For six four-hour days this month, I was part of the teaching duo for our Confirmation Boot Camp. A lot of people responded to me on Twitter and Facebook, wanting details and more information, so I’ll outline it a little here and share my new favorite Catholic resource, the YOUCAT.

Now, I know that there are some reservations about the YOUCAT. Smarter, more conscientious people than me have shared their reservations. I can’t help but think that it’s just like tractors: you don’t want the first run. There are always warranty issues. It’s just how things are. (Which does not make the things that are “wrong” with the YOUCAT okay, mind you. I will leave it to you to do your own research on that.)

I had received my YOUCAT review copy and found myself using it instead of the (ahem, ahem) faith formation program books to build my lessons. I found that I wanted the kids to have a copy of their own, so that they could look things up and participate.

My main resources for teaching Confirmation Boot Camp were the Bible, the Catechism, and the YOUCAT. I used the textbook for a couple of the lessons, to get an idea of what was covered, but found that going to the direct material was so much more potent.

About Confirmation Boot Camp

Each day of Confirmation Boot Camp, we had four 45-minute sessions. I taught two of them and our director of religious education taught the other two. It was the first time we taught together, and our very different styles worked. It turned into a conversation, in some parts, and into silence in others. When I taught the lesson on prayer the very last day, we prayed a rosary and had Eucharistic Adoration with Exposition.

It was as powerful an experience as I’ve ever had in a catechetical role (I used to teach third grade, many years ago). I love this age, and I saw some sparks flying, some thoughts digging in, some grace at work. And that was just in me!

We started offering the Boot Camp format during the summer a few years ago, because through the school year, the eighth grade students are so busy that making it to all the required classes always turns into a battle. This year, it’s a space issue: we will not being offering an eighth grade class because we simply don’t have room for it during our religious education nights.

On the one hand, I think there’s an intensity you can achieve with this format that you don’t get when you have the students for an hour a week. On the other hand, we have no plans (to my knowledge) for follow-up. They get confirmed in November and then…well, hopefully they participate in the high school program next year. I think that’s the weak link in what we’re doing this year (next year may be different).

My Experience with the YOUCAT

The YOUCAT is the Youth Catechism (and the official site isn’t ready yet, but will be soon). It was propagated for World Youth Day this year, and will be handed out to everyone who attends, I think. And it’s worth purchasing for Pope Benedict’s introduction. I read a paragraph of it out loud twice, on two different days, to our Confirmation kids. And man, it makes me tear up typing it here:

You need to know what you believe. You need to know your faith with that same precision with which an IT specialist knows the inner workings of a computer. You need to understand it like a good musician knows the piece he is playing. Yes, you need to be more deeply rooted in the faith than the generation of your parents so that you can engage the challenges and temptations of this time with strength and determination. You need God’s help if your faith is not going to dry up like a dewdrop in the sun, if you want to resist the blandishments of consumerism, if your love is not to drown in pornography, if you are not going to betray the weak and leave the vulnerable helpless. [emphasis mine]

As a resource to help young people (and, um, us “older than young” people too!) know their faith, I think the YOUCAT might open a door. Yeah, the big green Catechism is more thorough and maybe, in that sense, better. But there is a place for the YOUCAT, I firmly believe, and I will continue to use it, and I’ll be in line to purchase the second edition when that’s ready.

What I loved about the YOUCAT:

  1. It’s accessible. The kids had no problem figuring it out and they loved the little stick guy at the bottom of the page. They understood it and the design speaks well to their sensibilities.
  2. It’s organized much like the Catechism. So when you have them side-by-side (which, unfortunately, we didn’t because I didn’t have enough Catechisms, which I hope to change for next year), you can see how they fit together.
  3. It’s question-and-answer. That means it’s easy to read. It leads to discussion naturally.

What I would like to see changed about the YOUCAT:

  1. All that stuff everyone else is griping about, especially the gang hand signal and the quote from a person who has no business being quoted in a Church document.
  2. The indexing could be a little better. I say this as a teacher who used it as a reference resource for the students during some of our “look it up and share” activities. (Or maybe the teacher needs to be better?)

Holy Spirit image via The Religion Teacher