Catechetically Speaking . . .

Today we begin at this blog a weekly series on the Church’s catechetical mission. As I noted last week, the inspiration for this series comes from the Holy Father himself, who desires that we bridge the gap between faith and the everyday lives of believers through sound catechetical formation.

This series has to start somewhere, and I can think of no better way to do it than by defining our terms. The glossary at the back of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, defines catechesis as “an education of children, young people, and adults in the faith of the Church through the teaching of Christian doctrine in an organic and systematic way to make them disciples of Jesus Christ. Those who perform the ministry of catechesis in the Church are called ‘catechists.’”

I think the word “catechesis” can be part of the problem when it comes to embracing the Church’s catechetical efforts. It is the ugly step-sister of “evangelization.” Think about it. Evangelization is hip. According to Pope John Paul II it’s “new” and exciting and capable of energizing the youth. After all, evangelization is about proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. Everybody, Catholic and Protestant, is into that.

Catechesis, on the other hand, sounds foreign to many people. For all most people know, it’s an unpleasant procedure done at a doctor’s office. And even for those who might have an inkling as to what catechesis is, it certainly doesn’t conjure up the dynamic images of World Youth Day. Rather, to many it connotes the decidedly negative experience of mandatory CCD classes that bored them out of their minds–and often enough, out of the Church. 

Let’s look, then, at a more positive, biblically based understanding of catechesis, which nonetheless closely parallels the formal definition from the Catechism. Shortly before ascending to His Father, Our Lord commanded the eleven apostles to go “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you . . .”  (Mt. 28:19-20).

That is what catechesis is all about: forming disciples who sit at the feet of Jesus, leading them to the sacramental life of the Church, and instructing them in the body of teaching that Christ entrusted to His apostles (what we Catholics often call the “deposit of faith,” drawing upon imagery found in St. Paul’s letters to St. Timothy).

It would be great if the word “catechesis” were rehabilitated, but even more we need to foster a renewal of the substance to which the word refers. In other words, now is the time for us to recommit ourselves to the Church’s catechetical mission–a mission in which all of us share as members of Christ’s mystical body.

I hope many of you make a point of visiting our blog every Wednesday for our catechetical series. I would also like to suggest some other resources available through CUF that bears on this subject. First, I would like to recommend our Faith and Life catechism series, the finest series around for grades 1-8. Second, I encourage readers to check out our Faith Facts. We have several such tracts, or “Faith Facts,” on issues pertaining to catechesis, such as this one. I’ll be recommending other catechetical resources as this series unfolds. In the meantime, I encourage readers who are not already members of Catholics United for the Faith to join today so as to take full advantage of our range of catechetical resources. 

7 responses

  1. Thanks,Leon. There are certainly so many bad memories of CCD and catechesis. Thanks for the new focus and definition. The time is NOW. I’ll let the folks at RCP know of this project.

    God bless you.

  2. I think it is exciting to consider just how to go about rehabilitating the term “catechesis,” in a way that encourages us to carry out our “happy obligation” to know the faith, live the faith, love the faith and share the faith, as Fr. John Hardon so effectively put it not so long ago. In that effort I am looking forward to your Wednesday blogs with renewed confidence.

  3. Leon,
    I think you are right on the money. Let’s get all fired up with the Holy Spirit and become Jesus Freaks. Let’s do something totally rebelliuos. Let’s rebel against this anti-God, secular society. Let’s live Holy, pure and chaste lives. Let’s love our wives and have as many children as God desires for us. Let’s love those children, protect them and bring them up in the ways of the Lord. Let’s give up the desire for things and live religious lives and pray for the world. Let’s suffer with joy in the struggles of this life and give our whole selves up to the will of God. Let’s walk around with smiles on our faces and make people think we are nuts. Let’s help each other know the Lord through the Church and take as many souls with us as we can. Let’s receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist as we believe that He is really there. Let’s live the sacraments and let them be the supernatural sources of God’s grace which makes it possible to be Holy as our Father in heaven is Holy. Let’s see the face of Christ in every human person. Let’s do something different.
    Let’s swim against the tide.

  4. J.M.J.
    Leon,
    Wonderful young couples serious about living holy Catholic lives themselves and passing the Faith on to their children are constantly telling me they’re lost and feel totally inadequate. Even those who attended Catholic schools tell me they learned absolutely nothing about the Faith. They’re referring to content of course, or what we call the “Deposit of Faith.”

    It’s unfortunately not rare to discover that these folks haven’t sufficient time for extensive, in-depth study, and it’s not easy to find resources which cover the full range of essentials in a very basic manner. I sense that what you plan to do here may just turn out to be an excellent solution to this problem.

    Am I correct in assuming you’ll provide a very basic and practical presentation on the essentials here, and then point your readers to resourses to which those with adequate time can turn for more comprehensive treatment of topics?

    If my assumption is correct I will certainly be thrilled to inform everyone I can reach about the project.

    God bless you Leon.

  5. Deacon Bob,

    Thanks so much for this message. Those wonderful young couples are just the ones we’re hoping to reach through this series and more generally through our daily reflections on this blog.

    So yes, we’re trying to back up the bus and provide a very basic and practical presentation of the essentials, starting with a few introductory posts, like this one, “selling” the need for catechesis and explaining what it is we’re doing when we give and receive catechetical formation.

  6. This is in reference to Deacon Bob. With all due respect there are tons of resources out there for people who want to grow in the faith. Maybe we need to do a better job of get the word out about these resources through our parishes, DREs, CUF chapters and other organizations and apostolates. I myself am a 40 yr old husband and father who was not well taught however through God’s grace he called me back and through EWTN radio and TV I learned a lot and I also learned about many authors books and other media sources, like CUF, available teaching about all aspects of the faith. This series sound like it is going to be a great place to start educating (lighting the fire)on the basics then directing folks to CUF and other places to get good Catholic answers to questions, teachings and studies.

    Thanks Leon

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