The Catechesis of Teens: They Need to Learn to Pray!

TOM RICHARDS

Adolescence is no time for substantive catechesis to stop. Every adult knows this, and yet the difficulties of adolescent catechesis drive many religious education program directors to frustration and compromise.

INTRODUCTION

Adolescence is no time for substantive catechesis to stop. Every adult knows this, and yet the difficulties of adolescent catechesis drive many religious education program directors to frustration and compromise. Some parishes stop catechesis at adolescence, and hope to keep them “in the Church” through recreational youth activities until “reason” again prevails. Many Catholic schools also stop at the crucial eighth grade, abandoning the adolescents of the Church to a very confused public school system. To the wilderness they go, armed with whatever formation that may have been achieved in eight years or so of instruction, and the foundations received in the home. Catechists are missing a great opportunity, neglecting a great resource, and perhaps failing in a great obligation.

This article discusses the catechesis of adolescents in the way of prayer. First the general problems of adolescent catechesis are considered, but in the end the “problems” are seen as opportunities for both the teens and the Church as a whole. Next, the stages of prayer are discussed, with the appropriateness of these different stages of prayer to the particular needs of the teenager. It is discovered that teens need to learn to pray: the need is most urgent, and most critical, in the years of personal change that come in adolescence. In adolescence, God is awakening in the young person adult human dimensions that need, for their incorporation into true life, effectual communion through prayer. Moreover the first four stages of prayer, as understood in traditional Catholic spiritual theology, are precisely tailored to enable the integration of precisely those human dimensions being awakened.

SOME SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS IN THE CATECHESIS OF TEENS

Catechesis with adolescents is difficult, and requires authentic teachers.

Catechesis of teenagers is sometimes thought of as an exercise in futility. Without doubt, it is difficult, and there are great challenges in passing on the Faith to our adolescents. But the main difficulty is not the fact of major and critical changes through which they are going. The crisis of adolescent change is in fact a great opportunity for those who would teach them. Crises in general uncover some inadequacy in present attitudes and beliefs. A crisis can be a fertile environment, an opportunity for openness to some radically different answer. The crisis of adolescence in a young soul can present the catechist with an openness to real truth, and a freedom to receive it, which may never again become present.

There are difficulties in the catechesis of teenagers. A major problem lies not in the changes and tumult of adolescence, but frequently in the compromised and partial truths adults can be content to teach. The trouble is not in “getting through” to young people; it is in being an authentic truth-bearer to them. The fullness of the truth comes with a promise: it will not return to the Lord empty; it will fulfill the purpose for which it was sent (Is 55:11). The truth of the Gospel has an efficacy, but a watered-down “Gospel” cannot claim that power. This then is one main difficulty, and it lies within us: witness to the Gospel demands integrity and authenticity of catechists.

Teens themselves, by their nature, demand authenticity of their teachers. Teenagers are not content, as they were a few years before as children, to accept a teaching on the authority of “the grown-up.” There is an emerging hunger for consistency and personal integrity, which God is causing to grow in them. This new need for integrity rejects the many contradictions with which “more mature” people might attempt to live.

Teenagers can be contentious! Part of the problem is that they want easy and simple answers. But part of our problem is that we have abandoned some very simple answers not because they are false, but because they are difficult. Many of the teachings of Christ are very simple, but seem impossible to live. His way threatens our own self-interest, and we seek alternative ways to hear Him. We adults can become adept at interpreting Scripture in ways that please us, while avoiding the challenging calls of God to heroic holiness. The Sermon on the Mount, for example, rocks us to the very foundations when we listen to the hard expectations of God: “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you” (Matt. 5:42). Such calls for saintly Gospel living are profoundly challenging. We might be tempted to edit His Gospel to something easier to follow! But a diluted Gospel will not call anyone to the obedience that Christ desires and that the world deserves to see. As we take up and carry the Cross behind Him, our words about Him take on power. Teens especially are listening for authentic witnesses, whose lives match their words.

