Before exploring the first task of catechesis it is important to get an idea of what what is meant by the word task.
The dictionary defines the word task as: 1. A piece of work assigned or done as part of one’s duties. 2. A difficult or tedious undertaking. 3. A function to be performed; an objective.
I think the 3rd definition serves us well here when speaking of the 6 vital/essential tasks in the ministry of evangelization and catechesis. It is after all our aim in handing on the deposit of faith to consider what tasks or objectives are foundational.
The first task of Catechesis is “Catechesis [that] promotes knowledge of the faith”(The National Director for Catechesis, NDC, pg. 60).
The General Director for Catechesis states:
The fundamental task of catechesis is helping to now, to celebrate and to contemplate the mystery of Christ. ‘Who has encountered Christ desires to know him as much as possible, as well as to know the plan of the Father which he revealed. Knowledge of the faith (fides quae) is required by adherence to the faith (fides qua). (252) Even in the human order the love which one person has for another causes that person to wish to know the other all the more. Catechesis, must, therefore, lead to “the gradual grasping of the whole truth about the divine plan”, (253) by introducing the disciples of Jesus to a knowledge of Tradition and of Scripture, which is “the sublime science of Christ”. (254) By deepening knowledge of the faith, catechesis nourishes not only the life of faith but equips it to explain itself to the world. The meaning of the Creed, which is a compendium of Scripture and of the faith of the Church, is the realisation of this task.’ (#85)
Promoting knowledge of the faith is not for knowledge sake itself. It is directed at encountering the truths of the faith and coming to a greater understanding of them. As a result of the believer coming to a greater understanding and knowledge of the faith is transformed and experiences deeper conversion to Christ. That is the end goal – conversion. We cannot serve and love well unless we know God’s plan, His ways and His truths.
In the ministry of catechesis, it is crucial that catechists communicate the faith to their students. Catechesis in the last 3 decades has all too much emphasized experiencing God’s love in such a way that does not draw students to conversion but draws them to a “feel good” state of being. It seems that many young people who have been catechized over the last 30 years have a minimal knowledge and understanding of the Catholic Faith. A catechist’s aim must always be to educate and help one come to understand so that they may draw closer to Christ and desire to follow him more fully.
This first task is vital and assists in accomplishing that fundamental task of helping one “know, celebrate and contemplate the mystery of Christ”.