It wasn’t long before a student asked the question:
“Mr. Chertudi, why do we say the catechism every morning?”
Every day for the past two months our fifth grade class had started the day reciting our catechism, which entails a back-and-forth, question-and-response Bible-centered chant consisting of the same questions and the same set of Bible-verse answers. The catechism is long; it takes about seven minutes to say aloud. It is tiring; I require students to stand up straight as they recite their responses. And certainly, it isn’t fun. So it was only a matter of time before the question, why do we do this?, arose.
It’s a fair question, and as a class we arrived at these three primary reasons:
Our morning catechism contains life-giving words, and we want these words to become a part of us, both now in fifth grade and forever. Our hope is that by reciting the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, and other Biblical verses, the catechism’s life-giving words will be made permanent fixtures in our students’ minds.
We want each day to begin with a focus on heavenly things. Our mornings should not begin with math or grammar lessons, but with eternal truths. As we say in our catechism, God instructs to keep His Word “always on your lips; meditate on it day and night” (Joshua 1:8) and “to impress them on your children.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
Our catechism is communal. Over time, our students form a special bond in saying its words together. They become accustomed to the speed and cadence of their peers, and it has become something we can only truly share as a group.
Travel the Academy halls and you will hear many classes, younger and older, doing exactly this same morning ritual. In fact, the lower elementary grades learn and chant the same memory verses as our middle school students. And on Fridays, those same chanted verses resurface in the school-wide Chapel messages. Ultimately, by learning and absorbing these same set of verses, our students cultivate a common language with which they learn to communicate, with words and actions, our Lord’s eternal values.
But the catechism is only a starting point. It’s meant to launch us into a day informed by God’s Word. Students can use what they have said to discuss and consider class-time questions such as:
Is this literary or historical character virtuous?
If so, how is he virtuous?
How can we be virtuous, too?
In other words, our morning catechism provides our students a valuable starting place from which they can evaluate their world and themselves. Psalm 119 forms part of our morning ritual, and perhaps represents the most all-encompassing reason for which our catechism exists. Our fifth graders recite the verse every day:
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”