Teens have a special freedom to remain with the Lord, in these “hard listening” moments. Like the Good Samaritan (in Luke 10:30-35) who had nothing to lose by touching the ritually unclean but wounded man on the side of the road, teens can have a freedom to respond genuinely to the truth. The priest and the Levite had a personal investment and concern that kept them away from the imperatives of charity, and they passed the poor man by on the far side of the road. Like the priest and the Levite, adults who are well invested in the status quo can find good reasons for avoiding the radical ways of Christ. There is an openness to truth in adolescents that can truly help us too, if we can have the courage and openness to remain with them in the truth.

Catechesis of teenagers can then be a great opportunity for everyone. Teenagers need the Gospel for their own survival in this world of increasing hostility to authentic human life, and they need the moderating guidance and stability of more mature believers. We adults need the confrontation and challenge, as well as their example of natural zeal, that is part of the package of catechizing teenagers. We all need one truth in our Lord Jesus Christ.

THE SECULAR WORLD IS A POWERFUL ENEMY, BUT NOT AN INVINCIBLE ONE

There is a pervasive and almost overwhelming secular presence in the social world of young people today. With rare exception music, movies, public schools, and television present a world-view of godlessness and hence emptiness. They promote a superficial and self-centered pursuit of pleasure, which cannot satisfy the deepest desires of persons made in the image of God. This secular presence does not have to be an unsurmountable problem in teen catechesis: it calls us all, and the teens, to heroic faithfulness. Because God is working a sense of independence in them naturally at this time in their lives, a world-view that knows no god but self can be the perfect foil. The natural inclination to define oneself in opposition to something has a perfect enemy in the deadly atmosphere of the secular world. Teens need to hear the challenge to be against the lethal spirit of this world, and to be for the saving work of Christ who redeems and sanctifies it. Teens need to be, and deserve to be, challenged to the heroism of saints. At the time when God is awakening a sense of truth in the young person, the Church owes them a real and living witness to that truth. We will be held accountable! There is an army of martyrs and saints in the Church Triumphant, and here among us now, calling us on to the life worthy of His Name. This is the message for teens today: the call to a committed Christian life.

Adolescents have a keen sense for truth, and a keen sense of hypocrisy. The bold-faced sham in our secular society is plain and obvious to many of our young people; what is not so plain is the alternative. Here is a great opportunity in catechesis. We in the Catholic Church have the abiding, holy, divine Truth in the Person of the Holy Spirit. This Truth is not just a set of facts, but a culture, a philosophy, a way of life. If we fail to live this truth, and fail to present it as a whole way of life, then our message is subverted before it leaves our lips. The personal integrity of the catechist with the message is essential. Most especially with teenagers, empty words from adults have no authority.

This is the great challenge: the world is teaching our young a glamorous but contradictory way that leads to frustration and eventual destruction; the Church must present to them the Way of Christ. There is a whole system around us based on subjective morality, materialism, and self-centered pleasure. That system leads to death, and the parent or pastor who abandons his child to such emptiness will answer to God for it. The Way of Christ is a life that is meant to permeate every aspect of human expression: to reform the person, to conform the home, to inform the whole life of the family. Teenagers deserve not only to hear it but to see in the catechist this radical and undiluted commitment to the life of Christ.

The challenge by the world is then a great opportunity for us. First, the way of the world is obviously not working. The evidence of its emptiness is plain. Teens can see the contradictions. We must show them the other way. Secondly, the answer that we propose, which is a life based on Christ, must be as comprehensive as the empty philosophy it will supplant. We must present a Christian way of life, a culture, a coherent philosophy. Two hours a week in a holy place, sprinkled on top of a week immersed in secular living, will not add up to a different way of life. Our answer is a full life in Christ, permeated and formed by the Gospel, in harmony with His Spirit. The catechist needs to carry in his person this entire way of life, the life in Christ. The catechist is called to real holiness, so that he can be a living witness for the Church, passing on to others a life of holiness.

