GDC 152-153: Human experience in catechesis

What does the Church mean by a “human experience in catechesis”? The reference is from the General Catechetical Directory 74 and Catechesi Tradendae 22.

152. Experience has different functions in catechesis. For this reason, it must be continuously and duly evaluated.

a) It arouses in (people), interests, questions, hopes, anxieties, reflections and judgements which all converge to form a certain desire to transform (their) existence. It is a task of catechesis to make people more aware of their most basic experiences, to help them to judge in the light of the Gospel the questions and needs that spring from them, as well as to educate them in a new way of life. Thus, the person becomes capable of behaving in a responsible and active way before the gift of God.

This is one important locus where psychology has a potential application, but might encounter skeptics in the Church. People in the West often analyze their life experiences (or have them analyzed) through the lens of psychology. And that might be well done. Or less so. The awareness of feelings, of wants, needs, and motivations are all part of the human experience. The skilled catechist will help unlock these and cast them in the light of the Christian experience.

b) Experience promotes the intelligibility of the Christian message. This corresponds well to the actions of Jesus. He used human experiences and situations to point to the eschatological and transcendent, as well as to show the attitude to be adopted before such realities. From this point of view, experience is a necessary medium for exploring and assimilating the truths which constitute the objective content of Revelation.

c) The above functions indicate that experience, assumed by faith, becomes in a certain manner, a locus for the manifestation and realization of salvation, where God, consistently with the pedagogy of the Incarnation, reaches (people) with his grace and saves (them). The catechist must teach the person to read his (or her) own lived experience in this regard, so as to, accept the invitation of the Holy Spirit to conversion, to commitment, to hope, and to discover more and more in his (or her) life God’s plan for him.

153. Interpreting and illuminating experience with the data of faith is a constant task of catechetical pedagogy—even if with difficulty. It is a task that cannot be overlooked without falling into artificial juxtapositions or closed understandings of the truth. It is made possible, however, by a correct application of the correlation and interaction between profound human experiences* and the revealed message. It is this which has amply borne witness to the proclamation of the prophets, the preaching of Christ, the teaching of the Apostles, which constitutes the basic normative criterion for every encounter of faith and human experience in the time of the Church.

* By this we mean those experiences linked with the “great questions” of life, reality and especially about the person: the existence of God, the destiny of the human person, the origin and end of history, the truth about good and evil, the meaning of suffering, of love and of the future…; cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi 53; Catechesi Tradendae 22 and 39.

GDC 153 sums things up well. Anything to add from anyone?

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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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