The parish I serve has a term-time catechumenate. It starts up again next week. So the last few weeks have been a time for more focussed encouraging of people to come along as our group starts back after its fallow-period post Pentecost.
People come to the group that supports the catechumenate through a variety of ways. Particularly important are the personal contacts – through friendships in the parish; through the Parents and Toddlers groups; through the pastoral encounters around weddings and funerals. But also of importance – it seems to me, (their author and designer!) – are the leaflets and posters we put around – sources of information, prompts to action.
Last year I used a series of posters which used images of gates and paths and lighthouses. I hoped these would suggest the idea of journey, and – who knows – for the more biblically literate the idea of Christ our pioneer, our way, the gate, the light. A few people noticed them but they didn’t seem to find them particular significant – the images didn’t seem to register, much.
So this year I decided I’d lose the visual images and go for words. Searching? Questioning? Lost? And suggesting that in response to these experiences the Gospel has something to offer – companionship on the way; support in the search; and yes, able to introduce the searcher to a relationship with Christ who we have found to be the way, truth and life.
I though the new poster looked pretty good and eye catching. Bold graphics, bright colours. I still think that. But a number of the people who I am in contact who will be coming to the group have been on the look out for the poster which would give them information about when the group starts up. And none of them thought that what this poster was advertising could be what they are looking for!
I’ve not yet had the chance to explore with them why that might be. But clearly the poster and its words speaks to my agenda and not theirs. At the moment it’s enough for them to know when to come and where to ‘become a Catholic’. Their main interest is not the why or wherefore
So, all this has got me thinking again about where people are coming from and what, at a conscious level at least, people are looking for. I’m comfortable with the idea of people searching from motives of existential angst. I’m also happy with the idea of people interested in ‘becoming Catholic’ or wanting to deepen a relationship with Jesus or the Church. Different things engage and motivate different people. I hope in pastoral practice that I’m sensitive to that, and can give space for the person to journey as they see fit as well as trying to feed into their exploration of Catholic faith an awareness of important dimensions that they may not yet have considered in any conscious or explicit way.
But the question of the posters and what we put on them and what they say to people has me thinking again about what we offer and what people want. What is the good news we want to share? I can put names to aspects of that. But then my fear is that the Christian specificity of these things might be neglected. We could offer ‘Community’. Our Gospel offers this, but it also promises to set brother against brother. ‘Truth through intimacy with Jesus’: we can offer that. But from time to time Jesus might turn and call us Satan and say we think as people think and not as God. ‘Security’ too we can offer, but it is a security that sometimes leads us into hard and lonely places.
It probably all boils down to a matter of quality of catechesis. They will perhaps be coming from one reason. The challenge to the group is to ensure that if they stay, they stay for a reason which is acceptable to the Church and authentic to the Gospel we preach.
My personal fresh resolution – encouraged by the poster issue – to try to make sure that the Gospel we share in our pre-evangelisation meetings and in catechumenate is one which welcomes those who come, offers the assurance we all need that we are loved by God and chosen. And at the self same time, draws us speedily into the mission which helps us to see that if the Gospel is for us, we and not just the Gospel are for the world.