Directory for Catechesis
Earlier this year the Holy See published the new Directory for Catechesis. In many parts it is not an easy read. But it does provide us with the opportunity to look at our catechetical endeavours in the light of changing times, demonstrated, of course, by the lockdown and the journey to a new and undetermined normal.
Over the next year Fr Paul Daly, Episcopal Vicar for Formation, will be summarising the Directory, with some suggested pointers for reflection. A summary is, by its nature, subjective. Fr Paul will try to include the sections that he feels has most to say to ourselves and our parishes and communities at this time.
Please feel free to share with parish catechists, sacramental programme coordinators, parish leadership team members; in fact anyone who wants them! I hope you find them of benefit.
We will update this page on a weekly basis.
12. The intimate relationship between kerygma and catechesis (55-61)
Even if it is still useful to distinguish pre-evangelisation, first proclamation, catechesis, ongoing formation, in the present context it is no longer possible to stress those differences. Those who ask for or have already received the sacraments often do not have an explicit experience of faith or do not intimately know its power and warmth. A formal proclamation limited to a bare enunciation of the faith would not permit an understanding of the faith itself which is instead a new horizon of life that is opened wide, starting from the encounter with the risen Jesus.
The Church needs a catechesis that can be called kerygmatic. (The kerygma is the basic proclamation/key message that Jesus is Lord, God with us, who gave himself for us).
The Church must be able to embody the kerygma according to the needs of her contemporaries, providing help and encouragement so that on the lips of the catechists, from the fullness of their hearts, in a reciprocal dynamic of listening and dialogue, there may blossom credible proclamations, vital confessions of faith, telling everyone the good news: ‘Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.’
This leads to several guidelines for catechesis: it has to express God’s saving love which precede any moral or religious obligation on our part; it should be marked by joy, encouragement, liveliness and a harmonious place which will note reduce preaching to a few doctrines which are at times more philosophical than evangelical.
Catechesis reveals a new vision of life, of humanity, of justice, of the whole cosmos which emerges from the faith and which makes its signs constantly present.
Are we trying to do too much when we catechise?
Do we focus on the trees or the wood?
1: Introducing the Directory for Catechesis
What and Why?
In a nut-shell, if the Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses the ‘content’ of the Church’s teaching (the ‘what’), the Directory for Catechesis expresses the ‘how’ that teaching is handed on in our time.
Given that the present ‘our time’ is different from the ‘our time’ of 1971 when the General Catechetical Directory was published, and different even from 1997 when the General Directory on Catechesis was published, it is not surprising that Pope Francis has approved a new Directory, looking at the challenge of handing on the faith in a digital and globalised culture.
To start us off on our journey, four quotations from the Introduction, with an invitation (written by myself and in italics) to reflect and respond, based on your own experience and context.
- Catechesis is an essential part of the broader process of renewal that the Church is called to bring about in order to be faithful to the command of Jesus Christ to proclaim always and everywhere his Gospel.
In our context of gradually reopening our churches to worship, how can we be renewed in our proclaiming ‘always and everywhere his Gospel?’
- A catechesis which goes to the very heart of the Christian message,……manifests the action of the Holy Spirit, who communicates God’s saving love in Jesus Christ and continues to give himself so that every human being may have the fulness of life.
This kerygmatic (from the Greek word for proclamation) catechesis is the very heart of the process, its source, summit and golden thread. How do we keep it at the very core of all our catechetical programmes?
- A catechesis which introduces the believer into the living experience of the Christian community, the true setting of the life of faith. This formative experience is progressive and dynamic…..According to a pastoral practice, becoming more urgent, catechesis should be inspired by the catechumenal model.
How do we, in a gradual way, introduce believers into an experience of the parish? Or do we just tell them to ‘come to Mass?’
- Intimate communion with Christ, the ultimate goal of catechesis,….should be brought about through a process of accompaniment……Only a catechesis that strives to help the whole person in his/her unique response of faith can reach the specified goal.
How do we accompany others to meet Jesus? Is that the goal of our catechesis?
2. Running through the Directory
The Directory lists six themes that are present throughout the document ‘almost to constitute its narrative thread.’ What strikes you as you read each of these themes? What grace might you ask for from the Lord for yourself, for the parish and for those receiving catechesis?
- i) Firm trust in the Holy Spirit, who is present and active in the Church, the world and in the human heart. This brings to the catechetical effort a note of joy, serenity and responsibility.