WE ARE ALL CALLED TO HOLINESS

To summarize, adults need to recognize that the intense challenges of teaching the Faith to teenagers are exactly what adults need in their own on-going conversion. Teenagers are keen to spot contradictions and hypocrisy. They challenge us to the limit; they want to know the limits of what we profess, and what we will live by. They can respond to a call to real heroic virtue, to sacrificial sanctity - and this call is their right as Christians - but let the call be an authentic one. The call to holiness must echo in our own souls, and find a home there, before it ever is released from our mouths. Teens have an honesty that can keep us honest, a hunger for heroism that can give us courage, and an openness to the truth that can help us hear the plain truths of Christ “as a child.” The Church today needs saints. In responding to the challenge of catechizing teenagers, catechists can discover the deeper call of Christ to holiness.

TEENS HAVE UNIQUE POTENTIALS AND SPECIAL NEEDS FOR A DEEPER LIFE OF PRAYER

Our prayer life reflects the relationship we have with God.

Adolescence is a fertile time to encourage and teach a deeper prayer life. The average teenager probably knows little about prayer beyond verbal prayer. He may have kept little devotion to the formula prayers he was taught in childhood.

The teen catechumen needs to know that prayer is indeed communication with the eternal God, and in addition it is a gauge that helps one to realize the depth of that communication. Our destiny is eternal life, communion with the Holy Trinity. We are called out of a self-centered and isolated individualism, and into a life of charity, of divine love. The journey to that life of love is not an instantaneous transition; it is a difficult transformation. It is a life of following Jesus Christ in greater and then greater faithfulness, of deeper and then deeper communion with Him, with more and then even more complete self-giving for His sake and for the sake of the salvation of the world. On the journey, our prayer reflects our following, depth for depth and height for height. Our prayer reflects our relationship with God, just as ordinary communication reflects our relationships among people. Depth and intimacy are manifested in the communication, and in the prayer. Shallow associations with people usually result in shallow conversations with them; we entrust deeply intimate communication with those we deeply know.

Prayer, then, can be understood in levels, or stages of intimacy. The adolescent, in seriously considering a genuine knowing of God, and an entering into a genuine relationship with God, needs to hear that his relationship will progress in recognizable stages, much as human relationships can progress. Just as he can look back on his physical growth, and see change and development in moving through childhood and into adolescence, so he will hear of a process of growth in the spiritual life, and in his prayer relationship with God.

STAGES OF PRAYER HAVE A SYSTEMATIC STRUCTURE; PRAYER ITSELF IS MEANT TO DEVELOP

The two major stages or types of prayer are called ascetical prayer and mystical prayer. The difference between these two is radical. These two differ not in degree but in kind, and absolutely. Ascetical prayer is prayer that we are capable of initiating and doing, with ordinary grace. Mystical prayer is prayer that we are not capable of initiating or doing with ordinary grace. Mystical prayer is a communication initiated by God, which we are especially graced to receive. Mystical prayer is God’s work in the soul; our active cooperation is required, but our active initiation will not cause it. Mystical prayer is something God does to us; it is His communication and work within us. It is perhaps good here to distinguish mystical prayer from unusual “mystical experiences” such as visions, locutions, and other extraordinary spiritual experiences. Such mystical spiritual experiences are a separate matter entirely, and are not discussed in this paper.

Ascetical prayer is ordinarily our first experience of prayer, which may with perseverance and the grace of God lead into the deeper and more intimate relationships of mystical prayer. Ascetical prayer itself has several stages, which differ in degree of relationship more than in kind. All the stages of ascetical prayer are important in the teen years.

VOCAL PRAYER, THE "ELEMENTARY" STAGE, IS FOUNDATIONAL, AND NOT TO BE NEGLECTED

This is any verbal prayer, written or spoken, formula or spontaneous. This is the ordinary entrance into prayer communication with God. It is the form of prayer used in public gatherings and liturgy, and it is the first “way” of praying we are taught. Early in catechesis children are taught to memorize several important and especially meaningful formula prayers: the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Act of Contrition. Teens need to know that they can never outgrow these simple and profound prayers of the Church.

