Over the last year or so I have often heard people in ministry discuss how there is too much catechesis and not enough evangelization in the Church today. Or said another way: We need to lead people into a relationship with Christ and help them encounter Christ and our current means of catechizing children and adults is failing to do this. Catechesis too often is thought of by those involved in the ministry of evangelization as merely the intellectual piece that does not engage the modern believer to Christ. It is true that if one thinks of catechesis as merely being intellectual then they are correct that an intellectual approach to leading people to Christ is not the best point of entry. However, I think one of the misunderstandings is what catechesis is (better stated who catechesis is). St. John Paul II said this about catechesis:
Very soon the name of catechesis was given to the whole of the efforts within the Church to make disciples, to help people to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, so that believing they might have life in His name, and to educate and instruct them in this life and thus build up the Body of Christ. The Church has not ceased to devote her energy to this task (Catechesi Tradendae #1).
Catechesis is relational and christocentric at its core. Its role in the ministry of the word and within the Church’s mission has always meant to be one of drawing people to intimacy with Jesus Christ and making disciples through sacramental living, further instruction and continual lifelong conversion.
Many are concerned that catechesis that is approached from a merely instructional point of view is problematic. I would completely agree with that, however I think we have to be careful not to assume when we use the term catechesis that we merely mean the intellectual formation or the doctrinal handing on of the faith. Catechesis should always be evangelical simultaneously with instruction. This is what I like to call evangelizing catechesis.
It is important to stress two aspects of evangelizing catechesis. 1) catechesis is always seeking to help the believer come to an encounter with Christ and a deeper union with Him. 2) Catechesis accomplishes this through an authentic proclamation of the Good News supported by an intentional handing on of doctrine (the deposit of faith). For example, if I’m catechizing about the 10 Commandments it is important to speak/illustrate God’s desire to draw us into His family and to assist us in being close to Him. He desires to be in friendship with us. When proclaiming this desire God has to be in relationship with us one also instructs regarding how the 10 Commandments are God’s family rules. They guide us to doing what is right and they help us stay in relationship with God. Catechizing in this manner is evangelizing and catechizing simultaneously. The unity of these two concepts is crucial for handing on the faith today.
What do you think? It would be great to hear from you!
In Part II of Evangelizing Catechesis I will speak about the pitfalls and the implications of our ministry being too focused only on evangelization or on catechesis.
Originally posted at www.relevantcatechesis.com