September 8th in the United States is Catechetical Sunday. On this day we acknowledge and commission those individuals who assist our parents and guardians as well as our parish religious formation programs in the teaching of our children and their guidance and growth in the Faith.
In my homily today I spoke of three Scripture professors that had in my seminary years at Saint Francis in Loretto, Pennsylvania. All three were good men, but each brought a different experience to me. The first that I mentioned was a visiting professor named Father Anthony Wei. From China, and having studied everywhere, he was an outstanding scholar. He was so in love with and wrapped up in the scriptures that he was (for me at least) a less than effective teacher. He would be writing on the board in English, then switch to Latin or Greek, or Chinese or Hebrew, or whatever until we pulled him in to focus on one language for those of us not linguists.
I mentioned Father Austin Hovan, T.O.R. who unfortunately died very early in life in an accident. Father Austin also was a scholar and a good teacher. If you followed his lectures, took good notes, listened attentively to his explanations, you would learn. As a good teacher, the classroom was his lab.
Then I mentioned Father Roland Faley, T.O.R., who was rector for a number of years and who taught scripture. He too was a well known scholar, having penned a portion of the Jerome Biblical Commentary, a well known reference work in our time. He was a good teacher as well. But I told the people that the quality that set him apart from the other two for me was that he brought that love and knowledge of the scriptures with him into other settings. It was evident in his preaching and presiding at prayer and liturgy. He brought his enthusiasm with him into our conversations and interactions, well beyond the classroom. For me, he exhibited what I believe that it means to be a catechist - to bring knowledge and wisdom into the journey of life ... to be a fellow sojourner, a helpful guide, a friend that helped me find my way to Christ in and through the scriptures.
All of us are called to be catechists in this way. We must be there for each other.
I am grateful to Tony Wei, to Austin Hovan and to Roland Faley (who I understand is living in a retirement/nursing home in Dubois, PA). I am grateful to my parents, grandparents, sister, friends, teachers, and catechists of all sorts who have blessed my life. And I am most grateful to God for his love.