What is the Catechism?
by Dr. Jessica Drexel
The Catechism Lesson by Jules-Alexis Meiner
Classical schools acknowledge and celebrate that children are whole people made up of body, mind, and soul. Academic classes cultivate the mind, athletic programs train the body, but how does a classical school care for the soul? A Classical Christian school has the unique challenge of wedding academic training with spiritual formation. While Christian principles shape high level elements of the school, like its mission, vision, and curriculum, Anthem’s Christianity is also a practical part of the school day in which teachers and students actively participate.
That’s what the catechism is for. Because Anthem is ecumenical, students, faculty, and staff will come from diverse faith backgrounds, and the catechism will help centralize the elements that all hold in common. In addition, it gives the entire community shared language about the faith, and this language connects Anthem’s twenty-first century school culture with the Christian church throughout history.
In practice, the catechism is part of the morning Matins and also part of the classroom. The catechism consists of a series of short oral questions and responses about the core beliefs of orthodox Christianity. The catechism thus lays the foundation for a back-and-forth conversation between teachers and students about their shared faith. The word “catechism” comes from the Greek term for “oral teaching,” so this type of practice is easy to adapt to grammar level learning, where students excel at memorizing pithy facts and nuggets of truth. Students also thrive with the interactive nature of the catechism because they take possession of the answers to questions like “who is God?” and “what is virtue?”
Long after students graduate from their grammar years, they will return to the questions they learned to ask in their childhood. Our prayer is that many students will hold fast to the wisdom found in the orthodox understanding of Christianity when they encounter the realities of life, and that hardship and hard choices will not be the first time they consider these fundamental questions.
Even if a student sets aside the answers found in the catechism, we hope he or she will still ask the questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? What is the good life, and what makes it good? Ultimately, these questions are at the heart of a classical education.
Jessica Drexel is an advocate for classical education and a friend of Anthem Classical Academy. Dr. Drexel taugh in higher education for seven years, most recently at Baylor University, and she currently teaches senior thesis, literature, and composition, and Latin at a classical school in Waco, TX.