These are called “formula” prayers, but they must never be reduced to empty outward structures, or ends in themselves. These formulations of profound spiritual truth are not magic, but are normative in themselves, and are formative in us when we pray them rightly. Two requirements exist for vocal prayer: attentiveness of mind, and devotion of heart. Clearly these characteristics admit of degrees, and all of us have experienced the absence of one or the other or both of them, while praying formula prayers that have become all too familiar to us. The young child, the teen, and adults, as well, can be helped in our prayer life to regain both attention and devotion in our vocal prayers.

Progress in vocal prayer comes not with mere spontaneity over use of formulas. Progress comes with increased attention in truth, and increased devotion in love. This increasing openness to God, in mind and in heart, can come through traditional (formula) prayers of the Church as well as through sincere spontaneous prayer. In catechesis, however, there is great advantage in concentrating on the traditional formula prayers, with concern to better attention and devotion in praying them, because there is no question about the orthodoxy of their content.

Our edifying use of formula prayers, for example the Lord’s Prayer, can be greatly helped by slowing down and truly listening to the words we are saying. With young children, this would call for teachings on the meanings of the words of the prayer. The exegesis of the Lord’s Prayer might be cursory or detailed, depending on the class age and curriculum needs, but it is a gold mine of catechetical content. A class of teens or adults, having more background to bring to the prayer, may need only the opportunity to really listen to what they are praying.

This engagement of the mind in prayer, in simply listening more carefully and therefore praying more carefully, has two important results. First, the mind that is enlightened with the beauty of the truth of this prayer, calls forth from the will its proper responses to beautiful truth, which are devotion and love. That is, attention to truth calls forth the necessary devotion as well. Secondly, the enlightenment of the mind with truth is in itself the beginnings of meditation, the second stage of ascetical prayer.

MEDITATION, THE NEXT STAGE, ENLIGHTENS THE TEEN'S GROWING INTELLECTUAL LIFE

Adolescents and adults need to see the rationality of their religion. Religion deals with the supernatural, of course, and cannot be encompassed totally by our rational concepts, yet the Christian Faith is completely reasonable. In meditation, the reasoning mind is put into communication, so to speak, with the truths of the Faith. Truth is like light to the reasoning mind, which is made to desire this light, and to recognize it as beautiful and true when it presents itself. It is in adolescence that this desire for truth, and sensitivity to truth and to falsity, is awakened so keenly in the person. For this reason, it is in adolescence that meditation should be first introduced and taught.

The adolescent mind desires truth, and he must integrate an emerging capacity for truth into his prayer. If the adolescent does not learn meditation, he will become soon bored with vocal prayer as he knows it. Vocal prayer as he knows it (and knew it as a child) will no longer be sufficient for him, and he will begin to experience an interior schism. His mind will not be one with him in prayer; his prayer will not seem authentic, it will not engage him as it once did. This is a most dangerous spiritual conflict, and a time of great danger to the soul. The adolescent needs prayer appropriate to his growing mind and will. The needs of the adolescent soul for more mature, authentic, rational communication with God in prayer must not be ignored in catechesis, and the appropriate methodological tool needed is meditation.

Discursive meditation is application of reason to some spiritual truth in order to engage its meaning, to penetrate its meaning, and to integrate the truth into one’s life. Mental activity and attention are clearly required, and the first goal is the enlightenment of the mind with the truth. It is important to realize that Christian meditation is not achieved with the simple presence in the mind of some truth; the ultimate goal is the transformation to life in Christ. Several intermediate goals in meditation then become clear. First, the mind is enlightened with some truth, for the purpose (in the intellect) of forming firm convictions, forming intellectual consent to this truth. This conviction, and consent to the truth, is itself for the purpose of arousing the right response of the will to truth: this right response is love. This is the most important of the interior results of meditation, the arousal of love because of supernatural truth. Yet the purpose of prayer is not finally interior only, but needs to be expressed by the whole person. That is, the final goal of meditation is a life of active charity in Christ.

