Spring! Pascha! Both speak of new life flowing out of death. We most often put our faith in this new life in regard to the end of our lives. And indeed we should. But resurrection is also an ongoing dynamic. At any given time in our lives we are experiencing a death of some kind. Perhaps it is the end of a job, the end of youthful energy and health, the end of a friendship, or belonging to a certain community, leaving a beloved home…spending a year in social isolation. We may also have come to see ourselves with fewer blinders. My intention is not to turn away from the culture of racism, or misogyny, or violence, or child abuse and neglect, or an economy that is serving the richest among us. Looking at these things honestly requires a certain kind of death as well.
Jesus said, “Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains just a grain of wheat.” The death of bad things or good things allow something new to rise.
So what is dying in yourself, or your life? What do you need to release? Are you already seeing the new life pushing out of that dying seed?
In the atrium and our related courses, we’ve had the loss of in-person sessions throughout much of the country, and much of the year. And I’m sure we all hope that the loss is temporary. But the catechists and formation leaders who have made space for something new to emerge – hybrid models of atrium sessions and courses – have discovered some valuable gifts to add the richness of our usual gatherings. We now have a way to serve adults who cannot afford the time or resources to travel to a course. Courses can more easily be tailored to a specific community’s needs. We are learning what can easily and effectively be done online, and what hands-on work can be done in the atrium alone or in small groups to suit the schedules of individual participants. As the pandemic eases our restrictions, work in the atrium can be even more accessible, but work that can be done well online can make a course flexible and cost-effective.
We now have ways to serve children who are hospitalized, isolated at home, unable to attend multiple sessions as they move from one household to another and back, or are traveling with their families for work or sabbaticals. We have learned to share handouts and materials to supplement lessons and meetings on Zoom so the hands-on aspect of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is available at home. These developments have the additional benefit of engaging parents in a meaningful way in the religious life of their children. The excellent and accessible theology of CGS is a blessing for both parents and children.
The new life of CGS is still emerging. As our family and parish lives shift, let us allow the letting go to inspire creative new solutions. Can a number of congregations with small numbers of children work together? A lead catechist, with the help of onsite assistants, could offer lessons and guidance, while allowing children to work side by side in their own atrium. Forums to review a course (such as our recent Level 2.5 Forum) can gather catechists from multiple time zones to reflect and share best practices to deepen our connection with the Catechesis in community even as we are physically distanced. Consultations can be done with a team of catechists online. What else can you imagine now that we have learned how to work well together in the digital world?
“But if it dies it bears much fruit” (John 12, 24).
Understanding this, Jesus embraced his death and made it a gift for all. As we live through the Triduum this year, let us choose, as Jesus did, to have faith that the seeds we allow to die will also bear fruit in our lives and our CGS community; and to celebrate the new life rising among us.