Recently, Pope Francis made some very interesting comments about evangelization and catechesis. In particular, he said that catechesis needs to go beyond just the “scholastic sphere” and lead people to an encounter with Christ. I’m thrilled to hear him talk about this because, as important as familiarity with doctrinal concepts is, it means nothing unless we have a relationship with the living Christ. Catechesis needs to speak to both the head and the heart.
In my book, Beyond the Catechist’s Toolbox, I share the following thoughts about catechesis beyond the scholastic sphere:
When we limit catechesis to the acquisition of information, we reduce it to a subject like all the other subjects young people study in school. Religious education gets crammed inside the locker of a young person’s mind right along with social studies, science, history, and math. We catechists, however, are not teachers of a subject. We are facilitators of an encounter—an encounter with a living God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Church teaches us that the purpose of catechesis is to “put people not only in touch, but also in communion and intimacy, with Jesus Christ” (General Directory for Catechesis, 80). As we all know, intimacy is not achieved by reading a book.
Perhaps even more intriguing, however, are the comments the Holy Father made about evangelization and catechesis needing to embrace “a renewed language of love and mercy.” I’ve written previously about the importance of integrating experiences of mercy in faith formation.
What do you think the implications are for making sure that our evangelization and catechesis embrace “a renewed language of love and mercy?”
Image by Jeffrey Bruno under CC BY-SA 2.0.
Hi Joe. I saw that piece also, and I was thrilled as well. I was also struck by Pope Francis’s definition of new evangelization in the same speech: “The new evangelization therefore is this: to take awareness of the merciful love of the Father to truly become ourselves instruments of salvation for our brothers.”
So the key to new evangelization is to get the faithful out there evangelizing. Love it.
Thanks Nick! Pope Francis is very inspiring, isn’t he?
It’s part of each catechist’s job to bear personal witness of Jesus to the kids. Not just the data, but why the data is life-changing, i.e., how it changed and changes your life.
So true, Christian!
This is the goal of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd–to help the child fall in love with God through encounter with God’s Word, with the signs and symbols of liturgy, and through prayer. Check it out! cgsusa.org
Thanks Marty. Catechesis of the Good Shepherd does wonderful work!
So why do so few parishes embrace it?
Cynthia, that’s hard to say however, I know that Catechesis of the Good Shepherd requires a huge investment of time and energy and many parishes are hesitant to ask too much of their folks.