NORTH CHARLESTON — Nearly 100 catechists and directors of religious education turned out for a workshop on their ministry Sept. 12. The day-long event was produced by the Coastal Area Directors of Religious Education (CADRE) and was hosted by St. Thomas the Apostle Church. The choir from St. Philip Benizi in Moncks Corner sang to open the workshop.
The keynote speaker was Father Thomas Evatt, pastor of St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken and vicar for Continuing Education for Priests in the Diocese of Charleston. Since Father Evatt’s talk was so well-received, and since it focused on the Catechetical Sunday theme of “Holy Spirit, Source of Unity,” and since the 1998 theme in the Jubilee 2000 schema is “A People of Hope Through the Holy Spirit,” the staff of The Miscellany thought that readers might be interested in seeing it in print. It has been edited for length.
By FATHER THOMAS EVATT
Let us begin today by recognizing that this Holy Spirit, who has gathered us from across the state, has performed his first miracle for us:
We have arrived safely.
We have arrived with hearts eager to learn more about him.
We have arrived convinced that he has work for us to do.
Each of us has heard the whisper of his voice telling us, compelling us to gather as ministers of his Church and to become strengthened in all that he will offer to us this day.
How fortunate we are to live in these times. Many of us who lived in the pre-Vatican Council II Church will readily admit that the Holy Ghost (as he was known in those days) seemed elusive and strangely distant to us. He was that necessary personality of God which completed the definition of the threefold Personhood of Trinity for so many of us of the Baltimore Catechism era.
Even for those in advanced theological training, the study of the Holy Ghost (pneumonology) was at best a definition of “what he did” rather than who is he.
For us who have lived in the years following Vatican Council II, we have seen this spectrum of understanding advance from “a necessary definition of faith” To a theology of Spirit that is so intimately linked to every element of the Church. We will investigate this intimation of Spirit in connection with our lives and ministries. He will empower in us the grace to act and to believe that he is profoundly in control of this final portion of Salvation History. This is why Jesus bequeathed him to us in the remaining moments of his Sacred Ministry. This is why the Father sent him forth to be with us every moment left in the spiritual life of the world.
No longer just identified with what the Spirit of God does in our lives, we have been profoundly moved by our faith to identify his part and parcel of our own unique existence with God. He is, in every sense of the good news the “God who dwells within us.”
Old Testament Concepts
Some will find it surprising that with exegesis of the First Testament the Spirit of God is identified as a thing, an action of Yahweh rather than the more theologically developed understanding of personhood (as seen in the Second Testament).
Quite simply, as we comprehend words from another person, these words do not enter into our being and become one with our own existence.
Thus, the Ruah Yahweh is just that — the breath of God. This breath can create, act, move at the thought of God. It does not act or move independently of God — only at his direction.
This once, relatively difficult idea to comprehend, has — in the age of computers, become more comprehensible to the computer literate who speakwords into a computer and the text takes form before our very eyes. Let us look at some of the things the Spirit of Yahweh can do at the command of God:
1. The spirit can clothe (Judges 6:34)
2. The spirit can be poured out (Isaiah 29:10)
3. The spirit can be placed into another by God (Isaiah 63:11)
4. The spirit can be taken from someonw (Psalm 51:13)
5. The spirit can depart from another (I Samuel 16:14)
The Invisible God’s Visible Sign
Soteriology or salvation history is believed to be contained within three equal components, both by the Jewish Community and the Church of Jesus Christ. In both time lines in Salvation History (Jewish or Christian), Yahweh manifests a visible sign.
This visibility of the breathe of God in the Old Testament is the first presence of evangelization — of hearing Good News that the Father loved us so much, he could not let us be lost to him for time.
It is a force to be reckoned with since it is the very breath of God.
Evangelist and Catechist in the Church Today
As we have traced the development of the understanding of the Holy Spirit through both Testaments of our Judaeo-Christian Tradition, so we must recognize the presence and activity of the Spirit in the Church here and now. More specifically in the lives of modern day evangelizers and catechists.
Your first role must be that of Evangelizer. This role is done by the guidance of the Spirit always because it comes out of your lived experience and the sense of faith. It is the transmission of what we believe by our actions. By your example of living out the faith by your observance of the sacramental life, by your personal living of the Christian lifestyle, by your enthusiasm for the faith, you give the example and call others to live as you do.
This process of evangelization is most basic. Without it the process of catechesis is impossible. If you are not seen as an authentic example of lived faith, your words will not have the exousia (empowerment) that comes from the Holy Spirit. If you are not living life in Christ and in the Spirit it is not evangelical.
In our role as catechists we are called to act in the Spirit of God. This takes on, in part, the role of prophet. As we said regarding the necessity of the prophet of old to speak as compelled by the Spirit, so must the modem day catechist speak what is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
This is made most clearly visible when we teach what is the sound doctrine of the Church. This has been carefully handed down from generation to generation and must be transmitted authentically. It is not “my opinion” but what I know to be authentic. In this authenticity we can be sure that we are teaching in the Spirit and find ourselves given exousia.
The Spirit has come among us this day to teach us how to be evangelists and catechists. He has given the prime model for our roles of continuing the incarnation of Christ as we return to our parishes empowered to share the good news and to practice the faith to all with whom we have contact.