I doubt that the average catechist is going to read Sacramentum Caritatis (The Sacrament of Charity), Pope Benedict XVI’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist. For one, the document is nearly 27,000 words long. For another, most catechists and average Catholics for that matter don’t make a habit of reading Apostolic Exhortations.
For the most part, it is a beautifully written document, presenting the truths about the Eucharist in language that speaks to our times. In other words, there’s very little that’s new here, but there doesn’t need to be. The Pope is simply teaching about the summit and source of the Christian life and its connection to our daily lives. That’s what popes do.
So what should catechists know about this document? In a sentence, the Pope is emphasizing to us that there is a profound unity between what we believe (the mystery of our faith), what and how we worship (the mystery we celebrate; liturgical action), and how we live (the mystery we live; the “new” worship). In my own words, I would say that this document tells us emphatically that the Mass makes it possible to live as we believe.
I think the key line for catechists to recall and to teach emphatically is paragraph 86 in which the Pope states that the Eucharist is “not just a theory or a way of life inspired by Christ, but the gift of his very person.” In other words, we are not teaching ideas about Jesus or ideas from Jesus but rather, we are inviting those we teach to ENCOUNTER JESUS. We are teaching a person and to encounter this person is to be transformed and to live in a way that conforms us to this person.
I don’t want to oversimplify a rather complex and profound document (and I encourage you to read it for yourself). However, I think it is nice to know what the core message is and how it affects our teaching. The Eucharist is the gift of Jesus giving himself to us. As catechists, we help others to recognize this invitation, embrace it, and be transformed by it.