Catechesis and Training

Ephraim Radner, priest and professor at Wycliffe College and honorary canon of the diocese of Dallas, writing in “First Things” in January: “Catechesis is today the main task of our Christian communities…. Catechesis is the micro-climate of patience, and patience is what opens us to God’s own time and timing, to what God gives.”

I was surprised by how many people told me they had taken a look at one or more of the catechesis videos I mentioned last week. They are here:  https://edod.org/resources/articles/a-post-pandemic-catechesis/   I think, also, that they are good material for study classes, growth groups, home fellowships, and the like.

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He was jogging north; I was walking south with my loaded, 17-pound backpack. “Are you training?" he asked. He had earpods; I assumed he was talking on the phone. But no, he was talking to me. I said yes, that I was going to take a long pilgrimage in Spain. He was excited; he knew about the Camino. “I’m going to walk the JMT,” he said, ”and I need to start training for it.” The JMT stands for the John Muir Trail. I said that his trek would be much harder than mine; that he’d have to take a tent—at which he grinned. “No, actually I’m planning to do it cowboy-style, just sleep on the ground and pull a cover over me.”

His delight and friendliness encouraged me, and I guess I encouraged him in turn. I’ve often thought, though, that none of us is ever just training. The meaning of what we do is never just in the future.

Children, for instance, are not the church of the future. If they are baptized, they are part of the church of the present. Just so, my walking over this fascinating city of Dallas is not only getting ready to walk over a thousand-year-old path in Spain. It is a meaningful thing to do right now.

And Lent is not a preparation for Easter. And this life is not a preparation for the life to come. The value of this life—like that of Lent, and of children, and of walking around Dallas—is here, now, and always.  

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Mr. Michael Ossorgin, tutor at St. John’s College, complained ironically about the highway signs that said, “Courtesy Pays.” He said: “Courtesy is good in its own right.” 

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Also in that January issue of “First Things,” Wilfred McClay writes on the importance of memorization. When, say, a prayer is memorized, it “becomes one’s own, alive in one’s mind and spirit…. It is ours, more fully than the books on our shelf.” And when a prayer is “shared by heart by many” it contributes to forming “the soul of a people. This is why we need to pay more attention to what we are putting into our memories, and those of our children.”

So I thought I would start to include a bit of memorization here at the end of my blogs. This first one is one of my favorite prayers for evening, and it is short. Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Hey, if you memorize it, you can say it while you’re walking.

Post Pandemic Catechesis – and a Long Walk

I have a new video resource: five 30-minute segments on basic Christianity specially focused on needed teaching in our post-pandemic situation. The topics are (1) creation, (2) the mess i.e. sin, (3) God’s desire to be involved with creation i.e. his Speech and his Spirit, (4) what a human being is, as revealed in Jesus the one true human, and (5) Jesus’ death and resurrection, in which he is revealed as our true friend. The videos are here: https://edod.org/resources/articles/a-post-pandemic-catechesis/

Each video has both a short talk by yours truly and a conversation with someone from the diocese of Dallas. Each ends with a couple of questions  for further discussion. The idea is that these could be easily used in parish settings, for weekday classes or home groups, for instance. A small group could gather and watch the video (30 min.) and then have their own conversation.

If any of you use them, I’d love to hear how it goes. This is the first time I’ve done anything like this. I used to say, “VA doesn’t do A/V,” but that’s starting not to be true.

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In a few days I will be heading to Spain for a pilgrimage on the Way of Saint James, or in Spanish, the Camino de Santiago. I hope to walk on the old Camino Francese from Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostella, a distance of nearly 500 miles. (Of course, they don’t reckon distance in miles, but I promise to do my best to maintain the awkward but traditional English units.) 

My weekly blogs here will be—God and technology willing—reports from the pilgrimage. I do not plan to do any other blogging. One of the necessities of a pilgrimage like this is to disconnect from one’s usual world and to open oneself to God’s work in the soul. I do not plan to check email except weekly and then only cursorily. I do not plan to engage the cellular function of my phone. Stripping back to essentials, I hope to be open and vulnerable to what God wants to show me.

I also hope not to have too many blisters.

This means, incidentally, that my occasional blogs on holding the Prayer Book close (of which there have been six this year so far) will not resume until late May or June.

I will be carrying you and praying for my readers and friends (in Dallas and New York and elsewhere) as I walk, and I welcome your holding me in prayer also. Although it was no part of my plan, this pilgrimage is occurring in the tenth year since Susan died, and its length and dates are almost exactly coincident with the period of her final hospitalization – the silence of the final weeks of her life. I sense that I am being drawn, and I think for the last time, to enter that silence with her. I’m not at all sure what this means.

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On the Web. I have a column on the Human Life Review website (thoughts spurred by Ash Wednesday and reflections on Gen. 2-3). It’s called “The Optimism of Adam”: https://humanlifereview.com/the-optimism-of-adam/ 

 

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The Rev. Canon Dr. Victor Lee Austin is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God who Gives and Takes Away."