GDC 286-291: Conclusion

We have arrived at the conclusion of this document. If you ever want to review this series, consult the linked page at the top or on the sidebar. Let’s read:

286. In formulating the present guidelines and directives every possible effort has been made to ensure that they are based on the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and on the subsequent interventions of the Church’s Magisterium. Particular attention has, moreover, been given to the experience of ecclesial life among different peoples in the interim. In the light of fidelity to the spirit of God the requisite discernment has been exercised, always, however, with a view to the renewal of the Church and the service of evangelization.

By necessity, a document like this can never be a manual for every parish, every catechist. The purpose is to encourage and guide:

287. This new Directory is offered to all the Pastors of the Church, to their fellow workers and to catechists in the hope that it may serve as an encouragement in the service which the Church and the Holy Spirit entrusts to them, namely, fostering the growth of faith in those who believe. The guidelines, contained herein, are intended not only to clarify the nature of catechesis and the norms and criteria which govern this evangelizing ministry of the Church but to nurture, with the power of the word and the interior action of the Holy Spirit, the hope of those who labour in this privileged area of ecclesial activity.

Fruitful faith formation is grace, not human effort alone:

288. The effectiveness of catechesis is and always will be a gift of God, through the operation of the Spirit of the Father and the Son. St Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, confirms this total dependence on the intervention of God when he writes: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor 3:6-7).

Neither catechesis nor evangelization is possible without the action of God working through his Spirit. (Cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi 75a) In catechetical praxis neither the most advanced pedagogical techniques nor the most talented catechist can ever replace the silent and unseen action of the Holy Spirit. (Cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi 75d) “It is he who is in truth the protagonist of all the Church’s mission”; (Redemptoris Missio 21) it is he who is the principal catechist; it is he who is “the interior teacher” of those who grow in the Lord. (Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 72) He is, in fact, “the principle inspiring all catechetical work and all who do this work”. (Catechesi Tradendae 72)

The good catechist relies on God. Or in popular parlance, “trusts the process.”

289. May patience and trust abide in the spirituality of the catechist, since it is God himself who sows, gives growth, and brings to fruition the seed of his word, planted in good soil and tended with love. St Mark, the Evangelist, is alone in recounting the parable by which Jesus makes us to understand the stages, one after the other, whereby the scattered seed gradually and constantly develops: “The Kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and, the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not know. The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come” (Mk 4:26-29).

290. The Church, which has the responsibility of catechizing those who believe, invokes the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, begging him to give fruitfulness and interior strength to the toil which is everywhere undertaken for the growth of the faith and the fellowship of Our Saviour Jesus Christ.

And who is “the Church?” The people, of course share the responsibility: the institution, the bishop, the diocesan staff, pastors, “professional catechists,” parish leaders, parents, and the community overall.

291. Today as ever, all labourers of catechesis, trusting in her intercession, turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who saw her Son grow “in wisdom, age and grace” (Lk 2,52). They find in her the spiritual model for carrying out and strengthening the renewal of contemporary catechesis, in faith, hope and love. Through the intercession of the “Virgin of Pentecost”, (Catechesi Tradendae 73) there is born in the Church a new power, generating sons and daughters in the faith and educating them toward the fullness of Christ.

What to say?

This document affirms Vatican II. It identifies some of the important trends and challenges we face today. It incorporates a reinvigorated theology of God, and stays the course from 1971’s General Catechetical Directory. It emphasizes adult formation as the foundation.

I’d say parishes in the US, and the faith formation establishment are chugging along, and a shift in emphasis is not what they’re about. Adult parishioners “graduated” from school, and that’s in the past. They expect their kids to graduate someday, too. The biggest catechetical challenge in the Church is not pre- or post-conciliar ideology. It’s not poor or not-good-enough catechesis. It’s not really the clergy, and it’s certainly not the catechists. In order for the Church to realize the potential of faith formation, we need a sea change like we experienced with early and frequent Communion in the last century. Do you see it coming anytime soon? I don’t. But we still have the grace of God working under the guise of human fallibility.

Last call for comments.

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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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One Response to GDC 286-291: Conclusion

  1. FrMichael says:

    “Do you see it coming anytime soon?” No, the Church is a big ship and the current model has lasted a long time. I do find many of the movements are better at promoting and conducting adult and family catechesis.

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