- ii) The act of faith is born from the love that desires an ever-increasing knowledge of the Lord Jesus, living in the Church, and for this reason initiating believers into the Christian life means introducing them to the living encounter with him.
iii) The Church, mystery of communion, is enlivened by the Spirit and made fruitful in bringing forth new life. This outlook of faith reaffirms the role of the Christian community as the natural setting for the generation and maturation of Christian life.
- iv) The process of evangelisation, and of catechesis as part of it, is above all a spiritual action. Catechists must be true ‘evangelisers with the Spirit’ and the pastors’ faithful co-workers.
- v) The fundamental role of the baptised is recognised. In their dignity as children of God, all believers are active participants in the catechetical initiative, not passive consumers or recipients of a service, and because of this are called to become authentic missionary disciples.
- vi) Living the mystery of faith in terms of relationship with the Lord has implications for the proclamation of the Gospel. It requires, in fact, overcoming any opposition between content and method, between faith and life.
Catechesis has an essential role within the whole process of evangelisation. ‘This requires the commitment and the responsibility to identify new languages with which to communicate the faith…..The Church is committed to deciphering some of the signs of the times through which the Lord shows her the path to take. Among these multiple signs can be recognised:
- The centrality of the believer and of her/his life experience
- The considerable role of relationships and the affections
- Interest in that which offers true meaning
- The rediscovery of that which is beautiful and lifts the spirit.
In these and the other movements of contemporary culture the Church grasps the possibility for encounter and for proclamation of the newness of the faith. This is the linchpin of her missionary transformation which drives pastoral conversion. (Dir4-5)
Talking with someone in a language they do not understand hampers effective conversation! In looking at these four signs of the times, how might they help us find a language that can be more easily understood in order better to communicate the faith? Are there other signs of the times you might add?
3. Revelation and its Transmission (Directory 11-16)
All that the Church is, all that the Church does, finds its ultimate foundation in the fact that God…wanted to reveal the mystery of his will by communicating himself to human beings….From the very beginning of creation, God has never ceased to communicate this plan of salvation to human beings and to show them signs of his love. What signs of his love does God continue to show me? Can I ask for the grace of courage in sharing my experience of God’s goodness with others, when appropriate? How might I enable others to pause and recognise the signs of God’s love in their lives? Maybe using and helping others to use the Ignatian Examen might help? See www.pathwaystogod.org for resources.
God manifests and puts into action his plan in a new and definitive way in the person of his Son….Revelation is an initiative of God’s love and is directed towards communion…..
The novelty of the Christian message does not consist in an idea but in a fact: God has revealed himself. Precisely because it unveils a new life – life without sin, life as his children, life in abundance, eternal life, this proclamation is beautiful.
The divine plan is:
- A mystery of love: human beings, loved by God, are called to respond to him, becoming a sign of love for their brothers and sisters;
- The revelation of the intimate truth of God as Trinity and of humanity’s vocation to a life in Christ, source of our dignity, as God’s sons and daughters;
- The offer of salvation to all through the Paschal mystery of Jesus Christ, gift of God’s grace and mercy, which implies liberation from evil, from sin and from death
- The definitive call to reunite scattered humanity in the Church, bringing about communion with God and fraternal union among people already in the here and now, but to be fulfilled completely at the end of time.
Jesus inaugurates and proclaims the kingdom of God for every person. He is the complete manifestation of God’s mercy and of the call to love that is in the heart of humanity….Entering into communion with him and following him offers fullness and truth upon human life.
There is a close connection between the recognition of God’s action in the heart of every person, the primacy of the Holy Spirit and the universal openness to every person.
As I read the above, I am struck by………….
Three of my reactions to the above:
It is God’s work; we are helping the Holy Spirit, not replacing the Spirit.
The divine plan, in those four points, is something massively exciting. How can we communicate that excitement?
God is already present in the hearts of those who come to us for catechesis, drawing them (and us) deeper into communion. How can we help them recognise the already action of God in their hearts?
4. Faith in Jesus Christ: the response to God who reveals himself. (Directory 17-23)
There are several rich images in these next passages. Read them prayerfully. How does it speak to you of God’s action in the world, in the lives of people, in our lives?
‘You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they rest in you.’ When a human being comes within God’s reach, he or she is called to respond….Faith responds to that ‘waiting’, often unconscious and always limited in its knowledge of the truth about God, about humanity itself and about the destiny what awaits us.
The Christian faith is, first of all, the welcoming of God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ, sincere adherence to his person, and the free decision to follow him….. We believe Jesus when we accept his word, his testimony, because he is truthful. We believe in Jesus when we personally welcome him into our lives and journey towards him, clinging to him in love and following in his footsteps along the way, on a dynamic journey that lasts a whole lifetime…. To believe is an adherence of the heart, of the mind and of action.