Teens are action-oriented, and it is helpful to point out to them that a goal of meditation is Christian action. Our thoughts about meditation have been influenced and even confused by Eastern mystics and gurus. Christian meditation does not seek trances and introspection, but divine light for Christian living. One purpose of Christian meditation is the virtuous action of a life in Christ.

There are several schools of meditation, each with specific methods. The general structures of the various methodologies have in common three essential parts: first, the engagement of one’s thought with some supernatural truth, second, the examination of one’s life in the light of that truth, and finally the conviction for action, to enact that truth with one’s life. This basic pattern is essentially practical and reasonable to both adolescent and adult.

The truths to be approached in meditation, however, are age specific. In the matter of what is to be meditated upon, one’s age, religious background and experiences, and education all become important. Examples of themes suitable to meditation and relevant to the adolescent abound in Scripture and other sources. Wisdom in the catechist is needed to guide the individual teenagers into meditation of truths that they need, which they can receive and appropriate to themselves. The goal is life in Christ, and the deeper and truer relationship with Him that supernaturally produces holiness of life.

AFFECTIVE PRAYER ENKINDLES THE HEART OF THE YOUNG PERSON WITH THE FIRE IT IS MEANT TO HAVE

Affective prayer is a natural progression from effective meditation. It is a movement of emphasis, more than a distinct stage in itself, from enlightenment in the mind to the predominant focus within the will of the virtue of charity. The arousal of love is of course a goal of meditation, and the beginning seeds of this love are found in effective vocal prayer, in its requirement of devotion. But in this stage of affective prayer, the entire communication has become more simple, less verbal, less symbolic, more immediate.

Teenagers can become very emotional, even volatile. Among other changes in their personality is an increased sensitivity to and deeper experience of emotions, adding great color and dimension to their total perceptive life. The catechist teaching adolescents to pray must, therefore, help them to discern against the mere unleashing of emotion that is certainly not affective prayer. Affective prayer does involve the experience of feelings, but feelings that come from supernatural truth that, having enlightened the mind, also enkindles the heart. Some teenagers have real need for counseling, to help them deal with a torrent of feelings which they do not understand. A catechist may or may not be the best person to help a given teenager in such a need, but the catechist should understand clearly the difference between psychological counseling and guidance in prayer. Sometimes, appropriate psychological counseling is needed to help order and heal the effects of poor parental formation, and other results of the damaging presence of sin in the teenager’s life.

Given the unique emotional sensitivities of adolescence, we might be tempted to try to counsel them to avoid affective prayer. This would be very short-sighted on our part, and without real charity. Teens and adults need to learn affective prayer. The spiritual development of the soul in the adolescent years calls for both enlightenment of the mind through meditation and formation of the heart in charity through affective prayer. An adolescent who has not learned to engage his mind rightly in prayer, through meditation, begins to experience the lethal intellectual dualism of this age. He begins to see a separation between his reason and his religious life. Soon the wrong thinking of this age begins to seem right to him: religion is irrational, it is a fantasy. Soon his religious life is placed in a box by itself, isolated from his mind; soon his religion seems isolated from all reality, to be abandoned or discounted.

An equally dangerous result can follow in the life of the adolescent who is unable to engage his developing will in the truth of God. Consciousness rapidly expands in the teen years, to include the emerging sense of self, one’s personal identity, and the emerging desire for and need of relationships based on equality. The teen begins to enter adult awareness. Strong experiences of emotion, strong sexual desires, intense peer loyalties, and courageous openness to generosity - all remarkable traits of the teen years - need right direction and formation into Christ. If the teen finds no way to integrate these awakening aspects of his life into his religious understanding and religious experience, they will become isolated and he will become fragmented. Here then is the second dangerous possibility of falling into the dualism of our age, here through a failure to integrate the emerging affective dimension of adolescent life. Affective prayer is the obvious answer.

