Live your faith, Pope exhorts catechists

Pope Francis in St Peters Square before the Wednesday general audience May 22 2013 Credit Stephen Driscoll CNA 15 CNA 5 23 13 Pope Francis. | Stephen Driscoll / CNA

Pope Francis met with a group of catechists from around the world on Friday, encouraging them to live a life of witness for the faith rather than simply catechizing as a job.

"Be catechists, don't work as catechists," the Pope said to a group of two thousand gathered in the Paul VI audience hall in Rome on September 27. "Being a catechist is a vocation."

The pontiff stressed the importance of living a life of witness, because as Benedict XVI had noted, the Church does not grow through proselytizing, but through attracting, and that which attracts people is a life that witnesses to the gospel.

"People see the gospel in our lives: let them read the gospel," said Pope Francis.

In order to live the gospel, we must remain with Christ.

"The first thing, for a disciple, is to be with the Teacher, to listen to him, to learn from him. And this always matters, it is a journey that lasts the whole of life!"
The Pope then asked the participants, "how do you live, remaining with Christ?"  

When someone goes to pray before Jesus in the tabernacle, "you look at him, but do you let him see you? Allow him to look at you!" encouraged Pope Francis.

It is in this union with the Lord that we find the strength to go out of ourselves in order to share the gospel with others, he explained.

These evangelization efforts must bring us to the periphery, because that is where God himself goes.

Pope Francis reflected on the story of Jonah, who was called by God out of his "calm and orderly life" to go the city of Nineveh, which was "beyond his schema, at the periphery of his world."

This story teaches us that "God is not afraid of the periphery." In fact, "if you go to the periphery, you will find him there," explained the Pope.

He then went on to give an example of how catechists could do this.

"In Buenos Aires, there are many children who don't even know how to make the sign of the Cross! This is a periphery. We must go there."

Pope Francis went on to emphasize the need for "creativity" in catechesis, because "you need to know the circumstances in which you preach the gospel."

Although the gospel message never changes, we must be able to adapt our methods according to our circumstances. "God is not rigid," he said.

Moreover, said the Pope, Christian catechists cannot remain "closed off in our group, in our parish, in our movement, in our environment." Such an attitude leads to a person being "sick." 

Rather, we need the kind of catechist who "has the courage to take the risk to go out" preaching the gospel.

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Sue Petritz of Sussex England, who works with adults entering the Catholic Church, was present at the meeting. She found Pope Francis' words motivating. 

"He's just a great inspiration to catechists everywhere, because if the Pope can do it and he uses Jesus as his example, we can do it as well. He inspires us," she told CNA.

The meeting with Pope Francis was part of the International Conference on Catechesis organized for the Year of Faith. Two thousand catechists from around the world gathered from September 26-28 in Rome to consider the theme of "Catechist: A Witness of Faith." 

One participant from Portugal, Christina, expressed her joy in being part of an international gathering.

"I think it's very important to meet with people from other countries and other cultural experiences – and then we feel that we really are brothers and sisters that have a common Father," she said. 

The conference included the meeting with Pope Francis as well as various presentations on catechesis and a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter.

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