Faith is certainly a personal act and, nevertheless, it is not an individual and private choice; it has a relational and communal character… The faith of the disciple of Christ is kindled, sustained and transmitted only in the communion of ecclesial faith where the ‘I believe’ of Baptism is married to the ‘we believe’ of the whole Church. Every believer joins the community of disciples and makes the Church’s faith their own. Together with the Church which is the people of God on a journey in history and the universal sacrament of salvation, the believer is part of her mission.
The Church carries out in history the same mission that Jesus had received from the Father.
The Holy Spirit, true protagonist of the whole of the Church’s mission, acts both in the Church and on those whom she must reach and by whom, in a certain way, she must also be reached, since God works in the hearts of everyone. The Spirit continues to enliven the Church, which lives by the word of God, and makes her grow always in the understanding of the Gospel, sending her and supporting her in the work of evangelising the world. The Spirit himself, from within humanity, sows the seed of the Word; supports good desires and works; prepares the reception of the Gospel and grants faith, so that, through the Church’s witness, human beings may recognise the loving presence and communication of God.
As I read this I am encouraged by…………
As I read this I am inspired by………..
As I read this I am challenged by……..
5. The Transmission of Revelation in the Faith of the Church (Directory 24-7)
The Apostles, faithful to the divine mandate, by witness and works, preaching, institutions and writings inspired by the Holy Spirit, have handed on what they received, and, ‘in order to keep the Gospel forever whole and active in the Church, left bishops as their successors, ‘handing over’ to them ‘the authority to teach in their own place.’ (Vatican II). This apostolic tradition ‘develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth on the understanding of the realities and words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching.’ (Vatican II)
Vatican II speaks of ‘study made by believers’ but before ‘study’ it mentions ‘contemplation.’ How do we and those we serve grow through contemplation? What might ‘contemplative catechesis’ look like?
The transmission of the Gospel according to the Lord’s command has been carried out in two ways: ‘through the living transmission of the Word of God (also called Tradition) and through Sacred Scripture which is the same proclamation of salvation in written form.’ Tradition and Scripture are firmly united and interconnected, stemming from the same source, the Revelation of Jesus. These join together in a single stream, the ecclesial life of faith, and work together… to render the whole mystery of Christ alive and dynamic in the Church. How does our catechesis use Scripture and Tradition as a single life-giving stream?
Tradition is not primarily a collection of doctrines but is a life of faith that is renewed every day….The Church’s Magisterium (the Bishops in communion with the Pope), supported by the Spirit and endowed with the charism of truth, exercises its ministry of authentically interpreting the word of God, which it serves.
The word of God is the primary source of evangelisation, the source around which all other sources are ordered.
How do we equip our catechists to use Scripture and Tradition as a life-giving source?
How do we bring to others the rich treasures of God’s living Word?
6. Revelation and Evangelisation (Directory 28-31)
‘Evangelising is the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelise… She begins by being evangelised herself. She is the community of believers, the community of hope lived and communicated, the community of brotherly love, and she needs to listen unceasingly to what she must believe, to her reasons for hope, to the new commandments of love…she has a constant need of being evangelised if she wants to retain her freshness, vigour and strength to proclaim the Gospel. ‘(Pope St. Paul VI).
I am evangelised afresh when I …………
Our parish is evangelised afresh when…………………
Our Diocese is evangelised afresh when…………………..
Evangelising is not, in the first place, the delivery of a doctrine but rather making present and announcing Jesus Christ. …Evangelisation makes this enduring presence of Christ concrete, in such a way that those who draw near to the Church may encounter in his person the way to ‘save their lives’ (cf Matt 16:25) and open themselves to a new horizon. How comfortable am I talking about Jesus?
How often do I talk with new parents, families, parishioners about Jesus and his place in my life?
Evangelisation has as its ultimate aim the fulfilment of human life. … God became human, so that humanity could become truly human as he intended and created him to be; humanity whose icon is the Son; the human being, who is saved from evil and death in order to participate in the divine nature. Believers can already experience this salvation here and now, but it will find its fullness in the resurrection.
