I grew up in a middle class, Polish Catholic home, along with my two sisters. To coin a familiar phrase, “It was a wonderful life!” My mother and father married in 1960, and I came along in 1963. What can I say about my mother (still with us), and my sainted father who departed this life in 1992? They gave me life, love, and a strong legacy of faith. In short, they gave us everything. I am eternally thankful for the home, identity, and the influence that they imparted to me. They worked hard, they sacrificed. My mother in the home, and at church and school, my father was a salesman for more companies than I can hardly remember; but two things were never in doubt:
We were loved and cared for. Our parents were committed to us and to each other.
We were nurtured in the faith. Church was not something we “did” – it was who we were!
As I reflect on the many precious gifts they provided for us; one that comes to my mind immediately was a deep love for learning. In fact, I remember as if it were yesterday, my mother always taking us to the library in our neighborhood. I remember getting my first library card, and visiting the “bookmobile” that would come to the church parking lot all summer long. I can’t remember if it was the sheer novelty of getting a book in this huge bus that carried hundreds of books, or if it was the wonder of the stories and adventures that I read – but I do know this – I loved to learn. And I loved that old rickety bookmobile!
That’s what a catechumen is: a learner. In fact, that’s what a Christian will always be; a lifetime learner. In the church the catechumenate was a period of time, usually a lengthy period of time, when a person would get to know the ways, the beliefs, the lifestyle of the Faith, and a season to begin the practice of actually becoming a Christian. The understanding was that a person should never undertake such a monumental task as following Christ, without understanding the price that would be required and the struggle that a person was about to embark on. A catechumen then is a lifetime learner, and in Orthodoxy it’s not so much learning theological facts, and “data”, as much as it is “practicing” the faith. Living the faith. Exercising with it everyday as a champion athlete “works out” not as a once in a while, sometimes kind of thing… but as a daily necessity.
That ‘s where our one year old son John comes in! He is the quintessential catechumen!!
John’s favorite words so far are: “Wow!” “Whoa!” “Ouch!” “Oh Oh! and his number one all time favorite:
Wuzz dat? Wuzz dat? Wuzz dat? All day long! That’s John’s world! That is what John asks, “What is that?” John is a learner and he is modeling already at the age of one, the true essence of being a Christ follower: “…Jesus what is this…I want to know… Jesus what is that…I want to know….” Maybe this is why our Lord said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to little children, and why to have the faith of a child is the very pinnacle of what it means to believe?
Soon however, “Wuzz dat?” will turn into “Why?” “Why is it like this? “Why is it like that?” This is the world of our son Stephen and our daughter Caroline – they are teens! A teenager no longer just wants to know “what’s that” but they need to know Why? And thus begins a new phase in the lifetime journey to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Lord, humble us daily to have the heart of an infant, who cries out continually “Wuzz dat?” Give us a thirst for learning and knowing everything there is to know about you.
Lord, enliven us daily to have the mind of a teen, who cries out continually “Why is that? Give us a hunger for knowing the beauty and relevancy behind, and in, your Wisdom.
In the end, give us the courage to live – what we learn.