1 In the Rite of Christian Initiation, the time following the reception of the sacraments of initiation is the period of what is called Mystagogy. It is a phase that is spent on assisting the deepening of the participants appreciation for the sacramental life. Mystagogical catechesis is founded on the principle that as one lives out the sacraments, they come to experience a fuller, profounder, more personal and communal meaning of them. For adolescents receiving the sacrament of Confirmation, their completion of their full initiation into the Church takes place at the Confirmation liturgy. Unfortunately, due to the prevalent and problematic idea of graduating from faith formation, the newly confirmed adolescent is rarely given adequate and deliberate formation in living with the new character received in the sacrament of Confirmation. Because of this, the role of Mystagogical catechesis is a vital and necessary component of catechesis (NDC, ). Involving prayer and study, Mystagogical catechesis should form an integral part of the parish Confirmation program and should be presented to Confirmation candidates as an indispensible part of their sacramental formation when they sign up for their parish s sacramental program. During the period of Mystagogy, the deepest meanings of discipleship must be examined, including the responsibilities to witness and to bring the light of the Gospel to every corner of the world. Because the Church has designated the Year A Lectionary readings for the Sunday Masses of the Easter Season and the Solemnity of the Ascension to form the basis for the teaching during this period (RCIA, 247), the Mystagogical period of adolescent Confirmation catechesis should be based on the themes taken from these readings; a summary of some of the Mystagogical themes present in the readings for Year A are as follows: Second Sunday of Easter Sacrament of Penance, Apostolicity (Acts 2:42-47; Ps 118; 1 Pt 1:3-9; Jn 20:19-31) Third Sunday of Easter Emmaus Event, Model for the Mass (Acts 2:14, 22-33; Ps 16; 1 Pt 1:17-21; Lk 24:13-35) Fourth Sunday of Easter The Church as the Sheepfold, Relationship with Jesus (Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Ps 23; 1 Pt 2:20b-25; Jn 10:1-10) Fifth Sunday of Easter Heaven, Relationship with the Father through Jesus (Acts 6:1-7; Ps 33; 1 Pt 2:4-9; Jn 14:1-12) Sixth Sunday of Easter Relationship with the Spirit through Jesus (Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; Ps 66; 1 Pt 3:15-18; Jn 14:15-20) Ascension The Great Commission, Evangelization/Witness, Baptism (Acts 1:1-11; Ps 47; Eph 1:17-23; Mt 28:16-20) Seventh Sunday of Easter Prayer for Unity and Glorification of the Church, Apostolicity (Acts 1:12-14; Ps 27; 1 Pt 4:13-16; Jn 17:1-11a) While some of these themes may have been already discussed earlier in the Confirmation catechesis process, the Mystagogical catechesis done here seeks to deepen what has been taught previously. Some of these
2 readings may also seem untimely with the liturgical season for parishes that have Confirmation liturgies scheduled in the fall given the close proximity they will have to Advent and Christmas. Even when Christian initiation has been celebrated outside the usual times, the texts for these Sunday Masses of the Easter season may be used (RCIA, 247). The emphasis is to challenge the newly confirmed to become true disciples of Jesus. They must be challenged to know, to think, and to act like Christ, to be truly transformed by Christ working in and through us by the Holy Spirit. Some ideas and elements for facilitating mystagogical catechesis may include the following: One or two mystagogical catechetical sessions Retreat (with neighboring parish, vicariate, or alone) Summer-weeklong intensive program (for spring Confirmation liturgies) Continued dialogue and gathering sessions with sponsors as companions to the newly confirmed Parent and family Mystagogical sessions Recognizing and welcoming newly confirmed at following Sunday liturgy (if Confirmation does not fall on a Sunday) Christian service projects Partnering and collaborating with the parish s youth ministry program Having a library or collection of materials and resources to assist in growing in faith Small group process with various parishioners to encourage those newly confirmed in their faith journey Creating various prayer opportunities to teach persistence in prayer and life as disciple Meals with pastor and pastoral team Developing a group of parish mentors to accompany newly confirmed and assist with integration into the life of their parish community For the newly confirmed young person, it is strongly encouraged that there is greater collaboration between faith formation and youth ministry. One of the best ways to provide opportunities for Mystagogy is through ongoing youth ministry. Faith formation and youth ministry leaders should work together in developing a plan to provide effective and dynamic Mystagogy. Above all, care must be taken to ensure that each of the newly confirmed is securely established in the life of the parish. This is of utmost importance as newly confirmed, young Catholics are often neglected or forgotten once formal catechetical instruction and the Confirmation liturgy is completed. They must be accompanied as they grow in their moral and liturgical life and have support and strengthening from the parish community.
