We propose as motives for this novena some expressions from the document by which Pope Francis instituted the lay ministry of Catechist. Catechesis is at the heart of the mission of the Institute founded by Brother Gabriel Taborin, and as well as for the Sa-Fa Family. Throughout these days, we will find some echoes of his personal testimony and in his writings.
“The ministry of Catechist in the Church is an ancient one. Theologians commonly hold that the first examples are already present in the writings of the New Testament. The service of catechesis may be traced back to those “teachers” mentioned by the Apostle in writing to the Community of Corinth: “Some people God has designated in the Church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers” (1 Cor 12:28-31) (Antiquum ministerium, 1).
Some expressions from Brother Gabriel: “The little Association of the Brothers of Christian Instruction, known as the Brothers of the Holy Family, aims at all kinds of good works; but its principal aim is to assist the parish priests in the country and in the town, as teachers of parish schools, catechists, clerics, cantors and sacristans” (Guide, Statutes, I).
Prayer for each day
God our Father, who raised Venerable Brother Gabriel Taborin
in the Church to promote Christian Education, Catechesis and liturgical Animation,
Grant us that sharing his charism, we may know
how to fulfil our mission today for the good
of the family and society with the strength of your Spirit.
and, if this is your will, grant that he be included in the number of saints,
granting us through his intercession the grace we need…
(mention the names of the persons for whom you wish to pray)
We ask this with insistence through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
“From the beginning, the Christian Community was characterized by many different forms of ministry carried out by men and women who, obedient to the working of the Holy Spirit, devoted their lives to the building up of the Church. At times, the charisms that the Spirit constantly pours out on the baptized took on a visible and tangible form of immediate service to the Christian Community, one recognized as an indispensable diakonia for the Community” (A M 2).
Some expressions from Brother Gabriel: “I recently told you, Monsignor, of the particular attraction I always had for catechising and exhorting young people and the faithful” (Letter from Brother Gabriel to Monsignor Billiet, March 09th,1857).
“The history of evangelization over the past two millennia clearly shows the effectiveness of the mission of catechists. Bishops, priests and deacons, together with many men and women in the consecrated life, devoted their lives to catechetical instruction so that the faith might be an effective support for the life of every human being. Some of them also gathered around themselves others of their brothers and sisters sharing the same charism, and founded religious orders wholly dedicated to catechesis” (A M 3).
Some expressions from Brother Gabriel: “There is no function more beautiful, more honourable and more meritorious for one who exercises it with faith, than that of catechist” ( N. Guide 892).
“Nor can we forget the countless lay men and women who directly took part in the spread of the Gospel through catechetical instruction. Men and women of deep faith, authentic witnesses of holiness, who in some cases were also founders of Churches and eventually died as martyrs. In our own day too, many competent and dedicated catechists are community leaders in various parts of the world and carry out a mission invaluable for the transmission and growth of the faith” (A M 3).
Some expressions from Brother Gabriel: “The ministry of the catechist is effortless and can be adapted to the needs of a greater number of souls. The catechist’s method of instruction is suitable, to the exclusion of all others, for children, for the simple, ignorant people who are unable to instruct themselves, that is to say, for at least three-quarters of the humanity” (N. Guide 893)
“Without prejudice to the Bishop’s mission as the primary catechist in his Diocese, one which he shares with his presbyterate, or to the particular responsibility of parents for the Christian formation of their children, recognition should be given to those lay men and women who feel called by virtue of their baptism to cooperate in the work of catechesis” (A M 5).
Some expressions from Brother Gabriel: “The Church allows the pious faithful, and in particular the religious of the teaching bodies, even if they are not promoted to sacred orders or even to minor orders, to teach Christian doctrine. Having received this mission from the legitimate authority, they therefore also teach on behalf of Jesus Christ” (N. Guide, 891).
“Awakening personal enthusiasm on the part of all the baptized and reviving the awareness of their call to carry out a proper mission in the community demands attentiveness to the voice of the Spirit, who is unfailingly present and fruitful (cf. CIC can. 774 §1; CCEO can. 617). Today, too, the Spirit is calling men and women to set out and encounter all those who are waiting to discover the beauty, goodness, and truth of the Christian faith” (A M 5).
Some expressions of Brother Gabriel: “The Brothers catechists will hold this title dearer than all those of human dignity. They will regard this function as truly apostolic. Indeed, to catechise is to teach the science of salvation, that of religion, and the science of the Saints; it is to make known what Jesus Christ himself came to teach on earth. This divine Saviour is the model for all catechists” (Guide 898).
“The role played by catechists is one specific form of service among others within the Christian community. Catechists are called first to be experts in the pastoral service of transmitting the faith as it develops through its different stages from the initial proclamation of the kerygma to the instruction that presents our new life in Christ and prepares for the sacraments of Christian initiation” (A M 6).
Some expressions from Brother Gabriel: (At Jeurre) “When the prayer was over, Brother Gabriel, with the grace that was natural to him, told a parable of Father Bonaventure, and then explained it in a very touching way. On their return home, the children were delighted to talk about everything that had happened during the day. For their part, the people who had come to the prayer went around the village saying: “It’s not a schoolmaster they’ve sent us, it’s a missionary; if you could only hear him!” (Brother Frederic, Life).
“It is fitting that those called to the instituted ministry of Catechist be men and women of deep faith and human maturity, active participants in the life of the Christian community, capable of welcoming others, being generous and living a life of fraternal communion. They should also receive suitable biblical, theological, pastoral and pedagogical formation to be competent communicators of the truth of the faith and they should have some prior experience of catechesis” (A M 8).
Some expressions from Brother Gabriel: “The good catechist knows how to render the most elevated things by the most common ways of speaking; the most abstract truths, the objects which are least within the reach of the senses, he knows how to clothe them with sensible forms already known to his disciples. Like the sovereign Master, he often speaks to them in parables” (N Guide 912).
“Therefore, after having taken all things into consideration, and by apostolic authority I establish the lay ministry of Catechist. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments will soon publish the Rite of Institution of the lay ministry of Catechist. I invite the Episcopal Conferences to render effective the ministry of Catechist, determining the necessary process of formation and the normative criteria for admission to this ministry” (A M 8,9).
Some expressions from Brother Gabriel: “From the time I returned to my native diocese until 1829, I was sent to various parishes as a catechist. I gave myself up to this holy exercise with a kind of happiness and at the same time I occupied myself with giving all the solemnity possible for the first communions of the children” (Autobiography).