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It is assumed that once we enter into the Body of Christ by our first Holy Communion and Confirmation, we now understand more or less and acquiesce to fully embrace the magisterial teaching of the Church. It is time for the new Catholic to put faith into fruitful practice. As catechists we have to make it absolutely clear to our new members that they know of the importance of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. After that, we can advise them to embark upon a program of spiritual reading and meditate on the lives of the saints. Beyond that we have a further duty to instruct them on how to delve into the mysteries of the sacraments known as mystagogy.
This is no simple task as we try to impart to our new brethren that all liturgy and catechesis after confirmation is mystagogical. We are in need of a proper understanding of the correct tools to continue the process of conversion and formation in our newest members. Here we can look to the great Church Doctor St. Augustine for guidance. He proposed to use of a method he called the Catechetical Narratio.
St. Augustine was once questioned by a deacon from Carthage named Deogratia who asked the Church Doctor how to best instruct beginners in the faith. St. Augustine memorialized his response to the deacon in a short treatise called De Catechizandis Rudebus. This small tome holds great gifts for the authentic development of catechesis in which the narratio is put forward as the best way to teach beginners about our shared Faith.
The catechetical narratio is a broad and all-encompassing technique intended to tell the Catholic Story. St. Augustine explained that the narratio includes the most important elements of the faith coherently conveyed which gives us our Christian identity and foundation in the faith. He tells us that it is complete if it imparts to the learner the truths of the faith from the beginning until the present Church. The recounting must be comprehensive and include all extraordinary occasions and miraculous turns of event.
The overarching end of the narratio is not to complicate the message with particulars, but to initiate the framework for future amassed details to be woven into the tapestry of the already present narrative. St. Augustine explains that “we should not allow the introduction of these other dimensions of meaning to make us lose track of the exposition and cause our heart and our tongue to rush off into the intricacies of an over complicated discussion.” In fact our focus ought to be on what Saint Augustine called the “golden thread which holds together the precious stones in an ornament but does not spoil the ornament’s lines by making itself too obvious.” This “golden thread” is the causes and reasons of the plain truth meant to be conveyed by the narratio.
In the next post I will expose why the General Directory for Catechesis tried to revive the use of the Catechetical narration in 1997 and give a short example of what might be included in a basic narratio in order that one might leave with an impression of what St. Augustine would have us do to instruct the new faithful.