3 Positively Dangerous Application in Mystagogical Catechesis The following chapters from Frank Mercadante s Positively Dangerous have various affiliation and connection points with the goals, themes, and focus of Mystagogical catechesis. While the book itself in its entirety would serve well for the purposes of Mystagogical catechesis with whatever ideas and elements the parish catechetical leader wishes to use when facilitating Mystagogical catechesis (see the list above), the following chapters from Positively Dangerous are recommended as being able to best tie in with the topics that most concern themselves with the themes that are outlined in the Year A Lectionary readings for the Sundays and the Solemnity of the Ascension that form the basis for the teaching during this period: Chapter 4: Getting Disciplined o THEME: Developing a meaningful and deep relationship with Christ as a disciple through cooperating with God s grace and spiritual discipline. Making time for solitude or time to be alone with God through the following spiritual exercises: Creating silence Reading the Scriptures Disciplined prayer life Developing a prayer journal Chapter 6: Be Real o THEME: Cultivating the quality of authenticity so that a disciple may better attract others and draw them in to considering a relationship with Jesus Christ. Nurturing growth in authenticity: Practicing the principle of WYSIWYG Examining what makes one an authentic person How to become who God made you to be How to properly understand judging others vs. standing up for the Gospel Chapter 7: Walking the Talk o THEME: Learning how to grow in integrity as a disciple in order that we can boldly live out our call to discipleship and bravely proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ. Defining integrity as an essential characteristic of a life of discipleship: Earning the respect of others through personal holiness Our witness as our sermon in both speech and conduct Being an example to model in love, faith, and purity
4 Chapter 8: Talking the Walk o THEME: Becoming a disciple who is readily able to respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in order to be able to build up the Kingdom of God. Basing on call to evangelization on how Jesus is on call : Evangelization as the essential mission of the Church and our own responsibility Why we evangelize: people matter to God Jesus model of building relationships as the paradigm to follow Below are two sample lesson outlines for how a parish catechetical leader can combine both the themes of the Year A Lectionary readings for the Sunday Masses of the Easter Season and the Solemnity of the Ascension with the themes presented in Positively Dangerous. *SAMPLE MYSTAGOGICAL SESSION FOR LARGE GROUP GATHERING/SMALL GROUP PROCESSING* GOAL The goal of this session is to connect the themes of the readings from the Sixth Sunday of Easter (you could also substitute with the readings from Ascension as well if desired) with the 8 th chapter of Positively Dangerous, Talking the Walk. This session will highlight the role that Holy Spirit plays in the life of a disciple to be on call for the Church s mission of evangelization. ABOUT THIS SESSION This session seeks to help the teens understand that the journey of faith does not end with their Confirmation liturgy. The session begins with a short parody skit on the idea that we can graduate from learning more about God and our faith. The graduation ceremony leads into a teaching on our call as fully initiated Catholics to be on call for evangelization. Following this teaching, there is a break for the teens to split up into small groups for a discussion that will focus on the reflection questions from chapter 8 of Positively Dangerous. After the small group discussion, gather the teens back together for a large group question and answer time to reinforce the discussions from the small group processing. The session will end by giving the teens an opportunity to encounter Christ in Eucharistic Adoration. ENVIRONMENT This environment should resemble a graduation party (i.e., streamers, fake diplomas, graduation gowns/hats, balloons hung around the room, etc.). Make the environment as festive as possible so that you can really shatter the false and erroneous notion of Confirmation as a graduation. As the teens enter, have your volunteer catechists and small group leaders congratulate the teens for graduating from the Catholic faith. If possible, have some of your more outgoing catechists and small group leaders dressed in cap and gown. If you serve food before the session, make it available. See if your parish s hospitality committee can lend you a hand.
