Pope's teachings

Theological-pastoral aspects of the new Directory for Catechesis

A few weeks ago, a new Catechetical Directory was published by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. It is the third since the Second Vatican Council, after those of 1971 and 1997. We offer a commentary.

Ramiro Pellitero-September 1, 2020-Reading time: 5 minutes

To present the new Directory for Catechesis, we will make some preliminary remarks, and then dwell on the need for a catechesis that is a proclamation of the faith, and mention some of the challenges it faces today. Among them, the Directory highlights the digital culture and the globalization of culture.

Three preliminary notes

First of all, it must be recognized that the idea of catechesis that many people have had for decades refers to instruction in religion, especially for children.. Without neglecting the training of children and young people, the current circumstances have led to the rediscovery of the adult catechesiswhich, taking the model of the first centuries, is proposed as a "paradigm" for other catecheses. 

In any case, catechesis is a necessity for all Christians, whatever their age and circumstances. No one should consider himself or herself "already formed". For all, the new Directory for Catechesis offers a general framework and important guidelines.

Secondly, catechesis should be distinguished from other forms of education in the faith, which are complementary within the broad process of the Church's evangelizing mission. school religious education, as reflective information on the contents of the Christian faith. This subject can be addressed to believers or non-believers. It is situated within the framework of the cultural formation, proper to the school or higher academic institutions, so that "makes the Gospel present in the personal process of assimilation, systematic and critical, of culture." (n. 313). To this end, this discipline must have the same academic rigor as the other disciplines in the curriculum. In this way it will be able to shed light on the interdisciplinary nature of a humanizing formation, so important today for personal, family and social life.

– Supernatural catechesis on the other hand, is not part of a school system. Its objective is the initiation and then the progressive formation of the already Christian: to increase in him the personal adhesion to Christ and the maturity in his following. In its presentation, the Directory points out the double objective of the catechesis with these words: "To mature the initial faith and to educate the true disciple through a deeper and more systematic knowledge of the person and message of Our Lord Jesus Christ." (exhort. ap. Catechesi tradendae, 19). 

It is interesting to note how all this helps to dispel two possible misunderstandings about catechesis: that of a teaching limited to cognitive aspects, and that of a formation limited to merely human wisdom. Catechesis is, on the other hand, education for life, specifically for Christian life. It aspires to form disciples of Christ.

Centrality of the proclamation of the faith and missionary conversion

Today's complex context, characterized by profound cultural changes, abandonment of the ecclesial faith in countries with a long Christian tradition, together with difficulties and demands for spiritual, moral and pastoral renewal within the Church itself, challenge us to a new evangelization (cf. nn. 38-39). 

Gospel means good news. To evangelize is to announce the good news of God's love brought by Christ-the Son of God made man, who died and rose for us-following the Master's command (cf. Mt 28:19). 

The proclamation of faith in Christ, dead and risen, is called, in the New Testament, kerygma. Pope Francis has renewed the call for a missionary conversion of the whole Church and of every Christian. This makes today's catechesis necessary for a missionary conversion. kerygmatic catechesisThis means emphasizing this first proclamation of the faith. Now, this proclamation is not an abstract principle, a phrase, a mere piece of information or a speech articulated to convince the interlocutor, but rather the witness of the personal encounter with Jesus Christ. From this central point, faith unfolds its "contents": it is proclaimed and confessed in the Church (Creed), it is celebrated in the liturgy (sacraments), it is lived in its own style (Christian morality) and it is manifested and nourished in dialogue with God (prayer). 

Although the first announcement (kerygma) is not identified with catechesis, but precedes it; today this proclamation cannot be left behind, because many have not yet experienced a personal encounter with Jesus (cf. n. 56). 

To say that today there is a need for a kerygmatic catechesis is equivalent to saying a catechesis "called to be, first and foremost, a proclamation of the faith and should not delegate to other ecclesial actions the task of helping to discover the beauty of the Gospel." (n. 57). It is a question of each person, through catechesis, to "may I discover that it is worth believing" (ibid.). 

It should be kept in mind that in the proclamation of the faith Christ himself acts through the witness who proclaims it (cf. n. 58). This requires that the heralds of this news (educators of the faith, catechists and in general every Christian) "incarnate" this proclamation in their own lives, making their message credible: "Jesus Christ loves you, he gave his life to save you, and now he is alive by your side every day, to enlighten you, to strengthen you, to set you free." (Evangelii gaudium, 164). The main elements of a modern kerygmatic catechesis are presented in nn. 57-60 of the Directory. 

In short, and along the lines indicated by St. Paul VI (Evangelii nuntiandi) and subsequent pontificates, especially the current one of Francis (Evangelii gaudium), it is now necessary to "kerygmatic catechesis".. In this way it will be possible to make the Christian faithful "missionary disciples".The document is in line with the Aparecida Document (fruit of the Fifth Conference of CELAM, 2007), inspired in turn by the universal call to holiness and apostolate proclaimed by the Second Vatican Council. 

Digital culture and globalization

Taking into account the current context - in which the Directory highlights the digital culture and the globalization of culture (cfr. Presentation)- it is possible to exemplify the content of the document by gleaning various elements, whether positive or negative, which together constitute the challenges that catechesis must face today. 

Without being exhaustive: the need to link truth and love; the centrality of witness, mercy and dialogue; spiritual transformation, promoted by catechesis, as a service to the inculturation of the faith; attention to the contributions of the human sciences (psychology, pedagogy, sociology, etc.) to improve education in the faith; the relationship between catechesis and popular piety; the change of sensitivity with a rejection of the mentality of moral and religious "obligation" and, therefore, with a more personal vision of catechesis and popular piety.) to improve education in the faith; the relationship between catechesis and popular piety; the change of sensitivity with a rejection of the mentality of moral and religious "obligation" and, therefore, with a more personalistic vision of moral education; doctrinal relativism; the need to better explain the freedom of the Christian; the priority of the unity or coherence of Christian life that education should foster; the understanding and practice of catechesis within the framework of the Christian community; the importance of liturgical education or "mystagogy" through the catechumenate; the elements of "digital culture" that can help or need help from education in the faith; the "languages" of catechesis, the "way of beauty" and the role of memory; the horizon of service to society and the transformation of the world; learning discernment at the educational and catechetical level; the articulation of local cultural elements with the universal outreach; the catechesis of the poorest, of migrants, of the imprisoned; the ecumenical dimension of catechesis and its role in the dialogue with religions, with the indifferent and unbelievers; catechesis and the perspective of the "gender" and other issues related to the culture of life and bioethics; forms and ways of family catechesis; catechesis and ecology, etc. 

Of particular interest are the analysis of digital culturethe orientations on the paths to follow in the catechetical process -as part of the broader process of evangelization in pursuit of the fullness of human life - and all that concerns the formation of catechistsA great need and an ecclesial challenge at all levels.

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