Social Communications Day was celebrated on May 16, and the document instituting the lay ministry of catechists dates from the 10th of the same month.
Communicating by finding people
"Come and see" (Jn 1:46). Communicating by meeting people where they are and as they areis the Message for World Communications Day 2021 (which was published last January 23).
All authentic communication has to do with people's lives. This is true for journalism as well as for political and social communication, and also for preaching and the Christian apostolate. Communicating requires, the Pope observes, "to go and see, to be with people, to listen to them, to pick up the suggestions of reality, which will always surprise us in every aspect.".
Journalistic information, he goes on to point out, requires "wear out the soles of your shoes"If you don't want to limit yourself to being a copy of pre-packaged news, but rather to face "the truth of things and the concrete lives of people". We have all heard of journalists who go where no one else goes, risking their lives to denounce the difficult conditions of persecuted minorities, the abuses and injustices against creation, the forgotten wars.
And so it is with the pandemic and with vaccines. Because "there is a risk of counting the pandemic, and every crisis, only through the eyes of the richer world, of 'double counting'."; so that "social and economic differences at the planetary level risk shaping the order of distribution of Covid vaccines".
Even digital technology, which provides us with first-hand information, shares the risks of "digitalization".social communication without controls"It is therefore open to manipulation for various reasons. And it is not a matter of demonizing this great instrument, but rather of encouraging "a greater capacity for discernment and a more mature sense of responsibility, both when disseminating and when receiving content".
And since we are all not only users but also protagonists of communication, "We are all responsible for the communication we do, for the information we give, for the control that together we can exercise over false news, unmasking it. We are all called to be witnesses of the truth: to go, to see and to share.".
The Christian apostolate: communicating the "good news".
This is also how the Christian faith began, with that answer-suggestion of Jesus to those who ask him where he lives: "....Come and see" (Jn 1:39). This is how faith is communicated: "as a direct knowledge, born from experience, not from hearsay" (cf. Jn 4:39-42).
In this way the teaching of Francis opens up from the anthropological and ethical consideration of communication to the theology of communication. In fact, because in Jesus, the Word (Logos) of God made flesh, God communicated to us in the most profound, real and human way possible. Jesus communicated because he attracted, above all by the truth of his preaching.
But at the same time "the effectiveness of what he said was inseparable from his look, his attitudes and also from his silences". "The disciples didn't just listen to his words, they watched him speak.". In him the invisible God allowed himself to be seen, heard and touched (cf. 1 Jn 1:1-3).
And this gives us back lights for our communication and testimony of the truth. "The word is effective only if it is 'seen', only if it involves you in an experience, in a dialogue. For this reason the 'come and see' was and is essential.". If we want to communicate and bear witness to the truth, we must make it visible in our own lives.
This is how Christians have always lived and taught it, from St. Paul of Tarsus and St. Augustine to Shakespeare and St. John H. Newman. Even today, Pope Francis notes, "the Gospel is repeated today every time we receive the clear testimony of people whose lives have been changed by their encounter with Jesus.".
A chain of personal encounters
The transmission of the faith has in fact been taking place for over two thousand years, in "a chain of encounters that communicates the fascination of the Christian adventure".
And so true communication, anthropologically and socially speaking, but also considered theologically, requires the "face-to-face" of dialogue and friendship, of closeness and of the courageous gift of self in the face of the needs of others: "The challenge ahead is, therefore, to communicate by meeting people where they are and as they are.".
But, be careful, this evangelizing communication also requires, as the Pope points out in his final prayer, a series of conditions: going out of ourselves; seeking the truth; going to see, even where no one wants to go or look; listening, paying attention to what is essential and not allowing ourselves to be distracted by the superfluous and misleading; discarding prejudices and hasty conclusions; recognizing where Jesus continues to "dwell" in the world; telling honestly what we have seen.
Catechists, transmitters of the faith
With the motu proprio Antiquum ministerium (10-V-2021) the Pope has established the ministry of catechists. While not all catechists need to be "instituted" for their task, the existence of this "ministry" or ecclesial function will facilitate the organization and formation of catechists throughout the world.
Catechesis has been an indispensable service in the Church since the first centuries. While it is particularly necessary for the education in the faith of children and young people, today as always it is also necessary for other Christians. We all need to have the message of the Gospel proclaimed to us and to be prepared to receive and make better use of the sacraments every day. So that our life may bear fruit at the service of the Church and society.
This task is intended primarily for the lay faithful. It certainly does not change the condition of these baptized faithful, who are the majority of God's people. They are called to sanctify themselves in the temporal realities with which their existence is interwoven: work and the family, culture and politics, etc. (cf, Lumen gentium, 31). At the same time, "receiving a lay ministry such as that of catechist gives greater emphasis to the missionary commitment proper to each baptized person, which in any case should be carried out in a fully secular manner without falling into any expression of clericalization." (Antiquum ministerium, 7).
The Church wishes, in short, to give even greater importance to the catechist, whose task can be considered as a vocation in the Church, supported by the reality of the a charismaand within the broad framework of the lay vocation (cf. n. 2).
Catechesis is called to renew itself in view of the present circumstances: a renewed awareness of the evangelizing mission of the whole Church (new evangelization), a globalized culture and the need for a renewed methodology and creativity, especially in the formation of the new generations (cf. n. 5).
The document states that it is up to the episcopal conferences to prepare the means for the bishops in each diocese to organize the catechists instituted in a "stable"in each local church.
Catechists must be "men and women of deep faith and human maturity, who actively participate in the life of the Christian community, who can be welcoming, generous and live in fraternal communion, who receive the proper biblical, theological, pastoral and pedagogical formation to be attentive communicators of the truth of the faith, and who have already acquired a previous experience of catechesis.".