Over the past couple of years, in an apparent effort to ensure orthodoxy of content, some Catholic dioceses in the United States have invested countless man hours and who knows how much money implementing lengthy and tedious processes to mandate a limited number of catechetical textbook series in their dioceses. This, despite the fact that dozens of textbook series have gone through rigorous scrutiny and have already been determined to be in conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church by the Subcommittee on the Catechism (USCCB) and carry imprimaturs from local Ordinaries. Apparently this is not enough according to some dioceses who continue to focus almost exclusively on content to the exclusion of strategies and tactics for effective evangelization and catechesis.
I am convinced, more than ever, that we need to shift our focus to equipping Catholics with the techniques needed to spread the faith. Our content is solid! But that content does us little good if it remains a well-kept secret to the rest of the world! The New Evangelization calls us to, not only deepen our faith, but to SHARE it with others. Many Catholics do not know how to do that.
Which brings me to the latest book I’m reading, recommended by one of my readers: Dedication and Leadership by Douglas Hyde (University of Notre Dame Press, 1966), who, in 1948, renounced Communism (after serving in the Party for 20 years) and embraced Catholicism. In his book, “he advances the theory that although the goals and aims of Communism are antithetical to human dignity and the rights of the individual, there is much to be learned from communist methods.” (book’s back cover)
In particular, I was struck by what Mr. Hyde said about why and how most people joined the Communist Party:
The majority of people who join the Communist Party do so knowing very little about Communism. The potential recruit sees the Party in action…and he admires what it is doing. He goes on to be more conscious of its…campaigns and increasingly to feel that these correspond to real needs. They are relevant where so much that is being done by other bodies seems to be quite irrelevant to the titanic needs and ills of our time.
He goes on to say…
In other words, it is the Party in action, an active, campaigning body, and the people who make up the Party, who normally provide the spur to the recruit’s first approach to Communism. To spell it out: recruits to Communism are usually attracted by the dedicated people who are Communists and by the Party in action, and this action is appealing because it appears to be concerned with real problems. The Party operates at a level which is meaningful to the potential recruit. It comes to him, as it were; he does not have to seek out the Party.
The “actions” that Catholics need to be “caught” doing (and that we need to invite young Catholics to participate in) are well-organized campaigns involving the Works of Mercy that reveal God’s goodness, compassion, and justice to the world. Orthodoxy of content is important but unless our young Catholics see (and are invited to join) dedicated Catholics in action, addressing “the titanic needs and ills of our time,” that orthodoxy will remain in a book.