GDC 78: “Catechesis: activity of an ecclesial nature”

The Church “does” catechesis. To a degree, that means everybody. Various members of the Church catechize according to their position, gifts, and ministries. And there is the teaching office of the Church. Consider also a locus apart from the transmission of facts: namely, an animation by the Holy Spirit.

78. Catechesis is an essentially ecclesial act.* The true subject of catechesis is the Church which, continuing the mission of Jesus the Master and, therefore animated by the Holy Spirit, is sent to be the teacher of the faith. The Church imitates the Mother of the Lord in treasuring the Gospel in her heart. (Cf. Lumen Gentium 64; Dei Verbum 10a) She proclaims it, celebrates it, lives it, and she transmits it in catechesis to all those who have decided to follow Jesus Christ. This transmission of the Gospel is a living act of ecclesial tradition: (Cf. General Catechetical Directory (1971) 13)

* As has been stated in chapter I of this part in “The transmission of Revelation by the Church, the work of the Holy Spirit” and in part II, chapter I in “The ecclesial nature of the Gospel message”. Cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi 60 which speaks of the ecclesial nature of any evangelizing activity.

– The Church transmits the faith which she herself lives: her understanding of the mystery of God and his salvific plan, her vision of (humankind)’s highest vocation, the style of evangelic life which communicates the joy of the Kingdom, the hope which pervades her and the love which she has for mankind and all God’s creatures.

– The Church transmits the faith in an active way; she sows it in the hearts of catechumens and those to be catechized so as to nourish their profoundest experience of life. (Cf. Ad Gentes 22a) The profession of faith received by the Church (traditio), which germinates and grows during the catechetical process, is given back (redditio), enriched by the values of different cultures.* The catechumenate is thus transformed into a centre of deepening catholicity and a ferment of ecclesial renewal.

* Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 28, RCIA 25 and 183-187. The traditio-redditio symboli (the handing over and giving back of the Creed) is an important element of the baptismal catechumenate. The bipolarity of this gesture expresses the double dimension of the faith: the received gift (traditio) and the personal and enculturated response (redditio). Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 28 for an adequate use in catechesis of this most expressive rite.

Why is the catechumenate so important? This passage suggests the deeper meaning of RCIA as something beyond adult education for non-Catholics. Do long-time believers model this traditio-redditio in practice? It’s more than a theological question, my friends. It presumes that the whole experience of faith, of the pilgrimage toward holiness involves a continual dialogue between God and the disciple.

God reveals. The attuned believer experiences revelation. The reflective believer integrates this insight into her or his life. Subsequent actions, words, beliefs reflect this intersection between human and the divine. Hopefully, the human being responds to God’s invitation to a deeper holiness.

This is far different from the membership-card view of religion that many people espouse. The ongoing “dialogue” between Catholic politicians and their critics reflect this. Many Catholics, even bishops, hold their membership card proudly. What they seem not to realize is that there is no card. There is an apprenticeship. One receives nudges, urgings, insight to see God in a new way, and adjust one’s life accordingly. Instead, some people seem to operate under the notion that being a Catholic is rooted in an educational/rational system. Go to class. Receive a sacrament. Ticket punched. Diploma displayed. Sunday Communion is the diploma for some. And while that is important as an encounter with Christ, a guaranteed experience of grace in the Church’s ministry, it may not be enough.

Critics, too, labor under a misapplication of GDC 78. Failure to apply standards does not revoke membership. At worst, we can point and say, “Opportunity lost.” But there’s always tomorrow. Not to mention our own nudges from God.

I think we’ll pause here for today. Any questions or observations on the importance of the catechumenate as a model for faith formation, and the role of traditio-redditio?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in General Directory for Catechesis, post-conciliar catechetical documents. Bookmark the permalink.

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