Affective prayer engages the heart with the Heart of Christ. It enables communication with Christ’s charity, and therefore enables the fruit of the works of His charity. A life of increasing virtue is a mark, then, of affective prayer. This lived virtue is more fully integrated with both mind and heart than ever before, because of the communications of affective prayer.

Another factor to be recognized here is the desire in the young person to test and prove himself. The growing personal strengths of teenagers need testing, and will seek out obstacles to overcome. This natural need clearly has many manifestations, especially more because of the distortions of sin. Thus we see much healthy teen interest in competitive sports and in academic challenges, and a healthy admiration for true heroes and saints. Sadly we also see clustering into gangs, obsessive needs to prove oneself in one way or another, blind adoration of leaders unworthy of admiration, and irrational risk-taking sometimes leading to disaster.

Risk-taking can be foolhardy or courageous, depending on the circumstance. Adolescents are often willing and even eager to take risks as they stretch and test their emerging sense of self. This natural and beautiful openness to courage presents the catechist of the teenager an opportunity to set before him the real, objective challenge of life. The call to follow Christ is that objective call: it is a call to heroism, requiring more of the soul than mere mental ascent. A heart-bond is needed, to walk after Jesus in the hard times. There will be suffering in the Christian life. There will be struggles, and spiritual battles. A union deeper than that gained in the beauty of His truth is needed; the even more interior union of wills is imperative, in the bond of divine charity. This union of wills and of hearts is sought in the communication of affective prayer. The bond of this prayer has the strength to carry a cross behind the Lord, because it is the bond of love.

The teen uniquely needs the unique graces of affective prayer, as he does also those of meditation. The wholeness of humanity, which is dawning upon the young person in the adolescent years, has need for communication with God that goes beyond that enabled in elementary vocal prayer. We never outgrow our need for vocal prayer, but we do outgrow the conversations of childhood. Vocal prayer, in the more mature years that begin in adolescence, needs the depth and dimension enabled by both meditation and affective prayer. Without the intellectual depths formed in meditation, vocal prayer can seem childish and irrational to the adolescent. Without the depths of heart, of emotion, of conviction in the will formed in affective prayer, vocal prayer can seem hypocritical and irrelevant to the adolescent. Such vocal prayer will indeed be irrelevant to worldly and materialistic heart-desires that will dominate the teenager in our secular society if he does not meet Christ in his young heart as well as mind.

PRAYER OF SIMPLICITY GIVES A GENUINE CALMNESS, EVEN IN ADOLESCENCE

This stage of prayer is more difficult in a sense to characterize, because of its simplicity. It is a resting before God with an enlightened mind and a quiet heart. This is the highest form of ascetical prayer, in the sense that it is close, outwardly speaking, to the beginnings of mystical prayer through infused contemplation. The prayer of simplicity discussed here is ascetical prayer; this is prayer accessible to the person by his own effort, through ordinary grace. The ordinary path to this prayer is through meditation that enlightens the mind with the transforming truths of God, and affective prayer that draws the will into union with the will of God.

This prayer is easily misunderstood because of its outward appearance of simplicity. A person who is not inwardly simple might look upon outward simplicity with condescension if not scorn. Someone approaching the prayer of simplicity prematurely, who has not been rightly formed beforehand into simplicity toward God, might try to imitate simplicity in outward methodologies while inwardly remaining in complexity and confusion. Right formation in the mind and heart is necessary to enter this prayer, which consists more of rest than of any activity. It should be clear, however, that it is not wise to try to force oneself, or anyone else, into this prayer. The prayer of simplicity is a way of prayer which suggests itself to the soul. In fact, of course, it is Jesus Christ Himself who works this growth into deeper prayer. Thought becomes more simple and quiet in meditation, and the will more calm in affective prayer, as the soul moves (so to speak) more closely to the Lord in the prayer of simplicity.

The prayer of simplicity is in a sense an advanced form of prayer. It may be sadly true that many Christians do not attain this place of peace before God in prayer, but this prayer is within the reach of adolescents. As was asserted about the stages of meditation and affective prayer, it is also asserted here that teens have a unique need for the prayer of simplicity. Teens have the personal ability for this prayer, and importantly, the right to learn of it in their catechesis.

