This is part two of a four-part series on the new Directory for Catechesis.
In part one of this series, I provided an overview of the structure of the new Directory for Catechesis. In this post, we will explore one of the central themes at the heart of the new Directory for Catechesis, namely kerygmatic catechesis.
What is at the heart of this new directory?
The role of catechesis in the dynamic of evangelization is the beating heart of this new document, and two points are mentioned upfront: that catechesis be kerygmatic and mystagogical. As such, it represents what is called “a hermeneutic of continuity” in that it is a continual unfolding of Magisterial teaching, building on the earlier catechetical directories and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We are urged to read the “signs of the times” as “possibilities for encounter and for proclamation of the newness of the faith” (Directory for Catechesis, #5).
The preface of the new Directory for Catechesis provides the inspiration for the new directory:
The criterion that prompted the reflection on production of this Directory find its basis in the words of Pope Francis: “we have rediscovered the fundamental role of the first announcement or kerygma, which needs to be the center of all evangelizing activity and all efforts at Church renewal…This first proclamation is called ‘first’ not because it exists at the beginning and can then be forgotten or replaced by other more important things. It is first in a qualitative sense because it is the principal proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment…We must not think that in catechesis the kerygma gives way to a supposedly more ‘solid’ formation. Nothing is more solid, profound, secure, meaningful, and wisdom-filled than that initial proclamation. All Christian formation consists of entering more deeply into the kerygma, which is reflected in and constantly illumines, the work of catechesis, thereby enabling us to understand more fully the significance of every subject which the latter treats. It is the message capable of responding to the desire for the infinite which abides in every human heart” (Evangelii Gaudium, #164–165).
It is the primacy of the kerygma which lends itself to the directory proposing a new form of catechesis known as kerygmatic catechesis.
How is kerygmatic catechesis defined?
The document points out that it is in Evangelii Gaudium that we find many of the elements of kerygmatic catechesis, particularly in sections 164–166. The definition is particularly important:
Kerygmatic catechesis, which goes to the very heart of the faith and grasps the essence of the Christian message, is a catechesis which manifests the action of the Holy Spirit, who communicates God’s saving love in Jesus Christ and continues to give himself so that every human being may have the fullness of life (#2).
In addition, catechesis must be mystagogical in nature, initiating “the believer into the living experience of the Christian community, the true setting of the life of faith” (#2).
Has the goal of catechesis changed or been reinterpreted in light of this emphasis on kerygmatic catechesis?
Since catechesis has now been recast from a missionary perspective, the directory acknowledges “the goal of the catechetical process is also reinterpreted” (#3). The goal of catechesis is intimate communion with Christ, which is “the ultimate end of the catechetical initiative” (#3), and—here’s the new emphasis—it should be “brought about through a process of accompaniment” (#3). This is again an echo of Evangelii Gaudium, in which we were introduced to the term “the art of accompaniment” for the first time.
We are urged to integrate the kerygma into all of our evangelization and catechetical efforts, and the directory goes on to list several guidelines for catechesis as a result of this focus on the kerygma:
It has to express God’s saving love which precedes any moral and religious obligation on our part; it should not impose the truth but appeal to freedom; it should be marked by joy, encouragement, liveliness, and a harmonious balance which will not reduce preaching to a few doctrines which are at times more philosophical than evangelical (#59).
The document then reiterates the same kerygmatic proclamation that was at the heart of Evangelii Gaudium: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living every day at your side to enlighten, strengthen, and free you” (#58).
Have you read this section on kerygmatic catechesis? What are your takeaways?
If you missed Julianne’s presentation with Joe Paprocki, “How the New Directory for Catechesis Will Change the Way We Think About, Talk About, and Go About Doing Catechesis” or want to watch it again, click here.
Thanks for this summary and the video presentation. This is such an important topic for catechists–and I don’t see anyone talking about it here except with the DREs. I don’t think most catechist’s even knew the previous edition of the directory existed, no less the update.
I think you’re right, Cindy. The Directory tends to target catechetical leadership with the assumption that catechetical leaders will bring it to their catechists.