Q: Do you know what CCD stands for?
A: Confraternity of Christian Doctrine
In decades past, the church did such a good job of teaching us a language of faith formation for children (CCD) that we are still having a difficult time of growing beyond this term.
Since the Second Vatican Council, the church has been emphasizing a new vocabulary in relation to faith formation or religious education. Yet, the words that the church now uses when it comes to faith formation are not new at all. They are actually quite ancient. These words may seem new to many of us, but to the church they are more like antiques:
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that all of these words derive from the same root word—the Greek word katechein, meaning “to echo” or “to sound again.” When one person echoes another, it means that he or she is imitating or reflecting back what that person has said or done.
Catechesis, of course, is the process of transmitting the Gospel. To help us understand this process, the church has given us the General Directory for Catechesis (1997) and the National Directory for Catechesis (2005). These documents help us to understand the how of catechesis.
So, why use the term catechesis when we had just gotten used to the term CCD? The fact is that CCD primarily refers to something that is for children, and something that one “completes” after a given time of study. Today, we have retrieved the notion of catechesis to capture the broader mission of the church. This mission is to proclaim the Gospel to all people: adults, youth, and children, in order to put “people . . . in communion . . . with Jesus Christ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 426)—a task that is lifelong.
Words are very powerful. The Gospel of John refers to Jesus as the Word made flesh (1:14). The language of faith formation is not just a matter of semantics. By using the most appropriate words to describe who we are and what we do, we deepen our own understanding of our share in Jesus’ ministry. As catechists, we assist pastors and bishops in guiding people to a living faith. This living faith has a language all its own. We can begin to learn the language of faith by referring to who we are and what we do with the proper terms.
The above is an excerpt from my new book, The Catechist’s Toolbox: How to Thrive as A Religious Education Teacher (Loyola Press). The book will be out soon but orders are being taken through customer service: 800-621-1008.