GDC 66: Catechesis and Baptism

On catechesis and Baptism:

66. Catechesis, is thus, a fundamental element of Christian initiation and is closely connected with the sacraments of initiation, especially with Baptism, “the sacrament of faith”.* The link uniting catechesis and Baptism is true profession of faith, which is at once an element inherent in this sacrament and the goal of catechesis. The aim of catechetical activity consists in precisely this: to encourage a living, explicit and fruitful profession of faith. (Cf. Catechism 1229; Christus Dominus 14) The Church, in order to achieve this, transmits to catechumens and those to be catechized, her living experience of the Gospel, her faith, so that they may appropriate and profess it. Hence, “authentic catechesis is always an orderly and systematic initiation into the revelation that God has given of himself to humanity in Christ Jesus, a revelation stored in the depths of the Church’s memory and in Sacred Scripture, and constantly communicated from one generation to the next by a living active traditio”. (Catechesi Tradendae 22, cf. 21b, 18d)

*Catechism 1253. In the baptismal catechumenate of adults in the mission ad gentes catechesis precedes Baptism. In the catechesis of the baptized, formation is subsequent to Baptism. However, also in this case a function of catechesis is to help to discover and bring to life the immense richness of Baptism already received. Catechism 1231 uses the expression post-baptismal catechumenate. Christifedeles Laici 61 calls it post-baptismal catechesis.

This is a good summary of the role of catechesis prior to and after baptism. Clearly, for a church that practices infant baptism, the end of one type of catechesis and the beginning of another is necessarily blurred. Mission ad gentes would seem to demand continuation until a certain point. In practice, that moment is the reception of another sacrament, either First Eucharist or perhaps Confirmation.

But in what we’ve read in the GDC thus far, it would be considered complete at neither moment. Nor when a baptized person was prepared to test successfully on content. When the believer has become a disciple–imitating Christ, and modelling her or his life on the apostolate of a “living, active” community–this is when we would be seeing a shift beyond a credal formation and into the catechesis of ongoing conversion. In other words, we’re talking about the shift from believer to disciple, from a person who can recite and embrace the Creed to a person who can invite others to believe.

And of course, such disciples, quite aware of their own deficiencies, would be committed to a formation ever more deep.

This doesn’t look much like the Catholic Church of either preconciliar or postconciliar religious education. Whatever the challenges and problems of modern religious education, I’d have to say the preconciliar mindset has little more to offer to get us on this road. You realize we’re talking of setting loose a billion Fulton Sheens on an unsuspecting world.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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