An Inside Look at Teaching the Doctrines & Mysteries of Our Faith through the Book Echoing the Mystery. Part Two of Two. With Sr. Louis Marie

The article below is an excerpt taken from Mind and Heart, a weekly podcast series hosted by Sr. John Dominic Rasmussen, OP. The producer of the series was GoLEDigital, a digital community created by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

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I’m very happy to have Sister Louise Marie join us again as we continue our discussion on Echoing the Mystery. We are walking through the keys to analyzing doctrine, and Sister, you were sharing your experience of teaching the postulants, who are coming in to see if this is their vocation as sisters. What you’re able to give them in this time and teach them in their formation is an in-depth understanding of the doctrines of our faith. Could you do a quick overview, and then we can pick up where we left off in our last conversation?

Sr. Louis Marie:

I always put up the artwork that goes with a particular doctrine to show that this revelation is incarnational. It adds another dimension of our growth in holiness and even in our understanding that God is beauty. That helps to captivate our hearts and allows us to follow Him. So, we put the artwork up, we discuss the Divine Perspective, and then we begin with the essentials. 

The first key topic that I always start with is the Divine Perspective, which can be understood as trying to get the Father’s perspective and understand what He was telling us about His love for us when He revealed a particular doctrine. The Father’s perspective unites all of them. Ultimately, beginning with the Divine Perspective opens up the hearts of the sisters to the fact that this study is a transcendental, sacramental transition into a relationship with God, the Father. 

After we go through the Divine Perspective, I begin opening up the essentials. In the essentials, which break down the main doctrine into smaller sub-points, there are always catechism references and biblical scriptural references. I always begin with the scriptural references because it’s in scripture that God speaks to us, even now. You can’t improve upon God’s word, and it’s that word that speaks to the sisters’ hearts. It’s essential, and the scriptures are what spoke to my heart when I was meditating on these doctrines. 

From the scriptures, you move into the Catechism references, which help to show that all of these doctrines are connected. For example, there might be Catechism references from a certain section, but then other references throughout might go back to different sections of the Catechism.

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Sr. John Dominic:

The organic unity is so important to understanding the Catechism. Some of the sisters here are saying that they are beginning to see this connection, this organic unity. If you pick up the Catechism alone, which is a wonderful work, and you’re new and you don’t know how to look at it, then it can be challenging to figure out. In approaching your study that way, you might realize that you would learn about the incarnation and the Catechism, and then you would want to look at the scripture, and then you would see that these two are together. It can feel a bit chaotic.

 Echoing the Mystery unlocks the deposit of faith because it gives us a way to show how things are united organically. It could be a sister who is reading to learn more, a freshman in college who is just starting to study their faith, or someone in RCIA who is beginning to understand the truth. 

What has been your experience as you show students the beauty and artwork, teach the truth, and educate them on the Father’s perspective? Have you observed any of them having any big revelations?

Sr. Louis Marie:

Our culture is not a great environment for living the faith, because God is being removed from the horizon. We don’t have a proper perspective. Through the perspective of the Catechism and the scriptures, we can correctly see the rest of our errors. Bringing up the errors helps to focus in on identifying the truth. There are distortions of the truth that are of one extreme or the other, but the truth is right in the middle. Keeping that balance is difficult, but living in accordance with it is true joy. 

These young sisters are coming from a culture which has all of these errors associated with it. They may hold them themselves, either consciously or subconsciously, and realize, “Gosh, that’s the way I’ve been thinking about God and His love for me. It’s a distortion that’s not true. If I live in accordance with that, I’m never going to enter into the joy that He has prepared for me.” To rewrite that is to break a chain.

Sr. John Dominic:

That’s true. I love how you used the word “joy” to describe once they begin to see that. Sometimes people hear the word “doctor” and they would cower or turn away. I think that could be the case here when we use the word “mystery.” In catechesis, we are trying to bring people into friendship with God. We talk about heart and mind, specifically in this podcast we’re putting together, but you have to know something before you can love it. If you know something halfway or you know a little bit about something, you can’t fully love it. And it seems that, in your personal experience, you’ve known all of this, but you’ve come to love it because you know it more fully. As you begin to show them that and shine a light on the many different areas, they fall more in love with the faith, too. 

Sr. Louis Marie:

Absolutely. You can see their joy not only in their eyes, but they’ve expressed it, too. They have said things like, “Sister, I didn’t know. I didn’t know how much God loves me.” It’s so simple, but in these Revelations, God is dying to express himself to us so that we can enter into a friendship with Him. There is a beautiful dynamic that comes to the fore as you move through the different doctrines with these keys and echo the mystery that our nature is given to us so that we might be transformed into Christ. We learn more about our human nature in the light of God, and we see who God is. He’s revealed Himself to us. Then, in knowing who God is, we come to know who we are. In my classes, there is excitement knowing He desires us to know him. After meditating on this book, I feel like all I do is sing God’s praises. Echo, again and again, “This is how He loves you. He wants you to be His daughter. He wants you to be free. He wants you to be growing in holiness, to be moved by the Holy Spirit, and to allow the gifts of the Holy Spirit to work in you. Your baptism is your entrance into this.”

Sr. John Dominic:

It’s true because if you think about the grace of baptism, you’re opening this up for them. You described it as freedom, and I think that is wonderful. Oftentimes when you imagine a life of faith you might think, “Oh gosh, if I begin to practice religion, start returning to the Catholic Church, or become a Catholic, I’m going to suddenly start having limitations on my life, and I’m not going to be able to certain things that I want to do.” But that’s a common misconception. When you’re living fully a Christian life, fully immersed in all that God has revealed, it is a profound yes. Every day is a yes. I wake up and it’s: “Yes, Lord, I have another day.” It’s not: “Oh my gosh, whatever.” There is a freedom, a joy in that. That’s what discipleship is all about, following Jesus Christ. 

