Father’s Heart Catechesis
Small group catechesis that proclaims the relentless love of God
“There is great tenderness in the experience of God's love. And it is beautiful to think that the first person to transmit this reality to Jesus was Joseph himself. For the things of God always come to us through the mediation of human experiences.”
I’m excited to announce a new project I’ve been working on for the past few months: Father’s Heart Catechesis!
The summer after I finished high school, I attended a Steubenville Youth Conference. During this conference, specifically in confession, the Lord gave me profound forgiveness and freedom from sins that I had been carrying around for years. This experience changed my life.
After that conference, I believed without a doubt, that God was real and that he would forgive me whenever I came to Him. I related to the Prodigal Son, who, in the midst of his sins, came to his senses and decided to return to his merciful father.
I also left the conference with a sense of mission that I did not have before. I wanted to help others experience the same healing and freedom that the Lord gave me. So I went on to study theology, specifically to become a parish minister.
It’s hard to overstate how good this conference was for me. Yet a whole lot of weeds were planted alongside the good fruit.
For much of my young adulthood I had a “performance mentality” in my relationship with God. As long as I performed well (i.e. didn’t sin), I was in God’s good graces; but when I sinned, I lost my relationship with God and had to go to confession to get it back. My faith life was reduced to sin management. I remember periods of time when, on a weekly basis, I truly believed I had mortally sinned and would bother my priest after daily Mass to hear my confession.
My relationship with God became all about me. I had to follow the rules to stay in God’s good graces. I had to stop sinning. I had to go back to God for his forgiveness after I sinned. I made myself the primary actor in this relationship, not God.
This performance mentality turned me into the older son in the parable of the Prodigal Son, the son that felt entitled, angry, and bitter. I had forgotten the love of the merciful father. I was rigid and scrupulous, fearful that one mistake would cut me off from God and send me to Hell. I saw God as a judge who probably only really cared about me when I followed all the rules. Then once I had managed all of my sins, I felt like I had earned my relationship with God.
This mentality almost led me away from God and the Church. I experienced a season of depression and spiritual desolation that I didn’t know how to process. I had successfully managed my sins, so why was this happening to me? I did everything God asked of me. I was the faithful and obedient son, why was God putting me through this suffering?
During that time God brought people into my life who showed me the relentless love of God, people who presented the mysteries of God and let me pray with them, and individuals who patiently answered my unending questions. They accompanied me in my anger and desolation without getting defensive. They repeatedly brought me back to the truth of who God has revealed himself to be: a loving father.
Through them, God eventually broke through to me. He showed me how good he is. He gave me new freedom. He showed me that my relationship with him wasn’t about following the rules or managing my sin, but that first and foremost it was about God chasing after me in order to heal me of my sin and transform me into something divine. God showed me that I didn't have to convince him to do this. I didn’t have to meet him halfway. I didn’t have to perform. I just had to let him catch me.
The people who walked with me through this desolation were catechists. They were not apologists who felt like they needed to defend God or the Church from my questions, anger, and desolation. Neither were they Pharisees who thought they had all the answers or who shared their own ideas as if they were Church teaching.
Pope John Paul II, in his first Apostolic Exhortation, Catechesi Tradendae, said that “the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity” (CT 5).
That was my experience. And now, that is what I have devoted my own ministry to providing to others. And that’s what I hope to do through my new project, Father’s Heart Catechesis—a small-group catechesis program that I’m starting in June.
This program will, at every level, proclaim the relentless love of God for all people. It will also be oriented around the all-too-unknown doctrine of theosis: the belief that God is making each of us divine. Finally, it will draw deeply from the magisterial—the official and authoritative—documents of the Church, especially the teaching of Pope Francis.
Father’s Heart Catechesis is for any Catholic who wants to grow in their relationship with God. It’s for Catholics who are struggling with their faith or with the Church’s teaching. It’s for Catholics who feel like they may not belong in the Church anymore but who feel like they have nowhere else to go. It’s for Catholics who want to renew their love for God. It’s also for catechists and parish ministers who want to experience life-giving catechesis in order to bring it back to their own communities.
This catechesis program will have three different formats. The first is online classes. This will not be pre-recorded content that is simply consumed. Instead, I will lead small groups (of no more than twenty people) through this program. The catechesis will be interactive and prayerful, and will take place in relationship with real people.
The second format will be a combination of online and in-person. I will lead virtual lessons for parishes, schools, small group bible studies, or just groups of friends. These in-person groups will be able to grow in relationship together as they participate in this program.
For the third format, I will personally lead classes for groups who are within driving distance of Fowler, MI.
I will launch the first online course on Thursday, June 2nd. Groups will meet weekly for twelve weeks and the initial topic will be about the Creed, the first section of the Catechism. I also have twelve week courses available about the liturgy & sacraments and then conscience & the moral law. I am also developing mini six or eight week courses about topics like Catholic social teaching or specific documents such as Fratelli Tutti or Amoris Laetitia.
Twelve week courses will be $300 per person and mini-courses will be $150-$200. This will allow you to participate in the weekly classes and have access to a private online group where the community and discussion will continue outside of class. The per-person cost is the same for the group formats. Groups will need to have a minimum of at least fifteen people. (There are also scholarships available, just contact me.)
If you’re interested in participating in Father’s Heart Catechesis, the next step is to sign up for email updates here. At the beginning of May I will open up registration for the first course that will begin on June 2nd. If you have a group of people who are interested in starting a class, you can email me to set that up!
[Edit: As of May 2nd, registration is now open! Register here!]
If you like what you have heard about this project, please share this post and tell others about it. You can also financially support me here. All donations will support my family, my future ministry in the Church, and more projects like this.
[P.S. Kristina Fahey created this original painting of Saint Joseph. Go ahead and order limited edition prints here!]
I live in Michigan with my wife, Kristina, and our four kids. For the past almost eight years, I have worked as a parish catechist. I have an undergraduate degree in Theology and am currently studying at Aquinas College, working toward a Masters in Pastoral Counseling. I’m a retreat leader, catechist formator, writer, and a co-founder of Where Peter Is. My long-term goal is to provide pastoral counseling for Catholics who have been spiritually abused, counseling for Catholic ministers, and counseling education so that ministers are more equipped to help others in their ministry.