I remember starting out more than 20 years ago as a Youth Minister in the Catholic Church thinking that this experience would help to foster my spirituality. Not only would I be able to work with God’s people, but I could also spend significant time in prayer each day. After all, my office was right in a church. But reality struck several months into my ministry when I had the terrible realization that I was actually spending less time in prayer. I became a victim of what my spiritual director called “spirituality by proximity.” I lead prayer services, helped form catechists, taught teens how to pray—all in a church setting—but my personal prayer life suffered.
This year as we celebrate Catechetical Sunday, the weekend of September 17 and 18, we are reminded of the importance of prayer in our daily lives by its theme: “Prayer: The Faith Prayed.” It is a time to encourage our catechists and teach our children to pray, and for us in leadership to make time for prayer. For me, this begins with physically scheduling time for prayer each day—in my calendar. Of course, I say little prayers throughout the day, but the scheduling helps me to be intentional and put aside time to spend with God in prayer.
As parish catechetical leaders we are called to be people of prayer. How do we give of ourselves if we are not filled? Like an empty glass, we have nothing to offer. Consider these four steps in your journey to be a person of prayer.
First, schedule the time. Choose a time without distractions and put it on your calendar. (My favorite time is at the end of the day when my husband and son are in bed.) This is quiet time, sacred time to be with God.
Second, look at different forms of prayer. As Catholic Christians, we are blessed with many different prayer forms. Contemplative prayer and Lectio Divina have been two ways for me to spend time in prayer. We also have devotional prayer, such as the rosary or Eucharistic Adoration, as well as liturgical prayers such as Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. Try different forms of prayer until you find something that fills you. As we grow in our faith journey we may find other prayer forms that help us.
Third, live as a person of prayer. This witness to your family and the children you teach is priceless. Allow the Holy Spirit to work through you as a catechist, and truly follow the Gospel of Jesus. This affects all that you do, including your classroom management and your interaction with your students.
Lastly, be patient with yourself. I remember when I began to pray with contemplative prayer, my mind would wander about all the things I needed to do for the day. My wise spiritual director told me, “Just let those thoughts go like you would a feather, and continue to pray.” Don’t get frustrated, be patient, and it will come. I am reminded of the story attributed to Saint John Vianney. When he was a priest in a small rural parish, a man would come into the Church and just sit in silence for hours before the tabernacle, early in the morning’s darkness each day. As a parish priest, he was curious about what prayers the farmer was praying for such a lengthy period of time. The farmer told him, “I look at Him and He looks at me.” What intimacy with our Lord!
The General Directory of Catechesis reminds us, “When catechesis is permeated by a climate of prayer, the assimilation of the entire Christian life reaches its summit,” (GDC 85). All that we do needs to be grounded in prayer so we truly can live as disciples of Jesus, and our children and teens will do the same.
Lee Ann Lella works as a sales representative for RCL Benziger in the West Region. She was in parish ministry for more than 20 years serving as a youth minister, director of faith formation, Catholic schoolteacher, and administrator. Her Master’s degree is in Theology from St. Norbert College, and she holds a teaching license in middle and secondary education. Lee Ann has been in numerous professional organizations both on the local and national level.