5 OVERVIEW OF THE SESSION I. Opening Prayer (10 min) Have everyone gathered for a celebration of the Liturgy of the Word in the large group gathering space. The readings should be taken from the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; Ps 66; 1 Pt 3:15-18; Jn 14:15-20). Select teens to read the first reading, the responsorial psalms, and the second reading. If at all possible, see if you can have your pastor, parochial vicar, or parish deacon do the Gospel reading. If one s not available, have a catechist or small group leader recite the Gospel. II. Opening Graduation Commencement (10-15 min) Have a catechist/small group leader dressed in cap and gown gather the group together and welcome them to their Confirmation graduation service. He or she should give a short speech about how proud everyone is of the teens. This should be an over-the-top, outlandish speech about how the teens have learned all there is to know about God and how there s absolutely nothing more to know or learn about who God is. Create some fake awards or certificates to give out (i.e., most likely to interrupt/heckle a catechist in the middle of teaching, most likely to be a nun, most likely to become a priest, most likely to spend the most time in purgatory, etc. Make up your own). Have a few phony diplomas created and ready to pass out. Have fun with this and make it tongue in cheek. III. Graduation or Beginning? (15 min) Right before you begin to pass out diplomas, the parish catechetical leader/youth minister should barge in and interrupt the ceremony. He or she should inform everyone that there is no such thing as graduating from the Catholic faith just because they received Confirmation. Their full initiation into the Church is only the beginning of an entire life of discovering who God is, how He loves us, how He works in our lives, and how He calls us to be on call. The person who will be giving the teaching should come forward (whether it is the catechist, youth minister, or parish catechetical leader) and give the large group teaching. The teaching for this session should help the teens explore the idea that our being sealed with the same Holy Spirit that Our Lord promised to give the disciples in the Upper Room is not an end, but a call to go out and evangelize. The teaching will also explain how our call to evangelization means that we need to be on call, which will draw upon the key concepts found in chapter 8 of Positively Dangerous, Talking the Walk (pg ), which should serve as the outline of the teaching. IV. Small Group Discussion (25 min) At the conclusion of the large group teaching, break the teens up into small groups with their catechists/small group leaders. Questions for discussion have been modified from the questions for reflection and discussion section at the end of chapter 8 in Positively Dangerous: Talking the Walk (pg. 113): Have you ever had an experience of being on evangelistic call? If so, describe it. What are some obstacles that stand in our way of us becoming effective evangelizers as Our Lord calls us to?
6 Do you agree or disagree that someone has to share their relationship with Jesus with others in order to be on call for Jesus? Explain. For many Catholics, evangelization is not an activity they usually engage in. How much is it a part of your own spirituality? We know from Scripture that people deeply matter to God, as is illustrated in the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. Do you believe that you matter to God? What things do you think you d be able to do if you lived like you truly matter to God (because you really do!)? Many times, we often can miss opportunities to share how much God means and has done for us in our own lives. How can we become more alert and aware of these opportunities so they don t pass us by? What are some existing relationships that you currently have where you could share the Gospel with someone? How would you evaluate your friendships? Are they genuine? Why do you think having genuine relationships with other people would be important in sharing your faith? What is it that our generation longs for? What is it that they truly want and desire? How are people expressing that hunger that is in their soul? How could you use the teachings of the Jesus and the Gospel to address these longings of the human heart? Evaluate yourself on a scale of one to ten (one as low, and ten as high), how do you rate your own faith life and relationship with Jesus? How well do you share Him with others? What practical steps could you make to improve yourself in this way? What do you think our parish would look like if everyone unashamedly shared Jesus with others and evangelized like the early Church did? How different would the parish look? If you were to seriously be on call for the Holy Spirit and do and go where God was asking you to go to evangelize, what changes would you see in yourself? V. Regroup as Large Group for Q & A (10-15 min) Have the teens come back together after the small group discussion concludes. The catechetical leader or youth minister should reinforce the message that faith is a life-long journey. The journey does not stop after we receive Confirmation; it intensifies with a call to missionary discipleship and evangelization. After giving this message, open it up for the teens and catechists/small group leaders to share highlights of the small group discussion or to ask questions that came up in discussion. VI. Closing Prayer Eucharistic Adoration (15 min) If possible, move into the chapel or church. Use this as an opportunity to highlight that God continues to love us and call us to go out like the first disciples to make disciples of all nations. We never stop learning more about His love and His will for our lives. If possible, have the Blessed Sacrament already exposed before the teens enter. Before entering, explain how Confirmation is anything but a graduation. The more time we spend with Christ, the more we realize that there is more to discover about Him, and the more we ll want to share Him with others. Feel free to invite the music ministry during this time to lead worship. After Benediction, close the Mystagogical session by praying an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.
7 PLANNING Give copies of the lesson plan to each of the catechists/small group leaders. Get your volunteers together for a brainstorming meeting where you can pray and discuss where the teens are in their faith journey in since receiving Confirmation. Then using this sample guide as a starting point, adapt the session to meet the needs of your teens and parish. Feel free to amend this outline with any alterations you d like to make. Assign your volunteers roles for the various parts of the session (i.e., environment setup, opening prayer, the graduation ceremony, large group teaching, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, etc.). Create a list of the supplies and materials you ll need and assign persons to be responsible for gathering the materials. Make sure all your catechists/small group leaders and volunteers have a copy of the readings from the sixth Sunday of Easter (or Ascension if you wish to use those readings instead) and chapter 8 from Positively Dangerous for their teaching outline.