Inspired and supported by the Holy Spirit in the process of evangelisation the Church:
-driven by charity, permeates and transforms the whole temporal order, incorporating cultures and offering the contribution of the Gospel so that they may be renewed from within;
-draws near to all humanity with attitudes of solidarity, fellowship and dialogue, thus bearing witness to the Christians’ new way of life, so that those who meet them may be prompted to wonder about the meaning of live and the reasons for their brotherhood and hope;
-explicitly declares the Gospel through the first proclamation, issuing the call to conversion;
-initiates into Christian faith and life, through the catechumenal process (catechesis, sacraments, witness of charity, fraternal experience) those who convert to Jesus Christ or return to following him, incorporating the former and restoring the latter into the Christian community;
-through ongoing education in the faith, the celebration of the sacraments and the exercise of charity nourishes the life of communion among the faithful and supports the mission, sending all the disciples of Christ to proclaim the Gospel in the world with works and words.
As I read the elements of evangelisation I am inspired by……………………………………………….
As I read the elements of evangelisation I am consoled by……………………………………………..
As I read the elements of evangelisation I am challenged by…………………………………………
As I read the elements of evangelisation I wish to………………………………………………………….
7. The stages of Evangelisation (32-)
Evangelisation includes various stages and moments; these are not only phases that follow each other but also aspects of the process.
Missionary activity is the first stage of evangelisation;
The three paragraphs that follow are densely packed and can seem to turn the process of catechesis into a series of complicated stages for which we feel we lack the necessary time, resources, energy.
They are stages but maybe see them more as movements in the hearts of the ‘sympathisers’, ‘seekers’, parents seeking baptisms, First Communions, adults seeking membership of the Church. I wonder if we move direct from the initial inquiry to the full-on teaching without giving time for them (and us) to recognise God’s presence already with them.
Read the paragraphs below in the light of people to whom you minister. I have highlighted phrases that speak to me. Which phrases speak to you?
- Witness involves openness of heart, capacity for dialogue and reciprocity, willingness to recognise the signs of goodness and of God’s presence in the people one meets. God comes towards us from within the very hearts of those to whom the Gospel is communicated. He is always the first to arrive. Recognition of the primacy of grace is fundamental in evangelisation, right from the first moment. The disciples of Jesus, sharing life with all, bear witness even without words to the joy of the Gospel that elicits questions. Witness, which is always expressed as respectful dialogue, at the appropriate time, becomes proclamation.
- To stimulate an initial turn towards faith and conversion ….[is the aim of the first proclamation.] The interest raised, while not a stable decision, creates the dispositions for the reception of faith. The Church calls those who show such concern ‘sympathisers’.
How do we reach out to sympathisers, searchers? What will help them?
8. At the service of the profession of faith
- (continued from last week) The time of inquiry and maturation is necessary to turn initial interest in the Gospel into a deliberate choice. The Christian community, cooperating with the work of the Holy Spirit, welcomes the interest of those who are seeking the Lord and carries out a first form of evangelisation and discernment through accompaniment and the presentation of the kerygma. This ‘precatechumenate’ is important for the reception of the proclamation and for an initial response and conversion. It already brings with it the desire to get away from sin to follow in the footsteps of Christ.
The ‘Precatechumenate’ or the Inquiry Stage, in the RCIA, is not the first few teaching sessions of the programme,, the ‘Basics’ before we move on to the ‘heavy stuff’. If we look at it as about a movement in the heart of the enquirer, it’s about the movement from ‘wondering whether to become a Catholic’ to ‘wanting to become a Catholic.’ If an attendee tells their friends they are coming to RCIA because they are ‘wondering whether’ that, to me is a sign of inquiry. If they ‘want to’ and the signs as mentioned in the RCIA are present, then they can and should be admitted as catechumens.
These signs are; ‘an initial conversion and intention to change their lives and enter into a relationship with God in Christ. …evidence of the first stirrings of repentance, a start to the practice of calling upon God in prayer, a sense of the Church, and experience of the company and practice of Christians through contact with a priest of some members of the communion’ RCIA 42.
What does this say to us about preparation for the other sacraments?
Those who have already met Jesus Christ feel the growing desire to get to know him more intimately. In the Christian community catechesis, together with the liturgical ceremonies, works of charity and experiences of fraternity, initiates them in knowledge of the faith and apprenticeship in the Christian life. The disciple of Jesus is ready for the profession of faith when, through the celebration of the sacraments of initiation, he is grafted onto Christ. This stage corresponds to the catechumenate and the prior of purification and illumination in the RCIA.
Pastoral action nourishes the faith of the baptised and helps them in the Christian life’s ongoing process of conversion. The beginning of this stage corresponds to mystagogy in the RCIA.
As I read these words I am inspired by………………………………….
As I read these words I am struck by……………………………………
As I read these words I am challenged by…………………………..
As I read these words and look at my own discipleship I…………………………….
