GDC 228-229: “The role of religious in catechesis”

We’ve covered bishops, clergy, and parents. People in religious life have had a profound influence on faith formation. It’s less about catechetical content and more about the witness of life.

I like the way Pope Paul drew an important distinction: every believer is called to evangelize. People in religious life have abandoned self to conform to the Beatitudes. That is a pilgrimage one does not often find in Holy Orders.

228. In a special way the Church calls those in consecrated life to catechetical activity and wishes that “religious communities dedicate as much as possible of what ability and means that they have to the specific work of catechesis”. (Catechesi Tradendae 65; cf. canon law 778) The particular contribution to catechesis of religious and of members of societies of apostolic life derives from their specific condition. The profession of the evangelical counsels, which characterizes the religious life, constitutes a gift to the whole Christian community. In diocesan catechetical activity their original and particular contribution can never be substituted for by priests or by laity. This original contribution is born of public witness to their consecration, which makes them a living sign of the reality of the Kingdom: “it is the profession of these counsels, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes the life consecrated to God”. (Catechism 915; cf. Lumen Gentium 44) Although evangelical values must be lived by every Christian, those in consecrated life “incarnate the Church in her desire to abandon herself to the radicalism of the beatitudes”. (Evangelii Nuntiandi 69) The witness of religious united to the witness of the laity shows forth the one face of the Church which is a sign of the Kingdom of God. (cf. Catechism 932)

229. “Many religious institutes for men and women came into being for the purpose of giving Christian education to children and young people, especially the most abandoned”. (Catechesi Tradendae 65; cf. Redemptoris Missio 69) That same charism of the founders is such that many religious collaborate today in diocesan adult catechesis. Throughout history many men and women religious “have been committed to the Church’s catechetical activity”. (Catechesi Tradendae 65) The founding charisms (Cf. 1 Cor 12:4; cf. Lumen Gentium 12b) are not a marginal consideration when religious assume catechetical tasks. While maintaining intact the proper character of catechesis, the charisms of the various religious communities express this common task but with their own proper emphases, often of great religious, social and pedagogical depth. The history of catechesis demonstrates the vitality which these charisms have brought to the Church’s educational activity.

And we know that some religious women and men place education as their charism in service to the Church. The exploration of these charisms, both with newcomers, seekers, and believers, give the Church a cultural and spiritual depth that transcends the particulars of what is taught. The strongest witness of all is how the faith is communicated to believers. It’s the massive disadvantage of the institutional Magisterium–they simply provide no witness of life. And while some are content enough to hang their hat on authority, both in delivering it and accepting it, it doesn’t replace the Gospel witness. Indeed, it is easier to find a Gospel witness in the lives and example of religious than it is in bishops. Likely it has always been so.

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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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