8 *SAMPLE MYSTAGOGICAL SESSION FOR SMALL GROUP MEAL MODEL* GOAL The goal of this session is to connect the themes of the readings from the Second Sunday of Easter with the 7 th chapter of Positively Dangerous, Walking the Talk. This session will highlight the importance of integrity and what role it plays in the life of a disciple. If a disciple wants to boldly proclaim the faith to others, he or she must first live the faith with integrity. ABOUT THIS SESSION This session seeks to help the newly confirmed teens understand that in order for us to tap into the graces received from the sacrament of Confirmation, they must cooperate with the call of the Holy Spirit to live up to the demands of discipleship. The session is intended to be a more relaxed setting with a smaller group of teens, but you can modify it to fit your needs if you have a larger group. It begins with an opening prayer of the readings from the Second Sunday of Easter. After the opening prayer, there is a shared meal and fellowship. When the meal is over, begin a group discussion around the dinner table that focuses on the material from chapter 7 of Positively Dangerous (ideally, the newly Confirmed should have read chapter 7 ahead of time before the session). After the small group discussion, have the teens break for some quiet journal time and reflection. Then, gather the teens back together for an opportunity to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation. The session will end with the recitation of the Litany of Humility. ENVIRONMENT Invite the newly confirmed for a dinner at the parish. The meal can be a potluck dinner, ordered pizza, spaghetti dinner, etc. Whatever the food arrangement, make sure the environment is as relaxed and welcoming as possible so that the teens can feel comfortable and at ease for the small group discussion that will take place after dinner. As the teens enter, have your volunteer catechists, small group leaders, and pastoral team welcome the newly confirmed teens and give them a prayer journal as a gift for receiving the sacrament of Confirmation. See if your parish s hospitality committee can lend you a hand in setting up the environment and coordinating the dinner. OVERVIEW OF THE SESSION I. Opening Prayer/Blessing of the Meal (5-10 min) The readings should be taken from the Second Sunday of Easter (Acts 2:42-47; Ps 118; 1 Pt 1:3-9; Jn 20:19-31). Select teens to be readers for the first reading, the responsorial psalms, and the second reading. If your pastor, parochial vicar, or parish deacon is able to join you for the meal, have them to do the Gospel reading. If one s not available, have a catechist or small group leader recite the Gospel. When you have concluded with the readings, have one of the teens lead the group in saying a blessing over the food and the conversation that is to take place.
9 II. Meal Time and Fellowship (15-20 min) Just as Jesus enjoyed meals and fellowship with His friends, you should enjoy your meal with the newly confirmed teens. Engage them in conversation; ask them questions about how school has been going for them, what activities they ve been involved in, how they enjoyed the Confirmation liturgy, etc. Engage in some good relational ministry. The focus should be on them. III. Small Group Discussion (25-30 min) After you have finished your meal and conversation, turn your attention to chapter 7 of Positively Dangerous, Walking the Talk. Have either a catechist, youth minister, parish catechetical leader, or pastor give a 5-7 minute overview and witness of the theme of the chapter, which is integrity as an essential characteristic of a life of discipleship. Have the faith witness share how integrity is important in their own life as a disciple and also what personal struggles they have in living a life of integrity. Following the witness talk, break into the small group discussion with the young teens. If you d like, you can use the following questions as a starting point. They have been modified from the questions for reflection and discussion section at the end of chapter 7 in Positively Dangerous: Walking the Talk (pg ): Do you agree with the saying, Actions speak louder than words? What are some of your own actions that send a message to others about your life as a disciple, whether they re good or bad? Integrity means being true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, even when (and especially when) others are not looking. What have you done recently to be true to the Gospel when others haven t been looking? We re all called to be an example in speech: Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear (Eph 4:29). How does your life measure up to what St. Paul calls us to in this Scripture passage? Identify one realistic thing you can ask God to help you change so that your words may give grace to those who hear. Why do you think people spend so much of their time gossiping about others? What harm could come from gossiping about others? If you have to give a percentage on the time in conversation that you spend in gossip, what would be that number (100% meaning, I gossip all the time, and 0% meaning, I never gossip )? Name some realistic things that you can do to make your communication with others more positive and encouraging. How challenging is it for you to not use profane words? How hard would it be for you to no longer use profane speech? What would have to change? All that we say and do should come from a desire to honor God and to love Him above all things. How would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 meaning, I honor and love Him all the time, and 1 meaning, I don t honor or love Him at all ) in how you honor and express love for the Lord? What could you do to bump that number up?