I think when you’re part of the formation with the sisters, in a certain sense, it is similar to the experience of those in RCIA who are coming into the church and trying to understand it. Both of their lives have been illumined and enlightened in some way, making the experience of reading this book similar. 

In the last episode, we talked about hearing the prayers of the liturgy. You expressed that this is the first time we experience this on a day-to-day basis because we have Mass every day, and we’re praying the liturgy of the hours. It’s almost like an explosion. All of a sudden you’re thinking, “Everything I’m learning in class, I’m seeing as I’m praying.” How are you making those connections for them?

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Sr. Louis Marie:

It’s beautiful that our church prays what sisters believe. I don’t have to bring it to life for them. That’s the amazing thing. We go through all of the essentials, and once we get to the end, we have these prayers from the liturgy. They usually already know these examples from even that day. It’s everywhere in the liturgy, which is meant to instruct and inform us. 

The way that I participate in the liturgy has changed because of the joy and the freedom that I experience when I’m teaching and witnessing the faith. This joy and freedom permeates the liturgy because God’s revelation washes over me. There are multiple dimensions. You can sit down and try to memorize the catechism, but our human way of being is not just reading and memorizing but also living.

In worship, there is a personal and relational way to communicate when one is encountering Jesus in the Eucharist. For example, we might say, “We’re offering this to the Father; the Holy Spirit is moving and praying in me.” The way I encounter the reality of Jesus that I have studied in class allows an incomparable instruction to anything I could say or do outside of the liturgy.

Sr. John Dominic:

 I think that is so important because oftentimes when people begin to pray, they get overwhelmed. With Echoing the Mystery, we’re trying to break it down so that people are not overwhelmed by it. As you begin to live the Christian life or begin to pray, you realize that it isn’t that God necessarily needs our prayers. It is that we should offer that back as a praise of thanksgiving. 

With regards to the rubric of Mass, order provides a certain freedom during prayer that allows you to be open. I think it’s important for us and our listeners to understand that when we pray, God may not answer us in that moment. With God, there’s no time. He’s not looking at His watch and saying, “Okay. I’m going to answer this prayer by 1:15 or later in the day.” He will answer the next day, the next week, or while you are at mass listening to the prayers and word of God. The more we’re immersed in being attuned to God’s revelation, the more open we will be to hearing Him. And it sounds like that has been your experience. 

As we wrap this up, is there anything I may have overlooked that you feel is important to unpack, or that you think might be helpful to people listening?

Sr. Louis Marie:

Personally, reading Echoing the Mystery formed me as a witness, and that’s a profound gift for me. The sisters receive a great gift from me teaching them, but really, I was formed by this. I learned how to listen to the Holy Spirit through this. When I begin to teach, I get so excited because God acts in that very moment by guiding me in my preparations. I have read the catechism, I have read the scripture, but God acts in the moment. He speaks through me. That’s a profound gift for any catechist.

Sr. John Dominic:

I’m glad you brought this up again, and its relevant in talking about what it means to be a catechist. Often we hear so much about discipleship, and it comes down to being a witness. It comes down to 1 John 1:1-4: “That we have seen Him, we’ve touched Him, we’ve come to know Him.” Think about Jesus joining the disciples on the road to Emmaus: they didn’t recognize him until the breaking of the bread. This sheds light on the importance of having a personal relationship with Jesus. He wants us to be a witness because at the end of that, our joys aren’t complete until we’re able to share what we’ve had. In that sense, it is different than preparing a chemistry lesson where you would need the PowerPoint and other educational tools. But with this, it is most important that you are an authentic witness.

Sr. Louis Marie:

My way of teaching is different from others’ because I’ve had my own side of personal experiences. God uses that in the moments I am teaching. He uses who I am in that moment, which is a profound gift.

Sr. John Dominic:

That’s true humility lived. We always wonder what the virtues look like or sound like. What does humility look like and sound like? It looks and sounds like what you just said because you recognized that being a catechist means that as you’re open to Him, He’s working through you. You have to also trust that He’s going to have the effect in the hearts of the sisters. 

You are leading the way through humility, and true humility sounds like, “I can do it, and God’s going to use me.” False humility sounds like, “Oh, I’m not a very good teacher. I should only be teaching chemistry,” versus, “This is what I’m supposed to be doing, and I’m going to do it. The Lord’s going to use me.” It delights me to know that our sisters are able to benefit from this, and you get to practice what you preach.

As we’re providing this resource for people, we’re using it ourselves and allowing the word of God to transform us. Catechesis is about converting, being transformed, and coming in touch with the person of Jesus Christ. You’re clearly making an effort to do that. Thank you for forming their minds and their hearts so that their relationship will be a friendship, and most importantly, as the house is consecrated, a spousal relationship with the person of Jesus Christ.

I appreciate our listeners of this podcast on Mind and Heart. We invite you to keep coming back. We will have many shows and guests as we continue to unpack the work that we’re doing at Lumen Ecclesiae Press and Lumen Ecclesiae Digital.

About:

Sr. John Dominic Rasmussen is a Foundress and General Editor of Lumen Ecclesiae Press for the Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Her podcast Mind and Heart can be downloaded every Monday at 3:00 p.m. EST from iTunes. A visual presentation of the podcast can also be seen on YouTube at GoLEDigital.

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