GDC 86a: Education for Community Life

Continuing our slow pace through two rather substantial sections, we turn to the first half of GDC 86 today, “Other fundamental tasks of catechesis: initiation and education in community life and to mission.”

86. Catechesis prepares the Christian to live in community and to participate actively in the life and mission of the Church. The Second Vatican Council indicates the necessity for pastors “to form genuine Christian communities” (Presbyterorum Ordinis 6d) and for catechumens “[to] learn to co-operate actively in building up the Church and its work of evangelization”. (Ad Gentes 14d)

Do people take the role of the community seriously enough? Community was part of the Catholic culture in North America and other immigrant situations for generations. Take out the ethnic part, and at least in the States, one can say, “Not any more.” How to form people in recapturing that sense of community? That is a major task of faith formation.

In this next subsection on “Education for Community Life,” the bishops first make the case that we cannot feel entitled to community life for any reason. It must be formed “carefully.” Once again, it is referred to as an “apprenticeship.” Don’t they get tired of that term? (I hope not–it’s well grounded in the Gospels, as we see.)

– Education for Community Life

a) Christian community life is not realized spontaneously. It is necessary to educate it carefully. In this apprenticeship, the teaching of Christ on community life, recounted in the Gospel of St Matthew, calls for attitudes which it is for catechesis to inculcate: the spirit of simplicity and humility (“unless you turn and become like little children…” Mt 18,3); solicitude for the least among the brethren (“but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin…” Mt 18,6); particular care for those who are alienated (“Go and search of the one that went astray…” Mt 18,12); fraternal correction (“Go and tell him his fault…” Mt 18,15); common prayer (“if two of you agree on earth to ask about anything…” Mt 18,19); mutual forgiveness (“but seventy times seven…” Mt 18,22). Fraternal love embraces all these attitudes (“love one another; even as I have loved you…” Jn 13,34).

b) In developing this community sense, catechesis takes special note of the ecumenical dimension and encourages fraternal attitudes toward members of other Christian churches and ecclesial communities. Thus catechesis in pursuing this objective should give a clear exposition of all the Church’s doctrine and avoid formulations or expressions that might give rise to error. It also implies “a suitable knowledge of other confessions”, (General Catechetical Directory (1971) 27) with which there are shared elements of faith: “the written word of God, the life of grace, faith, hope and charity, and the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit”. (Unitatis Redintegratio 3b) Catechesis will possess an ecumenical dimension in the measure in which it arouses and nourishes “a true desire for unity”, (Catechesi Tradendae 32; cf. Catechism 821; Catechesi Tradendae 34) not easy irenicism, but perfect unity, when the Lord himself wills it and by those means by which he wishes that it should be brought about.

Interesting that the “ecumenical dimension” is emphasized here under community life. Do Catholics really see Protestants, Orthodox, and Anglicans as part of the “community?” Does Catholic catechesis produce that desire for unity? I’d have to say that Catholic catechesis today possesses a desire for clear exposition of Catholic doctrine. Not so sure about the desire for unity. What do you think?

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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.
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