The unique need in adolescence for peace and quiet should be obvious, from the flagrant lack of either in the lives of typical secular teenagers. The dominant culture we live in offers nothing toward the wholeness and interior integration of adolescents. Lacking depth of wisdom, it cannot. It rather encourages interior conflict and disharmony through chaotic and rebellious music, and violent, sensuous movies and television. The secular culture promotes education of the mind for no further end than self-gratification. It promotes cohesion of the will with no higher purpose than the satisfaction of one’s own pleasures. Teenagers deserve the guidance that can help them to find human wholeness in Christ, and we cannot be surprised when teens who are without such a path submerge themselves in a cacophony of noise - audible, visual, and tactile. That is, they are overwhelming their own emerging senses, knowing no way to gather them into the interior harmony that is intended. The narcotic of power and loudness seems preferable to meaningless confusion.

The prayer of simplicity is a resting before God, a quiet and peaceful waiting in His presence. This is a possibility for a soul having found enlightenment of mind and integrity of heart in Christ. Adolescents are naturally ready for the relationship with God that enables such enlightenment and integrity, through meditation and affective prayer. An adolescent who has been rightly formed by such praying will be led to more and more simple prayer, moving finally into the quiet resting presence with God that is described here. The fruit of such prayer is a calm, and a personal integrity, which is a crown of righteousness for a person of any age.

CONCLUSION

Many of our Catholic adults understand little about prayer beyond the formula prayers they learned in childhood. These beautiful formula prayers lack nothing in themselves, but if adults pray them with no more depth than that learned as children, the prayer as communication is lacking. Without doubt some adults have experienced great depths in prayer with no formal teaching on it, but these generous blessings of God do not excuse our omissions as catechists. The Church has a great treasure of spiritual theology, with wonderful and profound understandings of the interior life of prayer. Catholics need an intimate relationship with God in prayer, and they deserve to learn from the wisdom that the Church holds. This is especially true in adolescence, because in the adolescent years God is awakening the dimensions of human perception and action that especially need to be formed into a whole life of faith. The secular world is disintegrating precisely because it lacks the integrative power of faith. We cannot abandon children in their critical teen years to the ignorance of the secular world: it is exactly here, in the critical teen years, that the need and the opportunity are greatest.

A Selected Bibliography

A Discalced Carmelite Nun, The Stages of Prayer, St. Paul, MN: Carmel of Our Lady of Divine Providence, 1971

Arintero, John G. O.P., The Mystical Evolution in the Development and Vitality of the Church, 2 vols., trans. Jordan Aumann, O.P., Rockford, IL: Tan Books, 1979

Aumann, Jordan, O.P., Spiritual Theology, Chicago: Christian Classics, 1980

Dubay, Thomas, S.M., Fire Within, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald, O.P., The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Trans. M. Timothea Doyle, O.P., St. Louis: B. Herder, 1947. (This classic has been published more recently by Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., Rockford, IL 61105.)

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald, O.P., Christian Perfection and Contemplation, Trans. M. Timothea Doyle, O.P., St. Louis: B. Herder, 1954

St. John of the Cross, Complete Works of St. John of the Cross, 3 vols., trans. E. Allison Peers, Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1957

St. Teresa of Avila, Complete Works of St. Teresa of Avila, 3 vols., trans. E. Allison Peers, New York: Sheed and Ward, 1946

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Richard, Tom. “The Catechesis of Teens: They Need to Learn to Pray!” The Catholic Faith (November/December 1996).

Reprinted by permission of The Catholic Faith. The Catholic Faith is published bi-monthly and may be ordered from Ignatius Press, P.O. Box 591090, San Francisco, CA 94159-1090. 1-800-651-1531.

AUTHOR

Dr. Tom Richard is the director of religious education at St. Therese Catholic Church, in Mooresville, North Carolina.

Copyright © 1996 TheCatholicFaith


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