Evangelisation in the Contemporary World (38-42)
The Church faces a ‘new stage of evangelisation.’ Our times are complex, pervaded by profound changes, and the Churches (of the developed western world) are often marked by phenomena of detachment from a lived ecclesial and faith experience. Yet the Holy Spirit continues to arouse the thirst for God within people, and within the Church a new fervour, new methods and new expressions for the proclamation of the good news of Jesus.
What particular kind of fervour, methods and expression will adequately respond to the thirst for God within people?
The Holy Spirit is the soul of the evangelising Church.
The spirituality of the new evangelisation is realised today in a pastoral conversion through which the Church is called to come to fruition by going forth and puts her in a permanent state of mission. This leads to a true reform of ecclesial structures so that they become more missionary, capable of enlivening with boldness and creativity the cultural and religious landscape. Every one of the baptised, as a missionary disciple, is an active participant in this mission.
How can we sustain ourselves in a permanent state of mission?
What will we need to begin?
What will we need to let go of?
Evangelisation takes shape essentially in three areas:
- Ordinary pastoral care carried out in Christian communities. We include here those who preserve a deep and sincere faith, expressing it in different ways Ordinary pastoral ministry helps believers grow spiritually and respond to God’s love ever more fully in their lives.
2. The baptised whose lives do not reflect the demands of baptism, lack a meaningful relationship to the Church and no longer experience the consolation born of faith. The Church seeks to develop new language attuned to the different world cultures, proposing the truth of Christ with an attitude of dialogue and friendship.
3. Those who do not know Christ or have already rejected him. Many of them are quietly seeking God, led by a yearning to see his face. Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone. Instead of seeking to impose new obligations they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and invite others to a delicious banquet.
Where have we put our energy? Where do we need to put our energy?
10. Evangelisation of cultures (42-47)
The Church is called to look at history with God’s own eyes to recognise the action of the Holy Spirit, who, blowing where he wills reveals signs of his presence.This makes it possible for the Church to recognise the signs of the times in the heart of every person and culture, in all which is authentically human.
I look at history with God’s own eyes when I…………………………………
I see the action of the Holy Spirit in the world when I see………………………………………….
Evangelising does not mean occupying a given territory but eliciting spiritual processes in the lives of persons so that the faith may become rooted and significant.
Together with a worrying social inequality that often results in alarming global tensions, profound changes are taking place within the horizon of meaning of human experience itself. Priority is given to the outward, the immediate, the visible, the quick, the superficial and the provisional. A central role is entrusted to science and technology as if on their own they could provide answers to the deepest questions. Some educational programmes are organised to the detriment of an integral formation that would acknowledge the most authentic aspirations of the human spirit. A true anthropological revolution is underway which has consequences for religious experience and poses vital challenges for the ecclesial community.
I recognise these profound changes in…………………………………………………..
I respond to these changes by……………………………………………………………….
An undeniable role is played by the mass media which have redefined basic human boundaries well beyond the goals connected to the needs of communication. New technologies are bringing about a vast cultural transformation. A new way of thinking and learning is developing, with unprecedented opportunities for establishing relationships and building fellowship. This touches upon the sphere of personal identity and freedom, upon ways of knowing and learning, and changes the very approach to the experience of faith. For the Church the revolution taking place in communications media and information technologies represents a great and thrilling challenge; may we respond to that challenge with fresh energy and imagination as we seek to share with others the beauty of God.
New technologies fill me with………………………………………………..
I can use them to spread the Gospel by………………………………………….
11. Catechesis at the service of the new evangelisation. (48-56)
The Church is attentive to giving every one of her activities an in-built connection with evangelising and mission.
Catechesis forms believers for mission, accompanying them as they mature in attitudes of faith and making them aware that they are missionary disciples, called to participate actively in the proclamation of the Gospel and make the Kingdom of God present in the world.
The essence of the Christian faith is mercy, made visible in Jesus of Nazareth. The practice of mercy is catechesis in action. St. Augustine affirms that catechesis becomes a work of mercy in that it satisfies ‘with the word of God the intelligence of those who hunger for it.’
The Church must enter into dialogue with the world in which it lives. It has something to say, a message to give, a communication to make. Dialogue is a free and gratuitous initiative, takes its cues from love and grows in a gradual way. At the present time this dialogue, with society, cultures and sciences, with every other believer, is particularly required as a valuable contribution to peace.
The Church desires that catechesis should accentuate this dialogical style, to make more easily visible the face of the Son who, as with the Samaritan woman at the well, stops to begin a dialogue with every human being in order to lead her or him with gentleness to the discovery of living water.
What do these words affirm in our pastoral activity?
What do they challenge?