Ministry Tip of the Week
The proper context for catechesis is the soil of conversion. Only in the awakened state of conversion can someone properly receive our teachings on various doctrines and their connection to the sacramental mysteries, the lives of the saints, and the significant developments (in both doctrine and discipline) throughout Church history. Suddenly, all this “information” comes alive with new energy. Catechesis reveals Christ, and the converted heart knows it.
And how much easier it is to teach a heart given over to God. The hungry student is the joy of every teacher. With the soul who already delights in the Lord, the work of catechesis gloriously showers down upon it – like rain on a freshly sown field. A heart living for Christ (or striving to do so) hangs on every word of catechesis, and it grasps the Christian mystery at a far deeper level because he/she is personally invested in the subject matter.
Take away conversion, and our work becomes much harder and far less fruitful. We can even confound our efforts and cripple the faith of our listeners. An un-evangelized heart interprets (i.e. reduces) faith as a list of dry, irrelevant facts; and so it’s no wonder why many have fallen away. They didn’t know Jesus. Faith’s the kind of knowledge that must be given a face. It must be placed in the context of a relationship with the mystery of Christ himself, or it isn’t real faith at all, and it won’t have the power to save anyone.
We evangelize before we catechize – ideally. Realistically, as we know all too well, our teaching environments are filled with the un-evangelized. BUT THERE'S HOPE!! The lack of personal knowledge of Christ simply means we must recapture the true aim of catechesis (which really isn’t all that different from the goal of any good teacher): to get our students to fall in love with the subject matter.
The Catholic faith has been reduced to facts and propositions for many people, a clear sign they haven't been properly evangelized. But, in 1975, Pope Paul VI articulated a truth with groundbreaking implication: Catechesis is a means of evangelization (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 44). Pope John Paul II built upon this idea, calling catechesis “a moment within evangelization” (Catechesi Tredendi, 1-2). These two statements are beginning to revolutionize the way we think about teaching the Catholic faith.
Catechesis IS evangelization. Truth is an encounter with the living God. If we get this right, we evangelize as we catechize, and thus begin to defuse the problem of classrooms filled with students who’ve never encountered Jesus on a personal level. Whether we’re relaying the Church’s worship, her doctrines, or her call to charity, authentic encounter with the Person of Jesus and our relationship with him must be at the center of every teaching. Only Jesus Christ, and our relationship with Him, will set the world on fire.