Next Wednesday we will begin on this blog a weekly series on the Church’s catechetical ministry, which is nothing other than the practical application of Our Lord’s command to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19).
Much of the impetus for this series comes from the recent addresses of Pope Benedict here in the United States. Let me provide two illustrative quotes. This first one is taken from the Holy Father’s April 16th address to the U.S. Bishops at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington:
“It is in this fertile soil, nourished from so many different sources, that all of you, Brother Bishops, are called to sow the seeds of the Gospel today. This leads me to ask how, in the twenty-first century, a bishop can best fulfill the call to ‘make all things new in Christ, our hope’? How can he lead his people to ‘an encounter with the living God,’ the source of that life-transforming hope of which the Gospel speaks? Perhaps he needs to begin by clearing away some of the barriers to such an encounter. While it is true that this country is marked by a genuinely religious spirit, the subtle influence of secularism can nevertheless color the way people allow their faith to influence their behavior. Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs? Is it consistent for practicing Catholics to ignore or exploit the poor and the marginalized, to promote sexual behavior contrary to Catholic moral teaching, or to adopt positions that contradict the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death? Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel.”
The second quote is from his homily at Washington Nationals Stadium on April 17th, in the context of affirming the “new evangelization” in this country:
“The fidelity and courage with which the Church in this country will respond to the challenges raised by an increasingly secular and materialistic culture will depend in large part upon your own fidelity in handing on the treasure of our Catholic faith. Young people need to be helped to discern the path that leads to true freedom: the path of a sincere and generous imitation of Christ, the path of commitment to justice and peace. Much progress has been made in developing solid programs of catechesis, yet so much more remains to be done in forming the hearts and minds of the young in knowledge and love of the Lord. The challenges confronting us require a comprehensive and sound instruction in the truths of the faith. But they also call for cultivating a mindset, an intellectual ‘culture,’ which is genuinely Catholic, confident in the profound harmony of faith and reason, and prepared to bring the richness of faith’s vision to bear on the urgent issues which affect the future of American society.”
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes, “Periods of renewal in the Church are also intense moments of catechesis” (no. 8). Catechesis is part of the process of evangelization by which the Christian, through effective formation (or “discipleship”), becomes more closely conformed to Christ and able to “think with the Church.” As the first quote indicates, this widespread catechetical effort is needed to bridge the gap between “Sunday Mass faith” and the rest of one’s life in the world. And as the second quote indicates, we need to foster a more comprehensive Catholic mindset that will allow the faith to permeate our culture.
It’s all about catechesis, which has always been at the heart of CUF’s mission. And so I hope through our Wednesday catechetical postings we will further contribute to this “intense moment of catechesis,” so that as the Church in the United States we may effectively bear witness to the Person and teachings of Christ to the next generation.