The "What" and "Why" of Catechesis.
Another word for "teaching", particularly in the faith
derived from the Greek word
- κατήχησις - means "instruction by word of mouth". In many ways catechesis has, sadly, become a lost art. It is either delegated to others or not done at all. Of course, there are many of the faithful who perform catechesis in parishes and schools. They perform a vital function and deserve our gratitude for their hard work. But who are the primary catechists for children and what is their responsibility? Why is it so important to catechize our children?
In 1992 Pope St. John Paul II promulgated the first universal
Catechism of the Catholic Church
which embodies the doctrines of our faith and to be used, in combination with Scripture and other good resources, as a teaching - a
- tool. In addition to the on-line
on the Vatican Web site there is also a well-indexed version at Saint Charles Borromeo parish in Mississippi (
According the to U.S. Conference of Bishops, catechesis is "the act of handing on the Word of God intended to inform the faith community and candidates for initiation into the Church about the teachings of Christ, transmitted by the Apostles to the Church. Catechesis also involves the lifelong effort of forming people into witnesses to Christ and opening their hearts to the spiritual transformation given by the Holy Spirit" (
Note the inclusion of the word "lifelong" in that statement. The process of catechesis is something that begins as soon as a person is able to grasp the most basic concepts so that it becomes a natural part of the thought processes. One truly mystifying idea is how many parents will not catechize their children - some even to the point of not baptizing them - because they want them to "choose for themselves when they are older." Think about that for a moment: do we allow infants, toddlers and small children to make that choice themselves in any other aspect of their lives? Do we wait to teach them about safety, about strangers, about relationships, even about their education in secular matters? Of course not! Any responsible parent recognizes the urgency and need to teach a child, not only for his or her own safety but also to instill the understanding of how many different aspects and disciplines are involved in making mature and informed decisions, something that we do many times every day.
When it comes to matters of faith and morals (decisions known as
), which affect not only our daily lives and those around us but may also have eternal implications, the ability to effectively integrate many disciplines in our thinking becomes all the more crucial. Psychologists have argued that we have three primary developmental stages:
physiological, emotional and cognitive growth
. At the very center of this is (and should be) the creator of that growth: God, the mystery at the very core of human experience. It is the responsibility of the Church and its members to both become familiar with and to transmit that growth to those new to the faith (either through birth or by being led to it later in life.) And, just as faith is a personal response to God's grace, it is through the transmission of that faith through both factual information and personal experience, that others become engaged and learn to imitate those from whom they learn.
Many people take on the role of catechists (teachers) in our lives; who are the first? The answer to that lies in part of the
final blessing given at Baptism
: "God is the giver of all life, human and divine. May he bless the father of this child. He and his wife will be the first teachers of their child in the ways of faith. May they be also the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do, in Christ Jesus our Lord." The parents are the first source of instruction to a new life in faith and are called to do so in their words and actions. Of course, this is a daunting task and parents are not expected to take it all upon themselves, which is why the Church and secular institutions provide dedicated clergy and laypersons to assist -
! What is learned in the classroom - whether it is in secular or religious instruction - should reinforce and build upon what is practiced at home and with family.
Properly-formed Catholics are vital to the Church. It is through them that the Church can be truly effective in bringing the Good News to an increasingly divided world. And it is also through them that the Church can undergo the healing that is needed. Given the recent issues that have rocked the Church, it has become abundantly clear how important an informed faith is to withstanding attack - both from without and within - and to provide the tools to others struggling with their faith: we cannot give to others what we don't have ourselves. Towards this end, proper catechesis helps people to understand how important it is to exercise both our faith and our reason; in 1997 Pope St. John Paul II issued the Apostolic exhortation
(Catechesis In Our Time), which described the need for solid catechesis. He followed this with the encyclical issued in 1998,
Fides et Ratio
(Faith and Reason
), stressing the relationship between these two faculties of the human person and how they needed to work together in order to seek the truth. Faith without reason leads to superstition. Reason without faith leads to nihilism and relativism.
There are many good resources (such as
) and many good people in the Church that reach out to those who want and need to learn about the faith and we continue to pray for them and for those entrusted to their care. Because, ultimately, learning about our faith and teaching it to others puts all involved in touch with the living, resurrected Person of Jesus Christ. We learn more about Him so that we can love and serve Him better!
The specific aim of catechesis is to develop, with God’s help, an as yet initial faith, and to advance in fullness and to nourish day by day the Christian life of the faithful young and old…Catechesis aims therefore at developing understanding of the mystery of Christ in the light of God’s word, so that the whole of a persons humanity is impregnated by that word.
Pope St. John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae, 20
Our FORMED Recommendation for the Week
Video (1 hour, 19 minutes) -
Life is Worth Living
In this compilation of three episodes from his classic television program, "Life is Worth Living," Bishop Fulton Sheen delivers his thoughts on various elements of the Catholic Faith with his ever-present humor, animated presentation, and captivating mode of speaking. In the first segment, "Angels," Bishop Sheen explicates the nature of angels and the meaningful role they play in our world. In the second, "The Touch of Your Hand," Bishop Sheen delves into the beautiful truth that through His love, God makes us lovable, and we can effect this same transformation in our neighbor. Lastly, in "Caring," Bishop Sheen insists on the need to love our visible neighbors, and through these caring acts, love our invisible God.
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Sent by Fr. Ed Blanchett on Friday, September 21 at 3:00PM