10 We are called to be examples of love, especially in reaching out to those who may be considered unlovable and are sometimes the most difficult for us to love (i.e., those at our schools that no one sits with at the lunch table, those who are made fun of, a person who has a difficult personality, etc.). How can you reach out with Christ s love to those people? What, if anything, would need to change in your heart so that you d be willing to extend Christ s love to all who you meet? In order to live by faith, we need to believe that Christ will take care of us and work all things for the good in our lives as we follow him. On a scale of one to ten (one meaning, I don t believe this truth, and ten meaning, I fully believe and trust that Christ will take care of me ), where do you place yourself? Explain. How do you evaluate what media you read, listen to, and watch? What do you think about evaluating books, movies, music, websites, tweets/social media posts, etc. by following the standard: Would I share this with Jesus? Would you be willing to adopt this standard as a rule that you can live by? Explain. IV. Journal Time (15-20 min) After finishing the small group discussion, give the newly Confirmed teens time to reflect and do an examination of conscience for their private journal time. Give a brief and general explanation of how to use their prayer journal (consult pg. 50, 60 of Positively Dangerous for notes and explanation). Make sure that the teens can go to an area where they have enough space to reflect and write without getting distracted by others. For this session, journal time will help the teens reflect on how they have and haven t been the best examples of disciples with integrity. Their journal reflection and examination of conscience should focus on the examples of integrity that are outlined in chapter 7 of Positively Dangerous (pg ). Have them answer the following questions honestly in the private journal: Example in Speech o How have I used my own words and speech? Have I built someone up with them or has my speech been used like a weapon of mass destruction in tearing someone down? o Is my speech motivated more by love and trying to build up and support others, or is my speech motivated by self-centered intention? o God wants me to use my words to do extraordinary things. What amazing things could I accomplish with my speech? o Have I given into gossip lately? Is it a problem with me? How can I correct it and not assassinate someone s reputation if this is a problem for me? o If my external words that people hear are clues to my internal character, what window do I give for others to see into my soul?
11 Example in Conduct o When someone wrongs me, do I take the moral high road and not return that wrong with a wrong? o Do I conduct myself in a way that makes me an irresistible magnetic force that attracts others to Jesus? What can I do to become such a magnetic force? Example in Love o Am I known as one of the kindest, most caring, and most giving people in school? Do I reach out to those who are alone at the lunch table or those who might have a different social status than mine? o Do I treat others regardless of who they are like they are royalty? How can I be a better example of love? Example in Faith o How well do I live out the commandments? Do I always try to put Jesus at the center of everything I do? o Do I trust that the Lord will work all things together for the good in my life, even if the situation doesn t look so good at the moment? Example in Purity o Am I single-minded, wholly devoted, and 100% committed to the things of God? o What are some distractions or sins in my life that may be causing me to compromise me from following Jesus? V. Sacrament of Reconciliation (20-25 min) If possible, move into the chapel or church. Now that the teens have done a personal examination of how they can better live lives of integrity, use this as an opportunity to highlight that God continues to love us and will help make us disciples who live with integrity if we ask Him to. Explain that everyone falls in their pursuit of holiness and integrity, but the Lord is always merciful and willing to make us whole again when we fall. If they would like, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is available for them in order to help them find forgiveness for the times when they may not have been the best examples of integrity. With the grace from Reconciliation, we can become disciples who live with integrity. If possible, have the Blessed Sacrament exposed before the teens enter the chapel or church so that they can pray to and encounter Jesus whether or not they decide to go to Confession. After the teens have had the chance to go to Confession, end with Benediction and close the Mystagogical session by praying the Litany of Humility; being humble is a key ingredient in living discipleship with integrity, so have them pray for an increase in humility.
12 PLANNING Give copies of the session lesson plans to each of the catechists/small group leaders. Get your volunteers together for a brainstorming meeting where you can pray and discuss where the teens are in their faith journey in since receiving the sacrament of Confirmation. Then using this sample guide as a starting point, adapt the session to meet the needs of your teens and parish. Feel free to amend this outline with any alterations you d like to make. Assign your volunteers roles for the various parts of the session (i.e., environment setup, opening prayer, getting the prayer journals, setting up the meal space, gathering the food, small group discussion facilitator, coordinating Reconciliation/Adoration, etc.). Provide the appropriate supplies and materials you ll need and assign persons to be responsible for gathering the materials. Make sure all your catechists/small group leaders and volunteers have a copy of the readings from the Second Sunday of Easter and chapter 7 from Positively Dangerous for their teaching outline. Make sure all the teens have read chapter 7 or are familiar with the material from the chapter before the session.
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