Written by Keith Strohm
That's how I like to describe my first experience of a Called & Gifted workshop given by the Catherine of Siena Institute.
It's not that the experience was bad--quite the opposite in fact. However, there was a moment on Friday night, as Fr. Michael Sweeney spoke about the Theology of the Laity, when "things" just clicked so profoundly that it was as if God thwapped me in the head.
Let me explain.
I had been a youth minister, retreat director, Confirmation coordinator, and catechist for about 13 years. In that time, I had never received any formation for those roles. I was lucky enough to have attended Chaminade High School--a great Catholic Prep school on Long Island--and free enough to study theology and Church history on my own time. I had struggled along for 13 years, picking up bits and pieces of things (small group discussion questions, teaching methodologies, knowledge of ecclesiology, icebreakers) from my various experiences. If you had asked me then, I might have said that I even felt well prepared. After all, I was--seemingly--effective at what I did, and I felt like I generally knew what I needed to do to help the young people in my charge.
But make no mistake about it--there was nothing intentional in my formation.
And then I stumbled into a C&G Workshop being offered in Puyallup, Washington around the year 2000. That fateful Friday Night, it was as if all of the bits and pieces that I had struggled to collect suddenly were connected by the strongest of ties. I often say that the C&G Workshop was like a lens through which all of my stumbling around, seeing "through a glass darkly," ended in a moment of startling resolution.
I knew who I was--who God had called me to be. And I understood the nature of the Church and its relationship to the world in a way that I had never been able to before. Suddenly, there was an urgency to my work with youth and young adults. I just needed to share this with them!
God has led me through a wonderful path since then. Not only has my work with youth and young adults expanded, but I have had the opportunity to give retreats and talks, and plan events and programs of formation for laypeople of every age. I've also had the great grace to work alongside and support the endeavors of parish leadership as they try and transform their communities into Houses of Lay Formation.
Formation (and discernment) for mission is one of the single greatest challenges that faces the Church today. For Catholics in particular, we face a cultural inertia that I believe prevents us from unleashing the full grace that God offers us to accomplish His work on earth. The whole Body needs to wake up. It is not enough if the eye and the ear are awakened to this challenge--the mouth, heart, hands, and feet must awaken as well.
As for me, one of my favorite ways to participate in this mission is to teach Called & Gifted Workshops.
I guess I like to watch other people being hit by 2 x 4's.
Who knew. :)