class or homily exclaiming: “Wow! I cannot believe how much God loves me!” then we have exceeded all of our aims.
And use Scripture.
With direct appeals to biblical events and personages - actually read from the Bible - let the message flow from a deeply Scriptural worldview. Make it clear this is not a matter of opinion (teaching the Faith is never a matter of opinion, but of revelation and truth).
4. Now we get personal. APPLICATION allows time to reflect upon the teachings just heard, and to engage the message more intimately through a personal response.
We must let the truth touch our life.
How does what I just heard apply to my life? What is Jesus saying to me through what I just heard? How is He challenging me to grow in holiness?
Here we enter into communion with the teaching. We allow it to penetrate our lives. We let Him in. We let Him teach us. We admit where we need to change. We converse with the Word.
5. Finally, we’re sent forth to spread the good news. The Word is made flesh in our hearts and we’re commissioned to dwell in the world as He did. The Mass is ended. “Go, announce the Gospel."
This is how catechesis must end, always a sending forth – in CELEBRATION, and with power. A saint once said: we enter into the walls of the church lambs for the offering, we leave conquering lions. Let this be the destiny of students who enter our classrooms as well.
That's the goal of the Ecclesial Method:
Preparation - Proclamation - Explanation - Application - Celebration