GDC 276-277: “Catechetical activity in the context of new evangelization”

The Church mentions its continuum of missionary proclamation/catechesis/pastoral ministry. Those distinctions have a rough arc, to be sure, but the borders might appear blurred when the Church encounters those who were raised Christian, but have yet to fully awaken in their faith. Let’s chat about the New Evangelization:

276. If catechesis is defined as a moment in the total process of evangelization, the problem inevitably arises of co-ordinating catechetical activity with the missionary activity which necessarily precedes it, as well as with the pastoral activity which follows it. There are in fact “elements which prepare for catechesis as well as those deriving from it”. (Catechesi Tradendae 18d) In this respect, the link between missionary proclamation which seeks to stir up the faith, and initiatory catechesis, which seeks to deepen its roots, is decisive for evangelization. This link is, in a certain sense, more evident in the mission ad gentes. (Redemptoris Missio 33) Adults converted by the primary proclamation enter the catechumenate where they are catechized. In situations requiring “new evangelization”, (Redemptoris Missio 33) co-ordination becomes more complex because ordinary catechesis is, at times, offered to young people and adults who need a period of prior proclamation and awakening in their adherence to Christ.

Similar difficulties arise with regard to the catechesis of children and the formation of their parents. (Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 19 and 42) At other times forms of ongoing catechesis are applied to adults who, in fact, reguire a true intiatory catechesis.

277. The current situation of evangelization requires that both activities, missionary proclamation and initiatory catechesis, be conceived in a co-ordinated manner and be given, in the particular Church, through a single programme of evangelization which is both missionary and catechumenal. Today, catechesis must be seen above all as the consequence of an effective missionary proclamation. The directives of the decree Ad Gentes—which sets the catechumenate in the context of the Church’s missionary activity—remain a particularly valid reference point for catechesis. (Cf. Ad Gentes 11-15. The concept of evangelization as a process structured in stages was analysed in Part I, chap. I. The process of evagelization)

Some of the problems of modern catechesis may stem from an attempt to impart catechesis when those served have yet to be fully (or at least substantially) converted by the Gospel. Maybe it’s not a surprise that if faith has never truly taken root, catechetical service as classroom children leads only to occasional engagement in parish ministry. No wonder people drop out of Catholicism, if the underpinings are assumed, but not really present. What’s the answer? Maybe less adult education and more missionary proclamation. That really puts the liturgy–especially the homily–on the spot. Church critics who suggest Catholics are ignorant or uncatechized are missing the boat. Many baptized people have never been truly evangelized. More/better catechesis won’t work. That’s like watering the soil when the seed hasn’t been planted.

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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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